Last week students gathered in Washington Square Park for a rally organized by Realize Israel to stand in solidarity with the terror victims around the world. This was not a political event. There was no hidden agenda. The goal was simply to mourn victims, with the unspoken hope of a brighter and more peaceful tomorrow. One such victim was Ezra Schwartz.
On November 19th, 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz was delivering food to Israeli soldiers at a standing post. It was then that he, along with three others, were shot dead by a terrorist in the West Bank. Ezra Schwartz was just one of about twenty people in Israel who have been killed by terrorists in the past two months. For many, Ezra’s death hit the closest to home as he was not only a teenager, but hailed from Boston, Massachusetts. He had just graduated high school, and was on a gap year program studying abroad. He was a normal teenager, until his life was taken by senseless terror.
It is precisely in this vein that Realize Israel created the hashtag #ItCouldveBeenMe. The hashtag is meant to give over a metaphorical message, and to show that the victims of these terror attacks aren’t those involved in the “conflict.” Terrorism is not like being at war. Terrorism affects civilians. Terrorism is living a regular life and having it cut short for being who you are no matter where you are.
Terrorism is terrorism, be it in Paris, Beirut, or Israel.
And it is always, without expectation, unjustified.
So why have news outlets and politicians been seeking to whitewash these acts of violence in Israel instead of seeing them for what they are, which is undeniably inexcusable? Granted, the Middle East is a complicated region. However, it is simply embarrassing that the most liberal newspaper in Israel, which occasionally even runs articles questioning the country’s right to exist, felt the need to ask President Barack Obama why he “ignore[d] the murder of a U.S. teenager in a terror attack.” This took place at a press conference in Malaysia, shortly after Obama mentioned each American terror victim, while excluding Ezra Schwartz. After watching the press release by John Kirby, who could not have seemed to care less about the tragic occurrence, it becomes less surprising to learn that the President failed to mention the murder of a US citizen foreign soil. It was not until days later that Obama got around to calling the Schwartz family.
The neglect that clouded the Obama administration in dealing with Ezra Schwartz’s death highlights what is wrong with the way terror is viewed when it takes place in Israel. It seems that Israel is the only place in the world where terror may be considered a valid form of expression. Attacks in Paris would be considered senseless or violent, whereas in Israel attacks of the exact same nature would be deemed reactionary or justified. Unfortunately, this is the reality of affairs, but it is invalid. That which is being threatened in Paris, is being threatened in Beirut, is being threatened in Israel. These attacks threaten all of our lives.
Yes, some of my best friends knew Ezra Schwartz. But that is not why #ItCouldHaveBeenMe. Yes, I went on a gap year in Israel. But that is also not why #ItCouldHaveBeenMe. It could have been me because I, like the citizens of Israel and like the citizens of Paris, am a member of the Western world. I was raised on principles of freedom and democracy and inclusiveness. These principles are being jeopardized each time an attack of this nature is carried out, but is not denounced. Terrorism across the globe seeks to extinguish the values I stand for, values we must all stand for. It is the task and responsibility of the entire free world to work together to ensure that the survival of these principles, and this can only be guaranteed through condemning terror wherever it strikes.
This was contributed by NYU Polytechnic CAMERA Fellow Raizy Cohen