Bullying and the Jews
It seems like every day there is new news about bullying. There is bullying in school, bullying in the street, cyber-bullying is both popular and deadly because it can be done remotely and impersonally. There is now a Bully Project that has made a movie with the goal of being viewed by one million kids. Their website right now says 58,352 have seen it already.
Bullying is defined as “a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.” (Wikipedia)
Yesterday was Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s 64th Independence Day and, believe it or not, that made me think about bullying. I am sure that there is an embarrassingly large amount of bullying by Israelis against Palestinians, but I reject the accusation that Israeli state policies are themselves bullying. I reject that idea the same way I reject the idea that TSA behavior at the airports is bullying. Bad people can abuse reasonable policies. That doesn’t make the policies themselves necessarily bad.
The link for me between Yom Haatzmaut and bullying is actually the tactics that are used to protest Israel. The false accusations, the harassment of Israeli speakers, the intimidation of pro-Israel students on campuses, the protests here in Ann Arbor outside of Beth Israel, at our Main Event and Celebrate Israel, whenever UMS sponsors a performing group from Israel, the hateful discussion threads in AnnArbor.com over Israel, etc. All of these are efforts to bully Jews (and gentiles as well) into abandoning Israel.
Why do I call this bullying? Because it is so often expressed as a habitual form of aggressive behavior consisting of emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse. Its message is always that Israel is evil and therefore those who support Israel are evil.
Just one time I would like to see the protesters outside of Beth Israel holding signs praising Palestinian efforts for peace, accomplishments in literature or the arts and calling for a Palestinian state so that these oppressed people could take their rightful place in the world community. In other words, I would like to see them make a pro-Palestinian case rather than an anti-Israel case. For me, that would mark the difference between advocacy and bullying.
In this instance, like in any other instance of bullying, it is essential not to be intimidated and not to feel threatened or less worthy. We may not be perfect. There may be much we need to improve upon. But we must stand up proudly in the face of bullying for who we are and what we believe. There is never an upside to letting bullies win.