The ceasefire holds between Israel and Hamas. Peace in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank? A long way off. Both observers and supporters of the Palestinians could help nudge the parties along by not abusing words blindly targeting Israel.  

Proportionality. Hamas sent towards Israel 4,000 unguided missiles. Some landed in Gaza. Many were destroyed. Others struck Israeli civilians. Israel targeted Hamas military-intelligence-communications facilities to stop those attacks and delay the next wave. Tit for tat would have enabled thousands more rockets to strike Israel. 

Apartheid. Israeli Arabs often do not enjoy equal protection under the law, but South Africa Israel is not. Israeli Arabs serve in the Knesset, have served on the Supreme Court, occupy positions in medicine, law and the arts. Israeli security measures against possible West Bank attacks often are heavy-handed but necessary. Note that Palestinians in the West Bank remain in limbo status, are not Israeli citizens. 

Nazi. Calling out discrimination is always appropriate. Equating Israelis with Nazis denies any understanding of history and inflames a difficult situation.   

Holocaust. What Jews—also Roma and gays—experienced during World War Two stuns the imagination. Yet Holocaust, bandied about in reference to the Palestinians, has become so devalued, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene R.–Ga.) equated wearing masks during the Covid-19 pandemic to “a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and… they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany…” She followed up that “any rational Jewish person doesn’t like what’s happening with overbearing mask mandates and overbearing vaccine policies.” As a rational Jewish person, I find such references nonsensical and offensive.

Genocide. About 250 Palestinians died when Israel responded to Hamas’ rocket attacks. Civilian deaths are to be mourned. But Tutsis killed in Rwanda in 1994: 800,000… Armenians killed by Turkey during World War One: one million… Jews killed by the Nazis and their sympathizers: six million. If Israel wished to commit genocide, tens of thousands of Palestinians already would be dead. On Tuesday, the actor Mark Ruffalo, who opposes Israeli policy, apologized for using genocide. “It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful & is being used to justify antisemitism here & abroad.” Inflammatory? Note numerous attacks on Jews in the U.S. and Europe by supporters of the Palestinians.

Justice. Rabbi Reuven Firestone, a scholar of medieval Islam, has written that justice means different things to different people. In the West, it generally equates to an agreed-upon solution ending hostilities. In the Middle East, vengeance. Care must be taken with this word, since two sides may use it to express opposing ideas.

Only a Palestinian state alongside Israel can ultimately achieve peace. Meanwhile, Arab-Israelis, along with Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, must be treated with dignity. But Israel cannot be called upon to commit national suicide.

The TV comedian John Oliver condemned Israel while acknowledging Hamas rockets but noted that most missed their targets. There were no targets, John. A 10-year-old Israeli girl responded:

“Just so you know, my army is strong. However, this does not protect me from being afraid. Since I was born, I live in fear. Since I was 6, I’ve been going to therapy.”

Clear, accurate language can at least protect the invaluable concept of perspective.

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  1. Joan Sutton on May 29, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Thank you for this David.

    • David Perlstein on May 29, 2021 at 11:58 am

      You’re most welcome, Joan. Emotions often lead to missing language, which sweeps aside perspective. This drastically lowers the possibility of listening and finding paths towards peace.

      • Joan Sutton on May 29, 2021 at 12:37 pm

        I certainly agree.

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