Friday night at 6, as the Jews of Rochester gather to usher in the Sabbath, as they meet for the first time in formal worship since the slaughter of their brothers and sisters in Israel, there will be across town, at the Islamic Center, a speaker, Ahmad Abuznaid, who will spit in their face.
He and the pro-Palestinian film festival put on by The Little Theater for which he will be keynoting.
His topic will be the Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe.” That’s what he calls the founding of the state of Israel. A catastrophe.
This is a man who less than 24 hours after terrorists slaughtered hundreds of innocent and unarmed Israelis mocked on social media, “All these statements about ‘there’s no justification for violence.’”
No statement of sorrow, no condolences, no prayers for peace, just more rhetoric of conflict.
Just like this film festival.
At a time when decent people are mourning decapitated infants and machine-gunned festival goers, the non-profit and taxpayer-subsidized WXXI subsidiary The Little Theater will carry on with its annual progressive celebration of antipathy toward the nation and people of Israel.
“Witness Palestine” is a decade-old presentation of anti-Israeli propaganda films dressed up as theater. It is an annual celebration of what smells an awful lot like anti-Semitism. It is a yearly reminder that Rochester and the progressive movement are hostile to the state of Israel and its cultural and spiritual underpinnings.
And it’s going on as planned.
Ahmad Abusnaid will speak as the Sabbath begins, and on Saturday, a week to the day after the biggest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust, The Little Theater will present “Israelism,” an attack on Israel hoping to turn young American Jews away from feeling connected to it.
It is astounding that as the world is stunned at the savagery of Hamas butchery in Israel, a Rochester film festival rolls forth undeterred in its rhetorical support of the terrorist group’s political agenda.
That is tone-deaf at best and bigoted at worst.
And it shouldn’t happen.
Common decency would suggest a cancellation or postponement would be in order. Yes, speakers and films can say anything they want, and pulpits and theaters are free to preach whatever they will. But among our many rights is the right to be considerate, to think of the feelings of others, and to stand with people in their hour of need.
Like the Jews of Rochester did after September 11, when they gathered at the Islamic Center to show solidarity with and support for their Muslim neighbors.
The message of this three-week film festival is the continued narrative of evil Jews and innocent Palestinians. It has the impact of promoting not compassion, but rage, of building not love, but hate. Certainly, anyone can push any political agenda they wish, and American progressivism is decidedly anti-Israel, which is its right, but shouldn’t people at least be allowed to grieve?
Must those whose hearts and faith tie them to Israel accept the slaughter of their brothers and sisters without any public recognition of their grief? Must they bear the continued harangue of their antagonists during even this their darkest of hours?
Obviously, they shouldn’t have to. But sadly, they probably will.
They will also be subjected to the false moral equivalency of attack and defense. The violence done by killing innocent families asleep in their beds is different from the violence done by retaliating against those who killed those innocent families. Natural law includes a right to self-defense, it does not include a right to attack and slaughter.
There are hardships and tragedies involved in the move by Israel against Hamas in Gaza, but those hardships and tragedies are the moral responsibility of Hamas. The sorrow faced by all was decided upon by those who, with Iran, planned and executed last week’s early morning attack.
And that resultant grief, on both sides, should be something that draws people together in common humanity, and perhaps furthers their resolve to find solutions to the challenges they face.
But not tomorrow night. And not next week. And not the week after that or the week after that.
Not at The Little Theater.