By: Avigail Winokur  | 

On Hamas Rockets, the Sheikh Jarrah Crisis and Fighting Antisemitism Online

As I’m writing this, over 1,050 rockets have been launched by Hamas into Southern and Central Israel. At least five Israelis and an Indian caretaker have been murdered by those Hamas rockets, and at least nine Palestinian children have been killed (along with 47 other people, both civilians and Hamas militants), due both to Israeli retaliation strikes and some likely by a Hamas rocket misfire. 21-year-old IDF Sergeant Omer Tabib was murdered by a Hamas anti-tank missile fire. 

Jews have been nearly lynched for taking a wrong turn into a Palestinian village (only to be saved by a righteous local), and Palestinians have been teargassed and shot. Terrorists have been attacked, Hamas targets have been neutralized and our country is on fire. There are videos of children on both sides of the Gaza border cowering in fear. It’s impossible to fully capture and recount the scope of the violence happening. It’s by far the worst rocket warfare in the last decade. 

There is a war brewing, if not ensuing. 

Operation Guardian of the Walls. 

I have friends in the IDF, and though as women they won’t be on the front lines, they are gearing up their soldiers. They don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.

The current violence is pervasive, disturbing and feels deeply personal. There are videos of desecrated synagogues in Ramla, a town where I was just over a month ago. A similar event in Lod today was dubbed a “Kristallnacht in Lod” by the town’s mayor. My good friends and family, located all over the country, have spent a good portion of their last 24 hours hiding in a fortified shelter. That is, those who are lucky enough to have one nearby. They’re sometimes scarce in Jerusalem apartments because Jerusalem isn’t usually subject to rocket threats and red alerts. 

I was living in Jerusalem up until a month ago. Had this happened then, it would have been me hearing red alert sirens and watching the Iron Dome disintegrate rockets before my eyes. That would have been me spending my nights in a bomb shelter, listening to explosions overhead, knowing that mayhem and destruction lie outside. That could have been me ducking for cover on Ben Yehuda street, with nowhere to go in the 90 seconds one has to take cover. 

Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, is on Wednesday. I wonder if the three dead Palestinian children were planning activities for the festivities for one of the most joyous days in the Muslim calendar. They would be alive if Hamas respected the sanctity of life. Those children are only dead because Hamas values agenda-fueled warfare over the security of its people. 

I don’t know how to feel. 

Many YU students have seen YUPAC’s Instagram account, @yupac21. For more information about what sparked the current tension, the Sheikh Jarrah Crisis, I recommend checking out our infographic as a start. That is just as a start because historical and legal land battles cannot be summarized into an eight-slide infographic. 

That leads me to what I wanted to write about today. Because of my role as YUPAC’s PR director (and incoming co-president), I spend a lot of time monitoring and updating our social media page. We try and present the most non-partisan, factual view of current events as it relates to Israel in a way that will reach the largest audience. 

Because of the time I’ve spent on this platform, I’ve been exposed to neo-Nazis, Israeli and Palestinian extremists, and misinformed Americans. I’ve seen both American laymen and politicians believe that their surface-level knowledge of a nuanced and complicated conflict gives them the right to speak out from the comfort of their North American homes.

What I know is this: Israel has an undeniable and inalienable right to both exist and defend itself. Posting #FreePalestine while presenting a demonizing, double-standard and delegitimizing view of Israel (see Natan Sharansky’s 3Ds) will NOT bring Palestinians any freedom. It only perpetuates antisemitism. 

Don’t get me wrong. I think there’s a large gap in our pro-Israel education. Those of us that attended Zionist day schools know what I’m talking about. We receive an education that is largely one-sided. This is the same criticism many of us have of those who are posting only the Palestinian perspective on social media. 

Through a lot of research and exposure to multifaceted opinions, conversations with people who think differently than me, both Israeli and Palestinian, I’ve come to realize a few things. To truly be pro-Israel, one needs to recognize Israel’s flaws, acknowledge areas for improvement, and most importantly, recognize the suffering that the Palestinian people have had to endure (at the hands of their own leaders and the Israeli government). As long as the criticism is with the intent to improve, one can safely do so outside of violating Sharansky’s 3Ds.  

