JCRC Chair Letter to Editor of Style Weekly

To the Editor of Style Weekly and the Leadership of Studio Two Three: 

I am writing today in response to the opinion piece "The Artists' Voice," published on January 28, 2024. As a board member of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and the Chair of its Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC), I feel compelled to respond to the false and antisemitic tropes that Studio Two Three has expressed. 

Growing up in a family of artists, I am acutely aware of an artist's right for creative expression. However, when that expression includes falsehoods, incites division, and hate, it must be challenged. 

The war between Israel and Hamas is a response to the brutal terror attack committed by Hamas on Israeli civilians, resulting in the murder of over 1,200 people and over 3,500 injured. Over 240 were kidnapped into Gaza, including women, children, foreign nationals, and Arab Israelis. On October 7, it was Hamas that broke a long-standing cease fire between Israel and Gaza. Israel's mission is to eradicate Hamas and is not at war with Palestinian civilians. Hamas, the current Government of the Gaza Strip, explicitly calls for Israel's destruction and the killing of Jews worldwide—a goal laid out in its charter. Hamas embraces the use of innocent people as shields and has a documented history of manufacturing, storing, and firing their weapons from hospitals, schools, and mosques. Hamas has diverted humanitarian aid for military and terror purposes, while its wealthy leadership, not living in Gaza themselves, squander vital resources Palestinians need.  

Hamas places no value on human life. Hamas terrorists took pleasure in raping women, killing children, and torturing their victims. These unimaginable cases of human barbarism not only demonstrate Hamas' depravity but demanded a response from Israel. Hamas strategically places their headquarters, weapons, and fighters in schools, mosques, and hospitals; they knew that innocent Palestinians would be killed by the inevitable and justified response from Israel. It is clear who is committing CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY and INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES. Israel goes to great lengths to preserve life, responding within the internationally recognized standards of urban warfare.
Jews believe that every death of an innocent civilian — especially among babies and children — is a tragedy. Israel takes extraordinary steps to protect lives, providing safe zones and even protecting humanitarian routes from Hamas attacks on their own people. The IDF makes robo-calls, drops leaflets to implore the civilian population to flee for their safety, and does roof knocks to warn of impending strikes. In doing so, Israel relinquishes what many military leaders call the top strategy in any arsenal---the element of surprise and deception. This puts the IDF at a tactical disadvantage, which makes Israel's self-defense more difficult. 

Hamas' figures for total deaths do not distinguish combatants from civilian deaths. They report anyone under the age of 19 as a child, even if they are active combatants. Hamas recruits fighters as young as 13 to 19. The death toll does not distinguish the Gazans who were killed by errant rockets launched by terrorists, or Gazans who were killed by Hamas for refusing its orders not to move to safer locations.  

Recent NY Times data suggests that it is "wrong to accuse [Israel] of wanting to maximize civilian deaths" and charges of genocide against Israel are simply false and unfounded.

"Genocide" is clearly defined: The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group. If anything, based on their own words and actions, Hamas is committed to genocide against the Jews. Those nations that have been purported to be engaged in genocide do not go to great lengths to reduce civilian casualties. 
The Jewish Community calls out hate in all forms. Studio Two Three and Style Weekly, in publishing their rhetoric calling Israel's action "Genocide" is a lie. This lie could be easily uncovered if those who propagate the genocide theme would desire to learn the truth. I implore the leadership of Studio Two Three and Style Weekly to meet with the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond to discuss why this narrative is false and why making t-shirts with the term "from the river to the sea" promotes hateful antisemitism. Something that clearly goes against their own goal of creating a welcoming community for all.  
We all want peaceful coexistence and want to protect the rights of self-expression, but please do it from a position of knowledge and truth. 

Rob Slotnick 
Chair, Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond