As of late, I have become very fearful of a disturbing trend. One in which a small, yet immensely vocal minority of Israel’s supporters come out onto message boards, forums, news websites (including the Times of Israel) in order to voice racism against Arabs.
“Arabs to Arabia”
“Expel the Arab barbarians, Kahane Tzadak!”
And worst of all:
“Gas the Arabs!”
I am blessed in the knowledge that the majority of my friends, my fellow supporters of Israel, and Israelis themselves do not at all think in this way. It is also fortunate, that it is not yet necessary to say with regret “what have we become?”. But now, as a small minority starts to infiltrate the minds of a very frustrated and passionate majority that loves the Jewish state, it is time to address the question of “what are we in danger of becoming?”
I was born in 1997 and I am part of a generation that has been raised without seriously knowing anything substantial about a very important and complex conflict. Most of my peers cannot find Israel on a map. However, as they continue to get older their opinions will be very much influenced by a media that is often hostile to Israel, their minds tainted by a narrative of oppression, occupation and militarism. I am fortunate in my upbringing that I have the upbringing, education and the independence to be able to determine where I stand on the question of where my sympathy and my support lies. I saw where the freedom, the democracy, the tolerance and the innovation was. I learnt the history of the Jewish people and the history of anti-Semitism from a young age, and anti-Semitism is something that I have faced and confronted personally over the course of my young life. I knew that Israel was a country that deserved support and respect, and I soon found that I was not alone in that. Israel is not alone and many stand behind her in the fight against terrorism, anti-semitism and injustice.
That said, Israel is certainly not popular either. The threats that Israel faces apart from terrorism and war include racist and hypocritical boycotts, absurd accusations of occupation, and incredibly vitriolic tirades from both the extreme left and the extreme right. Yet, I find that the greatest threat of all that can befall those who support Israel is a disease, a debilitating illness that has already poisoned Palestinian society, the boycott movement and a great many elements of the anti-Israel spectrum. That is hatred -racism- and that racism is something toxic to any chance, any possibility, any hope of the peace that we yearn for.
We are truly at risk when we become poisoned by a hatred of an entire race and culture, an entire religion, and at most we are at risk when we act upon such hatred. This kind of poison has seeped into Palestinian society, prominently displayed by the virulent incitement of the Palestinian Authority and this kind of poison is toxic to any chance or hope of peace. So I ask, humbly, to all those who stand by Israel- Let hatred not be a plague cast upon both our houses.
Supporters of Israel are justly proud of the way in which Israel stands as a beacon of democracy, tolerance, and modernity in what is literally an exploding sea of radical rallies, terrorist threats and fanaticism. Israel is the antithesis of this, and thus it’s supporters should be the antithesis of those who hate Israel. We must not shout “Arabs to Arabia”, because that is truly just as painful and ignorant as the cries of “Jews to Poland!” or “Jews to Germany!”. But above all, we cannot and must not direct our hatred, that which 99% of us manifest against terrorism, fundamentalism and anti-Semitism; against ‘Arabs’. An entire ethnicity of hundreds of millions of people, a culture and a nation that housed the Jewish people kindly for centuries. (Anybody who denies this, I defy them to compare the situation of Jews in Spain in 1492 and Iraq/Morocco in 1492)
Why should we be ignorant enough to alienate an entire group of people, millions upon millions upon millions, for the sake of their race and language and culture, even when some of the greatest tzaddikim and greatest Jews were themselves ‘Arabs’? The indignation of it! One needs only to invoke the memory of one of the greatest halachic geniuses of the last century, Ovadia Yosef (zt”l)- who was born in Iraq with the name Abdullah and with Arabic as his first language. Or perhaps the greatest Jewish scholar ever- a Moroccan Jew called Musa ibn Maymun? Most know him better as the latinised Maimonides. I ask, is petty racism really the reprieve of people, who support Israel out of love of the Jewish people and Torah?
Even the most extreme Rabbi of the last century, Meir Kahane, said “I love Israel out of love for Jews, not hate for Arabs”. No matter how cosmetic or untrue that statement was for him (as he was convicted of inciting hatred but…), it should apply to any supporter of Israel. Love for Jews, love for democracy, love for freedom and love for staking the value of human life above the so-called ‘glory of martyrdom’ that is so elevated in Palestinian society- should make hatred for Arabs impossible. Love for these lofty, yet incredible ideals that Israel manifests in it’s law and practice is in direct contravention of ‘hatred for Arabs’. Hating Arabs makes truly supporting Israel impossible. Anti-Semitism is the reason for so much antagonism towards Israel, and Anti-Israelism is the reason for so much anti-Semitism. I implore, that we do not develop the same hatred within ourselves and that we do not let our support for Israel mutate into hate. Because it isn’t right, and isn’t what Israel stands for.
I implore, that we do not descend into the same racism and intolerance that is the reason that ‘our side’, the country that we love, is so hated and discriminated against? “I hate Arabs” is getting old, but it’s getting serious. The comments are getting worse and more numerous. And it is a bad reflection on the individual who is stupid enough to say it. It is, furthermore, a bad reflection on the State of Israel that is already portrayed as some kind of bastion of anti-Arabism. We do not need these awful suspicions to be unjustly validated, the majority tarred by the ignorance of a small minority. But of course, the most simple but valid reason is that hatred is not what we stand for.
So, who will attack me for saying that hating Arabs is wrong? Who will denounce me as an “Arab-Lover”? Whoever is the first, my reply is- yes, I am an Arab lover! I love the Arabic language and culture and study both actively. I think that Arabic poetry is intense and beautiful. I listen to Egyptian and Lebanese music, both to improve my Arabic and for my own personal enjoyment. I am most certainly not scared to talk to an Arab because of what they look like, because of their accent, because of their religion. I maintain a sense of common humanity, despite the growing strength of the tides that wish to dehumanise an entire race, and entire culture as ‘subhuman’ and ‘disgusting’ and ‘worthy of death’. The Jewish people know dehumanisation all to well to sink to that level. To quote Vayikra (Exodus), “Do not wrong a stranger and do not oppress him for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”.
Now I say: I await the person who will write the comment trying to defend their own hatred for Arabs. And I also await Muslim, the Palestinian, the Boycotter, the radical leftist or who anyone else who throws their entire lot in with the ‘Palestinian side of the fence’, to come out and speak against the anti-Jewish vitriol that spews from the mouths of so many of their fellows.