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Roundtable: Jewish Americans share their perspectives on conflict in Gaza

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: People gather for a 'Stand With Israel Rally' in Freedom Plaza on October 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. Organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington, people gathered to show their support for Israel following the October 8 surprise assault by Hamas that killed at least 1,300 people and resulted in the kidnapping of 150 hostages that were taken to Gaza.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: People gather for a 'Stand With Israel Rally' in Freedom Plaza on October 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. Organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington, people gathered to show their support for Israel following the October 8 surprise assault by Hamas that killed at least 1,300 people and resulted in the kidnapping of 150 hostages that were taken to Gaza. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As war continues to devastate Israel and Gaza, 7.5 million American Jews are sharing their own struggles.

How are Jewish-Americans trying to process Hamas’s attack on Israel earlier this month?

Today, On Point: A roundtable of Jewish-Americans and their different views of what the future holds.

Guests

Yair Rosenberg, staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the Deep Shtetl newsletter.

Ilan Troen, Stoll family chair of Israel studies, emeritus, at Brandeis University. Lopin Chair in Modern History, emeritus, at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. He lost his daughter and son-in-law to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

Cora Galpern, graduate student at University of Michigan pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Former president of J Street U National Board. She is no longer affiliated with any organization.

Maital Friedman, vice president of communications and Creative and the Muslim Leadership Initiative. Co-director at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

Transcript

Part I

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Today and next week, we will be hearing from two roundtables of Americans who will share the impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on them. Early next week, we will be hearing from Palestinian Americans. Today, Jewish Americans share their stories.

LISTENER MONTAGE: So many of my Jewish friends go immediately to this vehemently pro-Israel stance. People who are incredibly balanced, thoughtful, nuanced, just go, “If you don’t support Israel, you’re not my friend.” And I’m like, “I think there should be a Jewish state, but the Jewish state should never practice apartheid.”

Over the past week and a half, I’ve felt sick to my stomach over the suffering and death that’s been happening on both sides. It’s just horrible. But also, I’m very angry at Hamas. The Hamas spokesman was interviewed yesterday by an NPR reporter and said, “Israel has no right to exist.” And if Hamas or something like it remains in power in Gaza, there’s just going to be more wars, more suffering and more death, an endless cycle of violence. So it’s terrifying.

It breaks my heart to think that so many of my Jewish friends and family and the mainstream organized Jewish world is acting like that this violence comes in a vacuum.

CHAKRABARTI: Those were On Point listeners, Cara Hanig from Framingham, Massachusetts, Barry Summer from Omaha, Nebraska. And Jake Ehrlich from Detroit, Michigan.

A few of the many folks who’ve called us over the past several days. Joining me today live for this roundtable is Yair Rosenberg. He’s a staff writer at The Atlantic and author of The Deep Shtetl Newsletter, in which he reports on stories that demystify how politics, culture, and religion shape society.

Yair, thank you so much for joining us today.

YAIR ROSENBERG: Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: Also with us is Maital Friedman. She’s vice president of communications and creative at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. She’s also the Muslim Leadership Initiative co-director at the Institute. Maital, welcome to On Point.

MAITAL FRIEDMAN: Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: And we have Cora Galpern with us today. Cora’s a graduate student at the University of Michigan pursuing a master’s degree in social work. She was formerly the president of J Street Youth National Board. Cora, thank you for joining us.

CORA GALPERN: Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: And in a few moments, we are also going to hear from another Jewish American, Professor Ilan Troen, when we can get him on the line.

But let me start off by hearing from the three of you, just your answer to the most basic question that’s been on my mind, which is what has your state of mind been since the attacks by Hamas took place. Cora, can I start with you?

GALPERN: Yeah. I would say that I don’t even know how to describe my state of mind. I feel emotionally exhausted. This is something that I am thinking about all the time. It is completely taking over my life. And I realized that the way it’s taking over my life is largely theoretical. And I think that has been a dynamic for me, as well.

Because I am in America right now, sitting safely, watching all of this unfold. And so it has been really hard to see all of the violence and all of the harm that’s being caused in Israel and Palestine right now. And it’s also been really important for me to keep the perspective that I am, at the end of the day, really just an observer.

CHAKRABARTI: Maital, same question to you.

