Thoughts and Experiences of a Young Canadian Jew

May 21, 2021

Community Update

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It’s hard to put into words how the past few days have felt to be a young, North American Jew. As the violence between Israelis and Palestinians has steadily risen with each passing day, the tensions as an observer on the other side of the world have not been easy to process.

I have grown up attending Jewish day schools and Jewish summer camps my entire life. It has been instilled in me from birth how important it is for the Jewish people to have Israel as our Jewish state; a second home for those of us living in the diaspora. I’ve studied the Holocaust in depth and been able to visit concentration camps across Poland to witness firsthand the atrocities committed only 75 years ago, before going to Israel and seeing how the Jewish people have been able to thrive and flourish immediately following the darkest days of our history. I’ve never wavered in my appreciation for it, and until recently, was never made to feel that I was wrong to feel that way.

Recent social media posts from The Queen’s Journal, a newspaper that I wrote for several times throughout my undergrad at Queen’s University, and a place where several of my closest Jewish friends were employed in the past, declared their solidarity with Palestinians living under a settler-colonial Israeli regime, and vowed to donate money to the BDS movement. These posts were immediately met with strong backlash from the Jewish community, not just from Queen’s, but from all over North America. After two days and thousands of comments from people covering all perspectives of the conflict, the posts were removed, and The Queen’s Journal has issued a follow-up statement apologizing for any offence caused and promising that a donation to BDS will not be made on their behalf.

While I am relieved that the initial statement was withdrawn, I can’t help but feel like the damage has been done. Several people who I considered friends throughout my time in university were liking posts and comments supporting BDS, which is unequivocally antisemitic and has been disavowed by our current prime minister. I have personally experienced antisemitism in the past, and the feeling of support that I had from my friends was crucial in getting me through it. However, with the social media narrative surrounding this issue becoming so binary, it feels that for anyone who stands with Israel, the antisemitism they face is now their fault and is not valid.

What is happening in Israel right now is a tragedy. I completely support both the innocent Palestinians and Israelis who are caught in a war that is outside of their control, and I want nothing more than for peace to come of all this.

There is a famous phrase, saying, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.” I just wish that social media discourse realized that, and instead of demonizing the ‘other side’ and justifying hateful rhetoric, we could strive for actual change.

- Jonathan Karr