I was sitting in my Uber on the way back to my bus in order to make the 9.5-hour trip back up to Boston alongside my classmates at Brandeis University. On the way, I saw a woman standing at a corner, a Palestinian flag held out in front of her. She was screaming at passersby, shaking the flag furiously. We only stopped there for a moment, but during that time she chased away a nearby businessman as she brandished the flag at him and shrieked. It was a 45-minute walk away from the rally, where the police couldn’t stop her; she was just standing at a random corner in Washington, D.C., harassing passersby.
The contrast between the behavior of anti-Israel and pro-Israel protesters has been marked, yet unsurprising. At the pro-Israel rally in D.C., nobody encouraged death and destruction; nobody screamed at or harassed anybody; the police were thanked countless times; and the metro workers were so happy to help us. Later, a friend commented that they had talked to a D.C. local, who contrasted the politeness of the Israel rally to the chants for death at “pro-Palestinian” rallies. (I put “pro-Palestinian” in quotes because people who claim the label usually are mainly interested in the destruction of Israel and not the uplifting of physical, inconveniently real Palestinian people.)
This woman, running around brandishing her flag, reminded me of why we were here. For people who champion the “Palestinian cause,” they are advocating from a place of distance. The vast majority of them do not understand Israeli culture, have no personal stake in the issue, and have never lost anybody in the conflict—it’s like picking a sports team. But, for us, it is real, and personal, and bloody. We’ve lost friends and family in this conflict; my own cousin, Ezra Schwartz, was murdered by a Hamas terrorist in 2015. The terrorist chose that specific day—Nov. 19, 2015—to commit the attack because he was celebrating his 21st birthday. People call this “resistance,” when in reality it is a celebration of death.
I think a lot of the inhabitants of Washington, D.C., saw this difference firsthand. They saw us celebrating life, and they saw anti-Israel demonstrators celebrating death. They saw their hatred, and they saw our love. They saw us celebrating a beautiful, vibrant culture, and they saw them attempting to tear it down.
Some part of me worries that this might not have been enough, that people’s opinions won’t change, that we will be forced out of the West due to rising antisemitism—which is already beginning to happen. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t. But the second reason we went to the rally was to be together. We went to the rally because we are stronger and better together. We went to show each other that we are here, and we are crying out against injustice.
At the rally, we all felt this pain, and we all felt our unity. We’d come in from all over the place, and we were here to impress our inconvenient existence upon the American people. We were here to say, “Am Yisrael Chai.” The nation of Israel lives. And we will not go away.
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