Released Israeli hostage Yocheved Lifshitz described on Tuesday her “nightmare” kidnapping ordeal that included being thrown over the back of a motorcycle, beaten by sticks and held in a “spiderweb” of wet tunnels after she was abducted from a kibbutz in southern Israel.… pic.twitter.com/we7n6ApDGh
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 24, 2023
*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.
It was parents’ weekend last week on my son’s college campus.
I sat outside a coffee shop in a vast sea of twenty-somethings waiting for my son to meet me. A dad and his daughter, another student, sat alongside me, and we introduced ourselves.
Within a moment, the student asked me, “Are you Jewish?”
Before I could answer her question, she quickly said, “I like you guys, though.”
Then she told me about her friends who live in the West Bank and Palestine and their struggles. She meant well, and we discussed the horrors of the Isreali-Palestinian war together from multiple perspectives.
Still, what stayed with me most about our conversation, more than anything else, was how she referenced the Jewish people as my guys. She is a bright young woman, and still, she seemed to cast off a community of people into “the other” based on appearance and affiliations.
In our brief conversation, she affirmed that all Jewish people would always be considered the others.
This “otherness” isn’t a new theme in our society; it runs below the surface, percolating, bubbling up, and eventually explodes into an entitled array and a warranted expression of hate toward a community of people.
While walking with friends through the oval of my college campus as a freshman in 1988, one of the young men threw a bunch of coins in front of me and told me to pick them up. I didn’t know what he meant at the time or why he had singled me out. A few young women scolded him and explained that Jewish people were considered cheap.
What he felt about Jewish people didn’t bother me much; even at 18, I understood it was just his ignorance. What did, however, upset me was his need to cast me out of the group, level me, and make himself feel superior.
Anti-Semitism is insidious, contagious, and combustible; its history is long, and its effects are felt worldwide. No Jewish person is immune, whether religious, non-religious, or ancestrally connected, no matter their political leanings or whether they support Israel.
We can put a cap on its boiling flame with laws and organizations like the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) that hold people and institutions accountable for their hateful rhetoric and disinformation campaigns.
However, anti-Semitism will reap its ugly head in grand proportions whenever disputes occur involving Jewish people—whether large or small. It does not take much for it to catch fire, either.
Kanye West’s string of anti-Jewish rantings caused a fever of anti-Semitism, so much so that I couldn’t drive down the 405 freeway in Los Angeles without seeing anti-Jewish protests and swastikas hanging on overpasses.
We are living through some of the most horrific war times in history. Russia has unleashed a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, killing and bombing Ukrainian civilians daily, causing mass casualties and destruction to a once-thriving culture and democracy.
Turkey has ordered an attack on the entire Kurdish population. It is believed that 380,000 civilians have been killed thus far in the war in Yemen, and 400,000 people have been killed over the last decade during the civil war in Syria. In Yemen alone, today, “21.6 million people need aid, including 11 million children, and more than 4.5 million are displaced.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has charged the Azerbaijanis with ethnic cleansing, and others, including the EU, have denounced the Azerbaijani operation. Azerbaijan sealed off Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving the Armenian residents without food, medicine, and fuel for 10 months before their military operation.
Yet, none of these significant and devastating conflicts has garnered half the attention as the current Israeli-Palestinian dispute. There is rarely a mention of those war crimes in the United States or abroad. Nor is an army of protestors rushing into the streets for the innocent lives in those countries.
Understanding the long history of discord in the Middle East, it’s hard for me to believe that most of this interest, heated passion, angst, and hate for Israel during this crisis is not rooted in anti-Semitism. It is even more challenging for me to believe that most of it is genuinely for the hopes and dreams of the Palestinian people.
It fits the pattern of anti-Jewish propaganda and the hate Jewish people have experienced since long before the Nazi regime.
Last year, during the 10-day conflict between Israel and Palestine, a friend was badly beaten while eating dinner at a restaurant in Los Angeles for being Jewish. A mob of protesters attacked him after they had attended a Pro-Palestinian rally. I don’t see how attacking Jewish Americans helps the Palestinian people or their movement.
I’d like to understand holding up an image of a swastika at a pro-Palestinian rally helps Palestinians gain freedom, independence, or acquire land.
And, I’d especially like to know where everyone who claims to want to help the Palestinian people today has been since 2006 while their leadership, Hamas, has been diverting billions in aid money to build over thirty miles of underground military tunnels and amassing and stockpiling weapons. I’d like to know why they never organized then when it was Hamas who arrested, tortured, and massacred the Palestinians who wanted peace and dreamed of freedom.
Their resources and energy were needed, but unfortunately, it wasn’t as en vogue as it is today when Israel is the perceived aggressor. Social media also didn’t exist as it does now. Actual humanitarian efforts went unrecorded and without a hashtag.
I’d also like to understand why Hamas, a known terrorist organization, an anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Afro-Palestinian, and anti-Jewish governing body, has won the hearts of progressives in the United States and abroad.
[Editor’s note: A reminder that supporting innocent Palestinian citizens in Gaza does not equal supporting Hamas, the same way that supporting innocent Israeli citizens does not equal supporting the Israeli government. For the results of a recent bipartisan Reuters/Ipsos poll regarding American support for the Israeli war against Hamas, click here.]
Many in this country have torn down the pictures of Hamas’ Israeli victims, who were killed, beaten, and kidnapped, as if those innocent civilians aren’t human or important. Many post indiscriminately on social media from Hamas-inspired media to promote a false narrative and instill violence.
The only assumption I can make for this behavior is a deep-seated anti-Semitic belief system, which has become more and more justifiable throughout the world—daily.
Nevertheless, I will do the same as my grandparents have done in the face of evil. I will continue to support Israel’s right to exist and defend herself, especially now and in the face of an ever-increasing anti-Semitic world.
I will continue to focus my time, attention, and resources on the peaceful Israelis and Palestinians and the organizations that have worked tirelessly to create collaboration, like Standing Together.
I will be inspired by the peace activist and recently freed hostage, Yocheved Lifshitz, who shook her captor’s hand and uttered, “Shalom” (the Hebrew word for peace).
I will stand in solidarity with Lifshitz and pray for peace, shalom, and salaam, the safe return of the other 220 hostages, and an end to the unrelenting destruction and loss of human lives.