Written on the 11th January
I found myself sitting in the family home of a good friend today in Awwarta, a Palestinian village in the North of the West Bank, sheltering from the gathering storms – me, my friend, his mother, father and six sisters gathered around the warm embers of a glowing fire, eating a wonderful lunch of bread, olive oil, tomato-ey stuff and babaganoush – when the latest news on the devastating attacks in Paris came on the television.
Tut tut tut. Heads shake from side to side – sad eyes turn to me – this young Jewish woman, seeking shelter in their home from the raging storms outside – solidarity shared between us – as we sit with the sadness of the suffering of ‘our people’ around the world – and detest the injustices done to our communities (be they Palestinian/Muslim/Arab/Jewish) by extremists in the name of our religions.
The moment stretches on and I sit there with the absurdity of it all – a sensation that I grapple with most days living in the West Bank as a Jew, in solidarity with the Palestinian people resisting their occupation.
And then Benjamin Netanyahu pops up on the screen, declaring, in the wake of these attacks, that all Jews in France must know they will be welcomed in Israel with open arms –
The moment grows even more absurd and my heart flips.
Two thoughts floor me.
1. An atrocity takes place thousands of miles away and the solution? Bring the victims and ‘potential future victims’ to this land. What does that mean for the people I eat my lunch with? How can this be a solution?
I look around me at this incredible, warm-hearted, generous family who have never known the warmth of Bibi’s or Israel’s open arms, though their families have lived here for generations. And I just sit here, bread in hand, olive oil dripping off of it, sitting with the absurdity of it all. I can’t help but think that the absurdity is so sad it’s hilarious – and that we are all eternally fucked if we engage with this mentality of passing on the pain, pushing more people away day by day – generation to generation – instead of dealing with it properly once and for all.
And 2. I think of the words he is saying – I think of the real horrid danger of anti-Semitism – and I wonder why we are not saying ENOUGH – enough of it all– enough of this absurd and disgusting anti-Semitism (which I still don’t understand) and enough of all racisms – enough of having to run away.
How can a state make us safe? It never has, it never will. And so I say DOWN WITH ANTI SEMITISM – and let the Jews and the Muslims and anyone who wants to, live in Europe without having to live in fear. You don’t need your own state on the other side of the world (though I’m not really making that point now). Let’s make the Jewish diaspora work – by fighting fascism together, by fighting all terrorism – whether it comes from gun wielding maniacs under the illusion of Islam or by armies acting under the legitimacy of a state….
I am a ‘British European’ Jew and I want to be and feel safe in Europe. I am also a woman and I’d like to be and feel safe as a woman. All these rights must be fought for, and not given up on. Harbouring the fear that we will never be safe in Europe only internalizes our oppression further – the rights to live in safety and to live with religious freedom are deserved by all. And we must stay to fight for them.
And ‘the left’, there are no excuses for not unequivocally condemning attacks on Jews, like you would anyone else. This is not complicated, there are no justifications. The right has won if they successfully take on (and exploit) the issue of anti-Semitism. The only solution is for the left to take it on, to be committed to it – finally – to not be afraid of standing in solidarity with Jews – and to do it in defiance of Netanyahu and all the political leaders who take it on to bolster their own political interests. To do it because we are your comrades and many Jews on the left are SICK of being defended by the right, and only hearing excuses from the left. These excuses are about as valid as the ones the right has for lumping all Muslims as terrorists. Yes, some Jews (and many other people/faiths/states) are part of the oppressive occupation of Palestinians. Some Muslims (and many others) are perpetrating oppressions too. (Both of course resulting from centuries of oppression inflicted on them). The left wouldn’t and shouldn’t neglect to fight against the growing Islamaphobia facing our world and they shouldn’t neglect to fight against the real threat of Anti-Semitism.
“But anti Semitism is over, other oppressions are more important.” Please. Let us not partake in oppression Olympics. Let’s be united in our struggles for liberation. Because you know what? I only feel more scared, more afraid and more sickened when I see Netanyahu and David Cameron on the television screen ‘in solidarity’ with me, with ‘the Jews’. Politically motivated solidarity for strategic interest’s sake is not solidarity – and I don’t want solidarity from the political leaders of the world, I (and we) want solidarity from comrades.
Yes, there is an obscene amount of media attention around this recent incident that Muslim or Arab or Black victims of similar attacks would not enjoy – because our media is fucked. But we must still choose to support all victims of such attacks – those gaining media attention as well as those who don’t. For example, the lives taken by the Israeli military everyday and the catastrophic massacres happening right now in Nigeria.
I’ll be honest, I don’t get the Charlie thing, I don’t know enough about it – some say it’s just a funny satirical magazine, others say it’s a clearly racist publication. I don’t know. What I do know is it’s not ok to kill a bunch of people. Whatever they’re drawing. But I don’t want to say #jesuischarlie.
The only hashtag I will use after this devastating week that best reflects my feelings on the situation and the humanity that needs healing right now is: #weareeveryone. Including those thirteen journalists, the four Jews, the policewoman and their attackers who were also killed by the police – and of course – every Palestinian who has to bear the reality of Netanyahu’s promises and open arms.