What will it take for the world to see Gazans as real, living breathing human beings rather than either incorrigible terrorists or simple puppets of Hamas?
In truth, it has been difficult to avoid the abject dehumanization of Gazans by the Israeli government and Israel advocates these past few months. In statement after statement, Palestinians have all but been blamed for their own mass murder.
I continue to be troubled by Rabbi Jill Jacobs’ recent Washington Post op-ed, “How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism,” and frankly disappointed to witness how warmly it has been received in progressive Jewish circles. In context and content, I find it to be anything but progressive.
Jacob’s article was written in response to the Israeli military’s killing of over 100 Palestinians in demonstrations in Gaza since March 30, including 14 children, and injured over 3,500 with live fire. Certainly, as the Executive Director of Tru’ah — an American rabbinical organization that seeks to “protect human rights in North America, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories” — one might have expected her to follow the lead of other human rights organizations and protest (or even call into question) Israel’s excessive use of force.
On the very same day as Jacobs’ op-ed, for instance, Human Rights Watch called for an international inquiry “into this latest bloodshed,” adding that “these staggering casualty levels (were) neither the result of justifiable force nor of isolated abuses; but foreseeable results of senior Israeli officials’ orders on the use of force.” For its part, Amnesty International called Israel’s actions “an abhorrent violation of international law” and Doctors Without Borders termed them “unacceptable and inhuman.”
Tru’ah itself released a statement about the violence four days earlier, but notably refrained from any criticism of Israel’s behavior. In fact, the statement neglected to even mention the fact that the Israeli military had shot and killed scores of protesters, noting only that Tru’ah was “deeply saddened by the deaths.” It went on to quote a Talmudic commentary in which a commander of King Saul’s forces was criticized for killing a man when he could have easily “hit him in one of his limbs.” (This citation was particularly egregious considering the widespread reports of many Gazans — including children — whose limbs were amputated after being maimed by Israeli gunfire.)