The following is an excerpt from an article published in Haaretz on March 17, 2016. To view the full article, including other activists' profiles, click here.
The pro-Palestinian Jewish Activists on U.S. College Campuses
Supporting the Palestinian cause, as they see it, is not a betrayal, but rather an affirmation, of their Jewish values.
By Judy Maltz
A graduate of Berkeley law school
"Many people like me feel a connection because of our Jewish background. We identify with refugee rights and the underdog."
The only Jewish attorney at Palestine Legal, a non-profit that defends Palestinian rights activists, Liz Jackson is a graduate of Berkeley law school. Her dubious claim to fame – which goes a long way toward explaining where she is today – is having participated in the first ever Birthright trip to Israel.
“I didn’t know much about Israeli history at the time, but this was so obviously a propaganda trip,” she says. “It was all about partying and getting free things, and it seemed to me that their main message was to find a Jewish man to marry. I was a serious kid, and that really disgusted me.”
A prominent member of JVP, Jackson, through her employer, also represents student activists in SJP when they have a brush with the law. In the past year alone, she says, her organization has responded to 240 incidents, mainly involving false accusations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism.
Jackson, a 37-year-old mother of two, grew up in the Northeast, where she attended Brown University as an undergraduate. Before starting law school, she became involved in economic social justice work in Boston, where she says that “for the first time in my life, I felt that I had a Jewish community.”
Operation Cast Lead began just as she was beginning law school and had become active in immigrant rights and other economic justice issues. “I became horrified and riveted and couldn’t look away,” she says.
Not long thereafter, she joined a fact-finding trip to Israel and the West Bank for Jewish American peace activists. When she returned to Berkeley, she became involved in the divestment campaign at Berkeley that kicked off the BDS campus wars.
Trying to explain what drew her to full-time professional involvement with the Palestinian cause, Jackson says: “I think that many people like me feel a connection because of our Jewish background. We identify with refugee rights and the underdog because such an important part of our Jewishness is overcoming oppression. That may sound cheesy, but it’s really been real for me.”