FRIEDMAN: I also am swimming in a sea of emotions, I would say, and probably not in order, but sad and broken at the loss of life, at the hostages, at the injuries, at the shaking of the foundation of security for the State of Israel. There’s definitely rage and anger at Hamas and some fear. Both a lot of fear for friends, and family and relatives. And in Israel, fear for a cousin on the front lines.

CHAKRABARTI: Maital, are you still there? We’ll get her back as soon as we possibly can. Yair, what both Maital and Cora have described, we’ve been hearing from many folks, about this total consumption of the state of mind that Jewish Americans are feeling since the attack. Do you share that?

And can, is this moment different than previous conflicts that have taken place in the region?

ROSENBERG: So I think one thing that people don’t always realize is that there aren’t a lot of Jews in the world. They are 2% of the American population, 0.2% of the world population, give or take.

And half of those Jews live in Israel. So when you murder, 1,300, 1,400 Jews and you wound many more, you kidnap, you brutalize. Everybody, almost everybody ends up knowing someone or knows someone who knows someone. And so it’s different than just a small-time attack or a particular event that happens in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And it’s also different than a war. Because wars are horrible, right? And there are people blowing each other up. But the images that people saw, and I can tell you as a reporter, a lot of the stuff, you think you’ve seen everything, you think even social media, even if they won’t show it on TV, you can find it on social media.

As a reporter, I can tell you, you haven’t seen the worst of it. They won’t show it, because it’s either you can’t show it on television, it violates every moderation standard or for the privacy of the victims, right? They’re not going to show some of the things they did to people and to children.

But people hear. Because you might not see it on TV, but someone hears, I instantly was hearing from people in Israel who knew, who saw, and they’re like, “They’re not showing you what happened.” And again, there’s reasons why it’s not being shown. It’s an impossible situation for like media outlets and many others.

And that is just extraordinarily traumatic.

CHAKRABARTI: I think we have Maital back now. Can you hear me?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I can hear you.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah, sorry about that that disruption there. You were talking about you have members of your family who are in Israel right now. One of them has been called up for military service. And can you, is it okay if I ask you if you can tell me about other people close to you there?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah, I also have a brother who had been released from reserves, but is back in uniform. He’s doing more back office, but he’s away from his family, from his three young children. And I fear for them. I fear, and I’m devastated and heartbroken they are experiencing this war and the kind of uncertainty without their father at home.

And lots of other friends and family who we’re hearing from on a regular basis. I think Yair was identifying the ways in which most Jews in North America are at best one degree removed from what’s happening, but most of them, many of them have direct relations.

CHAKRABARTI: I wonder if at all the events that took place and are continuing to take place in Israel and Gaza, and how the various responses have been here in the United States. Did it for all of you, did it change how you view the communities literally around you? Cora, you’re our graduate student here.

Can you talk to me about that a little bit?

GALPERN: Yeah, so I think that as things are happening, one thing that’s been really challenging is that there hasn’t really been enough time to process. Feelings of grief and sadness, of one instance of violence. Until another, one of a larger scale, comes along. On October 7th, when the attacks were committed against Israelis, and so many people were killed, it was absolutely devastating.

And I was in shock, and people around me were in shock, and it was really hard for me to understand like where my place in this was. Because I am a progressive Jewish American who opposes occupation, who has spent the last five years building Jewish community to push for an end to the occupation, to criticize the Israeli government, to talk about the importance of Palestinian liberation and Palestinian human rights.

And as things began to unfold, it became clear to me both that this violence was part of a much larger cycle of violence and that I was unable to understand how it could be celebrated. I was really upset to see the ways in which my social media blew up.

And felt super unrepresented by almost every take that I saw, I felt like I was either seeing things that talked about standing with Israel unequivocally, and being super surprised that anything like this could ever happen. And that it was unprovoked and just completely random, and that didn’t feel right to me either.

And at the same time, I found myself really struggling to see how anyone could celebrate murder and celebrate the killing of civilians. But then, not even days later, Israel declared its siege on Gaza. And then before I could even process the events of October 7th, it felt like there was a much more imminent threat that I had to deal with first.

And that was the potential ground invasion of Gaza. And the 24 hours that 1.1 million civilians were given to evacuate, and that was absolutely horrifying to me, and it was horrifying to me as a Jew and as an American. Because I knew that this was going to be done with American support.

Part II

CHAKRABARTI: Today we’re hearing from Jewish Americans, and we did receive quite a few calls from folks across the country.

