Nitzan Hamburg

When Liberation Masks Hate

A participant holds a placard as students gather during a ‘Walkout to fight Genocide and Free Palestine’ at Bruin Plaza at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) in Los Angeles on October 25, 2023 (Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

The dust had barely settled on the bloodstained streets of Israel after the 7/10 attacks by Gazan terrorists. Thousands of Israeli families mourn the unconscionable loss, and hundreds of kidnapped civilians are still being held in Gaza, including babies, children, women and the elderly.

Yet, a clamorous wave of pro-Palestinian support has surged. But we must ask: What exactly are they championing? A higher death toll for Israelis, or perhaps a justification for the calculated brutality of that day?

Liberation or Erasure? The Battle Over Narratives

These chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free” reverberate globally, masquerading as a call for liberation. Yet, this phrase conceals a sinister subtext—a slogan cloaked in the guise of liberation but laced with a venomous question: “Free from whom?” The answer, stark and unyielding, is the Jews.

This is not a plea for coexistence but a rallying cry for the erasure of the Jewish state, denying the Jewish people what it promises the Palestinians — self-determination, national aspiration, survival.

As a Jewish voice, I stand before you, condemning past wrongs committed by Israel—the expulsion of Arabs in ’48, the settlements post-’67. The tragedy of innocent lives lost, on either side, weighs heavily on the conscience. Empathy for Arab refugees should resonate with every Jewish heart. Our narrative is one of displacement, a longing for return that spans generations.

Yet, my condemnation of past injustices does not equate to a denial of Israel’s right to exist. The antagonism towards Jewish presence in this ancient land precedes current geopolitical debates. It is not rooted in the occupation but in a historical refusal to accept Jewish existence here at all. This antagonism has manifested in repeated violence, such as the 1920 Nebi Musa riots, the 1921 Jaffa riots, the 1929 massacres, and even the 1834 looting of Safed. These were not sporadic acts of violence but targeted campaigns against Jews because they were Jews, reinforcing the enduring need for a Jewish homeland.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that in 1947, the Arabs rejected the UN’s proposal for a two-state division, a plan that the Jews accepted. The very next morning, they initiated attacks against the Jewish population in an attempt to thwart its implementation, igniting what would become Israel’s War of Independence.

Zionism’s Legacy

Judaism is an ethnic heritage as much as it is a religious faith, rooted in the land of Judea—its nomenclature predating ‘Palestine’ by millennia. The Jewish claim to Israel is fundamentally a restoration of their ancient homeland. An unbroken thread connects the Jewish people to this land, evidenced by enduring communities in Hebron, Jerusalem, Safed, and Gaza, whose presence spans centuries.

The European chapters of antisemitism, culminating in the Holocaust, rendered the establishment of Israel not just desirable, but imperative. Zionism, our claim to Israel, emerged not as a colonial enterprise but as a liberation movement, a claim to a safe haven for a historically persecuted people. It’s the heartbeat of a people yearning to return to their ancestral home—a presence maintained for centuries despite dispersion and persecution.

Demonstrators in support of Palestinians shout and gesture at the Permanent Mission of Egypt, calling them traitors, during a protest in New York on October 9, 2023, after the Hamas terror group launched a devastating attack on Israel (Adam GRAY / AFP)

The specter of European antisemitism necessitated a sanctuary; thus, the State of Israel became more than a dream—it was survival. Zionism was born from the ashes of Jewish despair, a phoenix of self-determination rising to reclaim a homeland. Those who dispute the continuity of today’s Jews with the biblical Hebrews display a deep ignorance of Jewish identity, which has always encompassed a dynamic and diverse array of cultural and historical influences. The quest for a singular ‘Jewish race’ is a misinterpretation of the Jewish experience, which disregards the tumultuous and rich history of the Jewish diaspora—marked by conversions, intermarriages, rapes, and the profound impacts of living across different cultures.

Global Crossfire

In the current discourse, the casualty counts from the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict are often touted as evidence of disproportionate force. The disparity in casualties in the Israel-Gaza conflicts often paints Israel as the aggressor. However, this ignores Israel’s significant investments in defensive measures like the Iron Dome, which have safeguarded innumerable lives from Gaza’s rockets. Without this defense system, apparently the number of casualties in Israel would have been much higher.

The world’s selective outrage was nowhere to be seen when 11,000 civilian lives were claimed in the battle of the allies against ISIS in Mosul. It seems the death of innocents only stirs global passion when Israel is involved.

War is inherently tragic, the loss of life a weight upon the soul. Yet, the initiator of hostilities cannot be the arbiter of peace. Self-defense is not an act of aggression but a sovereign right. A ceasefire must be just, equitable, and a stride towards lasting peace, not a mere intermission in an endless cycle of violence. It is high time the world recognizes the complexity of this conflict and supports solutions that uproot the causes, not just the symptoms. The seeds of peace lie in the education of Gaza’s children, instilling values of life, coexistence, and an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist.

Since the 7/10 atrocities, a dormant antisemitism has reawakened, its vile breath felt not just in the conflict’s epicenter but across the globe. Jews, regardless of their ties to the State of Israel, have felt the cold sting of hate; a hate that surfaces with sickening predictability whenever Israel asserts its right to self-defense.

This resurgence of antisemitism is a testament to the precariousness of Jewish security globally — a stark dichotomy emerges here: on foreign soils, Jews find themselves bereft of adequate protection, their safety often relegated to the periphery of local authorities’ concerns. And paradoxically, when Jews turn to their sovereign bastion, the State of Israel, they are confronted with a double standard that chastises their every measure of self-defense.

Such a disheartening reality, where Jews face danger both abroad and in their homeland, underscores the grim irony that plagues the Jewish community. Abroad, they are at the mercy of protectors who may falter; at home, they face a barrage of international scrutiny for merely exercising their right to defend their citizens and their sovereignty.

The recent spike in antisemitic incidents across the globe, coupled with the inequitable treatment of Israel, doesn’t just validate the need for a Jewish homeland; it screams of its necessity.

About the Author
Nitzan Hamburg is a writer, Hebrew lover and medical student.
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