On one side of the road were three young demonstrators holding signs saying “Pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-ceasefire” and “Not in my name.”
On the other side of the road was an older demonstrator, wearing an Indian feather headdress, handing out flyers that declared, among other things: “A peace process is illegal, a peace process is immoral, a peace process runs against Judaism and Jewish history, peace is not a proper objective.”
Both points of view were present at our community’s rally in support of Israel on Jan. 11, but which was positioned across the street and which was allowed to stand with the community at the rally?
If you answered that the young people stood in opposition to the rally, you’d be correct. Why was this the case?
The police were advised to have the demonstrators stand across the street in order to avoid conflict, so why was only one group standing there?
Who, if anyone, decided that opposing Israel’s Gaza operation was “wrong,” but opposing the entire peace process was “acceptable?”
Ultimately the protesters were allowed into Temple De Hirsch Sinai, signs and all, without incident, but I continued to wonder.
Did youthful alienation play a role in where the demonstrators stood? Would these young people have felt a need to separate themselves from the community even if the police hadn’t so directed them?
On the other hand, why did the older demonstrator feel entitled to stand on the side with the community? Was it from a matter of age and having a sense of belonging to the community that empowered him?
The younger demonstrators were confronted by about a dozen sign-bearing community members in a silent stare-down. The older demonstrator walked around distributing his leaflets and glad-handing people. But his protest was more fundamental than that of the younger demonstrators, since it opposes the peace process that has been the cornerstone of Israeli and American policy for years. So why was he not sent across the street as well? Why was his dissent seemingly welcomed while that of the younger folk challenged? What was so wrong about their message?
Does our community have trouble accepting dissent on immediate issues, like the war in Gaza, and no trouble in countenancing dissent on the long-term issues, like the shape of peace? Or is it only a matter, as it has been in this country with any of its recent wars, that voices on the right, regardless of how extreme, are somehow seen as being patriotic, while those on the left, regardless of how moderate, are seen as deleterious to the national interest?
I have many questions and few answers.