Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zionist Girl

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.


kylie said...

I can't say I know how you felt/feel but I can surely recognise stupidity when it is described to me.
And i bet that not one of them was Palestinian

JJK said...

"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." Leah, I couldn't care less if you're Jewish, Druze, Hindu or Yazidi - so don't even go there. However, you are correct about something: I would give my life to see the Zionist state destroyed and replaced with a democratic, socialist state in which Jews, Christians and Muslims live side by side, with equal rights and representation. This idea is abhorrent to Zionists, because they believe the Jewish people are racially superior to 'primitive' Arabs - the Jews made the desert bloom! Zionists are nothing but thuggish victims of their own propaganda. I hope that one day - as in South Africa - mankind will see the fall of the last remaining apartheid state and the end of a system that millions of Arabs - Christian and Muslim - are currently subjected to. When that day comes, the world will rejoice.

leahsimone said...

I hope other people read your scary comment, so I'll leave it up.

leahsimone said...

cause "I'd give my life to see the Zionist State destroyed" is pretty freaking creepy!

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that it is possible to have a rational discussion about the Middle east, Israel, Palestina and the connected problems, in real life, and schon gar nicht in/on the web.
Here one thing adds to the problem: A written word is a written word only; it's not accompanied by a gesture, a tone, there is the total lack of a human opposite, so that written word stays and does not change. It's not modyfied by the "Sprechakt".
Of course thta is not your point, I know.
I can not say that I really would know or get that feeling you describe. I know some things about being alone, and that is worse enough, but at least I was not attacked for being me.

nick said...

Just don't get involved with hateful people like that. It's not worth it.

Karen ^..^ said...

Totally not worth it, and this gave me goose bumps. Good lord. That comment you left up? Well, I see now that your blog post was no exaggeration about the vitriol that you encountered on that thread. I've run into similar vitriol, not about The Israeli/Palestine unrest, but other things, and you are right about one thing: It devolves very quickly into simmering hatred, and mud slinging in the blink of an eye. Very scary. Not people I'd want to have a face to face debate with, that's for sure. Sorry you had to go through that, and it's best ignored and best forgotten. You won't change minds, but you can choose to post these things for like-minded people to know they're not alone in their way of thinking. That's what I do. I don't, and won't change any minds, but will provide something for someone to realize their point of view is valid and not isolated.

ellshot said...

The verbal behaviour you describe, I believe, tells us more about the environment in which the discussion is taking place than the actual views of the individuals. I have been in shreds over similarly sensitive material on the net, including from "friends" on fb. But I learnt that, when face-to-face, none of this language surfaces. When face-to-face those people themselves would feel stupid for their responses escalating so illogically and quickly. When face-to-face it is actually very difficult to show hatred or at least not show love.

The internet has given birth to a kind of extremism in emotional dialogue and I wonder how much of this phenomenon is contributing to the creation of culture and not just a result of existing cultural (or sub-cultural) values. Kind of scary to think how people may rub each other up the wrong way or egg each other on with certain views.

My personal point of view on the topic of Zionism is that it is not rooted in semitism (i.e. Herzog). It is a political application of Judaism by man and so being against Zionism SHOULD not be related to attitudes towards Judaism itself or any religion at all. The problem is people on both sides of the argument conveniently associate one with the other when it suits - something your "friends" may have being doing, it seems. I am anti-imperialism and so I do not like the Zionism regieme. I admire all religious devotion - I am a studied psychologist and see beauty in the devotion and commitment, as well as the psychological benefits, to religion. So I love all religious people... as I do all people, actually! I think Zionism threatens peace but I do not think Judaism threatens peace at all. It is man that threatens, a religion in itself is not animated.

I want to close by saying that I am half British and half Iranian. I do not like the imperialistic monarchy of the UK nor the corrupt regieme of Iran (the fact I am Iranian is the reason I have come across a lot of hatred in my time, especially online!). But I love the people of both nations equally and have lived in both and been educated in both. I do not feel either government represents me, any religion or any culture. Politicians are conservative by nature and will always strive to keep things as they are to maintain their own careers. I used to get offended a lot by stabs at Iran resulting from bs propaganda but now I see everybody as an individual. What the hater says will always tell me more about that individual than the content they express and this is how you can know if their "anti-Zionism" is really "anti-Semitism". But stay clear of those who weaken your spirit and be wary of the internet culture that seems to be ever growing.

I started following your blog because I saw you understood what love is. I admire your writing style very much. Love knows no boundaries and will always prevail over hate. Keep being you and big love from you supposed "enemy" ;)