Is our fear of being accused of antisemitism enabling more violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

For decades the international community enabled Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people. I include myself and my county in that international community. I’ve done absolutely nothing to put an end to it. The result is an escalation of violence that doesn’t have to be—like any violence.

Human Rights Watch, one of the most respected human rights organisations in the world, and B’tselem, one of the most respected Israeli human rights organisations, both recently concluded that Israel is committing crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people.”

                 ~ Avaaz – U.S. based nonprofit organization promoting global activism

The United Nations Human Rights Council has long condemned Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Dozens of Jewish organizations internationally, such as Jews for Peace, have advocated for the rights of the Palestinian people and an equitable peace solution. Yet, the international community remains complicit in the oppression by its inaction. 

I’m not condoning Hamas firing rockets into Israel as a valid response to oppression. One wrong doesn’t justify another. Violence is not the solution. It merely leads to more violence and death—just as is evident with the recent escalations in the conflict. Some argue that violence is unavoidable in certain conflict resolution. My hope is that violence is never the solution. The human spirit is capable of so much more. We can find, and must find, nonviolent solutions to conflict, even one as challenging as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

It’s long been beyond my comprehension how we have stood by while the Palestinians inside the West Bank endure severe oppression as an occupied people. More and more Palestinian homes are annexed in breach of international law. We witness children killed. Hospitals destroyed. We watch thousands of olive trees burned to the ground, trees that innocent Palestinians rely on for sustenance.  

Yet, I sit by. I do nothing. 

I watch. 

That’s not true. I turn away. I pretend there’s nothing I can do. I am no one.

I ask myself, how have I and the international community stood by and allowed this to happen? I’m not going to pretend to understand such a complex issue. However, is it possible there’s an underlying fear we’ll be accused of antisemitism? No one wants that label.

Is it possible the evil killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust created a collective guilt that haunts the deepest recesses of our consciousness? A guilt that gives birth to a subversive fear of being falsely accused of antisemitism, a fear that enables the oppression of an illegally occupied people. 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex issue that can’t be addressed in this short post. Though, some insight into its complexity can be found in the words of Israeli internationally acclaimed journalist and self-described anti-occupation peacenik, Ari Shavit, in his 2013 book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, when he writes,

“If Israel does not retreat from the West Bank, it will be politically and morally doomed, but if it does retreat, it might face an Iranian-backed and Islamic Brotherhood-inspired West Bank regime whose missiles could endanger Israel’s security. The need to end occupation is greater than ever, but so are the risks.”

“I wonder how long we can maintain our miraculous survival story. One more generation? Two? Three? Eventually the hand holding the sword must loosen its grip. Eventually the sword itself will rust. No nation can face the world surrounding it for over a hundred years with a jutting spear.”

There are many valid reasons for us to empathize with the Israeli people. Their struggle over the centuries and the horror of the Holocaust cannot allow us to ignore the plight of the Palestinian people. Human rights are human rights. At some point a two-state solution needs to emerge. One that brings peace to the region. In the meantime, steps must be taken today to end the oppression of the Palestinian people by an illegal occupier.

The violence on both sides must end. The international community is beginning to take action. I want to be part of that action. One of those actions is the call for economic sanctions against Israel. Please consider joining me along with millions of others, including leading Jewish advocates, in signing this Avaaz petition. Take the time to read the petition and consider signing it.

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