As a pro-Palestinian Jew, I feel alienated from my community

More than 100 days into the siege on Gaza, Israeli officials continue to justify the violence through rampant dehumanization
Photo: A Chanukah event at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, organized by progressive Jewish advocacy organization ,If Not Now Toronto. | Photo by Blair Robins via Dave Meslin on Instagram
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As a pro-Palestinian Jew in Canada, the past 100-plus days have felt like screaming into a void. After Hamas brutally slaughtered 1,200 innocent Israelis on October 7, I have watched in horror as the Israeli military has carried out months of indiscriminate reprisal attacks against the 2.3 million people of Gaza.

It is taboo in our community to show any empathy for Palestinians, to ever mention their suffering in the same breath as ours. My support for a permanent ceasefire, even if it would save the hostages, has left me feeling alienated.

At the same time, due to unresolved issues of antisemitism, I feel unable to attend Palestinian solidarity demonstrations and marches. I feel cast adrift from family and friends that no longer understand me, yet I cannot set an anchor ashore.

I am tired of watching countless people die in a pointless, decades-long eternity war. I am tired of fellow Jews getting angry that I mourn dead Palestinians. But most of all, I am sick and tired of those who say with faux-sympathy “I understand it’s upsetting, but these deaths are necessary for peace.”

It is taboo in our community to show any empathy for Palestinians, to ever mention their suffering in the same breath as ours. My support for a permanent ceasefire, even if it would save the hostages, has left me feeling alienated.

What a sickening perversion of Jewish culture, to try and justify mass death as the road to peace, and not the end of all things. As a Jew, I was raised to value life, not dismiss it with such little emotion. How could I ever tell my Palestinian friends that their suffering is “necessary”?

Current numbers accepted by third-party observers claim that the IDF has killed 25,000 Gazans since October 7. Of that, more than 16,000 of those Palestinians were civilians, while 8,000 of them were children.

Nearly two million Gazans are now homeless after Israel’s wanton carpet bombing. The World Health Organization reports that more than half a million Gazans are suffering from severe hunger and at risk of starvation, while the IDF refuses to let aid through Rafah.

When Israeli government officials are not denying this reality, as IDF-run aid agency Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) did this month, they have instead justified it through rampant dehumanization. The examples across Israeli society are numerous. Many have been documented by the South African legal team.

Following the October 7 attack, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said “we are fighting human animals” when he announced what he called a “complete siege” on Gaza.

Just last week, the Ministry of Education withdrew funding for an event hosted by Arab Israeli journalist Lucy Aharish, stating that “a woman who represents mixed marriage cannot represent Jewish culture.”

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu went on the radio in November and suggested obliterating Gaza with nuclear weapons.

The current far right Likud government of Israel, and its coalition partners such as Otzma Yehudit, a group of extremists that preach violence and vengeance, racism and xenophobia, and the National Religious Party (NRP), or Mafdal, both are centered around the ideology of Revisionist Zionism — which means using verses found in the Hebrew Bible to justify the current violence and occupation.

This revanchist movement — the belief that they are carrying out the will of God in establishing a “Greater Israel” — seeks to claim all the territory attributed in the Hebrew Bible to the ancient Israelites, including Palestine, Jordan, Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, and Syria.

Otzma Yehudit specifically is the modern incarnation of the Kahanist terrorist movement led by Meir Kahane, an American Orthodox rabbi who founded the movement and fascist Israeli political party. Their leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, convicted by Israel’s own courts of supporting Kahane’s illegal Kach party, is now accepted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with open arms, who even made him Minister of National Security.

In September, in a presentation to the UN General Assembly, Benjamin Netanyahu shows a map of Israel having annexed all of Palestine, what he calls the “new Middle East”.

Kach was banned following the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre in 1994, in which Kahanist extremist Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 25 Palestinians and wounded another 125. After attending synagogue for Purim, and hearing the Torah portion where God commands the slaughter of every Amalekite man, woman and child, Goldstein referred to Palestinians in his writings as “Amalekites.” Within two weeks, he had perpetrated the massacre.

In his own televised remarks, Netanyahu said of Gaza in Hebrew that he is “committed to completely eliminating this evil from the world.” He then added: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember,” repeating the same dog whistles that motivated Baruch Goldstein’s massacre.

