The history of the Jewish people’s existence demands persistence and vigilance.
Since the days of Abraham, we’ve been tested, exiled, executed, and displaced. Jewish people were driven from their homeland in the land of Canaan—the modern-day State of Israel—and subjected to a ruthless saga of violence, including the systematic genocide of six million during the Holocaust.
Yet, we remain one nation, united in light and love. “Chazak V-ematz” —“be strong and courageous”—said the prophet, Joshua. The Jewish spirit has proven unbreakable.
On Oct. 7, Hamas—a terrorist organization denounced by the Government of Canada—executed a coordinated attack on the Israeli population. The attack unleashed true evil, resulting in the highest number of Jews murdered in a single day since the Holocaust.
In the massacre women were raped and entire families were slaughtered. While I write this, 1,400 Israelis have been found murdered, 3,400 are injured, and there is believed to be between 200 to 250 more civilians who are being held hostage. According to the Palestinian Health Authority, close to 3,000 have been killed in Gaza.
Put simply, Hamas exists to terrorize and eliminate the Jewish population, as noted by their charter. On Oct. 13, their leaders called for a “Global Day of Jihad,” urging followers to inflict violence on Jewish people across the world in solidarity with Hamas’s recent attack.
Hamas doesn’t represent Palestinians’ right to self-determination, nor their best interests, in the slightest. What the world witnessed on Oct. 7 is an evil motivated by something larger than distaste for the Israeli government and the desire for a Palestinian state. It’s a senseless and ancient form of hate—antisemitism.
“Never again” was the world’s pledge following the Holocaust, and “never again” is what’s promised by the modern-day State of Israel. With the protection of our biblical homeland, Jewish people should never again be a worldwide target for systemic erasure.
In the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “never again” is a prayer and a vow that should rampant antisemitism resurface, the world will speak up and not turn a blind eye.
Unfortunately, what was thought to be a global agreement and a promise to stand against Jewish hatred has been disregarded. Too many prominent voices have failed to condemn the atrocity of Oct. 7, ranging from political leaders to academic institutions to classmates.
Some have dared to blame the victims for the terror inflicted upon them, or worse, celebrated it in the name of resistance. The Anti-Defamation League reported that a letter from the Students for Justice in Palestine called the terror attack “a historic win.”
There are reasons to disagree with the current Israeli government, and advocating for a safe and prosperous future for the Palestinian population is a worthy cause. However, believing in Palestinian freedom isn’t mutually inclusive with condemning pure terrorism. It’s morally reprehensible to stay silent—let alone celebrate—mass murder and war crimes.
Certain activists simplify Hamas’s actions down to a fight for decolonization. One example includes a professor at the Birkbeck University of London, who called the murder of 260 Israelis at the Supernova music festival a “consequence for partying on stolen land.”
These claims are among many that are deeply harmful to the Jewish people. Much of the Arab world, including Palestine, has religious and cultural roots in Israel, but so do the Jewish people.
Jewish history in Israel dates back to before 1000 BCE. The tribes of Israel never willingly ceded their land to their conquerors. Israel is inseparable from the ethnoreligious identity of the Jewish people since we have always been there. Arguing that Jews have no claim over the land is a disrespectful distortion of history, and using such accusations to justify murder is morally twisted.
When evil reveals itself, as Hamas did last week, we must recognize this evil as such. Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike deserve to live free of violence. They deserve peace.
Thirty-three student groups at Harvard University called Israel “entirely responsible for the unfolding violence.” It’s a disservice to the lives lost on both sides to point fingers at anyone other than Hamas. Further, it’s a tragedy for the world to resort to antisemitism and Islamophobia in response to these events.
On Oct. 9, a rally of Hamas supporters proudly chanted “gas the Jews” outside of the Sydney Opera House. On Oct. 16, news broke that a six-year-old Palestinian boy in Chicago was murdered in an Islamophobic hate crime by his landlord. Everyone must stand together and unequivocally condemn these irrational acts of hatred.
The events of the past week have been a disheartening reminder of the centuries-long witch hunt against the Jewish people. Our community’s grief is stifled by fears of antisemitism and immense disappointment for the individuals and institutions who appear unsupportive or indifferent.
A challenge of this magnitude hasn’t faced the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Naturally, there’s much anxiety and uncertainty in our community.
Israel’s fight for its existence poses an existential threat to the Jewish people. Our biblical homeland protects and unites us; it’s meant to embody the promise of “never again.”
There is a famous anecdote in Jewish tradition, where Hillel, a first-century scholar, was asked to summarize the entire Torah while balanced on one foot. His answer was that the essence of Jewish learnings and history boiled down to these words: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. The rest is commentary. Go study.”
In the spirit of these words, the Jewish people are compelled to love and protect those around us, and join together in trying times. With this core belief, there’s hope that families will continue to tell stories of freedom at the Passover Seder and pray that next year we are united in Jerusalem. The Torah will be studied, glasses will be smashed at weddings, and women will light Shabbat candles each week.
God-willing, the Jewish people will continue to celebrate life, as we always have.
Alisa is a fourth-year Commerce student and a Jewish student at Queen’s University.
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