To the Editor:
The Israeli military assault on Gaza has touched off enormous protests all over the world. At one such protest in Boston on Sunday, Nov. 12, one of the themes was silence equals violence.
Some are understandably concerned about exposing themselves to the opprobrium and criticism of those who equate opposition to genocide with anti-Semitism, be it cynically or out of ignorance. Well, guess what: You cannot stand there and watch in silence. There is a moral obligation to speak out. But if you want to reframe it in self-interested, pragmatic terms, then consider: If they can do it to them, they can do it to you.
The demonstration in Boston was the most multiethnic and diverse I have ever seen in my long years, dating back to protests against the Vietnam War when I was a child. One of the speakers was a Brooklyn Jew in full Orthodox regalia. He explained that the very establishment of the ethnostate of Israel in 1948 was fundamentally illegitimate and illegal, and argued that in order for there to be peace, the state of Israel must be “peacefully dismantled.” He further pointed out that it cannot be possible for Jews, of all people, to stand silent while a genocide is being carried out against others. Other speakers included Palestinians and Native Americans who underscored the connection between their struggles against colonialism and oppression.
Please understand, if you have any doubts, that opposition to the U.S.-funded, genocidal war on Gaza does not mean support for the atrocious and barbaric terrorist attack carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7. Reasonable people may disagree over precisely what the Israeli response ought to be. Those with any historical awareness, however, understand that the Hamas massacre of Israelis happened not in a vacuum, but in a context analogous to the slave uprising led by Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831. In that episode, rebellious slaves rose up and murdered as many white people as they could lay hands on before they in turn were crushed by a reprisal that was disproportionate, far more brutal in terms of numbers killed, in which the white mob killed black people who had nothing to do with the uprising. Sound familiar? Responsible historians say the ultimate responsibility for the violence lay not with the slaves, but with the slavocracy: Had there been no slavocracy, there would have been no uprising against it. And the murderous reprisal did nothing to solve the systemic problem.
The question comes down to this: Do you oppose genocide? In the coming days, you will see me standing at the Five Corners intersection in Vineyard Haven holding up a sign saying “Ceasefire now!” I urge you to join me.