As tensions surrounding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict escalate abroad, the battle has also apparently shifted to American soil.
On Wednesday, hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters took to streets outside the New York Israeli consulate to protest Israel’s deadly retaliation in Gaza this week. Now, they have a constitutional right to do this, just as the counter-protesters also have a right to show up in defense of the Jewish state.
What the pro-Palestinian supporters do not have a right to do is physically attack those from which they disagree. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened.
In a video shared by the reporter Elad Eliahu, a bloodied Jewish man, is seen being rushed by New York City police officers to a nearby store to escape a crowd of enraged pro-Palestinian supporters.
According to one protester, a passer by made really hateful comments towards free Palestine protesters which allegedly lead to one throwing a chair at this man as he was mobbed by others. He was eventually lead into a store by an officer after being chased pic.twitter.com/CMc1Z89Ulk
— Elad Eliahu (@elaadeliahu) May 11, 2021
So what did the Jewish man do that warranted such a violent act? According to a bystander [reported on Fox News], his alleged crime was that the victim said, “very hateful comments.” While we can only guess what those “hateful comments” were, I assume it regarded his support of Israel. Either way, violence in response to comments of any kind cannot and should not be justified.
As a Jewish American who proudly supports the state of Israel and their need to defend themselves against attack, I am worried after seeing what just unfolded in New York City. I fear, not only for my safety, but for the safety of the entire Jewish community.
According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 95 percent of American Jews consider themselves a Zionist in support of Israel. To these pro-Palestinian crowds, which are also just anti-Zionist crowds, the Zionists are the enemy.
If virtually every American Jew is a Zionist, and these rowdy crowds set out to condemn and destroy Zionism, aren’t the Jews the enemy to these people? Despite what most anti-Zionists will say when asked this very question, the answer is, of course, yes.
Most troubling is that all this hatred against the Jewish people has gained traction on college campuses across the country. While my campus is not currently facing this strife, my Jewish friends at other universities have not been so lucky.
At the University of Delaware, a Chabad center for Jewish life was the victim of an arson attack, causing $150,000 in damage. At countless other universities, buildings and dorms were vandalized with antisemitic graffiti. At Skidmore College, a pro-Israel club was denied a trial period even after the Social Justice for Palestine club was. The list goes on and on.
These antisemitic instances have become so frequent that the AMCHA Initiative has recorded a staggering 3,500-plus cases of antisemitism across 450 college campuses since 2015. I bring this up because it is the same anti-Zionist people that attacked that Jewish man in New York City that is committing these acts of antisemitism at American universities.
When movements such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement sprout up, Jews are put in danger. Whether it be in the streets of New York City, or the academic quad of countless universities, the Jewish people are threatened and forced to walk around with a target on their backs.
As the BDS movement and pro-Palestinian groups incorrectly frame Israel as an apartheid state, the Jews living in America are framed as bystanders and accomplices. That is the reason antisemitic incidents [reported by the ADL] hit an all-time high in America in 2019.
As already mentioned, supporters of Palestine have every right to take to the streets and form protests. However, American Jews like myself also have the right to feel secure in their neighborhoods and college campuses.
As antisemitism is on the rise, it poses a threat to the American way of life. Liberty and security are fundamental rights that democracy sets out to ensure. When antisemitism in society is tolerated, the Jewish community loses its sense of security and has its liberties infringed upon, destroying our democracy. So we need to come together to protect Jewish Americans, regardless of the events taking place in the Middle East.
Alex Blecker is a student at Oglethorpe University double-majoring in economics and political science.