Why I Refuse to Be Silent After Israel's Violence in Gaza


Israeli jets strike car, killing Palestinian in Gaza. Image Courtesy of moigovps

Much remains unknown about Israel’s violent response to mass protests along the Gaza border on Friday, and as far as Israel’s leaders are concerned, that’s just fine – officials have made clear they have no interest in learning any of the details. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, after commending soldiers for killing at least 16 and injuring hundreds more, stated there will be no inquiry into the army’s actions. And the army itself won’t be changing its firing policies, even after disturbing videos emerged of unarmed Palestinians being shot while praying, smoking, rolling a tire.
All of this (and I say this painfully) is expected for a country which has come to accept that “control over another people requires days of killing and slaughter.” It’s why Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu publicly congratulated soldiers after killing unarmed protesters. It’s why Israel’s Foreign Ministry had the chutzpah to publicly blame Palestinians themselves for making Israel kill them, calling the protests a “murderous spectacle” without a hint of irony or empathy. It’s why the IDF justified shooting a protester in the back by noting he was rolling a tire, as though such an action naturally demands the death penalty.
Again, as shocking as these responses have been, they’re not entirely unexpected. Israel’s right-wing leadership has increasingly expressed in public how little regard they have for Palestinian lives or hopes for self-determination.
What should not be expected, however, is silence from those who claim to still be invested in the “Jewish State” as a democratic project where civil and human rights – much less the right to live – are granted to all, regardless of race or creed.

Unfortunately, most American Jewish organizations which claim to be invested in such a project have remained utterly silent in the face of what just transpired in Gaza. And those organizations (such as AIPAC) which have broken their silence have done so largely to cheer Israel and blame Palestinians for their own deaths. Even the ADL, charged with fighting hate, echoed the IDF’s talking points by casting the 30,000 protesters as pawns of Hamas rather than a suffering people with a right to demonstrate without being killed.
But I and so many other Jews refuse to be silent, refuse to ignore the fact that Israel has, by all appearances, just committed war crimes. I and other Jews refuse to be silent in the face of Israel’s continued military occupation of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank or its stranglehold over millions more in Gaza. I and other Jews refuse to be silent as Israeli leaders explicitly reject Palestinian statehood and flirt with unilateral annexation of Palestinian lands.
Now to be clear, Jews have no obligation to say anything about Israel. It’s a political state in which many Jews in the diaspora have little or no investment, and to conflate Israel and all Jews is to echo an anti-Semitic canard which those who hate Jews sometimes use when targeting us.
Jews like myself who are invested in Israel and refuse silence, however, are sometimes slandered as anti-Semitic by other Jews (who don’t realize they’re borrowing an actual anti-Semitic canard when doing so). Or worse, we’re accused of supporting Hamas or acting as enemies of Israel, as though political criticism amounts to terrorism. But such charges are political and emotional, having no basis in reality, despite often being inspired by very real fears of extermination and annihilation. Jews have a right to be nervous and worry about our survival – it’s a lesson history seems to think we need to be reminded of repeatedly.
But criticism of Israel will not destroy it. It may be the only thing capable of saving it and the lives under its control.
Look, it’s possible to acknowledge that those Israeli snipers – many just boys – who shot Palestinians on Friday were put in a tough position while also acknowledging that Israel is largely (though not entirely) responsible for the suffering that led to protests along the Gaza border. It’s possible to hope for the safety of Israeli citizens while also recognizing its army just committed war crimes. It’s possible to express investment through critique.
The moment saying Palestinian lives matter as much as Jewish lives amounts to either treason or treachery is the moment there’s no longer a reason to critique, the moment our hope indeed will be lost.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published by Oneworld Publications (London).
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

12 thoughts on “Why I Refuse to Be Silent After Israel's Violence in Gaza

  1. What happened was awful and, more specifically, what Israel did was horrific.
    But the diarist leaves out certain facts that don’t fit his narrative. None of the left out facts absolve Israel of its wrongdoing, not by a long shot. But it is important to deal with the situation as accurately as possible, and not leave out facts simply because they don’t neatly fit one’s narrative.
    This was a demonstration not to protest Israel’s occupation of the territories; it was a demonstration to take back all of Israel for the Palestinians. It was organized by Hamas, the antisemitic terrorist organization. Hamas hates Jews and wants to kill them. It’s leader, Ismail Haniyah, shouted at the demonstration that there would be no negotiating or compromise with Israel. And the demonstration deliberately sought to confront Israeli soldiers on Israel’s border. Indeed, Hamas once again deliberately sought confrontation that was anything but peaceful, either in its message or its actions. In one instance, a 7 year-old girl was sent to confront an armed Israeli soldier (which brings to mind Hamas’s previous use of civilians as human shields). In short, this was not intended to be a peaceful demonstration, and this was not a demonstration for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
    None of this absolves Israel from responsibility for th he horrific shooting of the demonstrators. However, it is important to know all the facts at play here. Not just the ones that nicely fit one side’s narrative.
    The situation was far more complex than the diarist wants his readers to believe.

  2. Thank you, David Harris-Gershon, for your courageous, inspired and, I believe, truthful insight into the IDF murder of yet more unarmed innocent Palestinians. You and other Israelis who speak out and name such horrors perpetrated in their name have given me, a Christian woman whose roots lie in Judaism, hope.
    Your name surely will be written among the righteous.

    • Alice, I think you just ignored what Albert wrote. The “demonstration ” was organized and a “March of Return. by Hamas, an organization committed to the destruction of Israel. I know there alleged crimes disturb you, but is your anger just focused on Israel. Assad has been routinely murdering unarmed civilians since the very start of the civil war. The number does well over 100,000,
      although the uncaring world has lost count. You seem to be part of that uncaring world., but it’s OK, juts direct all you anger at Israel. It will cleanse your conscience.
      As for Harris Gershon’s courage, I just ask what courage. he sits thousands of miles away and writes his courageous words. He is not at risk of harm or arrest. There is no courage.

      • Respectfully, Fred, the fact that one happens to speak out from thousands of miles away does not demonstrate a lack of courage. However, when one deliberately ignores important facts that arguably cut against (or at least complicates) one’s narrative, speaking out in that fashion is not so courageous.

        • There is no courage in it. courage suggests that there is risk to is well being for writing this blog. But here is a simple had to deny fact. Life is miserable in Gaza because if the leadership of Hamas. They aim of Hams s to divert attention from that misery by provoking a violent clash with Israeli forces

  3. What a beautiful and insightful column.
    I have emailed the final sentence of this to some of my very pro-Zionist friends who seem to believe all Arabs (as they call the Palestinians) are terrorists or any of us they regard as potentially brainwashed.

    • Perhaps you might just have read that many of those who dies in the ‘peaceful demonstration” were identified as members of the armed wing of Hamas. perhaps it’s time for Hams to finally clean up the shithole they’ve perpetuated in Gaza. The residents of Gaza have a right to a dignified life and Hamas seem to think otherwise. For Hamas, it’s all about bombs, bullets, rockets and tunnels

        • Albert, it’s a hostile border and that applies the closed border between Gaza and Egypt. In the absence of any agreement to eliminate hospitality, the border will not be opened up. The EU, US and Gulf states have given Hamas billions of dollars and there is nothing ti show for it

    • Pathetic si the failure to see that it was an attempt with a border breach. No one can say for sure that anyone who would have gotten through was unarmed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *