In the world today there is perhaps no other political issue as hotly and contentiously debated as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sara Frajnd, right, and daughter Ella Frajnd comfort one another during prayer at a vigil at Beth El Temple in Portland on Oct. 11, to mourn the terror attacks in Israel. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

There are territorial claims, extreme expressions of religious faith, long-held historical grievances and the seemingly endless failure of both Israelis and Palestinians to arrive at a mutually agreed upon peace agreement. To top it off, this all takes place on a relatively tiny sliver of land that has for thousands of years been holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and amid a horrific, multi-generational loss of human life.

Those who engage in the conflict in any form – from leaders and diplomats to activists, advocates and people in the street – require patience, understanding and a true commitment to listen to the many sides that stake a claim to some version or another of the truth. If it doesn’t sound easy, it’s not. Life and death literally hang in the balance for Israelis and Palestinians.

The Oct. 7 Hamas massacre of Israeli children, elderly, women and men of all ages and abilities; the rape, dismemberment and cruel kidnapping of innocents; the bloodlust of parading victims before celebrants in public and on social media should sicken even the coldest heart. An act of violent terror resulting in the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust should quiet – if only for a moment – Israel’s most virulent critics and enemies.

A notable number of leaders across the globe found the words to unequivocally condemn the murders. And a notable number of leaders failed miserably. Some perversely celebrated the deaths of innocents. And others, like the writer of a recent Press Herald opinion piece (“Maine Voices: Years of inhumanity to Palestinians have inhuman consequences,” Oct. 14) tried to claim moral equivalencies, spewing anti-Semitic tropes that have plagued the Jewish people for centuries.

The author could not even make it out of the first sentence condemning the “Hamas slaughter of Israeli civilians” without equating it with “Israel’s killings of Palestinians over the last 75 years.” Slitting babies throats; raping women; corralling teens in a room and throwing in a grenade to kill them: this, in this sick moral universe, is simply a manifestation of “all war killings.”


The column was devoted to trafficking in images of Jews that harken back to medieval anti-Jewish blood libels, the Czarist created Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Nazi conspiratorial propaganda of the Jewish and Zionist control of political leaders across the globe.

Israel’s history – a return of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland after a two thousand year exile is by the writer’s telling “criminal.” Despite historically validated diplomacy, carried out in the international arena, Israel came into the possession of its land for statehood via “forcible murderous theft.” The column criticized U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree for calling the attacks “unprovoked,” arguing rather that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, in its own war against terror to protect its borders, was “illegal and inhuman.” This kind of rank anti-Semitism has a long history and requires a response.

As a rabbi serving Jewish communities across the U.S. and now Portland for nearly 30 years, I have always advocated for the Jewish and Palestinian right to self-determination. My heart is torn open by the horrific massacre of Jews on Oct. 7 and by the horrific loss of innocent lives of Palestinians that has already begun, tragically again, as Israel seeks to do what the Palestinians have not been able to do: root out, once and for all, the racist terrorist organization known as Hamas.

When this nightmare comes to an end, all reasonable people who care about the region must join together to build a just world for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and self-determination. It helps no one when trusted news sources publish virulently anti-Semitic screed as mere opinion.

Those who truly believe in peace understand what is truly at stake and what is truly required of all of us at this time. It was stated eloquently by another op-ed in the Press Herald on Oct. 15 by Pious Ali and Abraham Peck, a Muslim and a Jew, quoting their respective Islamic and Jewish sacred scriptures: “Whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the whole world.”

The true partisans for saving all human life in this fraught world are the true lovers of peace.

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