For example, this is Jessica English Teitelman from Fargo, North Dakota. And she talked about the sort of history of anti-Semitism that she’s experienced in her family. And specifically mentioned how her grandmother had married her grandfather. And her grandfather was Irish American.

Grandmother was Jewish American. And when their son was born, who was Jessica’s father, her grandfather’s father, her Irish great grandfather, took her father away from Jessica’s grandmother, who was Jewish.

And she felt like that experience of having her grandmother not having any rights to even care for her own child is one example of the kinds of generational trauma that both Jewish Americans, Jews and Palestinians have felt for centuries.

JESSICA: All of us have this experience of the generational trauma. And when there is conflict, we can’t help but have that in our faces 24/7, minute by minute, day by day. And the feelings that come, that so often we are supposed to just dismiss and move on with life and do our life and not think about.

CHAKRABARTI: Maital, I want to ask all of you about that, but I’ll start with you. Because of the very specifics regarding the history of the Jewish people. First of all, how is that in, quote-unquote, normal times just discussed within the community? And then how does it also now then inform the thoughts and responses that you’ve had since October 7th.?

Maital, can you hear me? We’re having lots of trouble today. Yair, I’m going to move, ask you that same question and help me out here. Go ahead.

ROSENBERG: Yeah. For listeners who might not know, one of the things I cover for The Atlantic is anti-Semitism. And it’s not a fun beat. It’s an important one.

And when things like this happen, sometimes people who aren’t paying close attention to an issue like that are shocked, because they don’t understand. They understand, like you’ve heard from others that there’s a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and that there’s a lot of blame to spread around, and that could be a totally separate discussion, something else I cover.

But obviously the sort of inhuman violence we saw. The way that human beings were treated as a subhuman beings. That doesn’t really relate to the national struggle of the Palestinian people. That doesn’t represent the national struggle of the Palestinian people. That’s something else, right?

And that’s because Hamas is a group that, in its own charter, its documents, and its actions for many years is simply anti-Semitic, right? And they don’t believe Jews have a right to be in the area. And they oppose peace conferences explicitly. They oppose negotiations. And so when something like this happens, people process it as anti-Semitism.

They understand that this could have been me, because it wouldn’t have been related to anything I did. A lot of the people who were killed were actually members of the Israeli peace movement. Because and some of them, were just in the way. It wasn’t about anything you had or your pains or who you were.

It was because of your identity. And that’s really hard, right? That’s really hard to realize you live in a world where there are people like that, who will simply do horrific things to you because of your identity. And of course, Jews are not the only people to experience this. There are a lot of people who walk around with this, but when something like this happens, right?

Of course, it inflames all of those fears. It changes how you look at the world for a time now. As a reporter, I live with that, so it’s a little different for me, but I know for a lot of other people, it can be very shocking.

CHAKRABARTI: Cora, can I get your take on that? Because again, as our graduate student here, was this a moment in which you know the visceral realities of, say, what happened in the Holocaust kind of really settled upon you personally?

GALPERN: I think that really struck me for the first time when I was talking to my grandmother last week. She and I were talking about the things that had happened and just checking in. And she said, “When the images were first released, it just, it felt so similar to like the trauma that we have experienced in things like the Holocaust and pogroms in decades past.”

And that was something that I hadn’t really thought of before talking to her, because I think that for my generation, it is more removed. And that, people can take what they want from that fact of life.

And that reminder to me was so important, because I think that a lot of the times, the fear that is produced from the Jewish community is rooted in this really genuine fear of eradication. Because of the deep history of trauma and genocide that has been committed against us. And I think at the same time, that’s why it’s so difficult for me to see the Israeli government inflict horrible human rights abuses against Palestinians, because when I talk to older Jews who hold the memories of the Holocaust so close, it reminds me of how horrible and tragic all of those things are. And it makes me really upset and angry.

That the fear has been weaponized in a way that has led to Israeli occupation and the Israeli government inflicting horrible crimes against Palestinians, as well.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. I think we have Maital back and I do apologize once again, Maital for the technological gremlins who are besetting us right now.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this generational trauma really has made this moment just that much sharper and more intense for members of the Jewish community in different ways.

