On the ground in Gaza, Israel’s war against Hamas has been devastating. Online and in the public sphere, a different sort of war has been taking place – a broad initiative to delegitimize those who raise questions about and critique Israel’s actions.
This initiative is being carried out both by so-called ‘pro-Israel’ individuals as well as student volunteers enlisted by Israel’s government in its ‘social media war.’ The result: those who merely express empathy for the suffering in Gaza, where over 800 people have been killed and 5,000 injured, are tainted as anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas, and those who offer dissenting opinions are labelled as enemies who seek Israel’s destruction.
The goal is to shut down dialogue and debate, something Jon Stewart nailed in a recent bit in which he attempts to discuss Israel, only to be shouted down as a self-hating Jew. It is not a new phenomenon or initiative, though it has become much more intense and widespread as emotions run high over the ongoing violence in Gaza and continued rocket attacks in Israel.
It seems to be affecting everyone who publicly offers critical opinions about Israel’s Gaza offensive, whether celebrities, journalists or anonymous individuals.
The horrible irony is that, as propagandists try to defame dissenters by slandering them as anti-Semitic, thus diluting its meaning, real anti-Semitism is rearing its head in Europe. Anti-semitism is still a real danger, and that danger is being made graver by those who are participating in this online initiative to falsely tar concerned voices as enemies of Israel.
In the past three weeks, I have been targeted countless times with such accusations, both on Twitter and in comments to my articles. Yesterday, it reached such heights, with my views being distorted beyond recognition, that I was compelled to Tweet out the following three statements, to which the response was overwhelming:
The response to these statements were so strong, in part, because of the vast numbers of people who have been on the receiving end of similar attacks. And that’s outside of Israel. Within it, as Etgar Keret writes today in The New Yorker, efforts to silence and delegitimize dissenting voices on Gaza are intense in a society which overwhelmingly supports the military operation.
In the end, such attacks are not personal. In fact, they usually don’t even have much to do with the person being targeted. Instead, such incidents are really just efforts to dehumanize Palestinians and undermine their status as victims in a zero sum game.
I’m just the vehicle. We all are. But like many, I refuse to play this zero-sum game, in which one can be on only one side. Indeed, there is a ‘third way.’ A way to be invested in and care about both sides, viewing the conflict as one in which both sides can win.
My hope is that, in the end, it will be the former. And that’s why I write.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.
…and don’t you ever stop writing…we sorely need to hear voices of humanity speaking for those who cannot speak….thank you, brave man!
Those are words of wisdom and humanity. You don’t have to defend your self nor defend your position, as its humane and considerate to all the facts. there are others whom wish to support Israel in all it does against humane stands should be telling of what they stand for, if they are against humanitarian opinions and views. Even if they try to intimidate, humiliate and silence others, by using names and labels , is also telling of what they stand for and the world is watching.i can hear some of them doing again and again, its not because they don’t see it, but its just they can’t help themselves, its a disease .
When Hamas leaders, who are sitting in the safety of Doha, Qatar, cared more about their own people, there will be peace.
Yes, part of the problems is with the Hamas leadership but that is only one part of a very complex problem. Other parts of this complex problem are with other leaders and other followers of other groups and nations and that includes many leaders and followers in Israel. It seems to me that by only blaming one player in this tragedy we hide the complexity of the issues and move even further away from any solutions.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would be a wonderful improvement.
Compassion and understanding would be even better.
Does punishment ever result in improvement?
Can we make anyone be kind?
When does suffering need to increase?
Thank you David for another rational piece of analysis brimming with humanitarian values. The situation is heart-breaking for those observing from afar. For those living (and dying) in the midst of it on all sides, it must surely be like Hell on Earth. And whilst all this is going on, and with cries of anti-Semitism ringing out seemingly in response to every legitimate criticism of Israel, the fascists of Europe are indeed fomenting the real thing. Trying to help those who will not help themselves is a thankless task, but it is clearly something you feel compelled to do. And that’s why you write!
Your a good man, speaking truth to power. Don’t break, ever.
Much appreciate this statement. I am in communication with a childhood friend living in Israel (mostly her friends!) on facebook, and feel a complete unwillingness on their side to engage in dialogue, discussion. My friend is a very deep person, and it is disturbing to see this. A patronizing tone of “that’s nice that you care about human rights, but you simply don’t understand” imbues her statements to me, whereas her friends get down and dirty: “you are ignorant and misinformed”. I am trying to talk about how extreme circumstances such as the siege breed extreme politics. I am labeled pro-Hamas, anti-Semitic, etc. “Where were you during the Darfur genocide?” (well, actually, I was trying to make noise about that too, but I had no facebook friends who voted for ruling party members, as I have in this case). Yes, there is a mental shutdown, an unwillingness to engage. Where are Jewish core values in all of this?
The bombings in Gaza are heartbreaking to watch. Childrens lifeless bodies being carried out of their schools. Yes I find it hard, no, impossible to justify. This eye for an eye mentality has pervaded this region long enough. Israel needs to open dialogue and find p
When we like something and support it ,its because we think its good useful and humane.israel maybe was created with that kind of impression for public consumption , but when we witness dispossession, expelling,theft of land , occupation destruction and demolition of Palestinian homes, over five hundred check points, restriction of movement and commerce, siege of people from the sea, land and the skies, then comes this massacres of thousands repeatedly with major massacres in 2008-9 ,2012, and now 2014 and still going were Israel buries people under their homes claiming its fighting a real war, that becomes clear what we have to do and say to express our dislike and disassociation with such behavior . Israel is doing a dis service to the Jewish people and the Palestinians alike, and that does not take a great effort to sea. We stand with what believe is write for humanity, and this behavior is stripping us from our humanity of we don’t speak up!
David fantastic piece. You wrote what many of us over the world are thinking. Suffering at witnessing this horror is the decent reaction to have. “Human” with a capital H. Without reading your article I wrote a post on my blog that supports your point: http://tangunt.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/the-gaza-strip-1-the-powerless-witness/
In the article the author states in his twitter (and I’m paraphrasing) I empathize with the suffering of gaza …and i am critical of israel because of the harm they are doing to humans. By not condemning Hamas in the very next sentence after being critical of israel for the violence in the war he is proving he is in fact pro-Hamas and anti-israel, and is showcasing why many online may be taking offense to his ‘humanitarian’ cause. If he values gazan life he should be criticIzing Hamas equally as they have been proven to not value The lives if the innocent in gaza