Hate vs. Love: Is an IDF T-shirt Worth Fighting Over?

Gaza reels under new massacres carried out by the Israeli army. (Photo: via Eyes on Palestine)

By Paul Salvatori  

“The idea that any of us should choose hate, represented by those wearing IDF t-shirts, instead of love, is intolerable.”

A few days ago, I met with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. I was away in Turkiye working. 

We caught up on a lot of things, including how her family – Palestinian – has been coping with the ongoing genocidal attack by Israel on Gaza. 

As we spoke, someone behind her – at the mall, we were having coffee at – grabbed my attention. He was wearing an IDF t-shirt. 

I froze. 

My friend could see something was bothering me. And I told her it was the T-shirt. 

I got up to approach the person wearing it. But as I did, perhaps because he noticed I didn’t look too happy, he started walking away with who appeared to be his girlfriend.

When I turned the corner in the direction he was going, I lost him. He disappeared somewhere amid clusters of shoppers, moving to and fro in a long hallway.

I went into a store I thought he might be in, given his overall style of dress. It was two levels, and I searched both. 

Not enraged but I was shaking. Maybe it was adrenaline. Whatever the physical explanation, I was indignant that this person was wearing the t-shirt while a genocide carried out by the IDF is taking place against the Palestinians.  

“Is there anything I can help you with today, sir?” a kind salesperson asked me. 

“I’m fine today.”

Is This Big Enough to Write About?

Of course, I wasn’t. And after searching the store and then the hallway again, I returned to my friend, who was very understanding about me having had to take an unexpected break from our coffee. 

I thought for a while whether to write about this whole episode. I held back for a while from doing so because I wasn’t sure if there was anything big enough about it that would warrant an article. 

But that’s just it. What happened in the mall wasn’t big.

It was rather a very “normal” and unceremonious event, in so far as someone in Toronto – where the establishment protects supporters of Israel more than it does supporters of Palestine – felt comfortable advertising (on a t-shirt) that they appreciate the Israeli army.

Given how that military is indiscriminately killing tens of thousands of defenseless Palestinians, including 11,000 children (at time of writing), since October 7 alone, such advertising at least parallels a hate crime.

It implicitly says to the world: “I favor genocide.” 

Had I caught up with the person wearing the t-shirt I would’ve been calm. My intention, unlike the IDF actually, was in no way to intimidate, harass or provoke him to anger. 

That would be to stoop low. I try as much as possible to remain a principled person.

Still, I would have been firm in what I wanted to say to him: “Why are you wearing that t-shirt?”

Like Socrates Highlighting Our Errors

As a Palestinian ally, I feel I have an obligation to do things like this. You might call that challenging or confronting someone in public over their support for Israel, or attempting to engage with them so as to expose – perhaps like Socrates did in illuminating the errors of people’s thinking to themselves – how they are committing some moral and unnecessary wrong.

Though I here invoke the name of a great philosopher I think this is something we can all do. It just takes a little bit of resolve and maybe courage on our part, as well as a willingness to defend yourself if you’re yelled at. 

After all, whether it’s about supporting Israel or some other evil, telling others they shouldn’t and why, is apt to embarrass and, hence, upset them. 

If the person wearing the t-shirt had done so in a mall in Turkiye – where most of the population, as I’ve come to see firsthand, is unapologetically pro-Palestinian – it’s not unlikely he would’ve been mobbed or even worse. This occurred to me some days after the episode. 

But nothing good can ever come from assaulting someone, much as I understand the frustration or anger behind what the sight of an IDF t-shirt could trigger.

Among other things, this includes thoughts of the Israeli army killing Palestinian children – the aftermath of which, such as videos of children dying under rubble and on hospital floors in Gaza, has been flooding social media. 

In fact these videos, as I searched for the t-shirt wearer, also arose in my mind. And so I had to tame myself. I didn’t want the anger I immediately felt upon thinking of them be transferred outward – onto him or anyone else.

I did plan to ask him about the videos. And really press him on it.

Indifference to Colossal Suffering

No one at this point can claim ignorance of the videos, as we are all now wired to social media. They alone should make anyone who is pro-Israel the very opposite. 

There’s something terribly wrong with someone morally, the condition of their soul, so to speak, if they instead remain pro-Israel. Or, further, indifferent to the needless yet colossal suffering the state is inflicting.

Maybe that’s why I pursued the person in the shirt. The idea that any of us should choose hate, represented by those wearing IDF t-shirts, instead of love, is intolerable. 

Whatever freedom is involved in this it is – unlike justice for Palestine – not worth fighting for.

– Paul Salvatori is a Toronto-based journalist, community worker and artist. Much of his work on Palestine involves public education, such as through his recently created interview series, “Palestine in Perspective” (The Dark Room Podcast), where he speaks with writers, scholars and activists. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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1 Comment

  1. On the opposite side of this, i recently purchased a T-Shirt from Mondoweiss.net
    ” from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free ” for around $25+ shipping…
    i wear it proudly. and i do expect someone at some point to call me a terrorist or say i’m anti-Semitic, even though Palestinians and Gazans are Semitic peoples…
    lots of dunces today are making it worse for everyone because they can’t think for themselves. they trust the Main Stream Media so to them America can do no wrong.
    as an American citizen, born and bred, i object!

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