The term Zionist Girl puts me in mind immediately of the sturdy rosy-cheeked antiHolocaust antivictim of the early Palestine Propaganda posters.
But when I got called that in a "conversation" (I use this word loosely, very) on facebook, it wasn't meant fondly, nostalgically, as a compliment, or even a matter-of-fact description; rather, it was offered as a scathing indictment, as sneering as any indictment could be.
A "friend" of mine (and again I use this word loosely, very) posted a speech of Mandela's about the wickedness of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. Said friend likes to post a great deal about Israeli Apartheid. I had held my tongue, but finally commented, one short paragraph, uttering that fateful word, the word that never fails to unleash the hellhounds of anti-Israel absolutism: "antisemitic." (let me add, I really won't weigh in on whether or not I think Mandela was antisemitic, I wouldn't have the energy; it was the repeated and pointed posting of anti-Jewish State material that seemed suspect). Anyway, there followed a virtual firestorm of anger toward me.
The immediate reply to my comment was typical: "anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic."
To which I say: anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic. Except when it does.
A German chick called me "stupid," after which ad hominem attack I left the conversation. But being the compulsive person that I am, I snuck back to the scene under cover of the deepest night to see how the thread unfolded.
It was not so much an unfolding as a foaming-mouthed effigy burning. Having never before been burned in effigy (or called a Zionist Girl, or, for that matter, been called Girl much at all recently--that went out at the same time as "Miss" was replaced by "Ma'am," but that's a whole other story of heartache), my interest was greatly piqued.
The discussion can be boiled down handily: "That Zionist Girl can't handle the truth of Israeli Apartheid. She is racist. She is ignorant. And she left the conversation because she can't defend the indefensible." There were several people agreeing on these talking points. Angry people.
First let me say, this isn't exactly about specific Israeli politics, only tangentially. Or symbolically.
The problem is:
a lone Jew speaking up in a hostile crowd of people who are angry at the Jewish State and not just its policies but, I would argue, its very existence. The problem is that surge of intense disgust/ire that passes for discussion. The problem is the rapidity with which this discussion degenerates into an attack on that lone Eponymous Jew. The problem is tone and meta-message. The problem is a lack of self-awareness in the angry mob.
The thread, after I left it, was notable for one glaring characteristic: a repeated use of the words "Jew" and "Jewish," coupled with the words "racist" and "fascist" in a simmering and barely contained group rage. The term "Zionist," opaquely layered, quite obviously, with the word "Jew."
People get exercised on social media sites all the time. But this felt different, it felt more significant and far more threatening than anything I have experienced before. It left me nearly shaking, teary-eyed and scared.
There is a real darkness in that moment when you realize you are the only one of your Kind in a group, when that group calls you by the name of your Kind, and that name is spoken like a curse. That darkness presses in on you. You can feel it in your very bones. It isn't paranoia and it isn't over-sensitivity. It's a truth that can only be known in the feeling of it, a truth as old as old mass graves and charred prayerbooks. And even older still.