To be critical of the Israeli state is not antisemitism

'This attack came at a time when those who represent the right in both Israel and the United States seem to accept and encourage more creative cruelty every day'

GUILFORD — Recently, in my bookstore in Brattleboro, a belligerent man came blustering up to the front desk to yell at us for displaying a Black Lives Matter sign in our window.

Why? Because he claimed that Black Lives Matter stands for murdering "my people" at this terrible time.

My staff and I all made it clear to this man that our sign stays up because actual Black lives matter to us.

And, as I am every bit as Jewish as this creep, I was able to deflate his self-righteousness a tiny bit, but he continued to rattle on about the unfairness of our refusing to follow his orders about what should be in our front window.

The far right has taken it upon themselves to instruct the rest of us as to how to think, how to act, and how to raise the children they are forcing women to birth.

As far as the Israeli and American Zionist response to the Hamas attack, there seems to be a complete lack of tolerance for any sympathy with the plight of those who are essentially prisoners in Gaza. Any and all remarks of concern for the Palestinians are disdained, as if these are not human beings who have the same rights as the rest of us.

This attack came at a time when those who represent the right in both Israel and the United States seem to accept and encourage more creative cruelty every day.

In an interview with Sky News, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett raged at the newsreader for even asking about the well-being of innocent Palestinian babies in hospitals.

"Are you seriously […] asking me about Palestinian civilians?" he asked. "What is wrong with you?"

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As a progressive, secular Jew, I have always spoken out about the excesses of the Israeli apartheid state.

I was fed a diet of lies as a child in religious school. We were told that we, the Jews, "made the desert bloom." We were always being asked for contributions to "plant a tree in Israel."

We never were informed that there were actually living humans in that territory and that they actually had a thriving business of harvesting olives from the many trees that the Palestinians had planted over the generations.

I never learned about the Palestinians until the Six-Day War in 1967. It was truly a surprise, as religious school at a Reform (meaning relatively progressive) temple had created such a compelling story of this land being created where there was no life.

* * *

Jewish Americans are a small but incredibly varied population, as far as our beliefs. We tend to be over-represented in progressive politics, to the consternation of many on the right.

The person who brought the progressive movement out in the open in contemporary U.S. politics, Bernie Sanders, is a secular Jew. Many of the most articulate and outspoken left voices tend to be Jewish, from Naomi Klein to Noam Chomsky.

To be critical of the Israeli state is not antisemitism, despite the constant accusations. The real danger of antisemitism in the United States emerges from the right and their conspiracies, as the old and tired hate-filled screeds about Jews are revived and fed to a new generation.

They seem to hate actual Jews even as they defend every action taken by Israel. We as Jews who believe that many of Israel's actions are war crimes are compelled to use our voices to oppose this potential genocide.

To be most effective, we serve as a counterweight to the overwhelming and almost unchallenged mainstream support of Israel.

* * *

My bookstore will continue to display our Black Lives Matter sign in the window, along with the many others representing such positions as a woman's right to choose and support for the LGBTQ community.

If someone presents us with a sign supporting the ability of the Palestinians to exist in peace, that sign will proudly grace our window, too.

Nancy Braus, an independent bookseller, is a longtime activist who contributes often to these pages.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

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