The message of anti-Semites is always the same: go back to your own country. And, while you’re at it, get out of Palestine.
Watching the hostage situation at the kosher supermarket in Paris, I was gripped with a new kind of fear. Suddenly the news felt relevant to my life and I was hooked to rolling footage. I’ve felt scared before, but I’ve never felt scared for being a Jew.
Truth is, I’ve very rarely experienced any anti-Semitism. Sure, I’ve heard conspiracy theorists rattled out. (You know, we’re pretty busy people – where do they think we get the time to secretly run the world?) And, yeah, sure, I’ve had it insinuated that I’m responsible for Israel’s wars. And, yeah, I met a guy in Istanbul who swore blind that Jews had magic powers. I genuinely couldn’t convince him I didn’t. But for the most part, it’s ignorance not hatred, and it’s as rare as it is bizarre.
Last week I walked round East London for hours in my kippah. I was so disappointed. Not once did anyone shout, or start a fight, or even stare. It’s London. We live with each other. Racist fundamentalists, whether axe-wielding maniacs or suited Cabinet ministers, might want to divide us, but we’re too busy getting on with living life.
I don’t at all believe that Britain’s penchant for racism has seriously declined. Instead, the Jews, more assimilated, and fewer in number, have been replaced in the hater’s head-space with newer immigrants: Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh; the Polish; the Jamaicans. They’ve found new enemies and forgotten about us.
In France, Jews and Muslims – most of both originating from North Africa – are the biggest minorities: pitted against each other and the wider society. Right now, too many people are trying to exploit those differences. They want to divide Jews from Muslims, Muslims from Christians, Christians from atheists. For these fundamentalists, it’s better that we’re divided so they can secure their power. That’s as true for the terrorists trying to grip people in fear as it is for Nigel Farage and his cronies trying to scapegoat Bulgarians.
They want to divide us. We can’t let them win.
Somebody, somewhere actually looked at this clusterfuck and thought: “you know who’d be helpful here? Netanyahu.”
Funnily enough, Netanyahu’s message is actually the same as the racists’. The Jews have no place in Europe. The Jews need to come together in one place. We need to get out of Europe and come bolster their majority in the Promised Land.
It’s amazing the audacity of some Zionists that they’d seek to make political capital out this tragedy. And yet you can’t pretend their argument is not appealing. After all, better to be the oppressor than dead. Better to be the one making people scared than the one feeling scared. If I were French, I would have to start questioning my future.
But the truth is Israel is a much less safe to be Jewish than France. Moreover, that Zionist answer is just not good enough. You leave and you let the racists win. They have “their” country and they move on to oppressing whatever minority is next. You go and join Israel to help some other racists win their battles, whether solving the “population problem” of the Palestinians or providing them cover for not giving asylum to the Sudanese.
The argument of the anti-Semites and the Zionists is the same. Our answer to both has to be the same: we’re not going anywhere.
We will never defeat hatred by becoming more insular and paranoid. We will not defeat hatred by blaming each other or turning in anger to our neighbours. Now, more than ever, we need to stand alongside Muslims and all other groups in absolute solidarity against these attacks. We can’t stop others from hating. All we can do is stay firm where we are and love each other more.
In the words of the radical Islamic cleric, Malcolm X: “Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patienc, and patience creates unity.” Yes. We need that light now more than ever.