Good morning, all!

I hope everyone is warm and healthy.
Howard Horwitz, Chair of the Board of WESPAC Foundation was recently interviewed by media about his Jewish identity and how that relates to his peace and justice work and his relationship with and tenure at WESPAC.  The connection between his social and racial and economic justice work, the development of his awareness and knowledge of Palestine, his religious affiliations and identity as a Jew are quite clear in his answers to probing questions.  We want to share it with our community and welcome your comments and feedback.
Howard: We are honored to have you serve as the WESPAC Board Chair and thank you for your tireless and lifelong dedication to building a more just and peaceful world.
Can you tell me about your activism surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
including what brought you to this work?

I am active in the following organizations: member of The Israel Action Committee of
Temple Israel of New Rochelle; a founding Board Member of Westchester Jewish
Coalition for Immigration, member of the Westchester People’s Action Committee
(WESPAC) Mideast Committee and I am the President of the WESPAC Foundation
Board; and I am an active member of the Westchester Chapter of Jewish Voice for

I came of age at the height of the civil rights movement and the movement against the
Vietnam War in the 1960s. After several stints living in Jerusalem and on a kibbutz, I
moved to Westchester in the 1970s where I sought ways to continue to participate in the
struggles for peace and racial and economic justice. It was then that I found WESPAC,
a peace and justice organization committed to working towards a world free of war, of
nuclear arms and of nuclear power, and against US policies that supported dictators
against the people of Central and South America.

Over time, I learned about Palestine, and I learned about discrimination against
Mizrahim. I also learned that the actual conditions of life for Palestinians as well as for
Mizrahim in Israel contrasted with the Zionist narrative I had been taught and had come
to believe.

By the late 1970s, Labor and Socialist Zionism was being eclipsed by the nationalist
Likud and affiliated parties. I was jolted by the populist cooptation of the grievances of
the majority Mizrahi Jews. I was jolted by the conditions of life for Palestinians in Israel
and in the Occupied territories.

My Zionist beliefs were shattered by the historical facts. The partition plan robbed the
Palestinian population of their homes, livelihoods, and land. This was the Nakba, the
ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians, the invasion and burning of 500 villages, and
the denial of the Palestinian right of return. These facts cannot and will not be erased
from history any more than Holocaust denial can erase the Holocaust.

How does this activism factor into your Jewish identity?

My activism is tied to my Jewish identity, given the Jewish principles I learned and that I
respect, and the lessons I have learned from the history of the Jewish people and of the
brutality of nation building and nationalism. I learned what Hillel taught was the essence
of Judaism that: “What is hateful to you do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah;
the rest is explanation; go and learn.”

I appreciate the sweep, grandeur as well as the tragedies of Jewish history in the
Diaspora–Europe (Poland and Russia), Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, China, and the United States. Zionism is not equivalent to Jewishness; in fact,
Zionism as a nation-state project has left the sweep and grandeur of Jewish history
behind, and it denigrates the Jewish tragedies by acting in ways that are “hateful” in
Hillel’s terms. It has built walls and separation barriers, it aspires to forced separation
from Palestinians, Muslims, and Christians. The Zionist state has displaced,
dispossessed, and dehumanized—and is now annihilating—those who would be
embraced as equals according to the Jewish values I believe in and value.

What have you been thinking and feeling since Oct. 7?

I dream of a political arrangement that brings Palestinians and Israeli Jews together
from the river to the sea, the only solution to antisemitism and anti-Palestinianism.
Otherwise, antisemitism will flourish, and the Palestinians will continue to die.

October 7 was horrible and emotionally devastating. Even as I am horrified by the
atrocities committed by Hamas, I believe it is important to understand why these
Palestinian fighters broke out from the ghetto wall. My outrage at Hamas’s atrocities
quickly gave way to my outrage as Israel announced and began the ongoing
implementation of genocide involving forced death marches and indiscriminate bombing
and killing of over 27,000 Gazans, the vast majority women, and children. 
Israel has killed over 12,000 children. I struggle to wrap my head around these numbers. I look at my grandchildren and weep over the Palestinian children who are dead under the rubble, who are starving to death right now, as I type this, as I say this.

