Leanne Gale, 24, is a grassroots associate at the National Council of Jewish Women, where she works on the organization’s reproductive justice and anti-sex trafficking initiatives. The daughter of a rabbi, she has also been involved in activism around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and she says her Jewish identity “is a huge reason” for her political work.
How did you come to your progressive views on Israel?
I grew up immersed in a love for Israel. My relationship with the place was very much focused on the culture and a sense of Israel as actualizing Jewish liberation as a part of the Jewish history of oppression and persecution. But it was also clear to me that I was only being told a small piece of the larger story.
When I went off to the University of Pennsylvania, I started learning a little more about the darker side of Israel’s history and politics, and for the first time, I was introduced to the word “occupation” and to the word “nakba.” I felt betrayed, angry and disillusioned that my community hadn’t shared this seemingly crucial information with me about the Palestinian people and different types of oppression and violence they have faced.
Through doing research for my senior thesis in Israel on the political role of joint Israeli-Palestinian nonviolent activism, I spent a full summer interviewing Israeli and Palestinian activists who were doing solidarity work together and trying to get a sense of what makes them tick. It was through that that I really developed my political consciousness.
What does “reproductive justice” mean?
Reproductive justice is an intersectional framework that was developed by women of color and it’s rooted in basic human rights like the right to decide whether or when to become a parent. The reproductive justice framework encompasses all of the different parts of people’s lives that are actually a part of our reproductive decision making, rather than just narrowly focusing on choice, such as the choice of whether or not to have an abortion. It gets to the idea that reproductive rights are not divorced from things like racism or classism or homophobia, and in order to really get to reproductive justice, we need to get to all these systems of oppression that interlock.
What else is important to know about your journey in progressive politics?
When I was talking to my friends about doing this interview, I decided that there are only three things that I want to be said in this interview. I wanted to talk about the occupation, I wanted to talk about the Hyde Amendment [which prohibits federal funding for almost all abortions] and I wanted to say “black lives matter.”
Why is it important for you to say “black lives matter”?
I want to express in this public way how important it is for the Jewish community to be in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, particularly in a time when the stakes are high. I think it is totally unconscionable for the Jewish community to abnegate our responsibility for trying to dismantle the system of racism and white supremacy because we may disagree with black lives matter organizers around some things on Israel/Palestine.