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Liberal parents, far-left teens: When Jewish families fight over Israel

(JTA) — Most of my friends in Jewish circles are parents of teens or college students. We are liberal, tolerant, open-hearted folks, who jokingly call ourselves “NPR Jews.” We have Israeli friends, and we are watching in horror at a world in which it is once again fashionable, in liberal circles and on college campuses, to justify the murder and kidnapping of Jewish children — this time, because they were born in Israel. This new wave joins the rise of Jew-hate/Israel-hate in MAGA circles and the white supremacist anti-Jewish tropes parroted by celebrities like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Elon Musk.

While we lament the bloodshed of all people, we sympathize instinctually with our fellow Jews in Israel. We continue to advocate for a peaceful, long-term solution for both Israelis and Palestinians, but we know that Israel sometimes has to fight for its security. And while we ourselves have been critical of the Israeli government, at times deeply, we see too many others crossing the line from harsh criticism to double standards to outright demonization and antisemitism. 

Our kids, meanwhile, are absorbing other messages. Yes, they see bad actors spreading misinformation and influencers fawning over the words of Osama bin Laden. But they also see images that activate the very values we helped instill in them: tolerance, inclusion and compassion. Daily footage of Palestinians, often children, who are caught in the crossfire of this war, demands their compassion. Clips of Israeli leaders who speak about Palestinians as “animals” or “Amalekites” provoke their outrage. Their parents’ laments about Jewish vulnerability are hard to square with hourly evidence of Israeli military power. 

So, these last weeks have brought new questions:

When a teen tells us that we should stop worrying about antisemitism, how should we react? Should we push back and criticize them for not taking this seriously, or let them blissfully pretend that we are not living during a surge of hate?

What if teens are actively promoting, from a place of compassion and solidarity, only arguments that are anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian? How do we make sure that they are hearing Israeli voices on these issues and that they balance their critique with some clarity about the challenge of taking sides with those who wish to destroy us?

And what if our teens are justifying the terror of Hamas as a righteous form of armed resistance, as some Jewish students are doing on college campuses?

Just as the Passover seder calls on us to differentiate how we are to answer four types of children, these questions present us with a multi-layered pedagogic challenge.

I had the opportunity last week to speak with a New York-based therapist and parent coach, Dr. Julie Hirschfeld, about these questions in preparation for a webinar we hosted for parents of teens at Moving Traditions. Here are five of her insights (in bold) and my own reflections on why these insights are important right now for parents of teens.  

1. “Be aware of how the war is putting a strain on your relationships.”

This may seem obvious, but as a parent, I know that it is easy to overlook how stress outside of the home manifests as stress in the home. The more time I take reading and watching coverage of the war and the antisemitism perpetrated in its wake, the less present I am to my family. If your teen resists talking with you about the war, it may be because they feel that the crisis is a threat to your ability to care for, nurture and protect them. To counter this, parents can pay attention to their teen’s well-being and find time to do things that they enjoy doing together. Hirschfeld talked about “finding time for normalcy” and connecting through Shabbat rituals or other ways that you can slow down together. Even if this is an obvious point, it is worth repeating. 

 2. “Don’t assume that your teen understands your connection to Israel.”

This is something that I am learning every day. When I think of my own connection to Israel, I recall the personal stories of those who found refuge in Israel after the displacement of millions of Jews after World War II and after the rise of Arab nationalist movements. I remember my first trip to Israel as a teen, connecting with my extended family there, and studying and living there during my college years. I met incredible Israelis and Palestinians working side by side to build a future based on coexistence and respect. And I remember former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and their visions of peace. Indeed, many of the hostages being held in Hamas tunnels are people who devoted their lives to those visions.

But our teens and young adults have come of age at a very different time. Israel has been labeled by their peers as a colonizer and white-supremacist oppressor. And since Rabin’s assassination, openly racist political and religious leaders within Israel have energized a Jewish supremacist vision, one that has a platform within the current government.

