Our VoiceNews & Politics

Attention to Israeli Attacks Should be Examined for Anti-Semitic Undertones

Jill Garvey • Dec 30, 2008

I’ve received several email alerts urging me to attend rallies protesting the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, and while I do lend my voice to condemning Israel’s actions, I won’t attend any rallies.

Israel is ruled by a far right-winged government, much like our current administration, so it is unsurprising that they would emulate us and resort to unchecked violence. What is surprising is that so many American activists are deeply disturbed by a government behaving in the same manner as their own.

What the Israeli government is doing is terrible, but anyone who is not at least indirectly affected by the violence should examine why they are willing to invest their time into protesting Israel and not other governments.

It’s not that I don’t believe the Palestinians are living in an occupied state or that the oppression they face is horrific, it’s that what they are suffering does not rank very high as far as global suffering goes. My heart breaks for the so far 62 civilians who have lost their lives. But if I’m going to protest for them, there are at least a dozen other oppressed peoples I should go out and march for first.

One would be the 426 black males between the ages of 14 and 17 that were killed in the U.S. by guns in 2007. Or how about the 30,000 immigrants (including children) with no criminal histories currently being held by ICE in prison-like detention centers?

Another would be the 35 civilians that were murdered in Southern Sudan over Christmas alone. The violence in Sudan is far from over, as hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have been murdered in 2008. I’ve also never received an invitation to attend a rally for the 10,000 Somali citizens that have died over the past two years, not to mention the 3.2 million Somalis that are now dependent on humanitarian aid because their U.S.-backed government targets its own people.

It is actually difficult to find hard numbers on the Somali casualties, because mainstream media doesn’t pay any attention to them. Much like they don’t pay attention to the civilian casualties in Iraq, which depending on who you talk to could range anywhere from 90,000 to hundreds of thousands. The media doesn’t pay attention because we don’t demand that they do, because we don’t care. Americans disproportionately care about the deaths in Gaza because it is perpetrated by Jews, and anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in our culture. To quote a wise friend, “anti-Semitism didn’t suddenly disappear because the Holocaust ended”.

Investing one’s energy into harshly criticizing Israel is troubling on two fronts. On one side we neglect more pressing crises and on another we create space for anti-Semitic bigotry. If we are going to address global suffering, we need to address it fairly and proportionately. Speaking up on human rights issues is valiant and effective only if our own bigotry doesn’t get in the way.

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