FRIEDMAN: I think for many, this felt like a big break, actually, from the violence that had been experienced in Israel-Palestine for quite some time. Because of the intensity of and shock over the brutality. Part of the comfort of the state of Israel is knowing that there is an army to protect Jewish lives and Jews.

And then civilians were killed in their homes, and Jews were murdered waiting for the army to come, and I think that’s part of what elicited the kind of trauma. And so what I see among Jews is that there is this deep shiva, this deep mourning, and this need to actually mourn and grieve the loss of life, but also the loss of that security that they had experienced, as a comfort to some of the fears and the years and generations of not having the power to defend ourselves, and to really ensure the security of Jewish lives. And I think we’re grappling, I think the Jewish community is struggling with the moral imperative of destroying Hamas, of destroying the hate that overtook that moment, and the moral imperative to preserve life.

I hear Jewish colleagues and friends, even those in Israel, really struggling with what it means to maintain compassion, to take moral stand. To defeat evil and to do so without demonizing another group of people.

CHAKRABARTI: That’s actually a really important point that I want to return to a little bit later in the show.

Right now, let’s just hear a little bit more from some of the listeners who have contacted us over the past several days. This is Elan Mizrahi from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He told us he’s had a pit in his stomach since October 7th. His father is Israeli. He has dozens of family members who still live there.

And he talked about rising anti-Semitism in general.

ELAN MIZRAHI: That anti Semitism is amplifying, it’s obviously gone far beyond any sort of criticisms of Israel when the diaspora is being attacked, being blamed, being gaslit. It’s really hard to process all of it.

CHAKRABARTI: We now have Professor Ilan Troen joining us from Beersheba, Israel.

He’s a professor emeritus of Israel Studies at Brandeis University and a professor of modern history emeritus at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. Professor Troen, welcome to On Point.

ILAN TROEN: Thank you very much. By the way, right now, as you called, you can’t probably hear it. There’s a siren going on asking me to go to my bomb shelter, which is around 10 meters away from my desk.

I’m going to take the chance and not go.

CHAKRABARTI: I don’t recommend that, Professor.

TROEN: No, I’m going to stay right here.

CHAKRABARTI: Are you sure?

TROEN: Yes, I’m sure.

CHAKRABARTI: Because we don’t want to put anybody in danger just to be on a radio show.

TROEN: I’m sure. I’m sure. We have, we’re in mourning, so there are about 100 people in our yard and our shelter can’t take 100 people, so I’m going to volunteer to be outside.

It’s not an act of heroism, it’s being a gracious host.

CHAKRABARTI: If that changes at any time, Professor, you don’t even need to tell us, just depart as necessary.

TROEN: Okay, thank you.

CHAKRABARTI: You’ve had family members who were killed.

TROEN: My daughter and son in law. And my three grandchildren were present in kibbutz holit, which is on the border with Gaza.

We are 40. There is a boom that just came, but it’s probably not next door. You can hear the booms in this area quite well. But it’s not immediate. In any case, yes, three of my grandchildren survived. Two, because they were girls of age 19 and 21 and they had their own dwelling and our grandson lived with his parents.

He was only 16. So he was in their accommodations in the keyboards. And he stayed with his parents in their so called saferoom which was broken into by an explosive, they exploded the door. And my daughter pushed my son, my grandson on the bed and covered him with a blanket, and then put her body on top of him.

And that saved his life. Because the bullet entered her, through her and entered his abdomen, but didn’t hit a vital organ and didn’t go in very far. He’s thankfully recovering here, but it’s not the personal tragedy. It’s a collective thing that’s going on in Israel. The people have been coming to my house.

People are going to every many houses, not only here, but throughout all of Israel. Unlike when America fights in Afghanistan or Iraq. You in America don’t see the war, not party to it. All of us in Israel are party to it, because I have three other grandchildren who are actually, two are in the south and one is in the north.

And I was on the cell phone with one of my children and grandchildren from near the beginning of the attack on the settlements around Gaza through the end of it, through seeing them at the hospital. When we were able to meet with them. So it’s immediate, it’s visceral. So whatever you hear from Israelis who are going through this, it’s not abstract, philosophical moral considerations.

It has to do with us, our children, our family, our loved ones, and all the rest of it. So if you hear emotion in my voice, it’s because it’s genuine, it’s there, it’s immediate, it’s palpable.

CHAKRABARTI: Professor Troen, let me just ask one more time. Do you, I want to be sure that you feel like it’s okay for you to be speaking with us, or should you be attending to your guests?

