JCRC Update | April 25, 2014

his has been a trying week for us in the Jewish community in America, as we think about two incidents that have shaken our sense of security and our ideas of the aftereffects of causeless hatred.

The shootings at the JCC and Jewish senior center in Kansas City have perhaps awakened us all from a dream where incidents like these do not happen to the reality that violent anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past.

It is true that Anti-Semitic incidents have gone down in the last several years, with only (if that term is appropriate) 751 in 2013 – a 19 percent drop from 2012. We hear of violent incidents of Jew hatred all over the world – the Middle East, Asia, even Europe – and we are angered and resolute. However, when it happens in our own backyard, a Midwestern JCC in a Jewish community not significantly bigger than Louisville’s, we are also shocked. It is only right that we are now left with new questions with elusive answers.

Our thoughts also turned this week to the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. We were horrified a year ago when it happened – another time when our sense of safety was shaken to its core. Like in Kansas City, causeless hatred was at the heart of a vicious and violent attack. Random victims with no connection to the supposed “grievances” of the attackers were murdered and survivors were scarred for life, both physically and emotionally. It was another act of terror in an area where we all thought we were safe and secure – not part of list of potential targets of purposeful violence.

There are obvious differences between these two incidents, but the similarities cannot be ignored. Irrational hatred, based on ethnic or national origin, led to vicious and random acts of violence.

So what are we to do (besides increased security-based vigilance which is always important)? I am not sure there is one answer. We will never be able to eliminate the hatred that can sometimes lead to incidents like this. But on the other hand, we cannot wallow in resignation that “these things happen.”

We must educate ourselves and each other to be tolerant of others. We must continue to speak up against injustice, look after those less fortunate and promote the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. In addition, we must not let these acts of violence prevent us from enjoying JCCs and marathons and any other public events.

Apartheid Week on Campus

A few weeks ago at the University of Louisville (and many other universities around the world), anti-Zionists hosted Apartheid Week on Campus, a week of programming and events meant to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel.

These events are very similar every year, and the message is always the same: Israel is guilty of every human rights violation around and they are the worst purveyors of oppression in the world – worthy of universal condemnation and sanctions.

As an example of the one-sided nature of the presentations made at U of L, one speaker talked about the security barrier in the west bank and the hardships it causes Palestinians. The speaker contends Palestinians are routinely held up at security checkpoints, and the security barrier can sometimes keep Palestinians from consistently tending to their own fields on the other side. While this unfortunate situation is very real and Israel must do what it can to mitigate the hardships faced by Palestinians, the speaker failed to acknowledge that the security barrier was erected to stem the loss of life due to suicide bombings and other terror attacks or that since its completion, terror attacks from the West Bank have decreased over 90 percent.

The presentations attacked the Zionist narrative, denied that a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian is a reasonable solution to the problem and advocated tactics such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS). The latter is a radical and out-of-the mainstream tactic that must be condemned by all those who seek a just solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East based on a two state solution.

This demonizing of Israel and only Israel is both immoral and unhelpful in reducing tensions between the parties.

Subsequent to Israel Apartheid Week, the organization Stand With Us brought two Israeli soldiers to U of L to talk about their experiences. Both soldiers emphasized the complexity of the issue as they told some of their own personal stories of their experiences in Gaza and the West Bank, particularly dealing with the brutal tactics of Hamas during the last war in Gaza that endangered civilians on both sides of the conflict.

In contrast to the Israel Apartheid Week presentations, both soldiers emphasized their desire for peace, their sympathy with the Palestinians and their hope that the future will be one of peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

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