Since we cannot assume that our teens understand our connection to Israel, this crisis is a good moment to make time for you and your teen to share a walk, a meal or a drive — a time when you can give your teen some context that will help them understand why you care. Note: This is not the same as telling them why they should care. But it is important to share why you care, and what it means to you right now as you absorb the news and think about your connection to it. Even if your teen has a different set of feelings than you right now about Israel, you can ask your teen to have empathy for the emotions that you are feeling.  

3. “Keep in mind that this is an unsettling time for teens because they are seeing some of their peers sharing anti-Israel, and in some cases, anti-Jewish hate, and this is disrupting their social connections.”

Even well-educated, college-bound teens are more likely to read the political opinions of a select group of models, athletes, actors and cultural commentators than they are to follow journalists, political scientists or writers. Some people in your teens’ network are likely sharing propaganda and conspiracy theories posted by their favorite influencers. But while teens today are seeing vehemently anti-Israel posts and anti-Jewish posts, most do not want to make waves about them. Whether these posts are shared by someone in their class, on their sports team, or from their summer camp, most teens would rather not confront the person or comment on the post. Also, when teens see posts that call for peace, a ceasefire or humanitarian aid, they don’t necessarily view them as anti-Israel or antisemitic, but simply as “pro-peace.”  

If your teen is willing to talk with you about what they are seeing on social media, you can help support their decision-making as they navigate what posts to ignore, when to reach out and when to speak up. You can help them find information about the crisis that they can trust, help them understand the continued threats that Hamas and Islamic Jihad pose in Gaza and in the region, and help them figure out what role they can play in challenging hate of any kind.  

4. “If your teen is truly obsessed with the war, seeing everything through the lens of this crisis, and using this issue as a way to distance themselves from you, then you may need to speak with someone who can mediate the situation.”

There are times when a teen will latch on to an extreme political position because it sends a message to the parent that they seek independence or detachment. In more extreme cases, the teen can begin to see the world through the lens of a political battle and place the parents as the enemy. If that is your case right now, you may want to seek support from a friend, clergy person or therapist.

5. “It is natural for teens to differentiate their views from parents, and they often use their peers as a reference group.”

If your teens are in a school where peers are one-sided in their solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, and indifferent when it comes to the continued attacks on Israeli citizens by Hamas rockets, the welfare of the hostages being held by Hamas or acts of antisemitism here and around the world, then your teens may feel that fitting into their peer group requires that they express only pro-Palestinian sentiment or suppress their pro-Israel leanings. They might need to hear from parents the message that their hearts can have room for both the Palestinians suffering in Gaza and for the millions of Israelis who are in mourning, displaced, hiding in bomb shelters or awaiting news about the captives.  

To help your teen expand their circle of empathy, you might share the various ways that Israelis are working with Palestinians to express solidarity, or tell them about joint efforts to provide humanitarian relief, like World Central Kitchen, which seek to help all non-combatants evacuees and families impacted by the escalating conflict in the region. Help your teens to see that there are dozens of ways to care for Israelis, for the Jewish people as a whole, and for Palestinians. Share the story of the late Vivian Silver, the Israeli peace activist murdered by Hamas. Give them hope that coexistence is still possible.

I deeply appreciated Hirschfeld’s insights, and since hearing them I, as a parent and a rabbi, have been trying my best to be in dialogue across the generations, which includes my children and their peers. I know that for some of my own peers, this has been one of the most challenging times in their parenting journey. The arguments that they are having with their teens are enormously difficult and require a great deal of patience.

I hope that in the coming months, we as a Jewish community can support all parents of teens as we navigate through this crisis and help bridge some of the generational and other divides that are tearing us apart.


