A call for empathy
I call for empathy! I know it may sound strange, coming from me, but I am calling for empathy towards the “anti-Occupation” activists. Yes, those militants who have made a habit, on social media, of attacking, harassing and bullying Zionists or generally speaking pro-Israel people. I ask for empathy. Because they lead a very sad life.
Look at their biographies. It’s all public, on their Twitter timeline. They are eager to let everyone know which school they went to and when they got engaged, the last time that they visited Israel (or “Palestine”), usually long ago, which sort of vegan roast they had last Sunday… and of course when they left the Labour Party because they could not cope anymore with the antisemitism of “some” of their comrades. Do you think it’s a happy life? Of course, it’s not! Being thrown out from an organisation, being forced to leave because you are Jewish…is always a painful experience. Even more for those who have joined that organisation precisely because they are Jewish, as it is often the case of these “anti-Occupation” campaigners: and we all know what they mean by “anti-Occupation”.
I am NOT being sarcastic. I repeat it NOT. The pain that these folks experience is excruciating. They had thought that the Labour Party had become their spiritual home. They had thought the time had come for a “gentler, kinder” politics, based on Jewish values such as social justice (and no others, I concede). What a trauma it must have been, feeling rejected!
There is another thing one can see on the timeline of these activists, “anti-Occupation”, or as they fancy to now call themselves “anti-apartheid” (and we know what they mean). How eager they are to be readmitted with honour in the Labour Party. How intense is their longing for a place, which they felt gave them the opportunity to be relevant, to do something (and they really believe it). How wonderful it was to be engaged, together with other folks of the same age and social class. But these comrades were not Jewish. On the contrary, it turned out they were antisemitic. Can you imagine the shock? You almost hear them crying, and stomping their feet: “But I thought we were friends, comrades!” They behave like toddlers. What a sad sight, given that they are almost all in their 30s…
Just to be clear: I am not talking about long-standing Jewish members of the Labour Party. I know they had suffered bullying and harassments by the hand of these “anti-Occupation” newcomers militants, more than anyone else. I am not even talking about reasonable people, Jews or not, that have been able to see something good in Jeremy Corbyn (which I was not).
I am talking about those “anti-Occupation” militants, whose main focus of activity is opposing Israel, “as Jews” obviously, and on social media mainly. Those militants want one thing more than anything else: being readmitted to the Labour Party, possibly with honour Many of them indeed believe that antisemitism in the Labour Party was only a passing disease and that now, the therapy has been found. Others are persuaded that their comrades now miss them so much that they are on the point of begging them to come back.
This is the reason why these folks argue using social media. Not because they want to be exposed to the points of view of others. Not because they are looking for a civilised conversation. They are not. They are on social media because they want to prove to their former comrades that they are Jews, yes, but good (meaning acceptable) Jews!
They are violently confrontational. They quickly switch from the bully, “I’m going to report you for racism!” to the passive-aggressive, “Why are you hurting me, showing off that Israeli flag?” They can also be, frankly speaking, pathetic: “in all these years I have been treated as a nuisance…” These are certainly not features of civilised conversation, because these “anti-Occupation” campaigners are not interested in a conversation. They want to be seen by others and prove that they are Jews of the good kind, not Zionist (or not too overtly Zionist).
They want to prove they are properly qualified members of the tribe of the post-Corbynista Leftie fringe that still remain in the Labour Party. And they call names such as “Fascists!”, “Racists!” Or “Right-winger! “ which in their environment is the worst thing ever. No one told them, that Jewish Conservatism has a long and prestigious story, which includes intellectual giants such as Raymond Aron and Lucy Dawidowicz.
These names, and tens of others, mean nothing to them. Their world is in black and white and the range they consider ‘Jewishly acceptable’, is impressively narrow. If you are a not a Marxist, then you are Far Right. A full repertoire of slanders and offences is systematically employed against whoever dares to dissent from the “anti-Occupation” set of beliefs that they profess. And they use the full repertoire hoping that their former comrades will see how good they are and how different they are from the rest of the Jewish community, It’s a terribly sad sight. Indeed we are talking about unhappy people: Jews who want to be accepted in an antisemitic environment, a place where antisemitism is not sanctioned properly (actually, it is still under investigation).
And I wonder. Is it worth it? Who wants to be the whiteboard where these folks project their frustrations and their dreams of being welcomed back with honour? Who wants to be the tool for yet another “anti-Occupation” militant, eager to show off how acceptable he is (or she is, but usually is a he)? I came to the conclusion, that it is not a good idea to help these desperate people prove to their former comrades, that they are Jews, yes, but they also tick all the proper boxes on the left column.
I speak from experience. I myself have noted how pointless the Twitter exchanges with the “anti-Occupation” folks are. How rapidly their aggressive language escalates. How condescending to violence, and violent their posturing is. How little the difference is, in attitude, and perhaps in ideology, from the radical anti-zionist, from those who explicitly say they want to destroy Israel and replace it with a kind of Democratic People’s Republic (of Korea). I have realised, I had become a tool for their self-affirmation and that I was not learning anything from these conversations and exchanges. Now I block them.
In the 90s I used to work as a DJ. I became friendly with the manager of a security firm, a warm-hearted Palestinian man. Once he explained his job to me, in a slightly accented Italian, which I still remember. Here’s the English translation: “If you keep the troublemakers outside, you can have more fun inside”. It’s a simple principle that I have learnt to apply to my life on social media, and I invite every Zionist, and every Jew, to do the same.
[23 May 2020]
Originally published at https://www.facebook.com.