Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”
As we approach the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, I think back to last year’s summer of activism.
My family last summer embraced the fact that our black friends, neighbors and loved ones needed our singular and particular love, compassion, listening and action. Their lives mattered and should not have to be in jeopardy when they drove, shopped or jogged while being black. Their lives did not deserve to be cut short by police officers who wear the badge and swear to defend and protect the public – not to be judge, jury and executioner.
Still, as an organization, I do not support upper-case Black Lives Matter.
More on that in a bit.
Risking exposure to the coronavirus, and the possibility of being tear-gassed, my kids last summer made signs, took to the streets, and marched. My youngest, a Jewish white kid, joined efforts with black and brown high school classmates on weekly Zoom meetings to form a leadership equity council. Reporting to the school board, it serves as a student advisory body that is working to make changes in the district’s curriculum to be more inclusive of the contributions and struggles of the non-whites that have shaped our nation but have gone untaught.
I admired the passion of my children, raised in a practicing Jewish and Zionist home. It was a summer of soul searching. In addition to marching at rallies, together in pandemic lockdown, we watched movies like Just Mercy and 13th Amendment. We listened to the 1619 Project podcast. And talked and discussed over the dinner table about racism and inclusion and how far our country needed to go.
From the socially distanced safety of my home, I joined in discussions over zoom between black moms and Jewish moms. The Jewish moms (and yes, I know some Jewish moms are people of color) listened to stories of black moms who constantly carry an extra layer of worry when their teen or young adult children take the car out for the night.
As my youngest son immersed himself in the language of social justice and equity, I told him that as a Jewish person entering the realm of progressive causes, he must do so with trepidation. I explained the BLM as a movement had a history of anti-Israel leanings, falsely accusing Israel of apartheid, and included other anti-Israel leanings in its charter. But in that racially charged moment, when a black man was murdered under the knee of a white cop for all the world to see, that element of BLM could be overlooked and addressed at another time.
Well, that time is now.
On May 17, BLM Tweeted: “Black Lives Matter stands in solidarity with Palestinians. We are a movement committed to ending settler colonialism in all forms and will continue to advocate for Palestinian liberation. (always have. And always will be). #freepalestine
BLM did not specify its support for Hamas, but BLM also did not mention that Hamas had fired thousands of rockets from heavily populated civilian areas inside Gaza into civilian towns and cities inside Israel. All blame for violence was laid at Israel’s feet and no questioning or blame was given to the Palestinians.
Hamas has won the PR war. It’s won over the hearts and minds of the otherwise good intentions of my children’s socially-minded and woke friends.
Coming to the aid of the progressives demonization of Israel is Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. At the height of the latest conflict, she took to the streets at a pro-Palestinian Washington D.C. rally declaring that Israel is an apartheid state. She said: If you marched for BLM last summer, if you stood up for Asian and Latino Americans, the Palestinian fight is your fight.
In other words, she completely alienated and ostracized Israel-supporting Jews from the progressive camp.
And how quickly progressives took to the fight. Suddenly, vehemently false memes and infographics appeared on my kids’ social media feeds, endorsed by the same progressive friends they were so aligned with last summer. The three called each other late into the night expressing a sense of betrayal, of a complete lack of understanding of the Israel/Arab issue from their progressive friends. After finally feeling safe to go back to school after his vaccine, my senior son was afraid to see some of his classmates in person after what they had posted.
This time around, there was no “deep thinking” or “deep listening” as those in the progressive movement had asked of us to educate ourselves. There was no nuanced learning about the centuries of Jewish history that led to the rebirth of the modern state of Israel in the ancestral home of the Jews.
Instead, my kids’ Instagram and Facebook feeds exploded with false and demonizing posts about Israel committing genocide and ethnic cleansing. These posts were met with a lot of “likes” and hearts but little in the way of counterpoints or objections. There were posts about the macabre, “unfair” sports-like tally of Israeli vs. Palestinian deaths. If more Palestinians were killed than Israelis, then of course, Israel is the aggressor. In the black-and-white thought process of the progressive left, you are either the oppressed or the oppressor. There is no backing up the lens to see the bigger picture.
Progressives, what happened to your notion of deep learning that you demanded of others last summer? Why do you so easily swallow and repeat catchphrases like “settler colonialist,” “apartheid” and “ethnostate” without critical thought when it comes to the only Jewish majority country, a country of about 9 million people about the size of New Jersey, amidst 22 Islamic and Judenrein countries? Do you know what Judenrein means?
With your knee-jerk reactions, you are adding the entire country of Israel to your list of things to cancel.
And it really hurts. Emotionally, and now, physically.
When your legitimate chants of “Hands up Don’t Shoot” from the summer of 2020 devolved into the hateful chants of “Free Free Palestine,” of the summer of 2021, you are not doing anything to advance humanity of the Palestinians but are only increasing hatred towards Jews. Not Israelis. Jews.
Where have your voices of compassion and moral outrage been as Jews across Europe and America are being beaten in the streets by pro-Palestinian activists as if we are back in 1930s Berlin?
What do you say to the grown Jewish son who must tell his aging father, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, that no, he cannot walk to synagogue this Saturday through the streets of New York City wearing a kippah because to do so would risk his life?
For those of you who are progressive and so quickly come to the aid and lend their intersectionality of voices to the marginalized groups that are victims of hatred, where have you been in recent days for the Jews? When do Jews get to be that marginalized group?
Progressives, as you chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” do you know what river or what sea you are referring to? What then would become of the millions of Israelis living between that river and that sea?
So, just as expected, few are coming to our aid. It is sad and hurtful but not surprising. Our history has taught us this is the way it is. And the more hate that is exposed to Jews, the more we affirm the right to live freely in our ancestral and indigenous homeland.
Just as we have done in the past, American Jews will continue to fight for human and civil and voting rights of the other. We do it simply because pursuing justice is in our DNA. It is the righteous thing to do.
But, progressives, if you expect us Jews not to fight back against the demonization of Israel “stealing land,” if you think that the United States will not offer defensive military aid to its most strategic ally in the Middle East so Hamas can continue to smuggle in weapons from Iran to rain down on Israelis to “make it a more fair fight,” as some progressive politicians have declared in Congress, well, that’s not going to happen. And you can go cry me a river straight to the sea.