The post Liberal parents, far-left teens: When Jewish families fight over Israel appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News

We’ve produced a collection of feature articles four times a year since 2022. A special edition of this magazine will appear in mid-September—with reflections on the Jewish year that was. And in December, look out for a reimagined publication with a name of its own. Get future copies delivered to your door as a thank-you […]

The post Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl

Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends a meeting with people at a hall on the seashore in Gaza City. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

A senior US official said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is the Palestinian terrorist group’s ultimate decision maker and has little interest in reaching a ceasefire deal with Israel, in testimony before a US Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, there’s one guy 10 stories below the ground: a psychopath, messianic in his own belief that he has established himself in history, and [he believes that] there’s a sunk cost of having lost thousands of fighters and carnage in Gaza,” said Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Sinwar, the top Hamas official in Gaza and the mastermind behind the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has reportedly been hiding in Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels during Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the coastal enclave.

Leaf’s comments echo others made by Biden administration officials.

In April, a US official told reporters that Sinwar is single-handedly holding up any progress on a potential hostage deal.

The senior Biden administration official said that while Hamas’ political bureau has shown some willingness to compromise on the terrorist group’s most hardline positions, Sinwar’s maximalist demands continuously win out.

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [the hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7] than secure a ceasefire, and that’s just the truth of the situation,” the official said.

Leaf, in her testimony on Tuesday, said that Qatar — where many top Hamas political officials are based — has been “squeezing” the group — though to little effect, according to a report from Axios.

“There’s a cadre of political officials of Hamas in Doha, and boy do they squeeze them, I can assure you they squeeze them,” Leaf said.

Israel has described Hamas’ response to the new US ceasefire proposal as total rejection. But efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

The Axios report added that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met on Tuesday in Doha — Qatar’s capital — with senior Hamas officials in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the talks about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.

The post Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday confirmed the US was still withholding a shipment of bombs to Israel, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Washington to remove restrictions on arms deliveries to the Jewish state and asserted that the top American diplomat had assured him the Biden administration was working to lift any halts on weapons.

The Biden administration is “continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said at a news conference at the US State Department.

However, he added, the administration is committed to making sure “that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself.”

Blinken’s remarks came after Netanyahu posted a video online earlier in the day in which he lamented that the US recently paused a weapons shipment to Israel and threatened to block more but said Blinken told him that Washington was seeking to end any halts on arms deliveries.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said.

“But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel,” he continued. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

The Israeli premier then asserted that Blinken told him the issue would be addressed.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the US: ‘Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job much faster.’”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, both the White House and the US State Department refuted his apparent claim that Washington was withholding more than a single shipment of bombs.

“Everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” Blinken said.

The White House echoed Blinken’s comments, saying that only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs had been withheld and nothing else.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We just don’t.”

Jean-Pierre added that the US and Israel have been having discussions about the release of the shipment but that there was no update at this time.

“There are no other pauses, none,” Jean-Pierre said. “No other pauses or holds in place.”

On Monday, unconfirmed reports in both Israeli and German media said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with Blinken in Jerusalem last week, the Israeli premier urged the US to return the frequency of its arms shipments to the level immediately after Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched the war in Gaza with its massacre across southern Israel. According to the reports, Blinken said that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days.

Netanyahu also reportedly warned Blinken that the slowing of aid and the perception of America’s weakened support for Israel benefits Iran and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, including Hamas, emboldening them to intensify attacks against Israel and potentially resulting in a broader regional war.

The Biden administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, to condition if not outright withhold US military support for Israel. Critics of Israel have argued the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed too many civilians and led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has said Hamas is to blame for starting the war, stealing aid, and intentionally placing its operation centers inside or underneath civilian sites.

Hamas started the war with its surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others as hostages. Israel responded with its ongoing campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s operations both in public and private, pressuring Jerusalem to change its military strategy and seek a ceasefire.

The issue came to a head last month, when Biden announced that it would cease a bomb shipment to Israel and threatened to halt more weapons deliveries if the Israeli army launched an offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ last major military stronghold.

I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN.

Israeli officials and experts have said operating in Rafah is essential to eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions. Netanyahu said the Jewish state appreciates US support but “will stand alone” if necessary.

The post Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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