The teachers of Jewish tradition like to see arguments from all sides. Talmudic discussions often contrast conflicting points of view to weigh the relative merits of each. You’ll see the rabbis argue: “on the one hand… and on the other hand…” In some cases, however, the rabbis recognize that the two sides of a debate don’t actually merit equal consideration. Sometimes, there is no other hand.
This is one of those moments in America. When white supremacist neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville, VA with torches chanting “Jews will not replace us,” there is no other hand.
When a hateful person drives a car into a crowd seeking to kill and maim those who are protesting those who self-identify as Nazis, there is no other hand.
There is no other hand, my friends. There was no “violence on all sides” in Charlottesville. There was only violence from one side– from hateful white extremists seeking to delegitimize, to dehumanize, to marginalize Jews and people of color. In America. In 2017.
We must stand up against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by these extremists. We must not underestimate their power and influence. We must not tolerate bile-filled rhetoric or assertions of moral equivalencies between peddlers of hate and those who would stand up to them.
Ours is a nation of freedom and liberty for all. There is no room for anti-semitism, xenophobia, or racism– no room at all. While the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech, even hateful speech, that right does not extend to denying others their rights. As Jews, we must raise the alarm when we see these things happening. We cannot close our eyes. We cannot minimize what this means, or what it can become. Only by recognizing hate for what it is– only by unequivocally, unabashedly, unapologetically shining a harsh light on it– can we hope to defeat it.
We must stand firm and strong. Our national leaders must do the same. There is no other hand.