By Lew Finfer
Exclusive for Shalom Magazine
It’s often the rallying cry against the Holocaust ever again being contemplated. People vowing to not let it happen. We hear it now after Hamas’s actions on October 7.
But I heard the words, “never again” from a Muslim woman in a class I’m teaching at Harvard Divinity School on faith-based community organizing.
She was talking about the discrimination and targeting of Muslims that happened after 9/11, and now she is fearful it’s starting again because of the reactions against Hamas’ slaughter of 1400 Jews and taking of 250 hostages.
And an estimated 8000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s bombing and we’re only maybe at the beginning of the war. That’s Hamas’s estimate (as of Oct.30), which may not be accurate, but I’m sure too many thousands of Palestinians have died from the bombs dropped on Gaza.
People want to be seen and empathized with
We see that in the strong reactions against statements from organizations, universities, hospitals, governments and politicians that refer more to the Jews killed or more about the Palestinians killed. Yet talking about both doesn’t make anyone feel better either.
Meanwhile, the “Never Again '' pledge has not been fulfilled by our world when we look at subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Myanmar, etc. That’s on all of us. But, I’m digressing.
I was impressed reading about the Brothers in Arms group in Israel. They are mostly veterans and reservists who have been leaders in the groups who protested in huge numbers against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s major changes to the legal system. But after the Hamas carnage, they quickly pivoted to vast relief work for the 60,000 Jews displaced from land nearby to Gaza, helping the military get vests and helmets, and researching social media to verify who are hostages. Reportedly 15,000 people a day are part of their efforts. This is impressive.
This issue is like the ancient Gordian Knot. Killing civilians, whether by Hamas or Israel, is indefensible. Yet Hamas can’t be allowed to continue, or they will do this again. And this leads to killing civilians in Gaza while hunting for Hamas. And that results in inflaming antisemitism greatly in our country and abroad.
We need to find ways to act to overcome this huge dilemma. It will take wisdom, guts, common sense, charity, empathy, and prayers. That’s a lot to ask of anyone and from all of us. I don’t know the way forward, but enough of us together may. And G-d gave us the tools by which to accomplish this.
Lew Finfer is a community organizer with Massachusetts Action for Justice. He can be reached at LewFinfer@gmail com