More: Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza
By Dean Obeidallah
Criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza is one thing. But anti-Semitism is quite another. Keep it away. Far, far away.
At a crowded Muslim-American event I attended Sunday in North Jersey, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, spoke about a range of issues. The audience, many of whom have supported Ellison since he was first elected in 2006, cheered many of his comments, but the biggest applause line came when Ellison said: “There’s absolutely no place for anti-Semitism in discussing Israeli policy.”
And that reaction is not atypical in my experience. On Saturday, I attended another large Muslim-American event in Long Island, New York, and that same sentiment was expressed there.
Muslims, like Jews, are a minority faith in America. Consequently, we have endured our share of vicious barbs launched by hate-group leaders, elected officials and even clergy members of other faiths. This has made us keenly aware of the pain of being demonized simply for our faith. That is why Ellison and I and the Muslims I know find it so despicable to see instances of anti-Semitism arise over the conflict in Gaza.
This is especially the case in Europe. While the media have noted that in large part the rallies there opposing the Netanyahu government’s military action in Gaza have been peaceful, there has been an alarming amount of anti-Semitism on display.
“Gas the Jews” and “Death to the Jews” have been heard at some rallies. Firebombs have been thrown at synagogues in France and Germany, and Jewish-owned businesses in Paris have been vandalized. As Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute explained to the International Business Times, “If you attack a synagogue, explain to me what this has to do with being concerned about Gaza. You just want to hurt the Jews.” He’s 100 percent correct.
This type of conduct is despicable. Period. There’s no “but” or “let me explain why I said or did that.” It doesn’t matter how much you are angered or heartbroken by the image of children being killed in Gaza. And being of Palestinian heritage, I’ve been very aware of the suffering of Palestinian civilians well before social media has recently made this information instantaneously accessible. So I say this as someone who is very supportive of Palestinian humanity.
Anti-Semitism is morally wrong. It’s just like racism, Islamaphobia, homophobia, or any other type of hate. It can’t be tolerated, defended, or contextualized regardless of the form it manifests.