I’m quite concerned, actually. I want to say.

TROEN: I can tell you are. You’re given about, there’s a time between the booms that one hears and when one can leave the shelter. We’ve reached that time. So I could exit the shelter, and so I’m safe here until the next alarm.

CHAKRABARIT: Okay.

TROEN: If another alarm comes, I might skip the broadcast, and you’ll forgive me.

CHAKRABARTI: Our forgiveness is not the issue. We would urge you to skip the broadcast. I would like, and I know Yair, Maital, and Cora will understand if I spend a couple more minutes with you, professor, specifically, given the circumstances. But can you tell me a little bit more about, even with the history of anti-Semitism, the violent and genocidal history of anti-Semitism, does this moment feel particular, different in any way?

TROEN: Yes. Yes.

CHAKRABARTI: Because you’ve described it as a pogrom and not some other action. Go ahead.

TROEN: No. Yeah, it’s a pogrom. It’s the same and it’s different. Let me tell you what the same and the difference is. The same is that is a pogrom. A pogrom, it’s a Russian word that entered through Yiddish into European languages around 1881, 1882.

It really means the noise that’s inside the thunder, the thunder that comes with violence. And it was a violent tax in the early 1880s fomented by the Russian government that was directed against citizens, people, because of their identity. It’s not a military conflict. It’s not a war of national liberation where an armed group meets an army.

And this was clearly a civil attack against civilians of different ages. And by the way, not only Jews, if you were Thai, or Nepalese or you happen to be in the way, it was an attack to kill you. It’s different than a military attack. And I do not see this, I do not see Muslims as anti-Semitic, or Christians as anti-Semitic.

I think within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are many different strands. What we’re dealing with here is one strand within a religion that has great compassion, and that’s Islam, and that strand has erupted in the modern period with disastrous results against Chaldeans, Assyrians, Maronites, Yazidis, you name it, and also Jews.

We have the temerity of wanting to create an independent state and no longer be dhimmis, be second class citizens, tolerated because we’re people of the book.

CHAKRABARTI: Professor, is that another alarm that I’m hearing?

TROEN: Yes, it was, but it’s not here.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. We all have an alarm on our phone that tells us that there’s a missile attack someplace in Israel.

TROEN: In fact, that’s how we found out at 6:30 on Saturday morning, our pings began, and we became concerned because our kids live actually or lived on the fence with Gaza on a kibbutz. Professor Troen, hold on for a second.

And if you need to depart during our break, again, we all understand, but we’ll be back in just a moment.

Part III

CHAKRABARTI: Professor, I’m just going to check if you’re still with us.

TROEN: I’m with you.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. Because I’m just seeing here from Israeli news sources, the Times of Israel, on their live blog is saying that rocket fire is going on right now from both Gaza and Lebanon, as alarms or air raid sirens are going off across Southern and Northern Israel.

Is that right?

TROEN: Exactly.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay.

TROEN: That’s what my app is saying. Yes.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay. So again, if you need to depart, just do, no formalities needed. I want to just ask our other roundtable members, sort of their thoughts on what you had said before, professor Troen. Yair, can I start with you? What’s your reaction to what the professor was saying?

ROSENBERG: Specifically, what are you thinking about? What are you curious about?

CHAKRABARTI: About the professor saying that he sees this as a pogrom. And not necessarily evidence of anti-Semitism across all of Islam, but of a particular eruption of extreme Islamist anti-Semitism vis-a-vis Hamas.

ROSENBERG: That’s certainly the case. And it feels sad that we have to say this, but obviously, my Muslim friends, most Muslims that I know abhor this sort of deviant, horrific violence towards innocent people. The thing that, sort of, and it’s what’s actually quite ironic to an extent, is that we have seen some rallies here and there and this or that on a campus. Or this or that from academics, often who are not from these communities.

Who has, as I think Cora mentioned, seem to celebrate, the mass death that we saw in Israel. And it’s very strange and very disturbing. And that sort of thing, it’s not coming necessarily from Islam or from Muslims at all, right?

It’s coming from people who buy into a specific type of political worldview where you can celebrate political violence if it’s directed at the right people who you think are part of a conflict and in the wrong. And yeah, but it’s obviously crucially important to separate whatever religious extremists do.

