Our family attended Seattle's rally in support of Israel today, and while I was touched by the show of camaraderie, I'm wondering if it was worthwhile.
Certainly we support Israel's right--need!--to defend itself, after it forcibly removed 9,000 Israeli residents from Gaza in 2004, leaving their homes and productive greenhouses to destruction (rather than reuse) by hostile Palestinians, only to receive 6,000 missiles aimed at civilian targets in return.
Certainly we want the media to know that Jews in our community, regardless of affiliation or lack thereof, are united in our commitment to Israel, the land given by God to Jews as set forth in the Torah.
Certainly we want to publicize that action by Israel is not aggression, as portrayed, but a truly restrained and careful response to an enemy who not only uses its own citizens as human shields, who not only targets schools and hospitals, who not only receives arms supplied by Iran via secret tunnels to Egypt--but whose goal is the complete eradication of the State of Israel itself.
That said, the event we attended today, joined by about 1,500 others in the Alhadaff sanctuary of Temple De Hirsch-Sinai in Seattle, was more a feel-good affirmation of solidarity than tangible advancement for our cause. Upon passing the purse-check (umbrellas, on this drizzly day, had to be left at the door), attendees, who filled the auditorium to capacity, sang some Jewish songs, saw a couple of short films documenting the frightening daily lives of those within the 25-mile range of rockets regularly launched from Gaza, and heard a few speeches from local Jewish leaders.
I was bothered by some of the content, which claimed that neither side wanted this warfare, and that it was Hamas, and not the Palestinian people, who are our foe. But in reality, Palestinian children are brainwashed into believing that Israel is evil, and that they should be willing to fight, even kill themselves, to eliminate it. Most of the five speakers mentioned that "we" seek a "two state solution" to the conflict, and I blanched--I do not see that creating a recognized state of Palestine (for the first time ever) will do other than empower and embolden people who don't want to co-exist in peace but, with the fervent impetus of their religion, want Israel to end.
The main thrust of the program was that Israel's attacks are in self-defense, to safeguard cities that are under unceasing missile barage. Perhaps the most effective visual was in one film that illustrated the area subject to attack were Seattle the target--say, from missiles launched from Canada. Would the United States be expected to simply let Seattle explode, several times a day, injuring and killing residents, for three years?
But if the purpose was to educate the public to our position, or to include others in our mission, the rally failed. While the Jewish community was well represented, holding the event inside a synagogue implied that this issue is important to Jews only. We should get out the message that this isn't a Jewish cause; it's a just, human cause. If the rally were held in a public space--as was a highly publicized pro-Palestinian event a week ago--and if churches and human rights groups, as well as the public at large, were invited, this would have far better disseminated that message, and joined us with a far larger group of support. After all, we are Americans supporting Israel; we see Israel as the only Democracy in the mid-east; the only place in that part of the world where everyone, including Muslims, has full representation and rights, and we support Israel for those broader ideals.
My husband pointed out that today, small Israeli flags were distributed, but no American flags. That "HaTikva," the Israeli national anthem, was sung, but not "The Star Spangled Banner." He noted that the pro-Palestinian marchers last week carried only Palestinian flags and not American flags because they, unlike us, are anti-American. We need to remind the world of the similarity in tolerance and freedom between Israel and the United States, a confluence of philosophy and attitude toward progress, the modern world and liberty for all.
This evening, I checked out our local TV coverage of the pro-Israel rally today. Station KOMO gave at least as much time to the handful of pro-Palestinian protesters across the street, and footage of the pro-Palestinian rally last week, to which the newscaster claimed today's event was a reaction. The conclusion of the report wasn't that Israel has considerable support in Seattle, but rather that our town is sharply divided in its allegiance. To see the shouting, picket-waving hordes in the pro-Palestinian march juxtaposed to the seated auditorium of Israel-supporters, interspersed with an interview with a Jewish woman saying how tough it is for her to oppose other Jews and stand out on the sidewalk protesting, probably did more to confuse uneducated viewers than further their understanding of Israel's self-defense.
A frustrating result from an event that could have been significant. But, given the pro-Israel rallies taking place across our nation today, I'm glad Seattle was counted, and I'm glad I was able to join with other Jews to sing "Am Yisroyal Chai," the people, the worldview called Israel, live.