Deborah Cicurel, Journalist and blogger
I’M A journalist. That means I sometimes write articles that I know people aren’t going to like. I’ve been called all sorts of names on Twitter – someone even called me the ‘c’ word (and I don’t mean ‘crap’) because I stuck up for disabled people.
I have got used to the fact that no matter what you write, people are going to get annoyed, and thanks to the beauty of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, people can be as rude to you as they like and there won’t be one solitary consequence.
Last week, I wrote an innocuous, admittedly quite silly article for Metro, entitled ‘14 struggles only British Jewish girls understand’. It had all the allusions you may expect – Brent Cross, Carmelli’s and JSwipe – while anything only Jewish readers would understand, such as the words ‘Sephardi’ or ‘Ashkenazi’, were edited out.
Fair enough – they obviously wanted the article to be understood by the thousands of people who would click on it.
Predictably enough, I was soon called racist, stereotypical and lazy.
One Jewish paper even wrote a retort back, entitled ‘Ten reasons these lists about Jews are one big, fat snore’, apparently offended that I mentioned that Jews like to eat and often hang out in north London.
The writer also helpfully mentioned that she lives in Clapham #alternative. All of these responses are fair game – I understand how young Jewish girls can get bored of the lists that often circulate on the internet purporting to know their struggles. But what isn’t fair game is the other, more sinister responses I got when Metro shared the article on their Facebook page.
Someone wrote: ‘Laughing all the way to the bank’, while another commented: ‘Number 15: never having enough money lol.’ Lol indeed – hilarious. (Not.) A Jew helpfully commented: ‘I am a jewish guy however i will never date / marry a jewish girl. I cant stand them’. Someone else wrote, in fabulous English: ‘You forgot about being taught if there a ZIONIST jew to hate, oppress and cause genocide in palestine now that should have been on the top of the list!!!!’
Let’s ignore the staggeringly awful grammar and nonsensical syntax – the violence and hatred in the comment is clear for all to see. There was no mention of politics in the article. It is the fact I wrote about being Jewish without any sense of shame that incensed commenters so much. Perhaps the worst post of all was in response to this comment:
“Omg it’s such a struggle adhering to the whims of a magical space fairy”.
A Jewish girl replied: “Hey! I consider myself culturally Jewish, not religiously. So do a lot of other people I know. There are racial and cultural aspects to Judaism, have been for a long time. Judaism goes deep, it’s not about belief, but about who you are. Many people killed in the holocaust practiced no religion, but came from Jewish lineage. That being the case, your statement is way out of line. I think blindly adhering to an organised religion is ridiculous too, but that is not what being Jewish is.”
Suddenly, things took a turn for the worse. Someone wrote: “Wow didn’t take you long to mention the Holocaust… Hold on while I shed a single tear for you… Because Jews are the only group of people to be persecuted right?” Four people liked his comment.
I know Facebook likes aren’t everything, but they do mean something.
These are not people anonymously hiding behind a computer or an alias. These people were perfectly happy to be identified as opining that Jews bleat on about the Holocaust too much, despite the Jewish girl’s completely inoffensive statement.
Another then agreed: “Why do people bring up the past? Ahem Palestine comes to mind… The new holocaust!!!! Speak against that!!!!”
Everyone with a computer, phone or iPad knows that if you post a picture of a cute kitten doing a handstand, the comment section will soon turn into an offensive debate about something, be it the future of One Direction, Family Guy vs The Simpsons, or, in so many cases, the Israel-Palestine debate
. I don’t know why I was shocked.
Perhaps it was because I’m the last person to admit anti-Semitism exists. I got married in Paris weeks after the attack in the hypermarché, and I often look at people in disbelief when they share their fears about growing intolerance in Europe. But to see these comments, so open and unashamed, on an uncontroversial article I myself had written – that made me scared.
It made me realise more than ever that the struggles for all Jews – not just British Jewish girls – are far more numerous, and far more hard-hitting, than the facetious 14 points I had written in jest.