In 2002, 60 years after the Holocaust, a Jewish girl cannot go out to an anti-neo-Nazi rally and hold up the Israeli flag.
The past two years have been a perplexing time to be a young “liberal” Jew in America. As an Israeli-American I have often been required to defend Israel from her liberal detractors. An epidemic is crossing our nation’s campuses, as confused college kids are lumping together the American civil rights movement, the anti-Apartheid movement and the Palestinian independence movement. Encouraged by groups like the Nation of Islam, black pride slogans have been appropriated for Palestinian protests and the language of Malcolm X has been subverted to serve the adherents of Yasser Arafat.
During a mission trip to Israel with the International Hillel Organization, I began to realize no matter how I feel about the current actions of the Israeli government, the Israeli nation has the right to exist as a homeland for Jews.
I sojourned to the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 24 to join the counter-rally against a Neo-Nazi demonstration. As I watched the neo-Nazis approach the south Capitol lawn, my ears were pelted with offensive slogans and vile rhetoric. To these Nazi sympathizers, who applaud the victimization of minorities, of Jews, who extol the brutal slaughter of 12 million people including whole branches of my family tree, to them I wanted to sing out, ” I am a Jew! I am an Israeli-American! Now it is you that are in the minority. We are strong and here forever!”
Unfurling the blue and white Israeli flag, I walked briskly and purposefully toward the gathering of anti-Nazi protesters. These were people who believed as I did, rational tolerant people whose personal morality impelled them to stand together and denunciate hatred and intolerance. They would stand with me, protest with me and perhaps attempt to educate with me. Or so I thought.
As I walked deeper through the crowd of protesters, waving the Israeli flag proud above my head, I began to feel less welcome. I marched on, waving the flag even higher so each and every neo-Nazi could see the flag of the Jewish people. Suddenly I realized that the cries and jeers at the sight of the flag, originated not from the neo-Nazis, but from the anti-Nazi protesters.
“Israel is fascist!” “Zionism is racism!” I looked these people in the eye and told them, despite our political differences, this was our chance to band together and fight the real enemy. I pleaded with them to turn around and face the real fascists.
“I am not the enemy! The enemy is right across the street. Please, let’s share this common ground and fight together,” I said.
An old woman with a sweet face screamed at me, “You are a Nazi!” Despite my intense rage, I stayed true to my nonviolent beliefs and fought her and the crowd that had begun to form around me with my words. The crowd of anti-Nazi protestors did not have the same nonviolent ideology. I was spat upon. I was physically and verbally threatened. Grown men accosted me and tried to rip the Israeli flag out of my hands. These were supposed to be the good guys, and yet the hatred they exuded was just as potent as that of the Nazis themselves.