For the first time in my life, I am scared to be a Jew.
I don’t want to detract from the severity of Islamophobia, racism, ableism, homophobia, and anti-immigration sentiment. But there is no escaping that this is the first time in my life I am experiencing true antisemitism. And not only that, it is now coupled with anti-Zionism.
I feel worthless. I feel caught in a web of wanting to scream out for justice and safety for me and my people, but also never wanting to talk about us ever again because I have Israel, right? I have Israel and refugees don’t have anyplace safe to go. Immigrants, Muslim-Americans, African Americans – none of them have an ‘Israel’ to escape to when things get bad. The United States was supposed to be their Israel.
But – here’s the thing. I feel utterly and completely abandoned by the Israeli government. Betrayed, abandoned, and just forgotten about. I feel worthless to my own people.
There was an antisemitic incident on my campus, here at McGill, about a week ago. But it wasn’t just antisemitic, it was explicitly anti-Zionist. And in my torn heart of wanting to stand in solidarity with all the people who might not be as fortunate as I am, I was shocked to realize that I might also not be as fortunate as I always assumed. And this is something I don’t want to admit. And I was shocked to realize that this was something I was struggling to admit.
Jews are safe, after all. Jews are strong! Jews are accepted! Maybe Israel isn’t, but Jews definitely are!
I want to believe this; I am white, after all. People can’t tell I’m Jewish. People don’t care that I’m Jewish. This is what I’ve always believed. I don’t wear any obvious religious garb or speak with an accent that singles me out or have a different skin color. There are so many people out there with bigger problems than my fear of antisemitism, right? Antisemitism is something of the past that only shaped my collective history and identity. Right?
Yet, it seems … this isn’t the case anymore.
I am a Zionist.
I will say it loud and clear, and I will never downplay my love for the country and my people. (As if people couldn’t tell this already.)
But, I am a two-state solution Zionist. I am a pro-peace Zionist. Yes. We exist. We are plentiful. We are possible. We are not a contradiction.
I do not support settlements. I do not support all of the policies Israel has taken on.
But I do, and always will, support a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Anyone who says that there should not be a Jewish state in the land of Israel is attacking the Jewish people – So many of whom are themselves out there, on the frontlines, supporting movements all the way from (believe it or not) BDS to grassroots peace organizations.
So when someone says something anti-Zionist, and a debate is opened, I will be one of the first to join. And I will listen to you! And I ask that you listen to me, too. Because I have made it my personal mission in the last few years, and for as long as I live, to achieve as broad an understanding as I can from as many perspectives as I can hear.
But, what happens when I feel completely discredited and estranged as a liberal Jew? As someone supportive of human rights and peace for all?
What happens when I suddenly realize that I am in a position of illegitimacy only because my people are seen – all of us are seen – as the occupier, as the colonizer? And this all happens in seconds, in the moment we chose to speak in support of our right to a safe Jewish homeland.
Yeah, this isn’t anything new. We Jews are used to this kind of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, but now we are also being faced with neo-nazis and the like. And we are being shut down when we talk about antisemitism being a factor. We are told “don’t be so sensitive. This is just politics.” We are being attacked online by trolls, we are being accused of manipulating the media and manipulating politics and manipulating the entire freaking election.
“My” president shuts down reporters when asked about the rise of antisemitism. “My” president is denying that there is even an increase in antisemitism at all. “My” president is claiming he is the least antisemitic person there is and in doing so, proving that he might just be my greatest enemy.
Antisemitism is surging alarmingly. This is not an alternative fact. This is the truth. Look it up. Fact-check it if you’re still not convinced.
I don’t feel like I will have a place in America. I don’t know if I will have a place at McGill. And I don’t know if I even want to have my place in Israel if nothing changes. Even though I know my undying love for the country will never diminish.
And, I don’t even know if I should talk about this now, in light of everything else going on.
Because why should my problems as a Jew, be more important or greater than your problems which are so much worse?
Tell me. Please, I am begging you. Answer me this, because I already feel guilty for publishing this post.