As is the case with most of those around me who are paying attention to the state of the world, I’ve been hurting. Watching the violent anti-immigrant fervor taking place in the United States and seeing the ongoing violence in Central African Republic, Syria, and Iraq weighs on me. Learning of civilian planes being shot down and of families being denied access to their loved ones’ remains because of political posturing weighs on me. And the violence in Palestine and Israel and the ongoing violence of the occupation weighs on me.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed in this way, I try to think of concrete actions that I can take to work for justice or healing. One of the ways that I recently found inspiration and peace was to march with others in Minneapolis for an end to the violence in Gaza and for a free Palestine.
On the whole, the march was amazing. So many people came out to support Palestine and to call for justice and an end to violence and occupation. Sadly, though, as is the case every time that I have gone to a rally against the occupation or in favor of Palestinian independence, there were a few people who insisted on making their message anti-Semitic.
I tried to engage the anti-Semitism wherever I could, and in talking to the guy holding the above sign about it, he just simply couldn’t hear my point. He kept repeating, “They are the same!” I kept insisting that equating the Star of David, a symbol representing much within Judaism, with the Swastika, the single most prominent symbol of genocide committed against Jews, was fundamentally oppressive and, further, hurts the movement for a free Palestine.
We cannot call for freedom and justice while simultaneously advancing the oppression of others who are marginalized and oppressed in other ways or other contexts.
There are many who call out this sort of anti-Semitism. I’ve learned how from the incredible Palestinian activists who I saw do it in the past. But we must speak out whenever we see it, no matter how or where it rears its ugly head. Not only does it dehumanize a population of people that have long been oppressed (even if many of them are acting as oppressors through the Israeli state), but it hurts the movement, as it encourages others to write off legitimate criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.
So I will leave you with this article, one I wrote more than two years ago. If we cannot talk about liberation of Palestine with nuance, then we find ourselves on some terribly slippery slopes.