How to Walk and Chew Gum: Protecting Palestinians and Denouncing Antisemitism

By Blake Botelho

After Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa mosque, tensions between the IDF and occupied Palestine escalated (Al Jazeera). The fighting shifted toward Gaza when Israel and Hamas started exchanging missiles for over a week. I watched in horror as videos surfaced of crying families and crumbling buildings. The suffering was tremendous. The strikes killed 212 people, most of them Palestinian and at least 61 children. More than 2,500 people in Gaza lost their homes (New York Times). Below is an example of a building collapse after an airstrike.

As per usual, when fighting occurs between Israel and Palestine, Palestinians suffer a disproportionate part of the burden. The Iron Dome technology enables Israel to limit civilian casualties. Now, by no means do I mean to portray the loss of life from the war as any less than tragic regardless of where it occurs, but we must recognize the tremendous disparity between the Israeli forces and the Hamas. Not to mention, Gaza is densely populated and has a young population. Year after year, as Israeli politics shift to the right, settlements become more common, and Palestinian statehood seems less likely. The United States remains Israel's undying ally and often falls short when condemning Israel's actions. President Biden said the following among his comments in response to the conflict, "the United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel." The Iron Dome technology shooting down missiles is self-defense, but launching missiles into Gaza does not constitute self-defense. People in Gaza watched in fear as Israeli missiles rained down, often with little time to react to any warnings. 

I come from an interfaith household, my mom is Jewish, and my Dad comes from a Catholic family. I was raised Jewish in a Reconstructionist, very liberal synagogue. I understand firsthand the cultural and religious importance of Israel to Jewish people. Yet, far-right Israelis will often use this to justify their persecution of the Palestinian people. The overused cries of Antisemitism among far-right Israelis numb the public to actual instances of it. Having lived my entire life in overwhelmingly Christian environments, I have experiences with Antisemitism. The actions of the Israeli government markedly impact Jewish people outside of Israel. So, this summer, when Antisemitism spiked, I was not surprised. According to Anti-Defamation League, there was a 75% spike in Antisemitic incidents during almost fourteen days of fighting, and the phrase, "Hitler was right" was tweeted over 17,000 times during the first week (NPR). There were violent attacks against Jews around the world as well. Vox identified a few of these instances. Jews "have been targeted by high-profile attacks in cities like New York and Los Angeles in the past few days — beaten while walking down the street, attacked while out to dinner, and even assailed by fireworks tossed out of a car" (Vox). In France, despite making up 1% of the population, 40% of hate crimes are targeted against Jews, and the president, Emmanuel Macron, has said that Antisemitism is at its peak post-WWII in France and other Western countries. However, the response from other leaders was far from appropriate. Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated when referring to Israel's actions, that it was part of their nature and "they are only satisfied by sucking blood" (CBS News). 

As pointed out in the NPR article, allyship has been relatively quiet, particularly critiquing the left, which tends to be more vocal advocates for minority groups. The history of Antisemitism needs to be more thoroughly understood. The Holocaust did not happen in a vacuum; it was preceded by hundreds of years of persecution, forced exile, Pogroms, etc. Jews, who for many years lived in diaspora, and know what it is like to be on the end of persecution, have a particular obligation to stand up for Palestine. Jewish people must strongly condemn with words and actions wrongdoings committed by Israel; and detest anything that diminishes Palestinian culture, livelihood, or statehood. Simultaneously, those who proclaim to be advocates of equality should speak out against Antisemitism when it occurs in the same manner that they would condemn racism or misogyny.

Blake Botelho is a senior at Davidson College majoring in Economics and minoring in Data Science. His interest in this topic includes taking a course on Antisemitism and Islamophobia.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/18/israeli-forces-storm-rally-in-support-of-prophet-at-al-aqsa

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/17/world/middleeast/israel-palestine-gaza-conflict-death-toll.html

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/05/20/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-middle-east/

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/07/1003411933/antisemitism-spikes-and-many-jews-wonder-where-are-our-allies

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-palestinian-conflict-fuels-anti-semitism-us-and-europe/

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/6/2/22455622/anti-semitism-israel-gaza-hamas-new-york-los-angeles-2021