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May 15, 2023 10:31 am

Seeking Peace Amidst Another Round of Violence

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avatar by Hen Mazzig


Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Sderot, Israel May 13, 2023 Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

If the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza has done anything, it has underscored the urgent need for peace and reconciliation. As a pro-Israel voice, I firmly believe in the Jewish people’s right to defend themselves and, more importantly, our right to a homeland. However, unless my beliefs are fully and fairly reconciled with the aspirations and rights of Palestinians, anyone who foresees a future absent hate and bloodshed is sadly mistaken.  The proof is in the pudding.

The pudding is a complex and tragic mixture of ingredients, not the least of which is the furious and implacable rise of antisemitism on social media. Those who are propagating it probably do not realize or care that they are creating barriers to understanding and empathy between Israelis and Palestinians at a time when recognizing each other’s humanity is more urgent than ever. Such recognition is the first step on the only sustainable path to peace.

With 71 percent of Americans now getting news and information from social media, these platforms have become a profoundly effective tool for for transmitting hate speech and misinformation. The latest escalation in the Israel-Gaza conflict has sadly seen an alarming surge in antisemitic rhetoric online. While the long-term solution lies in earnest peacemaking initiatives, in the short-term, social media platforms must take immediate and decisive action to combat the spread of antisemitism.

Responsible engagement and moderation can help ensure that these platforms do not become a tool for spreading vitriol and inciting violence. The Tel Aviv Institute, where I am a Senior Fellow, has taken a leadership role in proposing unique data and human-driven solutions that can be adopted by organizations like Twitter, Facebook, and others, without undermining their commercial interests.  That along with meaningful social and political advocacy of fundamental decency and a firm public rejection of antisemitism, will be instrumental in turning the tide. To many of us, human decency, like fair-play itself, is a basic human value. But for too many others, the idea that any person’s faith or identity is a legitimate target of discrimination has been normalized.

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The hue and cry inside our echo chamber of friends, family, and supporters against antisemitism will always fall short in its objective unless it simultaneously recognizes the immense suffering experienced by both Israelis and Palestinians in this ongoing conflict. While it stretches anyone’s capacities amid a longstanding conflict to not fall into the trap of dehumanizing the other side, we must, while protecting and defending ourselves, also move to higher ground and reaffirm the importance of empathy and understanding. The reality is that Israelis and Palestinians share a common humanity, and recognizing this can create bonds that pave the way for meaningful dialogue and lasting peace.

The Israel-Gaza conflict presents complex and deeply rooted challenges, but they are not insurmountable. As a pro-Israel advocate, I firmly believe in the power of peace and reconciliation, not as the best solution, but at this juncture, possibly the only solution to continuously escalating wars of attrition and murders of innocents. To this end, there should be no limits in addressing the rise of antisemitism on social media because online hatred of Jews and Israel is a key obstacle to laying the critical groundwork for sustainable progress. By devoting ourselves to creating a landscape on which Israelis and Palestinians recognize each other’s humanity and commit to a future where both can thrive in peace and security, we can find our way out of this decades-old cycle of hatred.

Hen Mazzig is an Israeli writer, speaker, and Senior Fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute. He’s appeared as an expert on Israel, antisemitism, and social media in the BBC, NBC News, LA Times, Newsweek, and more. Follow him on: @henmazzig

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