The recent anti-war rally outside the Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 17 devolved into a disturbing display contesting Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza. Individuals participating in the protest wielded signs with the offensive and misleading equation of Israel with Nazi Germany. One protester defaced an Israeli flag with a swastika, the symbol of the Nazi party, in place of the Star of David. The swastika symbol has powerfully negative connotations for Jewish people, as it evokes the genocidal horror experienced by our ancestors in the Holocaust. Though criticism of a government’s policies and actions is a legitimate manner of expression, the delusive parallel drawn in this circumstance simply maintains animosity and division between differing perspectives. Israel’s maneuvers must be understood in the context of the broad and complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As a Jewish person, many members of my family, my community and millions of innocent men, women and children of my people were brutally murdered in the horrific atrocities committed by Nazis in the Holocaust. To falsely draw a comparison between the systematic attempt to mercilessly annihilate an entire people, as perpetuated by the Nazis, and the political actions of a democratic nation of Israel, is both fundamentally wrong and morally inexcusable.
While the vocal expression of divergent political perspectives is an essential component of a free and democratic society, hatred and racism are not a constructive mechanism for facilitating positive and enduring change. Incendiary symbols are detrimental to progress: they merely perpetuate a cycle of distrust and fear. If the goal of the protest was to contribute to the resolution of a conflict, then the approach was not effective.
The beauty of democracy is reflected in the unbound ability of the citizens of a nation to actively voice disparate beliefs and perspectives. Freedom of expression is our fundamental right as citizens and as human beings. It must be employed to articulate and communicate our diverse views in our collective attempt to reach constructive solutions to the issues that we face as a society and as a global community. Positive change will only come about within a framework of dialogue, understanding and cooperation, with peace as our unifying objective.