On my wrist I wear a bracelet that an Israeli man gave me at a Pro-Israel rally in Washington Square Park in New York City. It says “Peace and Love” with the hashtag #hummusnothamas. I thought the phrase was quite witty, but there was a Mexican man there who angrily turned to a man whose poster exclaimed “Turn Hamas into Hummus” and said “Why do you promote such violence?” It seemed absurd to me that such a conversation was happening. Does this man really think we want to turn people into Hummus? No, of course not, but this got me thinking of the larger problem we are facing as Israel supporters, Israelis and Jews. When I was young, my Jewish day school would always tell us to behave well in front of others, reminding us to be “a light onto other nations.” As the situation in Gaza reaches its 35th day, I see that the other nations are closely scrutinizing us and it’s not looking so good.
I have spent hours reading hundreds of articles, watching videos on YouTube, and responding to people’s, mostly strangers’, posts on Facebook; all in an effort to shine the light that Israel is defending herself and she has that right. Many times I feel discouraged. People tell me that they have been forced to “unfriend” acquaintances of theirs who have been posting anti-Semitic thoughts. Others have expressed frustration with the ignorance they are encountering. Faced with the same, I took it upon myself to learn the facts and react. Does this “ignorant” person really know the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Through my research, I found that I, myself, didn’t really know. So I learned about it. How does the Iron Dome work? I watched a video and learned about it. How much funding does America give to Israel or Gaza? How is that money spent? I learned about it. Did you know that Yasser Arafat used to siphon money from international aid into his own personal investments? I learned about that, too. I armed myself with information to fight the hate that is out there.
A few weeks ago, I was confronted with an email asking for people to stand against Israel and support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.The sheer hatred towards Israel that was evident in the email was palpable. No mention was made of Hamas, a terrorist organization, as a ruling entity in the Gaza Strip nor the constant rocket attacks fired at Israel for 13 years, nor the suicide bombers and rock throwers that have threatened Israelis for years.
The email quoted an anti-Vietnam speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “For the sake of the hundreds and thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” I found the use of this quote to be odd, since I had recently learned that Dr. King was a staunch supporter of Israel. It also accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing, racism, apartheid and genocide.” This part particularly angered me. These words have the power to mislead any person who is uninformed about the situation.
To counteract their claims, I decided to define terms. Genocide is 500,000 – 1 million people (20% of the country) murdered in Rwanda over a 100 day period. Genocide is 500,000+ Armenians massacred over two years in present-day Turkey (who now hypocritically accuses Israel of genocide). Genocide is six million Jews, my ancestors, systematically murdered in World War II; 60 million+ total deaths in that war alone. Ethnic cleansing occurred in Yugoslavia where 130,000+ lost their lives. Syria has seen over 170,000 killed with no end in sight; including whole towns completely emptied of Christians. Apartheid in South Africa saw prohibitions of marriages between non-whites and whites, and the sanctioning of “white-only” jobs, among other atrocities. These crimes simply do not occur in Israel. Say what you will, but facts are facts.
Unfortunately, there will be many who will not listen. Just last week, a man sent me a Hamas YouTube video warning me that there is nowhere for me to hide because Hamas will get me. When I told a Jewish woman posting flyers in support of Gaza that Hamas wants to see us bleed, she exclaimed that that was just MY opinion. Still, I will not be intimidated from being outspoken about the truth in Israel. I beg my friends and everyone else: don’t let them get to you, speak out, inform, learn, share. The only way we win is if we stand proud with Israel.