‘Ceasefire now’ is not humanitarian enough

The world’s quiet indifference to antisemitism must end.

A pro-Palestinian protest in London, a week after Hamas murdered 1,200 people in southern Israel and took more than 250 others hostage into the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian protest in London, a week after Hamas murdered 1,200 people in southern Israel and took more than 250 others hostage into the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Sarah Grace Victor
Sarah Grace Victor is an attorney and director of operations at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank focused on Israel and foreign policy.

The statistics don’t lie: In the two weeks following Oct. 7, the United States saw a 360% increase in antisemitic incidents. On college campuses in the ensuing months, there was an overwhelming 700% increase. All of this followed the deadliest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust.

How do we account for this astronomical rise in hatred after such a brutal attack? An attack in which women were raped, their bodies mutilated beyond recognition, babies beheaded and burned, children killed in front of their parents and parents in front of their children? The absurdity of hating the victims of this massacre is astonishing.

The silent screams of the victims continue unabated as innocent women and men of all ages, including infants, are held captive by Hamas. The brutal terror organization still feels no remorse. This is not surprising, as they proudly broadcast their kidnappings and killings in real-time. They stand by their ideology of genocidal hate. 

But Hamas is not alone in devaluing Jewish and Israeli life. There is a collective responsibility for the increase in antisemitism and the horrific impunity it enjoys. Our political and societal consciousness must shift. On the domestic front, we must transform the discourse that defames the memory of those murdered and seeks to blame all Jews for Israeli policy. Globally, governments must hold themselves responsible for the preservation of Jewish and Israeli life and make it a vital policy objective.

More than a decade ago, I went to Israel for the first time as an intern at the Ministry of Justice. Even then, I sensed a visceral hatred of the world’s only Jewish state that I found strangely illogical. The experience made me determined to understand it. But the more I tried to do so, the more I found myself grasping at straws. I believe now that it is our collective lack of self-awareness in addressing antisemitism that has allowed it to skyrocket.

As an attorney focused on fighting antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, I continue to be deeply troubled and lost for words at the structural indifference towards Jewish lives in many societies. When attacks on Jews in our streets and on our campuses go unchallenged, we allow the perpetuation of violence that seems to be infinitely malleable across time and space.

Regarding Israel, if our idea of justice does not pass the reality check, our motives must be questioned. If the demand for “ceasefire now” is based on our shared humanity as global citizens, do we include in this the defunding and destruction of a terrorist entity that will never apologize for its brutality? After all, Hamas has stated that they will repeat Oct. 7 until Israel is annihilated. Where are the calls for structural reform that will ensure just governance in Gaza? Where are the measures that will prevent Hamas from murdering and muzzling dissidents, using child soldiers and exploiting its own civilians as human shields?

Why do we refrain from using the full weight of global institutional power to hold Hamas accountable? The silence from women’s rights organizations in the face of the unimaginable sexual violence of Oct. 7 is deafening. The United Nations and the International Court of Justice have chosen to exert their influence to defame Israel rather than securing Israel’s territorial integrity against future violent incursions. Their failure is a violation of their own founding document, the U.N. Charter, but they continue to stand in arrogant judgment of Israel. 

The fact that we, both as societies and institutions, can demonstrate such a callous indifference to Jewish life is a humanitarian concern that we should own. My first experience of being confronted by antisemitism in real life led me on a journey of discovery during which I encountered a quiet indifference to the problem. But I am still hopeful that it is not too late for us to change, first in our minds and then in our communities.

We need to push the envelope and confront our predispositions towards hatred. Once we recognize our biases, we must not ignore this issue as outside our purview, unimportant or unworthy of our time and attention. It is when hatred is most potent that our responsibility to speak up is most vital.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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