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Your Jewish Friends are Not Okay Right Now
Why this round of violence is different.
Chances are, your Jewish friends are not okay right now.
I know I’m not. I’m hurting, I’m angry, and I’m fearful for the future. This is a new phase of terror, and in many ways, the worst is yet to come. I’m afraid for my friends, my family, and my community.
I feel this way not despite my liberal political views, but because of them. I’m an anti-occupation, two-state solution progressive, opposed to the current government’s gutting of Israeli democratic institutions and to its jingoistic, violent, and discriminatory statements and actions against Palestinians.
But that only makes the pain worse. Because I know that in the near future, thousands of Palestinians are going to die in the Israeli reprisal. The right-wing Israeli government will be strengthened, Hamas (or what’s left of it) will be strengthened, and the cause of coexistence will be further weakened. This is a war that the extremists want. The hopelessness feeds their narrative that there can be no peace, that strength is the only way to security, that the other side (whichever side that is) has no respect for life. As one rabbi put it, this situation is terrible for everyone except the terrible people.
This moment also hurts because so many on the American left seem to have lost any sense of human decency and are cheering this barbaric, disgusting, horrifying incursion as an act of “resistance.” To be sure, there are many forms of resistance that are justified by the Israeli occupation and blockade of Gaza. But going house-to-house, and murdering and kidnapping civilians? This is “resistance”? Breaking into someone’s home, kidnapping their kid, and parading their kid’s corpse through the streets of Gaza? What kind of “progressive” could see describe such acts as resistance?
Because that is what is happening. Hamas militants broke into homes – again, within Green-Line Israel – and murdered grandmothers (one even posted the video of the execution online, where the woman’s granddaughter watched it). They killed
100240 people at a trance music festival. Entire families have been gunned down or kidnapped. “Resistance”?
And let’s not forget Hamas’s strategy of placing military targets in civilian buildings in Gaza, so that when Israel responds, there are massive civilian casualties and images of death to show on the world political stage. It’s hard to fathom the callousness of sacrificing one’s own people in this way.
To be sure, it’s not only left-wing idiots making offensive statements in public. On the right, there’s now a ridiculous piece of garbage floating around that Hamas’s weapons were paid for by U.S. tax dollars because of a deal the Democrats cut. False, offensive, ridiculous trash. The facts? Six billion dollars belonging to Iranians had been frozen in a South Korean bank, due to sanctions against the regime. They were unfrozen as part of a deal leading to the release of American hostages. But the money was put into a bank in Qatar under the condition that it only be used for humanitarian aid, and is being monitored to ensure compliance. Nor, of course, is unfrozen cash in any way equivalent to American tax dollars.
But hey, there’s nothing some people love more than dead Jews who can help them score political points, amirite?
My own connection to this war is attenuated. I know one person (so far) who was murdered. I lived in Israel for three years and have many friends and family members there. I have many friends in harm’s way. But I don’t have siblings called up for reserve duty. I’m not (as many friends are) huddling in a bomb shelter with my kid, trying to comfort her when of course no comfort can truly be provided. As much as I’m hurting, I don’t want to compare that to what my Israeli friends are feeling – not at all.
But I do know that it is possible to both oppose the occupation and condemn the murder of civilians. (Truthfully, I cannot believe I had to just write that sentence.) The occupation is morally wrong, and the violence inflicted on innocent civilians in Gaza and parts of the West Bank is completely unconscionable. The violence to come, which will also affect innocent civilians, keeps me awake at night.
And also, nothing ever justifies the cold-blooded murder of children, the elderly, the defenseless. There is no ledger on which such actions may be balanced.
Thankfully, I am not alone in feeling this way. I’ll close with a short prayer that offers a better way forward, by one of my beloved spiritual fellow travelers, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. I hope you’ll consider circulating it:
Or in plain text:
To our friends and family
From the windswept Golan
To the sands of the Arava:
We hold you in our hearts
We hold your children in our hearts
Our fate is bound up in yours.
And to the parents and children
From Ramallah to Gaza City
Who also do not wish for war --
We love this land with you
We pray for better with you
And we yearn for peace with you.
God, with all the desperation of our hearts we plead: may it be true that peace will yet come.
עֹוֹד יַבֹא שַׁלוֹֹם עַלֵינוּ וְעַל כֻלַם. راع ييجي اسالام لاينا واي كل إلام
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