As a reporter, I regularly report on religious extremists of all different stripes. And there’s a big difference between that and the entire faith community. And Israelis know that, for a while, but I can tell you one story. I am a reporter, so I have many sources, on the ground in the region.

And there’s a particular, I actually think this is a colleague of Maital’s for his name is Mohammed Darawshe. … So he’s an Arab Israeli, a Palestinian living in Israel. And he’s a scholar and he’s an activist and he works to build shared society between Jews and Arabs in Israel. And his cousin, 23 years old, Awad, was a paramedic. And he was present when they attacked the music festival and started massacring people. And everyone was naturally running away, but he ran towards them because he was a paramedic.

And he tried to save people, sorry. And so the idea, like when people conflate communities, right? And when people try to create these very bright lines, right? And say, these are all different, right? That wasn’t the Israel that Awad, or Mohammed believe in, right? That isn’t how they see it, right? They didn’t look and say, “Who’s getting shot,” right?

They said, “Human beings, Israelis, my people are getting shot.” And I’m not, and I think that it’s really important that we all keep that in mind and don’t let extremists let us convert us. They win when we convert to their worldview. Let’s put it that way.

CHAKRABARTI: Maital, do you want to pick up on that?

Because from the many people we’ve heard, the sense of mourning that Yair just shared with us seems to be a common theme. Mourning not only for this awful moment with the murder of so many Israelis of all ages. But also, that that mourning is carrying on into what does this mean in terms of the relationships between people, not only in the region, but here or the ability to understand and share hopes for peace. There’s, I almost feel like there is a sense of mourning for that.

Am I wrong?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah, there’s a deep, there’s a deep mourning, both for the loss of life and for, I think the hope that we imagined. I have a deep fear of us importing the conflict here to America, and I see and am in close touch with Muslim leaders who share that fear, and who are experiencing, as our communities are experiencing a rise in anti-Semitism.

I have friends who put their children home from school on Friday this past week because of some of the online threats that the Jewish community was facing. And fears in the Muslim community that are lethal, as we saw last week in Chicago. And what Yair was identifying as critical, that we must be able to take moral stands without demonizing the other and we must reach out to each other even, and maybe especially when we disagree. And I think our colleagues and friends in other communities aren’t seeing what we’re seeing, and they don’t necessarily know how close we’re impacted.

And so I think when it’s a time of mourning in Jewish tradition, you go into the house of a mourner and you wait for the mourner to speak, and I think we have a lot to learn from that in our relationships. We can sit with mourners, even when we disagree. I was on a call late Monday night with a Muslim friend, who our interpretation of what’s happening on the ground is diametrically opposed.

And he sat and listened as I cried about my family. I cried about all the things we’ve been talking about. And I think that’s really the work here in North America, that we must ensure that we do not export the conflict here and that we’re able to reach out to our counterparts and ask them how they’re doing and why they’re responding the way that they’re responding.

CHAKRABARTI: Professor Troen, may I ask, you said you had many guests at your home. Are they there to?

TROEN: Yes. They get to come and share experiences. Cause everybody knows somebody else who has endured some kind of suffering. Can I ask you to ask a question?

CHAKRABARTI: You can just ask the question, sir. Go ahead.

TROEN: Okay. When you have your Palestinians and Arabs next week, I wonder how they would relate to the question. Is there such a thing as innocent bystanders in this conflict? And the reason I ask that is that we are at loose ends here. We have been engaged in these kinds of cycles with Hamas, Hamas controlled Gaza, and there were 2 million Palestinians, and absolutely for sure, there were innocent people and we have tried very hard through knocking on roofs, sending leaflets, and now advising people to leave a certain area, to leave the area.

And is there not something that Palestinians in Gaza can do to free themselves of this murderous abhorrent, aberrant form of Islamic political organization that throughout the PA, and is a dictatorial, fascistic, and you can use all the other words that come with that organization. Are they not also victims of Hamas?

And the question is, can they do something? And if they can’t do anything, because after all, they must know what’s going on underneath the ground, can, what then are we to do to suspend the conflict until Hamas fires at us again from civilian areas, from under the ground, from near hospitals. Are we to wait patiently until the next eruption, and then to be accused of abusing human rights when we merely try to defend our families, our children, our loved ones, and the places in which we live?

If they can’t do anything, why put the onus on us for engaging in self-defense?

