Last weekend I was informed (loudly, repeatedly and, in my not-so-humble opinion, obnoxiously) that I am a supporter of genocide. The story follows and you can judge for yourself.
I will confess that I could have entitled this "I support genocide?" as a question rather than a statement, but the rebuke was offered to me so aggressively that I will keep the statement form.
For a decade, I have been a member of the Ann Arbor Jewish Cultural Society (http://www.jewishculturalsociety.org/ for anyone who cares to visit, feel free to click on Adult Education.) We are a Secular Humanist institution and school. If you are not familiar with Secular Humanism (and I mean in the sense of actually having VISITED a place) you may be surprised at all the things we have in common with churches. Yes, we have Sunday School and yes, we teach values and yes, we do community activities and we even observe the Sabbath. We just don't think that we have a monopoly on a vision of God.
I taught Sunday School to kids for five years and began the Adult Education class last year. Not exactly the profile of a mass murderer so far, right? (All my neighbors said that I seemed so normal....well, not really, being normal is not an accusation that is often leveled at me.) I also volunteer for activities as often as I can. Usually these are in the form of raking leaves for senior citizens and such. Last weekend I was called upon to do something else. (Cue the scary music.)
You see last weekend was the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Founding of Israel and we, the JCS and the JCC, hosted a community day. It is an annual event celebrating the foundation of the State of Israel. Members of all the other Jewish institutions were invited to attend. These included the Reform Congregation of Ann Arbor, the Conservative Congregation, even the Hasidim from Chabad House were represented. My good friend Rabbi Alter Goldstein was there. It is the one time of the year when we all gather together.
The celebration is very family oriented with lots of activities for kids. There was one of those big thingies where the kids can jump up and down. There were lots of booths with crafts and such. Artists were displaying their works. It is a sight that would be familiar to anyone.
If you have ever attended one of those events you know that there is always some poor schmuck wandering around in costume. Okay, confession time. I was that schmuck. I wore a costume as "Blue Box Bob" the blue box representing the charity or tzedekah box used to collect money for the less fortunate. The costume covered me from above my head (some people would say that was a GOOD THING) to about my knees. I was there to emphasize the importance of giving charity, a requirement if you accept the Bible and a value, an important value, if you are a Secular Humanist. I had just been in attendance at the last day of JCS Sunday School, where the kids got to announce the charities that we supporting this year. We support the Humane Society, Ronald McDonald House, the Red Cross. Last year, my class donated to the Invisible Children's Fund, a fund to help build schools in war-torn Africa. The Invisible Children's Fund was again supported this year. We also donated to Seeds of Peace, a camp in Maine, dedicated to bringing together kids from Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan, the Balkans, and other areas of the world. How could I refuse to support such worthwhile efforts even at the risk of what little dignity I might have? (See http://www.seedsofpeace.org/about)
So, all is good so far. I am sweating happily in my Blue Box Bob costume for a good cause, the sun is shining, kids are playing, everyone is having a good time....and then the protestors show up.
There were only three or four of them and in theory they were supposed to keep off our private property. They didn't but that is neither here nor there. You see they brought a bull horn. From fifteen or twenty feet away they screamed, screamed I say again, as loudly as they could that we were Zionist murderers, commiting genocide against the Palestinian people. I looked around (as well as I could inside my Blue Box Bob costume) and I didn't see any murderers. Just kids and their families trying to have a good time. Say, wait a minute, that eight-year old kid might be building a wall with his blocks....nah.
Jokes aside, it was terrifying to the kids to have someone screaming at them through this bull-horn. How do you explain to a child why someone that you have never met hates you so much?
I should state that these were not were not ethnic Palestinians. These were Caucasian, "white bread" liberals from Ann Arbor. They were out there standing up for the "rights" of the downtrodden. And in all fairness, it is hard to come up with a people who have been more thoroughly screwed over than the Palestinians over the last sixty years. If you read up on the history of the al-Hijra al-Filasteeniya, or the 1948 Palestinian Exodus from Israel, it not clear as to what degree the Palestinians fled from what they believed to be a hostile Israeli government, or were forced to leave by a combination of terrorist acts by the Irgun and Lehi, followed by Palestinian reaction and then Hagannah reprisals. There is a lot of good work coming from the Israeli "New Historians" relying on recently (1980's) released government records that changes the way that shows that the traditional view of a voluntary exodus by the Palestinians in anticipation of the 1948 war is simply not true.
But regardless of what happened 60 years ago hating Israel just isn't helpful. Israel just isn't going to go away despite the Palestinian flag showing a Middle-East without Israel.
These people were not demonstrating for a two-state solution. Zionism was genocide to them, Israel was genocide...and I was genocide, just by exsting.
Do these people pay any attention to the news? Do they understand that Hamas refuses to accept Israel's right to exist as prerequisite for peace talks? Saying "I won't kill you" is usually a first step in the peace process.
The nature of their protest was that, in order for the Palestinians to have a homeland, Israel must go. What would happen to the 7 million Jews living there now? ...... Silence. If you look at how Jews have fared in the Arab lands since 1948, I think that answer is pretty clear.
You see, to them we are not the Chosen People, we are the inconvenient people. Our very existence is a threat. We commit "genocide" by our very existence. And, in their logic, I support genocide by affirming that the Jewish people have a right to exist and to have a land of our own. Even if I was wearing my Blue Box Bob costume.
Link is to a Haaretz article entitled: "If everything is genocide..." an interesting read.