To the people of Gaza; what follows is not directed at you. You are witnessing only one half of this conflict from the inside, and I cannot blame you for being a little biased. Neither can I blame fellow Jews and Israelis who are biased from being regularly forced into bomb shelters by rocket fire (although I do hold them to higher standards). It is very hard to see yourself through your enemy’s eyes, although I hope someday we can all learn to do so and the term “enemy” will be seen as far too extreme to be perceived rationally.
I do not agree with what your leadership has done to your people or your territory, but I don’t always agree with my leadership either. I won’t apologize for my people’s ability to protect its civilians when your leadership’s ideology is the murder of as many Israeli civilians as possible while we go out of our way to save yours. War is hell. Writing a rule book for it has always seemed oxymoronic to me, but whatever rules there are, we do play by them and then some. Yet I understand it is hard for you to see the greater picture when your innocent children are dying. With that said, I’ll let you be and address the real culprits of this rant.
To the young people who have never even left their country unless it’s been on their wealthy parents’ dime; the white people with no sense of identity who ultimately cling to the cause of another culture because it’s “hip”; who sit behind Facebook and Twitter and hashtag all day long among content that is neither original nor insightful; to the self-hating Jews with no sense of their homeland’s history; to the anti-Semites of Europe, the Middle East, and beyond; to the well-meaning ally who is too naive to recognize the influence of anti-Semitism on this world; this letter is for you.
First, a bit of a disclaimer: I really hate being one of the many voices out there in the madness. Yet given that all my pent-up emotions need to be expelled in some way to relieve me of my anxiety, this essay was inevitable. (That’s all being a writer really is, anyway; expelling pent up emotions and anxiety in a more elegant format.) While I admit my view on this is slightly one-sided, I have always tried my best to maintain an open mind, which is what I will continue to do as I address you. Besides, even though I have only experienced this conflict from one side, it’s more than you have personally witnessed, which is zero. So hear me out.
Do you have any idea how immensely complicated this conflict is? I’ve spent years studying it and the more I learn the more torn up I feel. And I don’t accept scanning through a BuzzFeed list of GIFs and memes as adequate research. Even the New York Times has become useless on this matter. No, to back up the loaded accusations you are hurling, you need to have gone to the source. Not a couple of interviews on YouTube; I’m talking books whose thickness rivals Tolkien works. Once you have done that, then you can come back to me and tell me how certain you are that Israel is in the wrong. I guarantee once you have done that you won’t be so certain about anything.
No one in their right mind is in favor of murdering innocent children. That’s not what Israel is doing, so stop oversimplifying it. Gaza is not under any type of military occupation; Israel left in 2005. The West Bank is a different matter, and I will say for the record I have been thoroughly disappointed with many of Netanyahu’s governments actions there. Hamas was elected in Gaza in 2007. Instead of using the abundant resources that Israel had left behind to build their economy, they destroyed anything that was made by Jews and used their resources to build tunnels into Israel to kill soldiers and civilians. These tunnels were made by children, 160 of whom died doing so (in case you still think Israelis are murderers). Only then was a blockade put in place to prevent importing of weaponry. Food, water, medicine, etc. are still allowed in and often supplied by Israel. Countries like Iran still just send weapons. Meanwhile, while the civilians of Gaza sink into poverty, Hamas’s bosses are living large. They brainwash their people to hate, provoke Israel, and when Israel must defend itself, they point to the retaliation to only further their teachings of hate. Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime, but one of which Hamas is guilty - not Israel. The Israelis have certainly not been saints, but Hamas does not have the moral high-ground. If you believe in human rights, then you are against Hamas.
If you don’t believe me or any of my sources, like I said, read the history books.
If you insist that Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against Israel are effective tools for your protestations, get ready to drop out of the modern world entirely. I guarantee you that your computer, cell phone, medications, and a myriad of other products you need to function in today’s society are some part or entirely Israeli. It’s not just hummus you’ll be sacrificing.
You may accuse me and other Jews or Israelis of jumping to anti-Semitism as a defense, but given our history and our present, can you blame us? Look at the rallies and riots throughout Europe and the rest of the world. I don’t believe Israel’s latest operation is increasing anti-Semitism; it is simply exposing the anti-Semitism that is already there, disguising itself under a cry for justice.
I rarely agree with Netanyahu, but I understand why he does what he does. He is of the generation that sees anti-Semitism as an undying plague, and no matter what the Jews do, no matter how successful or righteous we prove to be, someone will find a reason to hate us. Therefore, Israel must defend itself and do what it deems necessary, regardless of public opinion. After all, has public opinion ever saved us before? The Jews aren’t going to be victims anymore. Sorry if that makes us less endearing to you, but we have to take care of ourselves. If we don’t, no one else will.
Many self-proclaimed allies will contest they are not anti-Semitic, just against the actions of the Israeli army and/or government. While this can be a valid claim, I fear many of its claimants don’t realize how pervasive anti-Semitism truly is. Many of the anti-Israel arguments you well-intentioned allies are clinging to is just anti-Semitism dressed up as intellectual fervor. It is the same well-intentioned line of thinking that leads schools in California to ask their students to intelligently debate whether or not the Holocaust actually happened. Make no mistake; rationality can be a dangerous weapon when mixed with hatred. There is no rational debate when it comes to whether or not the Holocaust happened; it is pure fact. Yet when hatred comes along and plants the seed of doubt in an intellectual mind trained to use rational thought to draw a conclusion, the results can be alarming. “There must be some reason why everyone hates Israel so much. So many people can’t be so angry without a reason. There must be a rational explanation for it all.” Beware; there isn’t. Many people tried to use the same reasoning in Germany 70+ years ago, which ultimately led otherwise good people to tolerate or even condone the mass murder of 6 million people.
There has been a video going around recently among more right-wing Jews about the irrelevancy of a “peaceful majority” in Islam. While I believe the speaker’s overall demeanor to be pitifully anti-Islamic in nature, she does make quite a few good points. My left-wing response to this is “yes, but it doesn’t have to be this way!” No “peaceful majority” has to be irrelevant, but they do have to take up that cause within their community. Muslims themselves are the ones who must stop Islamic extremism from hijacking their religion and using it for evil. A bunch of white people trying to solve the problem without any regard for culture, climate, or history is not the solution. Honestly, have we learned nothing from American and European history? That’s half the reason this debacle exists in the first place.
Speaking of history, stop making ad nauseum comparisons of the current situation in Gaza to the Holocaust. Or South African apartheid. Or the American civil rights movement. They’re really not the same things.
At the end of the day, this struggle is between Israel and Palestine. Jews and Muslims have a stake in the conflict as well because it is their brothers and sisters involved, although I would argue Jews more so because they are fighting for their one and only homeland. But the Israelis and the Palestinians are the people who need to work out their differences. Other nations can certainly be allies or mediators and brokers of peace, but your trendy hashtags are not liberating or aiding anyone on either side, and your hyperbolic rhetoric is doing more harm than good.
Please understand that I am not trying to generate a call to apathy. My point is not that you should stop caring. Quite the opposite, actually. My point is that you should care - care so much that you take the time to educate yourself. Are allies a good thing? Of course, and more often than not they are necessary. Should good people speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves? Absolutely, but for the love of God and all humanity, when you do speak up, please understand what you are talking about.