It seems each year there is another conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Violence erupts--and immediately one side accuses the other of inciting terrorism. It is the most obviously cyclical conflict I have ever seen. And there is no end in sight.
Recently, I have witnessed parties on opposite spectrums of this conflict use terms of social action or inequality. One person on Facebook wrote #Jewishlivesmatter. Others accuse Israel of being an apartheid state, analogizing it to South Africa under the Afrikaners. I don't agree with either.
We are looking for comparisons where there is none. Israel is a unique case--like every sectarian conflict. Yet advocates still feel the need to see this as a battle that's been fought before. Summoning past cases of injustice to remind us of a current wrongdoing is a way of stopping tragedy. Jews do not need to be reminded of this--Never Forget. We evoke the Holocaust in fear of something similar occurring--to us, and others. That is a good way of reminding the world that great evil happens, while we sit by and watch. We should be mindful of these analogies though (i.e. very careful and very skeptical).
To those who say #Jewishlivesmatter or the ilk: the comparison is entirely false. Many people discriminate against Jews. This is well known. Yet to draw a comparison to #Blacklivesmatter feels disingenuous and attention seeking. Jews such as myself in the United States are not under constant attack. #Blacklivesmatter is a movement that addresses exactly that. We should not try to co-opt another battle into our own. If we are truly interested in equality, we should support it.
To the opponents of Israel: Israel has done many wrongs to Palestinians. Israel has forcibly removed Palestinians from their land. Israel treats most Arabs within its borders as second-class citizens. Israel has relegated Palestine's history to a place of near non-existence. Does that make it an apartheid state? Apartheid South Africa was a few white supremacists ruling the majority black Africans. Apartheid didn't feign equality--much less have many people in the ruling class interested in it. Fear seemed to be driving that resolution.
Israel isn't that. Jews have been mistreated--and in many ways need a safe home. Israel has different sides that do not necessarily see their power waning, yet still desire a peaceful resolution to this conflict. There are forms of legalized racism in Israel--but it is not codified the same way. Israel sounds more familiar than apartheid, something closer to the home.
It sounds like America.
Americans--who fled England because of persecution--forcibly removed natives from their land, enslaved and murdered them. We reinforced this by taking Africans and enslaving them, creating a nation that succeeded upon the most horrific treatment of other human beings. And in the over hundred and fifty-years since slavery ended, we continue to have second-class citizens--peoples whose histories have become mostly forgotten, and whose rights are commonly ignored. Only recently has there been a movement to establish native and African-American rights in line with Caucasian Americans.
The difference in Israel is that this cannot be a full-blown genocide. Israel is under a watchful eye of the world. Unlike the United States, created in a time of no moral remorse and no international humanitarian ideals, Israel cannot avoid voices of dissent, including Jews that recognize that Palestinians are treated miserably.
I want to say, as I write this with great uneasiness, that I love my people. I love my culture. I love my religion. I do think Israel should exist. I do also think it receives unfair criticism because of anti-Semitism. But I also believe that human rights matter. Reconsider how you feel about Palestine. We have created a narrative in this country that says many of the same things about minorities here as has been said of Arabs there. That is unacceptable.
If you stand for equality, do not stop short at our borders.