President Isaac Herzog stated plainly to the media that there are “no uninvolved civilians in Gaza.” Now multiple cabinet ministers, including Ben-Gvir who formerly had a portrait of Goldstein in his office, speak euphemistically of “voluntary migration.”

At the International Court of Justice at the Hague, where Israel is on the defence against allegations that it is committing genocide, South Africa’s lawyers presented damning videos from IDF soldiers’ own social media, including soldiers dancing over rubble while chanting “we will destroy the seed of Amalek” and “there are no uninvolved civilians.”

Netanyahu’s sole defence to the world community? “Nobody will stop us – not the Hague, not anybody.”

In Canada, the Jewish “establishment” is represented by groups like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), the UJA Federations in Toronto and Montreal, as well as the various Liberal and Conservative MPs, MPPs, and MNAs they endorse. Canadian Jews frequently look to these organizations and politicians for ideological guidance, and this tendency has only strengthened since October 7.

What response did the Canadian Jewish establishment provide to the horrific evidence at the Hague? Did they distance themselves from the revanchism of Israel’s Kahanist government? Did they express even an ounce of concern for Palestinian lives? No, their pathetic response to us, the Jews they claim to speak for, was to tell us to reject the evidence of our eyes and our ears. Disappointing and pitiful, but after years of watching their failures, I would never expect any better.

After all, did CIJA not invite pro-Israel lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky to speak at their conference in October, after he shared a political cartoon comparing Arabs to cockroaches? Did CIJA not lobby against the Canadian Parliament adopting the non-binding Motion M103 to oppose islamophobia, mere weeks after the hate-motivated Quebec mosque shooting claimed six innocent Muslim lives? How can CIJA claim to represent Canadian Jews after their hostile takeover of the democratically-elected Canadian Jewish Congress in 2007?

Did the UJA not invite Holocaust denier John Hagee to speak at the March for Israel in Washington last November, after he called Hitler a “murderous half-breed Jew” and said the Holocaust was a punishment from God? Did they represent Canadian Jews when they platformed and promoted that kind of unmitigated filth?

Did Michael Levitt, former MP, and Anthony Housefather, current MP, not repeatedly praise Kevin Vuong for his support of Israel, despite Vuong hiding criminal charges of sexual assault from the Canadian public and his military superiors?

Did Marco Mendicino, the current MP for Eglinton-Lawrence, not retweet Meir Weinstein, former National Director of the Kach-descended JDL terrorist group? Weinstein, who has encouraged his Kahanist followers, vocal in popular local Facebook groups, to obtain firearms and shoot Palestinian refugees?

What response did the Canadian Jewish establishment provide to the horrific evidence at the Hague? ... Did they express even an ounce of concern for Palestinian lives? No, their pathetic response to us, the Jews they claim to speak for, was to tell us to reject the evidence of our eyes and our ears.

It should be plainly obvious why I, and other pro-Palestinian Jews, feel alienated from the Canadian Jewish establishment. Yet despite all of this, I still cannot join the pro-Palestine protests. As long as people openly carry antisemitic signs with a Star of David in a waste bin saying “Keep The World Clean,” as long as protests target random Jewish neighbourhoods nowhere near Israeli or Canadian government offices, as long as my cousin at Western University gets called a “Jewish pig” by protestors while walking to class, it is not a safe place for me to be.

This isn’t fair to my Palestinian friends, who deserve to have me marching alongside them in solidarity. Obviously, I can never expect the world around me to be free of antisemitism, but what I can expect is for organizers at these rallies to call out this behaviour rather than tolerate it, the same way I have called out bigotry when I’ve organized mass protests.

And thus, I sit here, and I will continue to donate to groups like the Palestine Children's Relief Fund and the Palestine Red Crescent Society that provide humanitarian aid. I donate to these groups despite knowing that the food and medical supplies will likely expire waiting for Israel to let them through Rafah’s border crossing.

I sit here, writing hopeless words of peace and justice for a society that never cares to read them. I sit here feeling helpless to save even a single Palestinian’s life, helpless to convince the people around me that Palestinians even deserve to live in the first place. I sit here, having alienated myself from my community, my friends and my family, and I feel more alone than I ever have before.

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