The act of terror at Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas, in which four members of the synagogue, including the Rabbi, were taken hostage, is the stuff of nightmares for Jews around the world, particularly for clergy, charged with the task of guiding and leading our communities.
When an armed person storms a synagogue, holds people hostage and demands the release of a convicted terrorist, simultaneously roping in the rabbi of a New York synagogue into the hostage negotiations because she can use her ‘influence’ to make those demands happen, Jewish people understand that they are being targeted as Jews. The age-old stereotype that Jews somehow have all the ‘power’ has contributed to the persecution and death of millions of Jews. We are reminded that it is for good reason that we have security outside all our places of worship and public buildings, and that we are personally asked to take up spots on the security rotas in our synagogues to protect of fellow congregants. Antisemitism is alive and kicking with the potential to endanger our lives.
Against this terrifying backdrop of antisemitism – the furore several weeks ago over the Instagram Post on Emma Watson’s account –the words ‘Solidarity is a Verb’, in front of pictures of Palestinian flags – resulting in the charge of antisemitism, looks even more absurd than it did then.
There were those that outright accused her of antisemitism, and those who made a more sophisticated allegation that it was about the timing of the post which came just after a round of rockets, fired from Gaza, had fallen in Tel Aviv. Where was Emma’s solidarity with Israeli Jewish lives under threat? The timing proved that Emma Watson believes Jewish lives are expendable, according to some.
‘Unsurprisingly, these voices were rather silent last week when a Palestinian family were forcibly evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, in east Jerusalem at 4am in the morning, their home being demolished just a few hours later. They were silent when, just a few days earlier, well-known activist involved in non-violent resistance, Hajj Suleiman, from Um al Khair, a Palestinian community constantly under threat of demolition in the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank, died.
He was run over by a truck that was sub-contracted by the Israeli police, who entered the village to confiscate cars. The driver of the truck drove off, leaving him by the side of the road. It would have been treated as a terror attack had an Israeli been killed in this manner.
It seems these grave miscarriages of justices and violations of international law are not even worthy of mention. The same individuals that accused Emma Watson of ‘bad timing’ suggesting it because of underlying antisemitism on her part, are not, today, searching the internet to comment on the ‘bad timing’ of solidarity with Israel posts in light of these actions. That is because the bad faith accusations of antisemitism that were made at Emma Watson’s Instagram were actually about her having the gall to use her Instagram account to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in front of her 64 million followers, against the daily reality of what life is like under occupation. Despite their demands that ‘both sides’ of the narrative are heard, there is a distinct lack of interest in the Palestinian perspective.
If we want to fight the real threat of antisemitism, the voices that are attempting to present fighting antisemitism and supporting Palestinians as a zero-sum game must be challenged and indeed side-lined. Because the only logical extension of that equation is that challenging the policies of the Israeli government is antisemitic. That is not to say there are not those that use criticism of Israel, the occupation and even Zionism to demonise Jews and spread antisemitic hatred. British Jews know that all too well from their experiences in the Labour party in recent years. But the idea that standing in solidarity with Palestinians against the type of injustice witnessed in Jerusalem last week is somehow antisemitic, is absurd and deeply damaging.
Thankfully, the Jewish community has, by and large, been on the receiving end of significant solidarity standing against the antisemitism that rocked the Jewish world. Of course, given we live in a world where antisemitism is alive and well, it hasn’t come from every quarter, but it has been heart-warming to hear influential public figures call it out for what it is. Watch Medhi Hassan’s broadcast on MSNBC for just one example. A highly influential (British) Muslim political commentator, well-known for his outspoken highly critical opinions of Israel, who ended with a message to his Jewish viewers that ‘in this moment of fear, hate, and violence, you can count on the rest of us’.
Both Jews and Palestinians must be able to ‘count on the rest of us’ for solidarity when its needed. Solidarity with one, should not cancel out or diminish solidarity with the other.
"Let me say to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker & to all of my Jewish viewers… you are not alone. We have your back. And in this moment of fear, hate, & violence, you *can* count on the rest of us."
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 17, 2022