Last week an Israeli bombardment of Gaza murdered two little children, a boy aged six and his 10-year-old sister. The boy died immediately; the girl suffered serious wounds and lost her life a day later.
I shared the horrific story on my Facebook page, to be met with furious comments by Zionists who blamed Hamas, not Israel, for the children’s death, claiming that Israel is only defending itself against Hamas rockets, and that Hamas operates from civilian neighbourhoods and is therefore responsible for these deaths.
Before I could remind them there are hardly any areas in the crowded Gaza enclave without civilians, and that Palestinians have every right to defend themselves against Israeli occupation, siege and aggression, the comments became personal.
“Ronit,” said one Sheila Elle, whose profile picture is Israel’s flag. “An Israeli name? Dubliners on a whole love you. Hope you don’t have to go crawling back on all fours.”
Astounded by the assumption that Jews are in imminent danger and need to seek refuge in the state that calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East, I replied that I had no plans to ‘crawl back’ – Ireland is my home, I have lived here for years, I have Irish citizenship – and asked her whether she is expecting another Holocaust in the near future.
When challenged, I explained I was asking whether she expects Jews to be banished from their countries of residence, because I don’t, and stressed that the fact that it is Israel committing genocide at present that makes me very sad, having been brought up after the Nazi Holocaust by parents who genuinely believed that a better world was possible.
Elle was having none of it, writing she was glad my parents aren’t alive to see what a horrible person I have become, ending with a piece of ‘advice’: “Change your name before it gets you killed by an anti-semite who makes a mistake and thinks you’re a Jewess.”
Israeli and diaspora Jews who stand with Palestine are often called ‘self-hating Jews’ (while non-Jewish Palestine supporters are dubbed ‘anti-semitic’). My point in recounting the Facebook exchange is to stress yet again that being a critic of Israel’s murderous policies is neither anti-semitic nor self-hating.
Having written both fiction and academic work about the Holocaust and about anti-semitism, and having been an anti-racist activist as a proud Jew, I can hardly be accused of self-hate. Indeed, equating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism is in itself anti-semitic, in homogenising all Jewish people and equating them with Israeli Zionism.
It must be very uncomfortable for Jewish people to face up to Israeli settler colonialism and racism, and to watch the atrocities – from mass arrests, administrative detention, house and village demolitions, the detention and torture of minors, to extrajudicial executions and the so-called ‘collateral damage’ that is the murder of innocent civilians, including women and children – committed in the name of the Jewish people.
So instead of facing up to these atrocities, Zionist apologists prefer to attack those who refuse to hide under the Zionist umbrella. Instead of accepting that the only solution is to have a state for all its citizens and residents in historic Palestine and not occupy another people, with all that this entails, Zionist apologists prefer to fight those who use the non-violent instrument generally known as the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign to tell the State of Israel to abide by its international law obligations, and accuse non-Jewish critics of antisemitism and Jewish critics like me of being self-hating Jews.
No, dear Elle and your ilk: we do not hate ourselves, our parents or our people. All we hate is the hatred and devastation inflicted in the name of our Judaism. And we have no intention of ‘crawling back on all fours’ to the place where Jewish lives are least safe in the whole wide world.
Ronit Lentin is a retired associate professor of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Her column appears regularly in Metro Éireann