CHAKRABARTI: What I’m going to do right now is once again, put our number out there where people can call. And again, I’m just particularly looking for the thoughts of Palestinian Americans. If you have an answer to the question that Professor Troen just posed.

617-353-0683 is the number to call, or find us on the OnPoint VoxPop app. So I want to, I need to spend the last few minutes that we have together talking about again your thoughts, your interpretations of what’s going on the ground now regarding the government of Israel’s current actions, and how it’s decided thus far to respond.

So let me just share the thoughts of another On Point listener, Dan, who called us to tell us how he feels about Israel’s government right now as a Jewish American.

DAN: I’ve been horrified for years by the way Israel’s Palestinian population has been treated, and I was horrified to see the carnage Hamas inflicted on Israeli civilians, as well as the seemingly indiscriminate nature of Israel’s response.

It seems like the violence from both Hamas and Netanyahu’s government is only serving to help entrench extremists on both sides. It makes the future look very bleak, and it doesn’t leave me with much hope that we’ll be able to find a way to acknowledge each other’s shared humanity. I hope I’m wrong.

CHAKRABARTI: That’s On Point listener Dan. We also got another message from a listener. He asked us not to use his name or the sound of his voice, but he gave us permission to paraphrase what he shared with us. He says he’s Jewish, born in New York City, has served in the United States military. He spent two years in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan as a scout for the army, U.S. army.

And he said, “Emotions can run heavy. Especially once blood is spilled, but the memories and consequences of actions during extreme times will stay with you forever.”

He’s sharing his personal experience there. So he wanted everyone to know it’s important for people to remember that “We’re all humans. We all have families that love us, that we love, and that we want to keep. Our hearts need to stay with our heads before we take any actions.”

Again, that’s from an On Point listener. Who says he’s Jewish and has served in the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cora, I appreciate how you’ve been listening patiently along this somewhat unpredictable hour today, but I was wondering what your thoughts are about your responses to those two points of view, given how the Israel has chosen to respond thus far.

GALPERN: Yeah. Thank you. I’m incredibly upset with the actions of the Israeli government. I am in favor of a ceasefire. I do not think that the continuation of this war will benefit Israelis or Palestinians. I resonate with the fears of how the Israeli government has treated Palestinian people.

And I also just think that like, when we have conversations about what’s going on and how it’s affecting us. I really reject the idea that Jewish Americans should only be asked to talk about how we feel in relation to Israel and Israelis and Jews. I see the peace and security of Jews and Palestinians as deeply intertwined.

I think that the Israeli occupation makes Jews much less safe. I think that my ideal vision of a world that is safer for Jews involves envisioning Jewish safety beyond just thinking about this piece of land. It requires solidarity with Palestinians, understanding the ways that oppression is linked. And I think that everything the Israeli government is doing right now is getting us much, much farther from that future.

I know that these things are complicated. I know that there’s a lot of hate coming from a lot of different directions, but I also know that I need to think about where my power is.

And my power is as a Jew and my power is as an American taxpayer. And those identities are fueling a lot of military aid and a lot of rhetoric that I think is going to cause a lot of harm. And that makes me really upset.

CHAKRABARTI: We only have about a minute or so left to go. Professor Troen, I would actually appreciate hearing your response to Cora and the other comments that I read.

TROEN: I would like to hear more rhetoric directed against the kind of violence that not comes from, Sadat came and made peace in Jerusalem, and he was assassinated for it. There are the Abraham Accords. 75% of the doctors in bombed Ashkelon are Arabs. My surgeon is an Arab. My students at Ben-Gurion University have a large number of Bedouins.

My grandchildren went to an Arab-Jewish school where they learned Arabic and Hebrew. I think that has to be encouraged, but when one sees evidence of people who hold contrary views and are willing to use violence against us, I think that we are required, obligated morally to defend ourselves.

And if somebody can figure out a clean way to respond to a genocidal, anti-Semitic group with power and weapons that does not include ultimately engaging in the kind of, the maximum kind of concern for civilians that we have provenly exercised time and time again, to make it absolutely clean. Paradigms are neat. Reality is messy. Our kids wanted to survive.

They were peace activists. They learned Arabic and Hebrew. I myself have been engaged in all kinds of public and political actions for accommodation. But when I am attacked, I will defend myself in the most humane, legal way that I know how.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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