Whenever there is a conflict in Israel, friends and family usually advise me the same thing: don’t talk about it online. This is not because they don’t like debate, or don’t believe in discussing things openly. It’s because just the word ‘Israel’ seems to bring on the most ignorant commentary online, from all sides. Whatever your position regarding Israel, it’s undeniable that the world chooses to focus on it intensively while choosing to ignore other regions in the world and those who happen to live there.
Now, I could try to analyse the reasons why, but I don’t feel I’m qualified to. I could make this post about Israel and the latest conflict, but I don’t feel qualified talking about that either. Despite being born there and having most of my family there, I still don’t feel I know enough to intellectually and ethically offer political commentary. If you ask me about Australian politics, I probably know more, because this is where I’ve spent most of my years on this earth.
But the little that I do know about Israel, its history, its politics, its government, is a lot more than the majority of people I’ve encountered online via facebook, twitter and opinion pieces published on media sites, who are commenting with the breathtaking self-confidence of MRAs lecturing women about women’s rights. Please, do go on.
This preface is a way of saying that this post is not about Israel, or the latest conflict. It is about the reaction to it I’ve been encountering and witnessing online (primarily, but not only, as it relates to anti-Semitism). If you cannot make a distinction between the Israeli government and all Jews worldwide, I suggest you stop reading now.
With this in mind, I want to raise two main points:
Unless you really are an expert, you’re not an expert: Self-explanatory. You know, there are people whose twitter feeds I follow, who usually comment on world politics in a balanced manner, who acknowledge that they may not know everything and that their opinion is subject to learning more. All that goes out the window when you mention Israel or Gaza to them. Suddenly, it’s the most simplistic, almost childishly naive argument being thrown. Suddenly, they are totally an expert, despite never bothering to actually learn the basic, skeletal history of the conflict they are commenting about.
This is occurring on both the Right and the Left ‘factions’. But since I follow mainly left-leaning people like myself, I’ve been noticing it mainly on the Left. In the last week or so, what I have learnt is that the Left is acting just as ugly as the Right. I do wonder how they think this is helping. Ignorance only fuels the hatred. Posting pictures of dead babies that aren’t verified is not only intellectually unethical it is morally compromising. This conflict is not an avenue to demonstrate to your followers just how morally superior you are by appropriating victims’ bodies. Posting inaccurate information in an effort to appear virtuous only adds to the cesspool of degradation and hate that this conflict is already breeding. You are not making things better, you are making things worse. If you want to comment, come to the table in a humble manner and recognise that victims are not here for your own consumption and that this conflict is not about how the West reacts to it – the West is not the centre of the universe.
This is not an avenue for anti-Semitism without impunity: We have people in Sydney attending mass rallies with swastikas flags. We have people chanting anti-Jews slogans and songs, calling for Jews to be gassed in Germany. We have the Holocaust being appropriated repeatedly. We have people in Paris destroying Jewish shops (and from personal direct knowledge, swastikas being painted on office doors of Jewish academics). We have a member of the Greens party in Australia attending a rally with a swastika flag, giving it legitimacy. We have people calling for Jews to be ‘expelled’ from Europe. We have #ifhitlerwasalive trending on twitter. We have so many more examples, but I may actually break down and weep if I list them all.
Are we back in 1930s Europe? Because it sure feels like it. Go read this, educate yourself.
Europe has a long history of making Jews their scapegoats, like alien beings in their own countries. Israel may be strong in its region, but Jews are marginalised everywhere else. And when your reaction to the Israeli government is to make them feel even more marginalised, you are making things worse and simply providing the justification for extreme Right-wing views from both sides. If your brain cannot handle talking about Israel without resorting to anti-Semitism, then seriously, shut up. You have nothing to contribute.
Points to end with:
* I’m aware there are equally vile anti-Muslim sentiments being thrown around right now that are just as damaging. None of this is helpful.
* I’m closing comments on this post for obvious reasons. If you email me threats or anti-Semitic crap, it will be forwarded directly to a lawyer. I am one person, not a government.
* Think before you tweet, and I repeat, be humble. You are dealing with people here, not a general mass. Be humble. And display your true humanity by not being simplistic and making generalisations. Be responsible.
* Don’t expect or require every Jewish person you meet to ‘explain’ what’s going on to you. We don’t owe you anything. We don’t all have the answers.
* Be kind, but remember this is not a competition of who is outwardly displaying themselves as the most virtuous on social media. This is not a game. This is also not about the West, and it’s arrogant to assume it is.