Editor’s note: Rev. Mark Davidson is a retired pastor who heads Voices for Justice in Palestine, based in Durham. His group participated in a Nov. 2 protest organized by Jewish Voice for Peace that shut down the Durham Freeway for hours. Davidson says that while living in Lebanon as a child, he visited a Palestinian refugee camp. The deprivation he saw led him to a 40-year career as a Presbyterian minister and later to his involvement with Voices for Justice in Palestine.

I write in response to the Nov. 6 op-ed from the North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association. I was present on Nov. 2 when Jewish Voice for Peace, a partner organization of ours, staged a protest in Durham. I was proud to stand with young Jews celebrating their faith and acting with courage and conscience.

Shutting down a major traffic artery made a powerful statement that it cannot be “business as usual” while a Palestinian child dies every 10 minutes in Gaza. These young people inspired me. They have absorbed the message of the Holocaust — “never again, not just for our people but for any people.”

I would have thought the 33 N.C. rabbis and cantors who signed the Opinion piece would be proud of these young people and raise up their faith as an example to follow, rather than disavow them.

In the current confrontation with Hamas, Israel is planning to occupy the northern half of Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that Israel will be in Gaza “indefinitely.”

After the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, Israel has discussed emptying out the remaining population into the Egyptian desert to live in tents temporarily. Another Nakba. The prospect of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian deaths and a colossal humanitarian crisis does not deter Israel.

Astonishingly, the N.C. Jewish clergy attempt to justify what’s happening by packaging it as a “just war.” Do not be fooled. Israel is not the moral actor the clergy would have you believe.

Israel is an egregious violator of international law and human rights, including annexing and occupying other people’s land, bombing civilian populations in Gaza, and bombing hospitals, schools and houses of worship. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Israel’s own B’Tselem have documented the case for Israel as an apartheid state.

Israel has kept the Palestinian people in an iron grip of oppression for 75 years, and now is carrying out, before our very eyes, what Holocaust scholar Raz Segal calls a “textbook case of genocide.” Segal cites the dehumanizing rhetoric that Israel’s Minister of Defense minister used when he said “We are fighting human animals.” He also says the Israelis are imposing death on the entire population by withholding the essentials of life. The indiscriminate bombing campaign has already killed over 11,000 Palestinians — 5,500 of whom are children.

Make no mistake, targeting Israeli civilians, as Hamas did, is unjustifiable, a war crime causing deep trauma to the Jewish community. Hamas must be held accountable. Hamas, not innocent Palestinian families, doctors, nurses and teachers living in Gaza.

At the rally in Durham, there were urgent calls for a ceasefire. A ceasefire is the essential moral minimum in this crisis.

It is totally unacceptable that our government supports and funds genocide. At the rally, signs read “Genocide is not a Jewish Value,” “Not in My Name,” “Not my Judaism.” The young Jewish Voice for Peace activists embody the finest values of the Jewish tradition. Their elders would do well to heed their moral clarity.

Rev. J. Mark Davidson is executive director of Voices for Justice in Palestine, based in Durham, N.C.

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