As a ‘Ceasefire’ and ‘Negotiations’ do or don’t apathetically continue between Hamas and Israel, why not use this chance to call your confused parents over Shabbat and discuss what’s happening?
You’ll have the dirty frisson of using your phone on Shabbat, so it’s worth it for that alone, but it’s also a chance to show them that the face of opponents to the assault on Gaza isn’t a scary marching man in Bradford, Jon Snow, or a naughty BBC Presenter, it’s their children. The same children they sit at the Seder table with, who they sit with in Shul, who they gossip about the local scandal with. Give them a face of the opposition to what Israel’s doing which doesn’t fit with the insanity of The JC and the BOD, but is your face. Because alongside marching and tweeting and direct acting, work needs doing on the home front too.
In the unmeasurable and unverifiable average scale of opinions held by Jews in the UK, those who write for and do actions loosely under the name of Jewdas have always been regarded as ‘extreme’. We know that. You’re reading this, you’re probably considered ‘extreme’ too. Like me, you probably enjoy that. But as much as I want instant change and believe in direct protest as the most effective and attention-seeking method for affecting as many minds as quickly as possible, I know my parents have no idea about the direct action mentioned on twitter, and are entirely affected by what those around them in their Jewish Community tell them and what they read in the JC and hear in Shul. This is how their community has remained strong and incestuous (probably not literally) for centuries. It’s stifling to me, but their public address system is the rumours and the misinformation in the Kiddush room and the Kosher store.
So we need to intercept that and tell our parents that they’re only being told one side. Those of you with parents of a similar progressive mindset are lucky in the sense of avoiding difficult conversations over the dinner table or landline. But you’re rarities. Many of us have Baby Boomer parents with direct memory of the early days of the Israeli state when the heroic narrative of Jewish victory and precariousness of a growing state surrounded by hostility was unavoidable. In the kinds of circles my parents and their parents mixed in, it was unthinkable for the vast majority of Jews born in the 40s 50s and early 60s to question what they were being told about the need for Israel. The denial of rights of the Palestinians was more mainstream than today, it was acceptable to even deny their existence as humans. We talk a lot about a pre-Israel debate between Bundists and Zionists, but let’s not forget how the early decades of Israel near obliterated any mainstream talk of criticising Israel.
So that’s where our parents come from and it’s a trauma for them to hear their children reject that narrative, but we have to do it. They grew up with propaganda, and they’re still in a process of dismantling it in their minds. But it IS dismantling. However depressing this week’s BOD and Chums meeting might have been, in private I’m finding that more Baby Boomer UK Jews are secretly finding the “I stand with Israel” words harder to say – they’re saying them with caveats, they’re saying them with regrets, they know this can’t go on much longer. In a pre-mass-media country with an Empire only just falling apart, you could still be educated in the 50s and 60s with regard for human rights or with ignorance for international injustices. They know all that now, and they know they need to apply it to Israel too, but they find it a psychological burden to overcome.
And that’s where you come in. Call your parents, and remind them how many Palestinians have been killed and injured, how they live in a collective prison, how many of them are children, how Israel’s ongoing policy to suppress and depress Palestinians will never bring peace. Don’t shout at them, don’t freak out, you just need to tip their doubts over the edge. They’ve heard it, they’ve just chosen not to listen til now because they didn’t like the messenger. But they like (maybe love) you, so show them that the face of compassion for the victims of the violence done in your name is you.
If we’re to succeed in changing mass Jewish opinion, we’ll win both in a mass on the streets and by ourselves on the phone.