To be very clear, I’m saying this as an outspoken and proud Zionist. You can find proof of that on both my personal social media pages and YUPAC’s. 

True Zionism is not equivalent to hatred of Palestinians. To bring peace, we have to understand that the past, present and future of Israelis and Palestinians are irrevocably intertwined. There is no future or self-determination of one group without the other. 

As much as people would like to pretend that the existence of the other is an impassable barrier for their respective statehoods, that is a false pipe dream that will frankly bring no one closer to peace. However, the importance of criticizing Israel CANNOT be used as a justification for calling thinly-veiled antisemitism criticism of Israel (again, Sharaknsky’s 3Ds). 

This is why I mourn the death of Yehuda Guetta, a 19-year-old student who died after a drive-by shooting last week, and the three other yet unnamed victims of the rocket attacks. But I also mourn the deaths of the Palestinian children. I mourn the death of 16-year-old Said Odeh, who was a civilian killed in clashes with the IDF. Life is sacred. 

I blame Hamas entirely for these deaths. Without Hamas violence, there would be no reason for retaliation. No reason for more bloodshed. 

While some may think that in an ideal world, Israel would be a state reminiscent of the Kingdom of Judea, flourishing as it did under the rule of King David, that is not the reality. Israel is a vibrant, multicultural and multireligious country. It is the only safe place for LGBTQ people in the Middle East, relative to countries like Iran, where 20-year-old Ali Fazeli Monfared was killed in an “honor killing” for being gay. For the most part, all citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights. 

In fact, the Israeli Supreme Court, which is adjudicating the Sheik Jarrah case, has a sitting Arab justice, George Karra. How many Arab countries have a sitting Jewish justice on their supreme court? How many even have a supreme court? 

On a deeply emotional level, I am enraged and disturbed by the antisemitism and misinformation perpetuated by influencers on social media. Presenting one side of a conflict does no one justice. And that goes for both people presenting just the Israeli side of the conversation and people presenting just the Palestinian side. 

This isn’t me pointing fingers or “fence-sitting.” This is understanding that nuance is extremely relevant when it comes to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and knowing that while I will defend Israel’s right to exist for as long as I live, I will learn as much as I can to make sure my defense is rooted in truth. 

That is why I ask anyone who has social media, to take a moment and engage people in dialogue. I find it ironic when comments are limited on a #FreePalestine post by Bella Hadid. How can we move towards peace without a free and open dialogue? 

I feel similarly anytime I hear someone in our communities wish death upon Palestinians. The Zionist community will have growing pains. I myself am experiencing those pains as my perspective on the conflict grows and becomes more nuanced with each new voice I listen to. However, we cannot become enraged at one-sided social media posts and call for a two-sided perspective, while only listening to Israeli voices ourselves. A valid defense of our belief must be rooted in a multifaceted perspective. 

Again, I want to emphasize that I am a staunch and proud Zionist. But that doesn’t change my opinion that there is a great and powerful need for our role in the larger conversation to change. 

We are Jews. Israel is our home. We must protect and defend that home, whether online or in person. But again, our defense has to be rooted in truth to be effective. To defend our nation in person and online, we have to know what lies beyond sparkling propaganda. Take a moment, do some research and arm yourself with facts to articulate for the State of Israel. 

I wish peace, safety and prosperity for all the people of Israel, and I hope this conflict comes to a speedy end. 

Ki Beiti Beit Tefilah YiKareh LiKol HaAmim.  [My House will be known as the house of prayer for all.] 

Hiney Lo Yanom viLo Yishan Shomer Yisrael [Behold, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps].

Editor’s Note: Some Instagram accounts to follow for more information are @henmazzig, @rudy_israel, @evebarlow, @ajewishresistance and @jewishunpacked

Photo Caption: House in Israel Destroyed by Hamas Rocket

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces