Some things are up for debate. Some are not.
Participating in yesterday’s Israel Solidarity Rally felt good. It felt good to be with more than a thousand other Jews and friends, despite the strangeness of being in a group so large for the first time in so long.
So many of us gathered to say that we stand with our Jewish home. We are Zionists; we believe that the Jewish state has as much right to exist as any other nation and that Israel has full rights to defend itself and protect the lives of its citizens.
It felt terrific to have so many in-person conversations with people I met while walking in the midday heat about how important Israel is to us, regardless of Israel’s politics or our own, regardless of Israel’s flaws, of which there are many, and which we discussed! Particularly as the viability of a two-state solution drifts farther and farther away and the cracks throughout western society become more and more exposed, we need to be having nuanced and honest conversations. Conversations about our hopes for peace, about our need for lasting safety, and our wishes for dignity and respect for Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians. Conversations about our concerns of extremists of all kinds, on the streets, behind rocket launchers, in tunnels, and yes, in synagogues and government offices. In these nuanced conversations, we will find a path forward, and we bring our young people, trained well in values of universalism and tikkun olam, with us.
And, in these conversations, we must make clear that there are some things on which we will not bend. There is no moral equivalence between Hamas militant terrorism and Israeli military defense. Four thousand rockets targeting is a disproportionate and monstrous response to Jewish actions in Jerusalem. Attacking Jews because one cares about Palestinians is not helping anyone; it is engaging in Antisemitism and committing a hate crime. Attacking Israel’s right to exist without going after any other modern nation is hypocrisy. Boycotting and divesting from Israel on account of its treatment of minorities without taking similar action against this very nation in which we live or any other flawed modern country is unfairly biased. To go after Israel without going after Hamas when crying out about the plight of the Palestinian civilian is to explicitly not care about Israeli lives and be willfully ignorant of how Hamas protects (or fails to protect) Palestinians in Gaza.
This wave of Antisemitic attacks in the wake of the Hamas-Israel conflagration is concerning and disturbing. It evokes awful memories for many of us; some personally experienced, some inherited from our parents. For me, it brings up memories of verbal demonstrations and fighting at York University during the second intifada, when my friends and I were often targeted as Jews for being supporters of Israel, and where Hillel, for publicly being pro-Israel, was temporarily banned from campus events. For many, it makes us afraid of Jewish places of gathering— our synagogues, our JCCs—and wondering whether we’ll be safe. We question whether we can wear any visible Jewish symbols when walking down the street.
Too much of the protest that we’re now seeing throughout this country and abroad is hate and Antisemitism, plain and simple. And we will not stand for it.
For Israel, for the Jewish people, we march. We stand. We advocate. We write, and we speak up. We criticize fairly, we engage, we discuss, and we dream. We come together, virtually and in person, proud of who we are, with nuances and all, as lovers of Israel.