When Being Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Israeli Is the Same Thing

Editor’s note: The artist’s essay that follows accompanies the ‘online unveiling’—exclusive to Common Dreams—of Shetterly’s latest painting in his “Americans Who Tell the Truth” portrait series, presenting citizens throughout U.S. history who have courageously engaged in the social, environmental, or economic issues of their time. This painting of Alice Rothschild—a physician, author, filmmaker, and peace activist—is his latest portrait of those who dedicated their lives to equality, freedom and justice. Posters of this portrait and others are now available at the artist’s website.

I found that for many, publicly stating that Jews could be victimizers as well as victims, and that Palestinians are equally human and deeply hurting, is unthinkable and a betrayal of Jewish loyalty and identity. This Jewish denial combined with the increasing brutality of the Israeli occupation is made possible by keeping Palestinians invisible as fellow human beings. —Dr. Alice Rothchild

For making statements like the quote above, Alice Rothchild has been called a self-hating Jew. When non-Jews express similar thoughts, they are often called anti-Semitic. Both epithets are meant to intimidate the speakers from naming the brutal truth of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the truth of the history that lead to that occupation. Unless we name those truths, we are being complicit not only with the destruction of Palestine but also of Israel.

The reality of anti-Semitism’s long and sinister history should not forbid criticism of Israel’s illegal or unjust policies. Dr. Rothchild emphasizes that for Israel to insist on its right to perpetrate injustice against the Palestinians is to encourage the very anti-Semitism and hatred that endangers Israel.

Dr. Rothchild approaches the Israel/ Palestine conflict with compassion for both sides, knowing that both peoples have suffered great trauma, and also knowing that truth and justice are the the only means to ultimately heal the trauma and make peace possible.

She wants human rights for both sides and the freedom to live lives based in justice, not fear: “We believe that for Israelis to be safe and secure, Palestinians need to be safe and secure, that to be ‘pro-Palestinian’ or ‘pro-Israeli’ is an artificial distinction.”

Alice feels compelled to speak out as a human being who cares about justice anywhere, as a Jewish person, and as an American because the US has for so long enabled the occupation.

Alice Rothchild was born in Boston in 1948, the same year as the founding of Israel, a time celebrated by Jewish people all over the worldtheir return to the Promised Land. 1948 is, however, commemorated as the Nakba by Palestinians. Nakba means catastrophe, forced exile from their Promised land. Alice was raised in an Orthodox, Zionist family. Her mother Sylvia wrote a book of oral histories of survivors of the Holocaust. As a child Alice’s family took her to Israel to experience the jubilant energy of the Jewish state. No one suggested to her that the triumph of Israel had a dark side.

Alice studied psychology at Bryn Mawr in the late 1960s and then went on to the School of Medicine at Boston University. At both schools she participated in anti-Vietnam War protests and then became active in feminism and health care reform. While she became a board certified obstetrician-gynecologist on the staff of Beth Israel Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) she held an appointment at Harvard Medical School as an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. She also spent much of her time helping to establish reproductive clinics for poor and underserved women.