As the violence escalates in the Middle East, one must remember the difference between disparaging the Israeli government and disparaging the Jewish faith. As protests around the world echo the sentiments of the world leaders and the United Nations–all of whom are essentially calling for an end to the increasing violence–one must remember claims that these calls are racist are completely unfounded. The Israeli government’s actions demonstrate that they have flagrantly ignored calls for restraint, perhaps as much as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has neglected to contain terrorist activities.
Here is a brief recount of the past week, where violence abounded. As Israel began its offensive, bringing tanks and soldiers deeper into Palestinian territory, the international community reacted. While suicide bombers–the most recent another teenage girl–tore new holes in the Israeli psyche, world leaders told the Israeli government to stop escalating the violence.
Israel did the opposite.
Now, people across the world sympathize with the Palestinian cause, especially as the Israeli government flays Palestinian towns, buildings and security offices in its goal to uproot those they deem to be terrorists. While the world community does not condone the terrorist acts of Palestinian extremists, people have reacted.
Last weekend here in Alberta, there were protest marches singing the same tune. Several pro-Palestine supporters marched on Calgary’s City Hall while a similar group protested in Edmonton. They carried signs calling for international justice, the condemnation of Ariel Sharon and an end to the refreshed military occupation. The Calgary protest was relatively peaceful, despite a minor scuffle with police.
Nonetheless, these are legitimate concerns shared by much of the international community. In reaction to the protests, reports surfaced that some Israeli groups labelled the protests as racist because some signs reportedly carried racial slurs. Whether or not such signs may be considered racist or not, or whether or not protestors have any particular anti-Jewish sentiment, the international call for a ceasefire on both sides–supported unanimously at the UN Security Council–is something else entirely.
Israel’s actions over the past week have been more than just inflammatory. They have increased the death toll on both sides, even as both claim they act only in self-defence. They have exhibited a tremendous show of military force in a fight that isn’t necessarily destroying terrorism. No, this is violence being used to counteract violence, reducing many previous peace talks to bloodshed and needless death.
Because of this, the Israeli government must end its offensive. Those in the Israeli community, whether they be in Calgary, Canada, or the rest of the world, cannot liken this to a systematic mistreatment of Jewish people, as they are currently perpetuating the violence. At the same time, any future pro-Palestinian demonstration must maintain their calls on the international community to act while refraining from stoking any particular anti-Jewish sentiment. This is absolutely necessary if such protest is to retain any sense of legitimacy amongst those who now believe Israel goes too far.