The following column from AJC Philadelphia/Southern NJ Regional Director Marcia Bronstein appeared in the Jewish Exponent.

I was walking to work the other day when an acquaintance caught up with me and said, “Boy, your president is really making a mess of the Middle East.”

Caught off guard, I said, “Do you mean Biden? And he said, “No, I mean Netanyahu.”

I told him I hoped he was not assuming that all American Jews are loyal to Israel and responsible for its policy. After all, that would be trading in the antisemitic trope about dual loyalty, which goes back centuries and has underpinned Jew hatred around the world.

“Oh no,” he replied, looking a little abashed. “I was just so concerned about all the death and destruction.”

I sensed there might have been an opportunity to explore some common ground. But then I asked him who was responsible for the tragedy that continues to unfold in Gaza.

He told me it was because of the “occupation.” Never mind that Israel had pulled out of Gaza in 2006. But then he pivoted to a talking point used by so many anti-Zionists to justify Hamas’ massacre of 1,200 men, women, children and babies on Oct. 7: It was part of a resistance, he said.

I persisted and asked whether he knew about the expulsion of Jews from Arab nations after World War II — he did not. Nor did he know about the numerous occasions Palestinians rejected the opportunity to have their own homeland.

It soon became apparent he had no interest in learning about history. He was more comfortable spewing uninformed rhetoric.

Blissful ignorance is what has led to antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on campuses, in the workplace and on the streets. Even Jews who live thousands of miles from Israel can feel like they are under siege.

Since Oct. 7, Jews have been forced to endure chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a rallying cry for terrorists like Hamas, which calls for the erasure of Israel from the world map.

At the same time, radical leftist women’s groups effectively countenanced the rape of Israeli women and girls because they were on the side of the perceived enemy. Nothing is more ugly and inhumane than those who wish to explain 10/7 as legitimate resistance — the rape, the torture, mutilation and bodies burned all part of weaponized sexual violence. All part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence can never be legitimate resistance. It is a war crime.

I asked my acquaintance why he believed so many people are critical of how they view Israel’s treatment of Palestinians yet overlook how Palestinians are mistreated by other Arab states. And what about the oppression of other ethnic groups like the Rohingya and Uyghurs. Crickets.

That Israel is being held to a different standard than other nations is nothing new. The very idea of a Jewish state is still too much for some nations and bad actors to bear.

I have been more vocal since 10/7. It seems abundantly obvious that we must speak out. And one either stands with Israel and the thousands who have been murdered, wounded, raped and kidnapped by Hamas or one stands on the side of the terrorists. One either supports the right of a sovereign nation to live in peace or one stands with murderers who carried out a modern-day pogrom.

And targeting Jews cannot be tolerated — it’s what drove my grandparents out of Europe to seek refuge in America and it’s why my family and so many Jews support the state of Israel as a homeland for Jews. Never again will we be targeted as stateless and vulnerable!

Hamas’ charter calls not only for the destruction of Israel but the annihilation of all the world’s Jews. Yet we are told Israel has no right to defend itself, and that Israel must commit to a unilateral cease-fire even though it was Hamas that broke an existing cease-fire on Oct. 7.

I sensed all that was lost on my acquaintance. As we said goodbye, he thanked me for talking. Indeed, the path to understanding may be reached one conversation at a time.

That does not mean the conversations will be easy — when it comes to Israel, they rarely are. But we need to have them. Only then can ignorance yield to understanding.

The blowback following Oct. 7 was startling, even scary at times. However, as Jews, we have stopped running. And we will not hide.

We will not let the wanton hate, the blind prejudice and the eagerness to play the blame game diminish our role in American society. We will continue to live freely and proudly as Jews.