Calm has held for more than a day. And this 12th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is designed not as an hour glass whose sand trickles down, but instead, this cessation of fire is designed to establish more meaningful conversations that we hope lead towards a sustained quiet and should our dreams come true – a framework that could deliver coexistence or a lasting peace.
As an active member of the Washingtonian Jewish community, I am quite thankful for this ceasefire. The tragedies on both sides of the Gazan border are that – tragedy. No good hearted individual can take joy from the lost lives, homes destroyed, families broken, sleep lost, blood shed, and tears cried from Palestinians or from Israeli Jews, Christians, Muslims, or Druze affected by the tensions over the last 50 days. The conflict is nothing more than tragic.
As an American Jewish professional, I do not live under the direct threat of the nearly 15,000 rockets and mortars that have been fired at Israeli civilization centers since each and every single Israeli withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Although I have traveled to Israel numerous times since then and will be visiting the Jewish State again in less than two weeks, I do not live with a realization that requires me to know where the closest bomb shelter is at any given time in my morning, day, or night.
Although I am not within range of the rockets and mortars, I do live within ear shot of the anti-Semitic and genocidal statements that have been fired under the false veil of a smart phone or laptop through social and new media accounts by Americans and our brothers and sisters in other countries.
The false veil of social media is just that – a false veil. An individual is behind the screen. An individual’s fingers type the words of hate whether from a place of hatred or from a place of ignorance. But an individual’s conscious choices are that of an individual not from an avatar, a Twitter handle, an “anonymous” commenter on a blog, a Facebook account, or an IP address. Each and every one of these social and new media platforms are attached to an individual just like a social security number or someone’s DNA. They are unique identifiers that are attached to an individual’s digital person.
As every hour of this ceasefire inches closer, I ask that we as global citizens too create a cessation of fire. We must cease the hate. We must further the ceasefire to not just refer to rockets crossing a Gazan border or Israel’s counter-terrorism strategy, but to words shared about its root causes. Adults can engage in honest and open discussion with people of different perspectives, of different faiths, of different races, of different skin colors, of different beliefs, of different educational backgrounds, of differential socio-economic breakdowns without name calling or online bullying. This ceasefire should also be about the vile words that push us apart rather than pull us together as individuals who want the same thing – peace and prosperity for ourselves, our families, our loved ones, and all innocent people.
I am a Jew. I am pro-Israel. And I am for a two-state solution where two people can live, prosper, and coexist as neighbors. The people of the West Bank and the people of Gaza have a right to live, prosper, and to coexist with their neighbors in Israel; their neighbors in Jordan; their neighbors in Egypt; their neighbors in Lebanon; and their neighbors in Syria. The people of Egypt and the people of Jordan have learned to coexist with the people of Israel. So too can the people of Gaza and the West Bank. As a Jewish-American who supports a two-state solution, I am not opposed to someone calling me pro-Palestinian. I am pro-Palestinian for any Palestinian that accepts coexistence and accepts peace. But what I am not, is pro-Hamas.
Hamas is a Foreign Terrorist Organization as defined by the U.S. Department of State, the government of Canada, the European Union, Egypt, Japan, and others who pay attention to their words and their actions. Hamas calls not just for the death of all Israelis but the death of all Jews. They call for genocide. Hamas is not for a two-state solution, like I am. They seek a one-state solution. A state of Palestine – without a Jewish population – not under the 1967 borders of Israel, but the 1947 borders of pre-state Israel.
Fatah and PA President Mahmoud Abbas have recognized that Israel and Israelis have the right to live and coexist next to a free, independent, and prosperous Palestinian state. I support this vision. I do not support the vision of Hamas. I do not support a group calling for my death.
This ceasefire allows us to stop and think. It allows us to listen and discuss. It allows us to gain a broader understanding of the sides engaged in it. It allows us to be insightful not inciteful with our words.
After the ceasefire was announced, I attended a screening of “The Green Prince,” which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award. The description of the documentary on Sundance’s website states:
A Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. Arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he’s interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas’s ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization’s escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab agrees to spy for Israel. For him, there is no greater shame. For his Shin Bet handler, Gonen, there is no greater prize: “operating” the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas.”
I recognize that this documentary shares a different perspective. It tells a story through the lens of a documentarian. But more so, for the sold out theatre of Washingtonians at our Jewish Community Center, it allows us to witness what the people of Israel experience. The threats. The suicide bombings. The rockets. The mortars. The lies. It is through this lens of a documentarian rather than the filter of mass media.
Many Washingtonians and many Americans have traveled to Israel, but visiting doesn’t allow us to find the full appreciation for what living under the sirens actually does to one’s psyche. I’ve heard stories of friends’ grandparents who are too frail to get to the bunker in 15 seconds. I have heard stories of brave fathers’ who were hospitalized for putting their body between the rockets and their families (not as human shields to protect weapons but to protect their children and wives). And I have mourned for the 69 Israelis lost – including the four year old boy Daniel Tragerman, who loved to dance – and a fellow American and New Jersey-ian who was found dead today in the forest (NOTE – my parents and brother live in the town right next to Lakewood, NJ).
Earlier today I received a notice on my iPhone. Seven months ago, I filed a complaint on Facebook for them to take down a page entitled “The Truth About the Jews.” It was a page of hate, propaganda, and anti-Semitism. The page was dedicated to “Jewish ritual murder.” As a Jew and as an individual who then was working for B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, I found this page horrifying in more ways than one.
On January 28, 2014, when I submitted the request to have the page taken down, I was told that it was free speech and Facebook would not remove the page. I knew it was hate speech, not free speech; and I filed a second complaint for them to review it again. Seven months later, on the day (August 28, 2014), I received the update that Facebook has revised their decision. They removed the page from Facebook and the largest social media network in the world had one less page of hate.
My “extension” of the Israel-Hamas Ceasefire is to everyone that reads this blog to stop, think, consider, and then type.
In a couple months, I will be making a presentation at an American based university on Hasbara 2.0. I’ll be presenting on a simple idea, based on this extension of the ceasefire – an extension of not firing hateful messages. The topic of my talk will be on the “Bubbe and Boss Theory,” which asks all of those individuals behind the smart phone or laptop keyboards to consider what their grandmother or their employer would think if they read hate their grandson or grand-daughter wrote or their employee wrote.
Although I doubt many of those who are reading this blog are those that incite, I do hope that you do what you can to help educate and broaden the insights of those with hate in their heart or ignorance in their minds – so we all can learn to coexist and live in peace.
Salaam. Od yavo’ shalom aleinu.