Courtesy of Creative Commons

A crowd gathers outside the white house to protest the actions of Israel.

Lincoln Aftergood, The Lion's Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

In its conflict with Palestinians, Israel has recently taken some morally problematic steps. From spraying protesters in Sheikh Jarrah with sewage water to destroying Palestinian homes in the West Bank, it has become harder to consistently justify Israel’s actions. I and other American Jews are obligated to criticize these repugnant measures.

Many Jewish people on social media would prefer other Jews to defend Israel without reservation. When sharing information online, they highlight Palestinian violence while ignoring Israeli provocations. They defend Israeli soldiers yet overlook the 1200 reported incidents of police brutality against Palestinians each year.

People who argue that all Jews must support Israel uncritically lend credence to the antisemitic notion of dual loyalty. The idea of Jewish dual loyalty inspires the incorrect notion that Jews care more about Israel than their own country. It gives antisemites a pretense to call Jews disloyal to their country and incites bouts of hatred against Jewish people around the world.

Jews can obviously support the country that they have a cultural connection to, but the idea that they are obliged to do so under all circumstances is wrong and even harmful.

It is not our role as Jews to blindly support Israel. At CESJDS, we specifically value Ahavat Yisrael, which entails solidarity with Israel. But that solidarity should be expressed through wanting the country to improve, not by ignoring its faults.

The reality, of course, is that the conflict is a complex issue and there is plenty of blame to go around.

Israel consistently ignores the illegal settler population in the West Bank and allows them to encroach on Palestinian land, often violently. Racism against Arabs is an enduring problem and the police have long had a problem with excessive force against minorities.

It is true that Hamas constantly incites religious violence and has fired thousands of rockets at Israel. They build tunnels to infiltrate terrorists into Israel and withhold relief aid from their own citizens to procure armaments.

However, the crimes of a terrorist organization do not justify every possible response by Israel. And Hamas is not representative of the greater Palestinian people.

Hamas’ violence is deplorable and holds limited popular support among their own people. We cannot allow ourselves to define the Palestinian nation by the extremist actions of a few violent people.

Every time Israel strikes back against Hamas’ terrorism, it is always the Palestinian people who are caught in the crossfire. When a terrorist presence is suspected in a civilian building, that building comes down promptly, and thousands of innocent people are left homeless.

Our vocal criticism is necessary to hold Israel accountable for its actions and pressure the state into considering the plight of the Palestinian people.

Using evidence and rational thinking, we can strive to bring a fair opinion to the conflict. Criticizing Israel does not make us traitors to our people. It just means that we want a better Israel.


This story was originally published on May 19, 2021.