In my communications work, I have become aware of certain buzzwords or phrases that start to take on a movement, iterations that come to define our work. The words and phrases change as our work changes, moulding and shaping our realities by the words that we use. Sometimes, when you start to notice yourself using the same words over and over again, they start to lose meaning. But other times, you use them without even knowing their meaning, until finally something clicks into place.

For me this week, that phrase was ‘collective liberation.’ A phrase used here at CPT a lot, it can have a fuzzy, warm—yet hazy—ring to it, something to aspire to, but not necessarily very concrete in its implementation.

The other day I joined a Sabeel webinar on Antisemitism, to better understand the Jewish experience of hate, dehumanization, and ultimately, genocide and how that history manifests today in all its complexities. The most important learning in order to combat antisemitism is to understand that Israel as a nation state is not representative of the Jewish community and faith. We cannot conflate the two, just as I’m sure the vast majority of us do not support or endorse the terrorism that our own governments commit around the world. 

One of the panelists was Hadar Cohen, an Arab Jewish scholar, mystic and artist and a 10th-generation Jerusalemite with lineage roots in Syria, Kurdistan, Iraq and Iran. (I already know I have a lot to learn from her, and will be listening to her podcast for the next few weeks.) As a result of the Israelification of the Jewish identity post-1948, the Arab Jewish community suffered a “rupture of history, a ripping out of community” according to Arab Jewish scholar Avi Shlaim, when European antisemitism was imported to the Middle East and Jewish families like Cohen’s were mourned by their communities as they left Kurdistan. 

This is not unique to the Jewish community, it is a tactic from the playbook of colonial powers who intentionally create ethnic and religious divisions among oppressed people to foster more conflict and violence. 

Cohen says for her personally, part of the liberation of the Palestinian people is this “reimagining and reunderstanding of Jewish safety and Jewish belonging.” The creation of the state of Israel was intended to provide a home for Jewish people, but has resulted in the segregation of Jewish communities, rendering Jewish lives everywhere else as less relevant. There is still a longing that exists in the synagogues of Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus to celebrate the shared high holy days together again.   

It’s easy to get stuck in the pain cycle, Cohen recognized, and I too, felt that in my bones. The horrors we have witnessed activate our trauma responses. But Cohen encouraged us to lean into a spiritual practice of imagining what it is we want to build together, embodying the collective freedom as we liberate Palestine and as Palestine liberates us, meaning a fuller Jewish experience and a fuller humanity.

Picture of Hannah Redekop

Hannah Redekop

CPT Communications Associate

Send Hannah a note: peacemakers@cpt.org

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