On not confronting the haters in one’s own ranks: take two

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the comments to my previous post were quickly overrun by replays of comments threads in other posts about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

It’s unfortunate because I consider the topic of the post– the failure of people to denounce the outrageous behavior of people within their own political ranks, the failure to (borrowing Orwell) face unpleasant facts about their own side– as extremely important.

So just as it’s discouraging that nobody at the Fort Lauderdale anti-Israel demonstration challenged the woman who shouted “Go back to the ovens” at pro-Israel counter-demonstrators or the woman who held a sign “Nuke Israel,” it was also discouraging to see someone on the pro-Israel side (pointed out by TheIrie) apparently go unchallenged as he held a sign “Nuke Gaza, then Iran.”

I’m reminded of a post I did about anti-Israel and pro-Israel demonstrators facing off in San Francisco during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Among the anti-Israel demonstrators were some anti-Zionist Jews. As The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California put it:

Just an arm’s length from the troupe of extreme Jewish critics of Israel, a group of youthful Arabs bedecked in kaffyehs and red, green and white Palestinian accoutrements chanted their support for Hezbollah and showered the pro-Israel crowd with Hitlerian salutes while shouting “Seig Heil,” cupping their hands to their faces to imitate hooknoses and shouting about how Jews supposedly smelled like excrement.

It’s a bit of a tautology, but anti-Semitic bigots do anti-Semitic, bigoted things. It’s sad, it’s maddening, but it’s no surprise.

What was surprising was that, as far as we could see, none of their Jewish brothers-in-arms stepped in and did a damn thing about it or made any effort to disassociate themselves from a textbook display of Jew hatred.

To me, unhappily, it wasn’t a surprise at all. I even found a good word for the anti-Israel activist Sue Blackwell, who wrote a piece for Al-Ahram expressing unhappiness with the Holocaust denial and other signs of antisemitism she regularly encounters among her fellow anti-Zionists (while failing to draw some of the obvious conclusions).

One of our thoughtful commenters wrote: “Arabs shouting death to Jews in Israel is understandable given 60 years of war. Same with Jews shouting death to Arabs in Israel after terrorist attacks.”

Sorry, but I have to take issue with that. Sometimes the worst thing you can do in the face of hateful behavior, no matter the circumstances, is to say “I understand.” Some things– Hamas’s suicide bombs and Qassams, Baruch Goldstein’s slaughter of Palestinians in Hebron– are not, in any way that I recognize, “understandable.”

It’s the easiest thing in the world to stand on your side of the political barricade and shout “Muslim hater” or “Antisemite” at the other side. But to call out the people on your own side for expressing hate– that takes some real gumption.