“What should we be saying instead, to make people listen and understand what is happening?”
The couple, with whom I spoke to on Saturday at the National Protest for Palestine in Washington DC, were holding a banner, with a swastika on it.
Upon seeing this sign, I immediately made my way over to them and asked them whether they felt their sign was a constructive, or destructive message, and whether they felt it would compel people to join us in protesting the atrocities that are happening in Gaza.
I went on to elaborate.
The swastika is a symbol of hate. It is a symbol of anti-Semitism, it is a reminder of the inhumanity of the Nazi regime. This symbol has no place in a protest that calls for peace for all peoples- Palestinians and Israelis.
The couple, and others on the march who emblazoned swastikas across their posters, told me they were using it to point out the irony of a once persecuted people, committing similar brutalities to another set of human beings. I reject that argument. That cruel piece of history does not need to be dredged up to chastise Israel. Instead, the universal simple moral truth, which sits enshrined within human rights law, is the only message that needs to be emblazoned on banners that chastise Israel and that call for change and freedom for Palestine.
Using a symbol of hate to call for peaceful justice, does not make sense. Using a symbol that carries contained within it, a sorrowful chapter of history for Jewish people, does not make sense. I speak as a person with a Jewish father and a stake in that history. Using that symbol, strengthens the position of those who do not wish to see the people of Palestine achieve freedom.
Upon hearing what I said, the couple put the sign face down, shook my hand, and asked, “What should we be saying instead to make people listen and understand?”
This question is key. This question exemplifies why this movement must have complete unity of message, and rest on a universal demand for human rights to be upheld, in order to end the war, end the occupation, and allow Palestinians their international right to self-determination.
This march was attended by approximately 20,000 passionate people from all races, religions and creeds. Peace activists, groups of faith, and unaffiliated individuals came to voice their moral indignation at the latest Israeli offensive that has, so brutally, claimed almost 1,800 lives throughout the Gaza Strip. The protest, like the many others all around the world, for the most part, represented what is good about humanity.
The overwhelming majority of protestors chose to display messages expressing concern and grief over the desperately sad nature of recent events. However, littered throughout those sentiments, there were a few voices that, I believe, will not help bring peace.
Those extreme voices become easier to reconcile with when such terrible atrocities are carried out against a helpless, innocent civilian population. The impunity the international community gives to these war crimes evoke a sense of injustice and anger that can as easily be negative, as it can positive.
This injustice and anger reverberates in each one of us. We are humans. We watch the news segments of pure devastation throughout Gaza, we hear the reports of blatant war crimes, and we look at pictures of the charred remains of children. These injustices make us angry, we are humans.
But what is needed now, more than ever, is the channeling of this anger for good. We need to be constructive, not destructive. Messages of hate are destructive, hurt the direction of the Palestinian solidarity movement, and take us all further away from living in a world that we desperately wish to live in.