I can longer keep silent. Strange words to those who know me but the recent community ‘discussions’ promoted by events in Israel and Gaza are too distressing for me to not finally put finger to keyboard.
When it comes to Israel, UK Jews hold a wide variety of positions . For some Zionism might be a core component of their identity, whilst for others Zionism may play little or no role in their lives. Some Jews may see the actions of Israel as necessary and praiseworthy whilst others may see them as inexcusable and cruel.
Whatever your opinion of Israel there are at least some things we share in common; a Jewish identity and a sense of justice. Much of the arguments, debates and trolling regarding recent events stem from this sense of justice. Indeed, just like the concept of Israel (Eretz Yisrael) justice is also a central component of Judaism. Sometimes we may use the word tzedek to refer to justice or the notion of ‘being just’.
Sometimes I am really hurt when my sense of justice and that of others do not align, particular when it comes to the actions of Israel’s government and military.
Take the recent ‘Jewish Protest Against the Massacre in Gaza’ that took place in Parliament Square. Those who attended recited Kaddish (the Jewish mourning prayer) over all those who recently died along the Gaza/Israel Border, the majority of whom may have been members of Hamas. (The only current source of information for this claim is Hamas itself and has not been independently verified). This protest has invoked strong reactions by some members of the Jewish community who have labeled those who supported the event as ‘traitors and ‘kapos’. As I said, it hurts us when we feel fellow-members of the tribe do not share our sense of justice.
However, even the strongest supporter of Israel need only look at the names and faces of those who attended or supported the protest in Parliament Square to see that these people are engaged Jews who are voicing a genuine expression of their Judaism and indeed, their sense of justice. As an author of one recent ‘name and shame’ blog acknowledged, of those who attended, “many are in leadership positions” [within the Jewish community].
It is also worth acknowledging that people’s identity is never one-dimensional. Those who supported the protest will also be community workers, chaplains, youth movement leaders and musicians (to name a few) and will have other passions and concerns within (and outside) of the Jewish community and, with regard to these, we may have much in common. Likewise those who vocally criticised those who attended the protest.
Just like you, I want peace for Israelis and Palestinians. No one believes the status quo to be ideal or sustainable. Likewise we both probably believe that peace in Israel will only absolutely be achieved through engagement, compassion, torrelance, compromise and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. The same goes for us Jews in the UK. I believe nothing is gained by publically trolling those with different opinions on Israel to oneself, naming and shaming them on blogs or aggressive forms of dialogue during protests or marches. Only by seeing the humanity in those who express opinions on Israel and then engaging with them meaningful dialogue can lasting progress be made.
Whether you felt recent events in Israel have been just or unjust I will try my best to remember that you are a caring person, part of my community and you have a right to your opinion. Only then will we sit down and discuss the Middle East.