Why can’t my progressive friends understand what Israelis are going through?

I am grieving. I am grieving the small seeds of hope for change I have witnessed over my time living in Israel. I am grieving as I sit with my Palestinian housemates, both of us afraid to leave the house for fear of rockets and rioting blazing through our community.

I have enmeshed myself in this Jaffa community. I have lived with Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and Israeli Arabs, Druze, and Jews. I have worked with an Indian Jewish family in their Indian restaurant, cutting vegetables for hours alongside an Israeli Bedouin, Palestinians, and a Colombian Jew.

I have heard the experiences of injustice against the Sudanese refugee community, as well as discovered many Israeli organizations that seek to help these, as well as other refugee populations, find a home and better life here.

Likewise I have I heard of the frustrating experiences of discrimination carried out against my Palestinian friends, all of whom have agreed that work is necessary on both sides to build bridges and improve lives.

The first night of the rockets from Hamas, all I could think about were the people in Gaza who I knew were having a far worse night than me. I knew that Israel was going to shoot down most of these rockets, and I still felt fear, I still felt unsafe.

They, on the other hand, had no protection, no government that was going to shoot down Israeli counter-attacks. They had Hamas, a terrorist group launching rockets in densely populated areas to push its civilians to the center of the fight.

As videos came out of the devastation in Gaza, I, and the housemates I was with, felt so saddened by what we were seeing. We talked about how our situation, like that of our Gazan counterparts, felt like chess pieces being thrown around as the big guys, Hamas, the super-Orthodox settler movements, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played with our lives.

But that night was only just beginning.

The Israeli response on Gaza began trending and blowing up social media, and to the rest of the world there was no correlation between the Israeli and Gazan citizens sheltering from the turmoil. There was only Israel, the mighty oppressor, the colonialist apartheid state.

Why do some people refuse to understand what it’s like to sit in a bomb shelter as rockets are shot down literally above your building. To try to fall asleep only to be woken an hour later to another siren. To have your heart skip a beat when you hear any noise that sounds like rocket fire. There is a complete lack of empathy for the Israelis on the ground, whose casualties, though smaller in number because of Israel’s Iron Dome defense technology, nonetheless shake every citizen fleeing rocket fire.

I am watching posts about the evils of Israel explode on social media. I am reading CNN’s “What You Need to Know” about the conflict without any mention of Hamas or its rocket launches on Israel. I am running to my bomb shelter as close friends post about the inequity of casualties between Israelis and Palestinians, before they have thought to check in with me or my safety.

It is this lack of empathy, this complete disregard for the experience of the Israeli citizen that makes me ask if it is just ignorance, or if it is, in fact, antisemitism. Because the more the one-sided narrative is promoted, the more antisemitic attacks are carried out around the world.

This year has challenged me to fight for my leftist ideals as time and time again, conservative-leaning Israelis told me, “The Arabs are trying to kill us, and the antisemitic world will let them do it!” — knowing their trauma was blinding them from actually seeing and relating to Palestinian suffering.

I am at a loss for words as so many public figures on the left, mainstream news, and friends who share my beliefs blatantly ignore or overlook the real feelings of fear and danger Israelis exist in.

How the people that I also saw as righteous can weigh the trauma of one side over another simply on the basis of casualty numbers terrifies me. How many Israelis, then, should be murdered for the world to not see this in terms of sides and division? In their ignorance, they only confirm the fears of conservative Jews, dragging the entire country into a tribal mentality, and stepping on all efforts made by leftist Jews to move the country, and its treatment of Palestinians, out of this coffin.

We are all suffering in this conflict. So many Israelis feel for our Palestinian brothers and sisters living beside us, and hope to one-day have peace with a Palestinian state. But peace will come only when both sides are willing to see the other as belonging to this land. This is not to say that there isn’t work to do, far from that. But if all you can see in this conflict are two opposing sides, then you’re already compromising whatever chance there is.

We as Israelis cannot fight for Palestinian legitimization amongst our community while our own pain and trauma is delegitimized in turn.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Why can’t my progressive friends understand what Israelis are going through?

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Why can’t my progressive friends understand what Israelis are going through?

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