Irene Bruegel, a founder of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, died on 6 October, at the age of 62, as the result of a liver disease.
We in AWL knew her mainly through our various efforts to construct a “two states” pole for solidarity with the Palestinians since 2000, when events in Israel-Palestine started spiralling into mutual reinforcement of Hamas and the Israeli right.
As we have seen from the changing pattern of the responses of passers-by at our many protests outside the Israeli embassy over those years, that grim spiral has driven many people in Britain into concluding that the whole situation is a horrible mess which they’re better off not thinking about.
On the left, many activists have adopted their own form of “not thinking about it” by rallying to Hamas, to “impossibilist” programmes, and to boycotts of Israel.
Elsewhere on the left, many academics said true things about how the university lecturers’ union’s moves to boycott Israel were destructive of effective solidarity with the Palestinians, but were reluctant or sceptical about positive plans for real solidarity.
Irene’s early political training had been in the SWP, now the most vocal supporters of Hamas, but she neither stopped thinking nor withdrew into scepticism.
She came to our protests sometimes; she discussed with us about how to build something bigger, though I think she found our forces too small for any of our schemes to be convincing.
As well as Jews for Justice for Palestine, she was involved in Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, a practical campaign against such things as the Israeli government’s refusal to let students from Gaza attend universities in the West Bank which works in collaboration with democratic-minded Israeli academics.
The forces of hope and reason are a head shorter.