Alice Rothchild

Physician, Author, Israel-Palestine Peace Activist, Filmmaker: b. 1948

"Where are the protests from political organizations, the cries of horror from U.S. ministers as well as rabbis and mainstream Jewish community groups who cry "Never again!" Surely history will teach us that Israel cannot claim a special moral dispensation because of past suffering, and then behave immorally. Misusing the term anti-Semitism to characterize criticism of Israeli behavior ultimately renders the term meaningless. "

  • Is a physician by training and until 2013 was an assistant professor Harvard Medical School.
  • Made the 2013, award-winning film, Voices Across the Divide, about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
  • Cited in 2005 as a "Feminist Who Changed America".
  • Contributed to the first edition of the groundbreaking 1971 book, Our Bodies, Ourselves

Biography

Alice Rothchild was born in Boston, MA, in 1948, the same year that the First Arab–Israeli War erupted and the State of Israel was established. Her parents were first generation American Jews who created a “Jewish family with a deep love of Israel and a profound understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust.”  Seymour Rothchild, her father, was a self-made man, a chemist. Her mother, Sylvia Rothchild, taught and wrote about Jewish issues, including a book, Voices from the Holocaust, which chronicled the oral histories of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.

Sylvia’s interest in history and individual narratives would have a profound impact on her daughter’s exploration of divisions between Israel and Palestine.  “Immersed in these stories, I began to understand that buried in the wounds of my own people’s near annihilation, another people’s story was lost,” says Dr. Rothchild. Dr. Rothchild writes,“Sixty plus years after the [First Arab--Israeli War], I feel it is my personal responsibility as my mother's daughter and as a Jewish American who has grappled with the multiple narratives in this region, to listen and document the tragedy that was created by my own people's tragedy." 

Growing up, the family visited Alice's Orthodox grandparents in Brooklyn, New York to share Jewish holidays.  Alice attended Hebrew School and participated in an early version of a Bat Mitzvah at a local conservative synagogue, Temple Israel, a popular Jewish Congregation. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1970 with a BA in psychology and subsequently attended Boston University School of Medicine. Her interest in progressive politics began in the 1960s and 70s when she participated in campus opposition to the Vietnam War and later, while in medical school at Boston University and a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, when she committed herself  to the feminist and health reform movements.

It wasn't until 1997, through her involvement with a progressive, secular Jewish organization, the Boston Workmen’s Circle, that Alice turned much of her non-medical focus to learning and writing about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, its relationship to U.S. foreign policy and the black-and-white stands taken by organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In time, she learned that each year millions of dollars are spent on media to promote aggressively an Israel-right-or-wrong political stand. She saw students, professors, writers, and performers who have sympathy for or interest in the Palestinian side of the story being discredited by this activist media.

Rothchild co-founded and still co-chairs American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP)-Boston, an organization dedicated to furthering a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. She has also co-organized the AJJP Health and Human Rights Project since 2003, a project that organizes yearly delegations of doctors, lawyers, teachers, labor activists, and students interested in human rights issues to visit and work in Palestine/Israel. As these experiences shape her perspectives on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, she attempts to convey what she learns through her writing. In 2007, Pluto Press published her book, Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, an exploration of the Israeli–Palestinian dynamic and the personal histories of those who live it. Her most recent book, On the Brink, is a compilation of her first-person experiences in Gaza and the West Bank and has received rave reviews for its authentic story telling and ability to challenge people’s long-held ideas of the conflict. And her 2013 documentary, Voices Across the Divide, was a co-winner of that year's Audience Award at the Boston Palestine Film Festival.

In a speech in December of 2014, Rothchild concluded that the Israel-Palestine conflict has deeply corrupted US foreign policy. Our ability to understand this conflict is dependent on honest media and honest money, she says, suggesting that the U.S. government and the American Jewish population have the power to change their approach and to resolve the conflict.

Rothchild serves on the coordinating committee of Jewish Voice for Peace Boston,  where she works to further the We Divest campaign through her association with the American Public Health Association and to educate the public health community about the realities of Israeli Army occupation of Palestine.  As a part of BSD (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), the We Divest campaign aims to compel retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF to stop investing in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.

Apart from her activism, Alice is a board certified obstetrician-gynecologist who has been on the staff of Beth Israel Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) since 1978 and holds an appointment at Harvard Medical School as an Assistant Professor Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. More information can be found on her website.