The Prophet Nathan Rebukes King David by Eugène Siberdt.

“You are the man!”

When I was in Hebrew school, I learned about King David, Bathsheba, and the famous rebuke by the Prophet Nathan, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) This reminds us it doesn’t matter how good, devout, or successful you are, when you abuse your power, you deserve the consequences for your actions. The story also reminds us it’s our responsibility to speak truth to power as the Prophet Nathan did.

This brings us to the situation with Israel and Palestine today.

At the beginning of the current crisis, I declared I side with humanity. This position isn’t good enough for social media, where anyone who doesn’t adopt the most extreme, absolute, and purest position gets cancelled. But if you refuse to see the humanity of those who are different from you, you don’t see humanity at all. You also become the type of person who can commit or excuse the most horrible of atrocities. This led to Hamas’s brutal attack on October 7 and Israel’s disproportionate and brutal response to it.

Numbers don’t adequately describe the devastation the IDF inflected on the people of Gaza. We know the death toll will be much higher once the fighting stops and the recovery begins. Worse is the trauma it caused to families who lost their homes, children who lost their parents, and parents who lost their children. If the goal was to stop terrorism, this invasion only created the grounds for more terrorism. Because if we can’t see the humanity of Palestinians, there is no hope for peace.

We expect a nation that declares itself a Jewish state to follow Jewish values. Among these are to follow international law. When Russia violated international law by invading Ukraine, it was rightfully punished for it. Companies pulled out, and the country was heavily sanctioned and kicked out of international competitions, including Eurovision. Israel has faced no real repercussions from its actions in Gaza. Not only did they get to compete in Eurovision, they got to bully anyone who disagreed with them, and pushed one contestant so far that he got disqualified. Instead of a King David who felt remorse for his actions, Israel is a King Ahab who acts with impunity.

But what was Israel supposed to do in response to such a horrific attack? They could have listened to the intelligence they had a year earlier. They could focus on rescuing the hostages instead of killing them and rejecting deals that could have freed them. They could have built a government coalition that didn’t include extremists who Prime Minister Netanyahu must suck up to so he can avoid losing his office and facing prosecution. And shouldn’t Israel have some combat objectives, an exit strategy, and plans for post-war recovery? Or were the goals revenge and ethnic cleansing?

What about antisemitism? Don’t confuse criticism of a government—a legitimate and necessary part of a free and functioning society—with hatred of a people. Antisemites didn’t need the Palestinian cause as an excuse to hate Jews. The “Jews control the government” canard existed back when Palestine was a remote province of the Ottoman Empire. And if everything was good for the Palestinians, they’d find something else. Racism of all types was on the rise long before October 7. Conflating antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israel masks the real problem.

It’s not surprising the same people who say criticizing Israel is antisemitic also say criticizing America is unpatriotic. They don’t tolerate any dissent that questions their actions or shows them in an unflattering light. So they slap ugly labels on it to shut down debate. Still, we must call out misconduct regardless of who commits it. If I can question the history of my country and my beloved hometown, why should Israel get treated with kid gloves?

Israel failed on all accounts. It failed to protect its citizens. It failed to follow international law. It failed to pursue the only thing that would give it lasting peace and security—a just settlement with the Palestinian people. And as a country that proclaims itself a Jewish state, it failed to live up to Jewish values.

In Hebrew school, we learned we should care for the outsider and the oppressed because “we were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) We were told to “proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25:10)  We learned the importance of tzedekjusticepikuach nefesh—saving people’s lives—and tikkun olam—repairing the world. Values like these have enabled us as a people to survive the numerous attempts to eliminate us throughout history. If we sacrifice them, we’d be no different or better than the Assyrians, Romans, Nazis, Soviets, and other empires whose only value was “Might makes right.” Like those empires, we would soon vanish.

And if values like tzedek, pikuach nefesh, and tikkun olam are to mean anything, we must show them to everyone—including Palestinians.

It’s time for us to follow the example of the Prophet Nathan and have the courage to learn and speak the truth. We must see the humanity of Palestinians and value their lives as much as our own. It’s time to end the violence and begin the healing. It’s the only way we can move forward from this current crisis and towards a just and lasting peace.