By Jared Shore
(Calgary) – After almost 75 years of conflict, another round of escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was certainly predictable, if not inevitable. Less predictable this time has been the absence of thoughtful discourse in discussing one of history’s most complex geopolitical conflicts. In its place was left a reflexive demonization of Israel that has brought the conflict no closer to conclusion and an explosion of anti-Semitism that has put the global Jewish community into proverbial and literal crosshairs.
Today’s zero-sum framing of the conflict, the binary oppressor/victim narrative, has thrown fact and nuance out the door, with educators, elected officials and many well-meaning people swept up in its wake.
The ongoing war in the Middle East is one of the great tragedies of our lifetime, for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The loss of innocent life, Israeli, Palestinian, Jew, Christian, Druze or Muslim, should devastate us all. However, if we dismiss perspectives that differ from our own as invalid and import the conflict to our Alberta communities, we have done no justice to the cause of human rights, but simply taken a page out of the playbooks of those who benefit from this perpetual conflict.
Ironically, for those who have bucked at the notion that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, we have seen this notion born to fruition. The hateful rhetoric seen at rallies and online has led to threats and violence aimed at Jewish communities, including ours here in Calgary. As a Jewish community, we see our young people targeted by their peers with falsehoods thrown viciously around social media, rallies that call for the destruction of Israel, threats to our institutions, acts of physical intimidation directed at our community, and our Holocaust survivors and children witnessing calls to “kill Jews.”
Many will read the preceding paragraphs and simply share the tired argument that criticism of Israel isn’t anti-Semitism. But for those who truly want justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike, please take heed.
As defining anti-Semitism has become more critical to the elimination of it, Jews across the western world have agreed that criticism of Israel can be valid and legitimate. However, the use of demonizing falsehoods is a prime example of exactly how anti-Zionism crosses into anti-Semitism.
Nathan Sharansky, who himself spent years in a Soviet prison as a Jewish political dissident, identified the three “Ds” as a tool for distinguishing between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.
Demonization: Hyperbolic criticism of Israel’s actions. This includes labelling Israelis as Nazis.
Double Standard: Holding Israel to a standard not expected of any other democratic nation. What would the expectation be for a country like Canada, if rockets were being fired into civilian areas?
Delegitimization: Denying Israel’s right to exist altogether. This is precisely what chants of “from the river to the sea” are demanding. Anyone with a passing knowledge of geography should be aware that if you are hearing this chanted at a rally, you are participating in an event that calls for the elimination of Israel.
To label as colonialist is to ignore the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Yemen, Syria and Iraq, who were taken in by Israel when expelled from their home countries, and Middle Eastern Jews, who make up 70 per cent of Israel’s population. To label as apartheid is to ignore the 2,000,000 Arab citizens of Israel, who live in absolute equality before the law.
To label as war-mongering is to ignore the dozens of peace offers proposed to the Palestinians, all rejected without counter-proposal. To label as genocidal is to ignore that Hamas, a listed terror organization, has explicitly stated that its goal is to eliminate Israel altogether.
We pray for a day when Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace, side by side, and as importantly, we pray that Calgarians can demonstrate that peaceful coexistence in our own backyard, rather than import the conflict here.
Jared Shore is co-president of the Calgary Jewish Federation and has served on the organization’s Community Relations Committee for 15 years. This article was originally published in the Calgary Herald.