I am outraged that there are almost no Jewish religious and secular institutions standing
up against this violence, this absolute horrific violence. This is not Jewish. This is a
nation-state intent on annihilation. Where are our rabbis to call out against this violence
perpetrated by Israel? They are few and far between. Instead, the vast majority repeat
the “I stand with Israel” declarations, disregarding the horrific facts on the ground, which
is the death and destruction of Palestinian civilians and the utter destruction of their
homes. This is the liquidation of the ghetto called Gaza, a complete atrocity. There is no
other way to look at what is happening at this very moment.

Right now, the number one imperative is: save lives. There must be a permanent and
immediate ceasefire—the only way to save the hostages and save the Palestinian
children and the Palestinian civilians, young and old.

Young Jewish people are sending a strong message from the protest lines. They will not
stay in the fold unless Israel changes course. They also see the American Jewish
establishment as having gone astray, and they demand that Jewish religious and
secular leaders stand up against the annihilation of the Palestinian people. They are
aware of the efforts by the establishment to suppress their voices of protest, and they
will not have it. In the face of such an onslaught, they are standing up for their values
encapsulated by Hillel’s words: What is hateful to them they will not do to their fellow.

Has Oct. 7 and the war in Gaza changed your relationship with your Jewish community or the Jewish world?

On the positive side, I am grateful to “Jewish Voice for Peace,” “If Not Now,” and the
cadre of young Jewish activists for enabling me to keep the faith, and to remind me that
Judaism is not political Zionism. As I attend the demonstrations calling for an immediate
ceasefire, I am witnessing first hand these young people. I am heartened by the polls
that consistently show that young Jewish adults in their 20s and 30s are standing up for
justice for Palestinians and demanding an immediate ceasefire. This gives me hope for
the future for all people, Jew and non-Jew alike.

On the other hand, I am distraught over the blind support for an Israel with a fascist,
right wing government that kills, beats, arrests, and displaces innocents on a massive,
genocidal scale in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel proper. This is the number one
existential threat to the continuity of the Jewish people and its values. I am at a loss as
to how Jewish institutions will ever recover and reclaim their values once they wake up
and see what Israel has done.

Dangerous, too, is the willful weaponization of anti-Semitism. Conflating Judaism as a
religion and an identity with Zionist political ideology makes everyone unsafe.
There are other great dangers lurking. The alliance of Israel and the Jewish
establishment with right-wing anti-Semites and Christian Zionists is extraordinarily
dangerous to Jewish lives and wellbeing. The role of AIPAC and other powerful Jewish
organizations in undermining our democratic process by working explicitly to unseat
Black and Brown and Jewish progressive candidates who stand up for the values of
racial and economic justice and global human rights and who stand against declaring
blind support for unconditionally sending Israel billions in military aid. Do not be
surprised by the result: I predict alliances and actions such as these will lead to

These are existential issues that I worry about in my relationship with my Jewish
community. It is time to do “T’shuva,” repentance. Indeed, I believe the future of the
Jewish people depends on justice for Palestine. Truth and reconciliation are the only
way forward. Because Israel has the power, it is essential that it recognize that
Palestinians have a right to exist, have a right to return to their homes and to live in
dignity and equality.

As a Jew who remembers the Holocaust, I abhor that what is being done to the
Palestinians is what was done to us. 

I was raised in a Jewish household. My mother’s side was Orthodox religious. My
father’s side was Orthodox in membership and also affiliated with the Workers Circle.
As a young Jew, I moved away from the strictures of Orthodoxy, and found Zionism as a
secular, socialist enterprise compelling. As mentioned above, I spent months at a time
on a Kibbutz in the early 1970s, appreciating its form of socialism, and its Jewish

In line with its mission to give voice to those who would otherwise be unrecognized
victims of war, injustice and environmental degradation, WESPAC provides fiscal
sponsorship (not money) to Palestinian and many other organizations whose peace and
justice mission is aligned with ours, and whose principles of nonviolence align with ours.
WESPAC offers fiscal sponsorship to help support their educational outreach and

Under the WESPAC umbrella, we have a very active WESPAC Mideast Committee.
WESPAC Mideast organizes events, lectures, teach-ins, marches, protests, vigils, and
outreach centered on the struggle for justice in Palestine and in Syria, Egypt, Iran,
Turkey, Morocco, among other countries.

WESPAC has deep roots in the anti-Vietnam war and civil rights movements. Its
guiding principle is nonviolent protest against injustice, discrimination, war, and the
causes of climate change. WESPAC Foundation’s purpose is to give a human face to
those who would otherwise be unrecognized victims of war, injustice, and environmental