Elchanan Poupko

Hate is what brings them together, today

Inside Hamden City Council building on the evening of the Gaza ceasefire deliberations. (courtesy)

Like in the Wedding Scene in Princess Bride, I found myself standing amid a large audience outside City Hall in Hamden, Connecticut. Yet while “marriage is what brings us together today” is the theme for Princess Bride, for the pro-Palestinian crowd standing there, hate seemed like the only thing that brought them together on that day. The crowd was diverse, yet hate was uniting too many of them as we stood outside in the cold awaiting a city vote on a ceasefire in Gaza. Sadly, this has become the theme for too many pro-Palestinian rallies across North America and Europe in the past few months. 

Let us begin with where the ceasefire in Gaza rally and town meeting took place. Hamden, Connecticut, a town with about 60,000 residents, sitting on the lands once inhabited by the Native American Quinnipiac indigenous people who were driven into annihilation by those who came and settled their lands. But why deal with your own uncomfortable history when you can obsess over issues taking place 6,000 miles away and intimidate local Jewish communities all at the same time, which was exactly what happened. 

As I stood wrapped in an Israeli flag, I heard organizers and participants from different communities and walks of life chant in a frenzy: “Say it loud, say it clear; we don’t want no Zionists here!” What was about bringing a ceasefire to Gaza had become about excluding “Zionists,” a common code name antisemites use for speaking of Jews, from the public sphere. 


“When people are colonized, resistance is justified,” came the next well-rhyming chant. Those chanting and those listening to the chants knew exactly what they meant by saying “resistance.” The imagery of the October 7th barbaric massacre, rape, and pillaging were the most extensively documented and disseminated atrocities in our times. While for some, these images have been a terrifying flashback to the horrors of the Holocaust, for others, it has been a reason to celebrate and be hopeful. The chant, meaning to justify those very same horrors, is not just about Hamas’s brutality 6000 miles away; it is also a reminder there are those who would like to perpetuate the same acts of violence against Jews around the world. 


Then came the chant that told me exactly how little attendees cared for the people in Gaza. “Netanyahu, you will learn; Palestine will never burn,” they chanted. As Gaza lays in ruins, millions of Palestinians displaced, and the destruction Hamas has brought on Gaza showing its true toll, these folks were chanting about Palestine never burning. “How can they say Palestine will never burn, even as Gaza is going up in flames?” I wondered and finally understood. To them, Palestine is not about hungry children in Gaza, Palestinians sleeping in tents, the horrors Hamas has brought on Palestinians, or Gaza actually burning. To them, Palestine is winning growing political power across Western countries and cities; it is about a growing brazenness that allows them to exercise unlimited aggression while using the suffering of the people in Gaza to defend their egregious behavior.  

“Biden, Biden, you’re a liar; we demand a ceasefire!” they chanted. There was no pain for the people of Gaza, just a group of people spewing hate with a great deal of anger.

As I stood there quietly, a young man with a kaffiyeh came in front of me, holding a Palestinian flag with a pole, and held the flag to my face, blocking my view. I moved. He moved with me to block my view. Members of the local Jewish community who were inside city hall reported a similar experience of intimidation. Others who saw what was happening did nothing to stop it. 

Looking around at representatives of the Democratic Socialists of America, pro-Hamas protesters, and antisemitic folks chanting they don’t want Zionists there, I finally understood the connection between the different people coming together on a Tuesday evening to protest a country they do not know and probably never will — hate is what brings them all together.

How long will their bond of hate last? Time will tell. Given the discord between many of their values, the alliance of hate is doomed to eventually disintegrate. It is for this reason and at times like this that we as Jews and those who support Israel must counter this hate, build coalitions, and remind ourselves of our commitment to a shared ideology, a love for Israel, and a better future, love that will bring us all together.

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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