Paradox of Israel-Palestine Protests
Dr. Andrew Rosenfeld
I read about a protest in Washington, D.C. where thousands demanded that the US cease its support of Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people.
The sight of my fellow citizens, many of them fellow liberals, waving banners and bawling, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”, “Israel is an apartheid state" and “End the genocide” was astonishing. Apparently, Israelis and Jews are only allowed to accept their own slaughter in silent obeisance. Not this time.
I love Israel deeply, but I acknowledge that she suffers from deep imperfections. I spent last year struggling with my anger over her government’s relentless swing toward a right-wing theocracy and so did hundreds of thousands of Israelis who daily took to the streets in protest.
That all ended on Oct. 7. On that day the narrative of cause and effect became meaningless against the reports of mutilations, rapes, burnings, beheadings and abductions.
To Jews all humans are made in the image of God, and we all bleed when someone else suffers. Consider this passage in the Talmud, “The ministering angels wanted to sing their song….but the Holy One, Blessed be He, said: the work of My hands, the Egyptians, are drowning at sea and you wish to sing songs?”
But our compassion does not negate the fact that Israel is now engaged in a war for her very survival.
How quickly and conveniently those protesters in Washington and at Columbia and Cornell forget about Hamas’s orgy of death for 1400 people, most of them civilians, and the abduction of more than 230 men, women, students, seniors, children, and toddlers, Jews and non-Jews alike. In their self-righteous fervor for something they themselves barely comprehend, the protesters forget about the young people at a music festival shot, burned, raped and mutilated by the hundreds. About whole families huddled in safe rooms, listening helplessly as their attackers closed in on them for the kill.
My synagogue is one of dozens in the Conservative Jewish community that have been paired with the name of one of the abducted for the purpose of offering special prayers of support, protection and return.
This gives our congregation a specific, tangible and palpable connection to the suffering of our Israeli brothers and sisters. Our community was paired with Naama Levy, a 19-year-old university student and IDF soldier who was in Kibbutz Nir Oz when it was attacked. The terrorists made a video of her abduction. Her face is bewildered, shocked.
The knees of her pants are torn and bloody, and as she is turned away from the camera to be trundled into the back of a jeep, you can see that the seat of her pants is splotched with blood, indicating likely sexual assault. That image is forever burnt into my brain.
None of this means anything to the protesters, whose misguided shrieks of “Genocide” are the product of a group-think mentality that refuses to embrace – much less attempt to seek out – any factual foundation that might challenge their cause.
Never mind that in 2005, Israel ceded control of Gaza entirely to the Palestinian Authority. Never mind that these very rights and benefits are available to all citizens of Israel, Jewish or not. And yet, Israel stands accused of apartheid and genocide.
Never mind the evidence that Hamas has been stealing and stockpiling thousands of gallons of fuel earmarked for Gaza’s hospitals and homes. It’s much more convenient to embrace a lie about the supposed destruction of a hospital by Israeli bombers, a lie that, when exposed, revealed that the explosion was from one of hundreds of misfired Jihadi rockets that landed in a parking lot and that the hospital was still intact.
Never mind that prior to the launch of the ground offensive on northern Gaza, where most of the Hamas terrorists are concentrated, the IDF issued literally millions of warnings via leaflets, recorded phone messages and social media postings, urging Gazans to flee to the south and out of harm’s way.
Hamas didn’t lift a finger to assist in this evacuation, but instead blocked the escape routes, forcing civilians to remain and serve as cannon fodder for coming attacks by Israel tanks, drones, fighter jets and artillery.
Yet the onus is placed on Israel to engage in a ceasefire and diplomacy.
How many times must the wheel spin back into place, marking another epoch of slaughter for Jews as the world looks on with less-than-passive indifference? Now more than ever, I feel that my Jewish identity, my bloodline is under attack. To me this war is existential.
Regardless of how the protesters may deny it, anti-Israel does equal anti-Semitism, a dehumanizing double standard that makes it easier to hate, scourge and destroy. We have seen this in anti-Semitic mob attacks on college campuses, in a sign on a business in Turkey that says, “No Jews Allowed”, in swastikas scrawled on homes in Jewish neighborhoods and on synagogue walls. And we’ve seen it all before.
The sad truth is that Israel is now engaged in a horrifying war of survival against a ruthless enemy that doesn’t hesitate to use thousands of blameless souls as shields for their rifle muzzles. Try to imagine what Israel, the Middle East, the world, will look like if Hamas wins.
As Avi Lewis states in his recent blog in the Times of Israel: “We won’t die silently the way you want us to. For the first time in 2,000 years we are organized, we are motivated and we will defend ourselves. We fight for light over darkness, morality over evil”.