Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Israel Apartheid Week – Rhetorics of Hate

It came and went. Israel Apartheid Week on our university campus. They waved their flags, we waved ours. They chanted, we chanted. They held their signs up and we tried to hold ours higher.

It was so depressing.

Been there, done that, year after year. And as I stood watching, I realized that the language is becoming more extreme with each passing year. A woman recited an emotional poem shouting into the microphone: “I hate you. I hate you, I hate you.”

Why is the language and tactics becoming more extreme?

I would like to tell you that the hard-liners (from both sides) are entrenching themselves as a last throw against the onslaught of the peace process. You would then like to tell me that I am delusional, while subtly putting that almost-empty whiskey bottle away.

Perhaps, on the other hand, it is frustration at the intransigence of the leaders involved and the lack of any kind of serious peace talks.

But the reality is sadly that many no longer believe that a peaceful, negotiated settlement is possible. It is frustrating and dis-empowering. Time passes, another war looms. More people will die and, when the smoke clears, well we will be back where we started, having learned nothing.

So maybe it is just easier to brandish our signs and our flags at each other. We know what to expect. We know it won’t matter. A little chanting can even be therapeutic. And maybe it will help us forget that people are suffering, living in fear, and waiting for a better future.

Except that with each day passing, we move that much closer to war.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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3 thoughts on “Israel Apartheid Week – Rhetorics of Hate

  1. You are right to be concerned that the hysteria in the shriek of polarized rhetoric from the extreme right an the extreme left is indistinguishable from each other. I believe they represent only a few percent of the people and national leaders. Yet their decibels seem leverage their air time and ink to greater than they really are.

    Who speaks for moderation, for negotiation, for compromise?

    Where are leaders who understand that armed conflict represents the failure of reasonable people to apply reason to their problems.

  2. When I was growing up whoever yelled the loudest won the arguement. It is a sad state of affairs when two ears for listenig are deafened by one mouth for speaking, one should listen twice as long as speaking. Perhaps from there a sollution can be found.

  3. To refuse to allow another to live is an abomination!

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