A War On Two Fronts
There is a war raging in the Middle East. But there is also one being fought on social media. And they both scare me in equal measure.
We live in an era of misinformation, media opacity, and short attention spans. Which is why the discourse surrounding what is happening in Israel is so shocking and terrifying. Facts are hard to come by, and opinions masquerade as fairness and balance when they are anything but.
As an American Jew, I am afraid. I’m afraid for my friends and spiritual siblings who are living with the reality of terror and death knocking at their door. And I’m also afraid for all those people demonstrating on social media that Jews are only as safe as we keep ourselves. Because while it is possible to oppose the Israeli government and still be a strong ally to the Jewish community, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are old friends that have a troubled past.
Here is the truth of the matter: Palestine has not invaded Israel. Hamas has done that. Hamas is a terrorist organization that has wrestled control in Gaza and the West Bank, and has done just as much to oppress Palestine as they have to attack Israel. They build military command centers in schools and hospitals to ensure that casualties are high if they get retaliated against. They cut off access to the resources that Israel and others filter into the country. This is not a war between Palestine and Israel. This is a war of a terrorist organization against a sovereign state they have vowed to destroy.
If you haven’t heard a Jew say it loudly enough, here it is: there are many who do not support the troubling policies in Israel. I, for one, think Israelis and Jews must do far more to defend the rights of Palestinians, and to ensure a high quality of life for all inhabitants of the region. Which means, the response “Free Palestine,” is not up for debate. Rather, there is a large percentage of the Western World that believe the two are mutually exclusive. And this isn’t the first time the Jews have been othered to the point of politically sanctioned hatred.
When we talk about Nazi Germany, we often think that there were good people and bad people. That’s just not the case. The vast majority of Germans in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s were regular people trying to figure out how to live their lives. They didn’t hate anybody at the level of Hitler. But they were willing to believe the propaganda that was delivered to them and believed that the Jews weren’t worth saving. They received a dishonest message and allowed unthinkable atrocities to happen. All because it was more convenient to believe the agenda than to see the nuance underneath.
Hamas has been playing the information manipulation game at a professional level for decades. They have used digital techniques to create a belief that all Israelis are bad, that Israel has prevented peace and committed genocide. The Palestinian population has grown every year for almost two decades; if Israel is committing ethnic cleansing, they are the worst at it in the history of the world. Because that isn’t what is happening. That is only the agenda we’re made to believe.
Nobody would deign to ask for the voting records of citizens of Houston in the wake of a hurricane. We would help them because they are people in need. Nobody would avoid helping London if it were bombed for fear of colonialism. They are not their ancestors and deserve to be cared for. And yet, a different standard of accountability is being used for a people that has historically been displaced, expelled, and murdered in every country they have ever called home. I agree 1000% that we need accountability; I simply can’t stomach that the price is our lives.
We are a society in desperate need of nuance. It is ok to be angry at Israel’s policies and believe that the nation has a right to exist. It is possible to believe that Israel owes the Palestinian’s better while also condemning terrorism and hatred. It is possible to admit that this situation is more complicated than any one person can know, and to still feel shocked and horrified by the situation.
During the #MeToo movement, we had a public reckoning with the way we engage with gender. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, we had to come to terms with the deeply engrained racism that has undergirded so many of our institutions, policies, and contexts. And in this moment, the Jewish community around the world is begging for a similar level of compassion. Our people are dying. And there are those using the internet to misinform about what is going on, and to perpetuate an abuse of a people that still has branches missing from our family trees.
It’s hard to know how to be a good person in a world that changes so rapidly. It is even harder to know how when there are those who are using deceit to manipulate the public. My plea is that we pause for a moment to remember the essential power of humanity. When we try to excuse violence with justifications, we’ve lost our compassion. When we ignore the historic oppression of one group because of the modern oppression of another, we break the flow of generations of progress.
This situation is complicated. If it was easy, we would have solved it last decade. Or the one before that. Or the two hundred before that. But what can be simple is our conviction for justice, mercy, and love. We can support an Israel that is under attack while also defending a Palestine that is systematically oppressed. We can believe that a political reality is inhumane without needing the whole nation to suffer. And we need to see the pain in the eyes of those around us and seek to help, rather than to enforce our dogmatic beliefs. Because that is the only way to win this war. The only way to fight terror is with love. The only way to fight hatred is with kindness. And the only way to fight anger is with a willingness to try to understand.
For those looking for additional resources, offering a coherent exploration of the situation in Israel: