Elana Hornblass Dushey

Destroying hostage posters and the antisemitic mob

On October 7th Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, targeting, and inflicting such savagery on Israeli civilians that, for a moment, it felt like the world gasped in horror and expressed sympathy for its victims.

That collective, sympathetic gasp was so fleeting it barely lasted a day until the Jewish victims were blamed for the massacre they endured. We Jews barely had time to mourn our people before we had to begin rhetorically defending ourselves.

While anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents have steadily increased over the past few years, anti-Jewish rhetoric has now exploded into an unapologetic blast of illogical, threatening, and violent antisemitism that no longer tries to hide behind the veil of anti-Zionism. Now, American soil-that earlier felt solidly secure- is quaking under my feet, reverberating from the hate I feel closing in on me and my fellow Jews.

Not surprisingly, social media has glaringly revealed increasing and pervasive Jew hate since the October 7th massacre, capturing narratives, images, and scenes of deeply illogical and virulent antisemitism: the DSA celebrating the massacre in NY’s Time Square on October 8th, professors at ivy league universities admiring the savagery of the attacks, the accounts of Jews who felt unsafe at a Dave Chappelle show as he spent his comedy hour vilifying Israel,and American University students marching in support of Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group that contradicts everything they purportedly value.

At the time of writing this, the footage had reached a crescendo with the publishing of threats to murder and rape Jews at Cornell University, and, from across the world, videos of a near pogrom in Dagestan  terrifying scenes of a heaving crowd breaking down airport windows and peering into jet engines on its hunt for Jews. I shudder to think what we will see this coming week.

One of the more striking manifestations of Jew hatred to appear now on social media is footage of people tearing down posters of the Israeli hostages; it a cultural phenomenon that  while not as violent as the Dagestan Jew hunt, is equally dangerous, as it encapsulates the deeply rotting, unapologetic and illogical nature of contemporary antisemitism.

The footage looks like this:

An individual or a group of people quietly rip the poster off the wall. Whether the photographed face of the hostage is of a smiling teenager, giggling infant, contented grandparent, or of an entire family, the perpetrators callously crumple and squash the poster in their hands, throw it into the trash or drop it to the ground, as if the photo of that innocent face deeply offended the people forced to look at it.

Often the perpetrators will smirk and smile as if they have done something devilishly but innocuously wrong. Sometimes they will tear the poster down with determined anger. Others will look around, ensuring no one is observing them, then quickly grab the ripped poster and shove into their pockets, like thieves in the night. When questioned why they are ripping down posters of innocent hostages, the offenders’ responses always lack remorse, and never suggest a hint of shame.

In the context of the actual violence of October 7th, of the consistent stream of rockets launched at Israel from Gaza, of the fact that 200+ people are still in the captive hands of Hamas terrorists, of the fact that many of the terror victims in Israel can still not be identified due to the barbarism in which Hamas levied their massacre, of the fact that young Israelis are forced to defend their country in war, of the fact that medical teams are still learning of the sheer savagery of Hamas’ onslaught — from the pervasive rape of girls and women of all ages to the torture inflicted on the mutilated bodies — the tearing down of posters seems so comparatively benign, like a mischievous but naughty prank.

And even in the context of global antisemitism that is vociferously being expressed now — of the THOUSANDS of people marching through the streets of North America, Europe, and the Middle East, shouting for the eradication of Israel and death to Jews, and the equally loud silence of those watching this all unfold — the tearing down of posters seems like the least of Jews’ problems.

And yet, the tearing down of hostage posters is searing in its lack of decency, and it sadly articulates what Jews may have always known or have just come to realize: there are many who want to eradicate our faces, willfully supporting terrorist actions that otherwise would be abhorrent to them, like rape, kidnap, murder. The only conclusion I can reach then is that they support those actions not because they are criminally minded people but rather because those actions are targeted at Jews.

The phenomenon of tearing down posters also reveals, in both a symbolic and literal sense, the destruction of rational society: People destroy the hostage posters in what they claim is solidarity with Palestinians. But the utter absurdity of the action, highlights something equally malignant in our current cultural climate, the unwillingness to honestly look at issues and the willing deference to mob mentality.

They rip the hostage posters because they will not look at the faces of the victims; they refuse to. They must tear them down because they cannot acknowledge the counterargument of their antisemitic indoctrination, which is that the Israeli hostages are innocent victims. not violent oppressors, the antithesis of the idea the perpetrators have been served and have willfully swallowed.

As such, the destruction of hostage posters is a manifestation not only of racism and hate but also of intellectual cowardice and cognitive impotence; it is akin to a petulant child putting his hands over his ears when he is told no.

The perpetrators do not have the courage to see or recognize that supporting Hamas is not only morally wrong but also senseless: it is senseless because supporting Hamas does not help the Palestinian people, who suffer under Hamas’ regime, just like tearing down a photo of a kidnapped Jewish baby will not help a Palestinian child have a better life.

In the same sense, when masses of people chant “Free Free Palestine” have they really considered who they should be freeing Palestinians from? Do they really care?

Those who scream on the streets, “One solution…Intifada…From the river to the sea” are calling for the violent eradication of the Jewish people in Israel; they are calling for genocide while they  protest a supposed genocide. Refusing to accept a Jewish presence in Israel rather than insisting on the dismantlement of Hamas, they are perpetuating violence against Palestinian people because they support a terrorist group who inflicts violence on its own people. Hamas is a terrorist group who siphons all its people’s resources to grow murderous conflict, fill its own pockets, and indoctrinate its youth with hate. And most tragically apparent now in the death of so many innocent Palestinians, Hamas intentionally uses its civilians as human shields and pawns in an endless crusade against Jews.

But those who destroy hostage posters or march in protest against Israel refuse to recognize the graveness and immorality of their ideological error. Instead, they willingly have joined a mob. They are no different than the brown shirts in Germany in 1939 or white supremacists in the American south herding around a lynching tree in 1959. Arming themselves with empty academic jargon, and intellectual theories that are intellectually nonsensical, they lack and pervert historical context. When they tear down the posters of Israeli hostages, they are expressing their unwillingness to see their own shame, their indoctrination, their mistake head on. And so, despite their virtue signalling and confidently stated illogical arguments,  they are just a mob. And they are loud.

While the perpetrators try to erase the victims of Hamas terrorism from American consciousness, Jewish Americans will not forget the faces of our abducted people. We will not forget our dead or our survivors, the thousands of casualties of Hamas brutality-both Jewish and not. We will always remember those who spoke out against the antisemitic mob and we will forever be grateful. And if this conflict winds down and the dust settles, we will remember those who screamed for our blood in our streets and neighborhoods, on our soil, who tried to eradicate our right to exist, whether in social discourse or in actuality. And those who stayed silent to watch this bloody mob overtake the American airwaves of cultural consciousness, we won’t forget their silence either.

We need counter voices. If you have been silent, speak up. Do not be intimidated by loud cowardice. Now is the time.

About the Author
Elana is an Adjunct at The MirYam Institute. She earned her PhD in English Literature from Fordham University in 2015 with a dissertation that focused on Jewish American literature and its approach to Zionism and Israel. For 12 years, she taught literature, composition, and film at St. Johns University and Fordham University, where she was awarded numerous fellowships. Following her degree, she was a Connected Academic Fellow in the Modern Language Association. Elana also writes fiction, most notably children’s fiction, and lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children, as a member of a vibrant Jewish community that is dedicated to Israel and other Jewish causes.
Related Topics
Related Posts