This week has been a very tough one for me given everything that’s going on between Israel and Gaza. The most important lesson that I’ve learned during my journey was to walk in other people’s shoes. Over the past few years, I have learned it’s not antisemitic to criticize the government of Israel; I say that because when I was a right-wing Jew, I perceived any criticism towards Israel as antisemitic. I wasn’t open minded to reading outside sources that called Israel an apartheid state, an occupation. Instead, in what I read, Hamas, a terrorist organization, shouldered all the blame. I personally wanted a one-state solution, a Jewish Israel.
Through dialogues with different people, I’ve learned to accept Israel as the democracy that they say they are and I have also criticized the Israeli government for the blockade keeping the Palestinians in Gaza. Over the last week, I’ve followed the news of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as it escalates with more rocket attacks and airstrikes. There have been riots, hangings, and deaths, far more on the Palestinian side than the Israeli. First and foremost, I condemn the violence on both sides, the rocket attacks from Hamas — which I still believe is a terror organization — and the proportional airstrikes from Israel.
But now, seeing things differently, I understand why it’s crucial that as an American-Israeli dual citizen, I advocate for the Palestinians. Israel has the Iron Dome, the Palestinians have bunkers. Israel has the IDF and plenty of defenses to keep its people safe from Hamas attacks. Israel also has the support of the entire Republican Party and even some Democrats, but only a few Democratic officials advocate for Palestinians. The bigotry of dehumanizing Palestinians and Muslims from the right also does not help the tension in Israel and in our country. This is a key reason why lately I have been more vocal in advocating for Palestinians, even though I have family in Israel. I strongly believe in the safety of Israelis. I also believe if I can help humanize Palestinians because, well, they are human, that will help soften people’s hearts for more dialogue.
Through conversation, I have come to view Israel as a form of an apartheid state although that doesn’t give Hamas the right to terrorize Israeli civilians. But we need to show compassion to the Palestinian people and ask Israel to find another way to defeat Hamas without airstrikes. Why can’t Israel send in special forces to take out enemy military targets, instead of hurting civilians and journalists? Can the U.S. pose sanctions on Iran for sponsoring Hamas? We should also condemn Israel when they do wrong, like blowing up apartment buildings and offices that facilitate the press. Bottom line: we need far fewer casualties on the Palestinian side.
I applaud President Joe Biden asking both sides for a ceasefire, and I do also hope that he will halt weapons aid to Israel until that happens. I believe the only way we can achieve peace is if we get both sides, not only talking but looking at the world through one another’s point of view. I also love the fact that Democrats are a big tent party and we can hold differences of opinions on the Middle East. We can’t allow Republicans like Ted Cruz, who is supporting Dems who stand with Israel, to exploit our differences and divide us. We all know the right thing is an end to the violence.
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