Steve Winston
Executive Director of the Zionist Federation of UK & Ireland

An open Letter To Those Using Social Media To Demonise Israel

Iron Dome intercepting rockets over Tel Aviv

Note: This blog entry was written by a A 24-year old Brit in Tel Aviv who wishes to remain anonymous. The Zionist Federation are proud to publish it on their behalf.

While I’ve been spending my life in and out of bomb shelters over the past week, I’ve watched the country I currently live in be shamed for defending itself, because apparently it’s not “woke” to have sympathy for people in a country that defends itself against a barrage of missiles being fired at civilians daily.

You cannot shame a country that does not accept such indiscriminate attacks on its INNOCENT civilians (rockets don’t discriminate between a five year old child or an Arab Israeli father and daughter, tragically) that are designed to KILL. Perhaps the value you place on certain lives is not symmetrical. But believe me – I am living here right now, and you’re probably not – each death and each loss feels equal to me. The lower number of Israeli deaths is not for lack of trying from Hamas.

The Iron Dome is saving the lives of my friends and I every day. I’ve lost count of the amount of explosions I’ve heard above my head in just five days. What if the Iron Dome didn’t exist? Would I just be fair collateral in a decades long conflict as you’ve decided that my life is worth less because I don’t share the same demonising views on Zionism as you?

I’m tired of the rhetoric that Israel should accept these daily missiles because they already have the Iron Dome. The Iron Dome is unquestionably a miracle, but no other country in the world – yes that includes where you’re privileged enough to live – would accept the war crime of missiles targeting their civilian population without retaliating against the terrorists who inflict such violence.

Perhaps your issue is that you don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist in the first place (a whole other discussion in itself). Or you don’t support its government (fair enough, totally legitimate to criticise – I don’t either). It feels as though these are becoming common excuses for not wanting peace for BOTH PALESTINIANS AND ISRAELIS. Which is totally absurd to me. Because you can’t call yourself any form of activist, or supporter of social justice, if you don’t recognise that there are HUMAN BEINGS suffering on both sides and empathise with both.

Your foundations for justifying, or at least staying silent on, attacks on Israelis may be that you don’t believe that Israel should ever have existed – but what is supposed to happen to the nine million human beings who live here now? My point here isn’t to debate Zionism or Israel’s right to exist right now. I’m purely interested in how you can call yourself a supporter of social justice if you think that these human beings don’t ALSO matter. And if you believe they do also matter, why should their leaders accept that they are being targeted daily, all with your social media support?

I’d also like to address that I totally wish for a #FreePalestine. I wish that in my lifetime I am able to see a two-state solution, with both Israel and Palestine living peacefully as neighbours. Truly. But first, if we want innocent Palestinians to have any chance of overcoming poverty and oppression, we need to #FreePalestineFromHamas. Because their blood is on Hamas’s hands whether you want to admit it or not.

While the government of Israel gets A LOT wrong, one thing I can be absolutely sure of is that they will protect me from those who wish me dead before anything else. Can Gazans say the same of their own government? Sadly not. Not only has there been no election in Gaza since 2006, meaning Palestinians there have had no say in their leadership, Hamas has literally spent MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of dollars – that’s your aid money, by the way – stocking up on tens of thousands of missiles that cost around $30,000 each, while their citizens have been denied access to an appropriate medical response to COVID or are living in poverty. Their government are literally putting my death before their own citizens’ safety, it’s insane.

What’s more, I’m also tired of everyone ignoring the fact that Hamas are literally operating from densely populated civilian areas ON PURPOSE. They are using their innocent civilians – women, children, the press – as HUMAN SHIELDS. Do you seriously think that Israel inhumanely pinpoints such specific addresses to target without reason? They target these places – most of which they warn before attack so that civilians can evacuate (happy to send you proof) – because they have a world-leading Intelligence department who KNOW terrorists attacking their country are operating from or storing their explosives there.

You should also bear in mind that 20-30% of Hamas’s rockets land in the Gaza Strip, endangering the lives of their own civilians. There have been a number of confirmed children who have died at the hands of Hamas’s misfire. Hamas knows this is the risk they are imposing on their citizens.

I’d also like to say that my heart breaks for the civilians in Gaza. I am not blind to the fact that whatever fear I have felt in the past few days must be seriously amplified for them. As I struggle to fall back asleep at night following sirens and explosions, I cry for them, because I know what’s coming to their towns in response will be far worse. I think about them all day. I wish I could save them from their terrorist leaders. It’s far more tangible for me now I have experienced a tiny fraction of their fear. I wish more than anything it would end for them. They do not deserve this.

I strongly empathise with the innocent civilians while knowing their leaders are actively seeking my death, because they do not all represent Hamas. I hope you too can find it in your hearts to empathise with my friends and I, whose daily routine has become checking in on each other with every siren. We are also scared, and while I recognise that it may not be a comparable fear, I seriously hope that you do not believe we deserve this fear. And if you don’t, show us your empathy. We too do not represent the actions of our government. Please don’t just fall into the trap of only calling out one side, as if to say whatever could happen to us is justified.

Also, please don’t think I don’t understand what has driven people in Gaza to this violence. I know I don’t live in a utopia. I know there is injustice. I know there are people trapped living in squalor. But as long as their leaders continue to threaten the lives of their neighbours with rockets, these leaders know their neighbours will react to bring an end to this terror. So what is supposed to happen? How can Israel risk the lives of its children by allowing Hamas to roam free?

This complicated conflict has spanned decades, and it’s not going to be solved by the infographic you share on your Instagram story that probably has very little nuance. Please try and take a nuanced approach, it could be the difference between a 250% rise in UK antisemitism or over the past week, or no rise. The former has been the reality. That is NOT OK.

If you made it this far, I’d love to feel your support. Or if you don’t agree, I’d love to know why it is that you are so concerned with this conflict but not Boko Haram, or the Taliban, or the genocides in Myanmar, China, and beyond? I’m not trying to what-about you here, I’m just trying to understand what it is that puts the only Jewish nation on a demonised pedestal disproportionate to what is happening elsewhere around the world. I am entitled to ask you this direct question when I feel I already know the answer: antisemitism. You can’t stand the idea of a strong Jewish nation, can you? Because Jews have been discriminated against in every country we’ve ever lived in, so why would this end now? And despite the constant discrimination, we have grown to succeed. Which people just can’t stand.

I feel like I have to share this anonymously because the response to any nuance about Israel is so vitriolic that I’m afraid of personal ramifications. That is precisely part of the problem.

A 24-year old Brit in Tel Aviv.

About the Author
Before studying architecture, Steve spent a year living in Israel doing Ulpan on kibbutz Ma’agan Michael where his love for Israel and Zionism grew, a passion which eventually brought him to the ZF. Steve is also an accomplished professional photographer and was previously short-listed for a Travel Photographer of the Year award for his life portraiture of people in the Old City of Jerusalem.