IMG_1460I took my children to Admiralty to the scene of the Occupy Central protests to teach them lessons about passion and persistence. I admired the incredible spirit, civility and intelligence of the protesters, but one sight saddened me.

I understand that in a movement for democracy there are many voices and a multitude of messages. People are fighting for the right to be heard. I respect this but I need to voice my own opinion.

This message isn’t to all of those who were involved in the protests but to the creator of the banner that made the analogy: Israel equals China/Hong Kong equals Gaza.

It’s highly unlikely that the person who made the banner had ever been to Israel and it’s plainly apparent that they didn’t understand its politics or its governance.

I am a permanent resident of Hong Kong. I am not an Israeli citizen. I have spent a significant amount of time in both places. I love them both and consider them both my home. Should the words scrawled on this banner have any truth, this wouldn’t be possible.

There are facts the person who made this banner needs to know about Israel before making such an analogy. Israel is a democracy. Its population is roughly the size of Hong Kong’s. Nearly 20 per cent of Israel’s citizens are Arabs who have equal voting rights, political parties, serve in the Israeli Knesset, cabinet and supreme court, and are diplomats. They, like all Israeli citizens, are granted all fundamental civil liberties, including freedoms of religion, speech and assembly.

Despite what the banner maker may have read, Israel does not occupy Gaza. It unilaterally withdrew every soldier and civilian from Gaza in 2005. It continues to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza without a legal obligation to do so. And yet thousands of missile attacks against Israeli citizens have originated in Gaza over the past 10 years from a group that has avowed death to all Jews.

This summer, the people of Israel protected my family from missiles and ensured that we were escorted to shelters when alarms went off. Similarly, the people of Hong Kong have protected us by warning us when they thought things might get dangerous in the protest areas.

People should choose their words wisely. Based on shared values, Israel and Hong Kong have a friendship that runs deep.

Erica Lyons, founder/editor-in-chief, Asian Jewish Life

Originally published in SCMP Letters to the Editor, October 12, 2014