By Hannah BRADY, 3rd year student at Kings College University in London, founder and Chair of the UJS Disability Network.
I had a conversation at Uni about Israel today in which a non-Jewish white male friend – lovely though he is – replied to my spiel about being otherised by saying that he felt otherised in Israel. That he felt different to Israelis in Israel. And thus implied that therefore at some point in our lives, we all feel otherised.
I don’t know why, but something about that really got me ranting.
Wrong… I know exactly why.
What the majority of people don’t seem to understand is that there is a huge gulf between feeling different in a foreign culture and country than there is to feeling separate and misunderstood in your own home.
My friend wouldn’t understand what it feels like to be constantly told to conform to the common culture, constantly reminded that you’re not – and will never be – the same as everyone else.
Generally, I don’t have a problem with having that uniqueness. I love my history, my culture, my people.
What I don’t love is the invisibility of prejudice. I wouldn’t say that anti-Semitism is an epidemic by any means. But it is there, despite it not being overt, and I’m thoroughly sick of being told it isn’t.
In terms of the Israel debate, I find it even more baffling when white ‘liberal’ cohorts of mine try to play the Palestine game on what they see as passionate terms. They have a ‘passion’ for human rights, a calling for solving the political inequalities of the earth.
They’re ready with their BDS Boycott Israel stickers, ready to attack the criminality of so-called Jewish colonialism. They assume what my opinions are, and when I express myself, choose to focus on the aspects of my argument that prove to them my apparent biased inability to recognise the Palestinian plight- or worse, that they understand the Jewish concern but still can’t understand why I refuse to acknowledge terrorism as an inevitable and justified method of protesting the Israeli state.
Because what these acquaintances and friends of mine don’t understand is that for me, Israel isn’t a hobby. In twenty years time, I won’t be a reformed Labour MP candidate running for a safe seat.
I’ll still be met by the same ignorance that thinks my love for Judaism and Jewish history equals an open invitation for Israel to be brought up as a political and intellectual challenge regardless of the time of day and place or scene. I’ll still be told every time I open my mouth about Zionism that I’m Jewish – and therefore biased – and have my entire argument dismissed purely because of my religious and ethnic identity.
Moreover, in twenty years’ time, I’ll know that there was a short time when any future children I may have were blissfully unaware that this lifestyle of political antagonism and constant questioning was written in the books for them without their awareness or consent.
That one day, they had to learn that six million of their people were slaughtered because despite the fact that the colour of our skin might be the same, it didn’t stop anyone from checking that our blood still ran red. To ask them to remember that there’s plenty of people in the world that refuse to acknowledge this even happened – and that unfortunately, there’s not many others asking them to open their eyes.
And that whether these future children like it or not, however much love, money and success they might have in life will always be weighed down by that heavy six-million-strong burden.
That people say in surprise, “but you don’t look Jewish” as if you’d been trying all your life to chisel down your Streisand nose. Not to mention that no conversation about why you can’t have that bacon butty for breakfast will ever end in anything other than, “oh, I could never be like you.”
True, not many people could ever be like me. Many are far too short-tempered.
If you want to tell me something, tell me that one day I’ll be respected for my brain because I’m a Jewish woman; not in spite of it. Tell me that you celebrate my differences instead of using them as political fodder. Tell me that you care about my opinions and acknowledge them even if you don’t agree.
But most of all, tell me that you really know what it’s like to feel otherised every time you touch down on new soil – even if it’s on your home turf.