The Real Fear of Speaking Out

John Lennon's wall with the word IMAGINE and a peace symbol taken by Matteo Piotto

There was a hot minute last week when I thought the war in Gaza might be coming to an end. When Hamas accepted terms for a ceasefire, CNN reported that some regional leaders were cautiously optimistic. But it soon became clear that the terms were unacceptable to Israel and Hamas was, as usual, playing games with peoples’ lives.

I’m petrified to write this post because I’m deeply worried about saying the wrong thing. But I’m even more frightened of what it means to my Jewish friends to say nothing at all about the war in Gaza. A recent Facebook message that called out non-Jews for our silence hit me in the heart. I’ve been quiet because I feel I simply don’t know enough about the depth of this conflict, even as I try to always educate myself.

There are a few Jewish people in my friend universe and I know one Palestinian. That’s just how my life has worked out so far. None of it has been by deliberate design.

Last year, I was absolutely tickled to find out that I have a little bit of Ashkenazi Jew DNA. We are not Jewish so the DNA finding is a wonderful mystery. It means someone, somewhere along the way was involved with someone Jewish. I choose to see it as a bit of evidence that I don’t come from antisemitic ancestors. That’s extrapolating a giant conclusion from a tiny dot in my history but I’m going with it.


We were traveling in Italy last October 7th when the terrorist organization Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel. I followed the news to the extent that it was possible as it was delivered in Italian. We were also on the move, on vacation, and I didn’t dig in deeply until we got home. The 7th was genuinely horrifying. Some Jews taken hostage that day are still being held. I know facts and I read stories. But I also see a lot of bullshit from loads of sources that’s meant to incite and divide us here.

I have never supported a war. Ever. I can’t imagine that I ever will. But I also realize my privilege. I’ve never had my homeland invaded (in my lifetime) or known of a group that wants me dead simply because of my heritage. I’m sure that changes a lot of doves into hawks.


I’m only going to take a stand on peace. The hostages need to come home. The shelling needs to stop. Someone smarter and with deeper knowledge knows what should be done with Hamas. I only want people to stop getting killed and killing each other.

We are watching the incredible series, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. As great as it is, I vacillate between wanting to scream out loud or watch something else. And that’s precisely why I need to continue viewing the entire series. It’s an exquisite piece of art. It’s not as if we are unfamiliar with the Holocaust, we’ve just never seen it this way. Even as it’s causing literal tightness in my chest, I won’t look away.


I will never understand antisemitism. I see it and I know it’s devastating. But in my brain, it doesn’t compute, like racism or any other kind of discrimination. Race is a social construct. It’s not in our genes. Defining any group of humans as “other” has no basis in fact or science, only ignorance.

My Jewish friends here in Canada are feeling unsafe and persecuted. It’s sickening and I feel powerless. It was suggested that as an ally, I could help the cause by responding to people on social media who spread lies about Jews. But there is nothing in this world that will make arguing with strangers on the Internet seem like a good idea to me. It has never changed a single mind about an issue. But it has raised my blood pressure and made me cry. So, no, that’s not the answer.


Like everything else, there’s a lot of misinformation about what’s happening in Gaza. For goodness sake, some legitimate news sources are still arguing whether Hamas is a terrorist organization.

I watch Shai Deluca, an Israeli-born Interior Designer who you’ve probably seen on CityLine or the Global Morning Show over the years. He was in Israel on October 7th and shot incredible video and brought us first-hand stories of the situation via Instagram. He has an obvious bias – of course – but I find him sensible and smart. If he makes an error, he owns it. In a sea of talking heads, he leads with facts.

When I felt I should go back to fundamentals and make sure I understood certain terms, I visited where they have educational resources. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is another wonderful source.

And I learned about a group via Sarah Silverman. Standing Together wants to find a different way forward. Historically, attempts to compromise have failed. Standing Together is an alliance between Arabs and Jews living in Israel, working together for a better future. It seems hopeful. They’re not taking sides and laying blame. They’re focused on solutions.

“It can be easy to feel pessimistic about the future of Israel-Palestine. But … that’s exactly what the far-right wants us to feel. Pessimism breeds apathy and apathy births oppression. That’s why during these dark times we’re increasing our efforts to organize Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel — holding ceasefire rallies, organizing solidarity conventions and building new student chapters.”

Standing Together founders writing in the Toronto Star


It’s impossible for someone like me – not Jewish or Palestinian – who wants the violence to end, to make a statement without a “but” attached. Which is like saying, “I love you but…” It takes the steam out of the statement. But (there it is) I just want all people to be able to live without fear of being attacked for what they believe, or any decision they make about their own lives that doesn’t harm anyone else. For goodness sake, a Jewish friend here had second thoughts about putting his matzo boxes in his blue recycling box in case they made him a target of antisemitism.

Just make it stop.

Human life is so precious. I want people to be able to go home, safely, and live their lives in peace. And I will continue to read and learn about the issues that prevent that, and understand it to the extent that I’m able.

5 thoughts on “The Real Fear of Speaking Out”

  1. I am pro Palestine. I am anti genocide. I am anti Zionist, but some folks take that as being anti-semetic, which it is not. It is a complicated matter, but genocide continues to be wrong – it is not anti semetic to say that. I hope the war can end for good too.

  2. You say you discovered only a fraction of your DNA is Jewish.

    I don’t mean to be flip, but that tiny sliver of Jewish DNA would have been enough for Hitler.

    What I am saying is, in the minds of those who hate Jews, any little bit of Jewishness is enough to condemn you to death.

    They want all Jewish people gone. Exterminated.

    And that I cannot abide.

  3. My in-laws were not Jewish, but they were captured & taken to a forced labour camp in Germany during WWII. I have heard only 4 or 5 stories about this horror, but it makes me sick & grateful at the same time. Sick to think someone could do this stuff to another human & extremely grateful for the life I have had. I have never had to worry where my next meal would come from or if I would be warm in the winter. I shudder when I hear this hatred still exists all these years later. I agree with you – please, for the love of humanity & whatever you believe in, Make It Stop. No one should have to live in fear.

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