Yesterday afternoon, the intersection of 2nd and 42nd in Manhattan set the stage for a contrasting set of statements. Since moving to New York for the summer, I visited this cross-street twice. Both times were in solidarity for our boys. The first time I called for their release, and the second time I condemned their brutal murder at the hands of Hamas. The Israeli Consulate of New York acts as a place of refuge for the Jewish people during times of celebration and of solidarity. Yesterday, it served as a place where dozens stood up for Israel’s right to self-defense.
The consulate lies on the northwest of the intersection, adjacent to Yitzhak Rabin Way, named after the great Israeli Prime Minister who attempted to make peace with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). In front of it, a “pro-Palestinian” protest garnered hundreds of people holding PLO flags and signs condemning Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Hateful slogans, including “Israel, the new Nazis,” and “Jerusalem 2014 smells like Berlin 1939 #Zionazism” were held high above a sea of black, red, white, and green. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” echoed throughout the street corner. The protestors continued to spew hateful rhetoric, called the state of Israel an “apartheid state,” and demanded that Israel be tried for war crimes.
Contrasting this wave of vitriolic Jew-hatred, the southeastern corner of 2nd and 42nd, named after human rights advocates Nelson and Winnie Mandela, featured nearly a hundred pro-Israel protesters. In a sea of blue and white, the protestors sang “Am Yisrael Chai,” “HaTikva,” and even the “Star-Spangled Banner.” When the singing ended, everyone chanted various slogans, such as “no more rockets, no more war,” and “defense is not a crime.” “Israel wants peace; Hamas wants war” proved to be the most popular chant of all those reverberated on our side of the intersection. Nothing about destroying the Palestinians came out of the lips of the pro-Israel protest. Contrary to those waving PLO flags, the Israeli flag bearers called for peace and the desire to end this conflict. This was Zionism at its best.
One of the major issues that foreign government officials and the media continue to project is the idea of moral equivalence. One cannot do such a thing between Israel, a democracy that fights to live, and Hamas, a terrorist organization that lives to fight. In a similar way, it would disgust me if people believed that yesterday’s “pro-Palestine” protest was as peaceful as the pro-Israel protest.
Herein lies the problem: One side called for the destruction of the Jewish state; the other called for ending the conflict while combatting a terrorist organization committing the double war crime of using human shields and firing deliberately at civilian populations. Essentially, what happened yesterday represents a microcosm of the greater conflict as a whole. Hamas wants to destroy Israel while Israel tries to live in peace.
This tale of two protests highlights the multiple issues that college campuses face. How do we expose Students for Justice in Palestine for what it truly is as a Jew-hating group that demonizes Israel and holds Israel to a higher standard than every other country in the world. The answer is simple. In the same way that Israel tries to handle its enemies, pro-Israel students have to demonstrate the moral high ground. We should sing, dance, and speak of peace and equality while the other side continues to spew anger and hatred. If the Israelis can still remain positive under consistent red alerts and rocket fire, then why can’t the pro-Israel community do the same?