Dear gentiles, please stop making assumptions about my Jewishness

You are currently viewing Dear gentiles, please stop making assumptions about my Jewishness

Words: Walter Lockwood (He/Him)

I have been Jewish all 22 years of my life, and never before have I felt it so keenly. I was in class a few weeks ago and we were speaking about identity. As the child of immigrant parents, I have always felt closer to my Jewishness than any sort of national identity (American or English) and it seemed an interesting point to bring up. There was a palpable change in the class atmosphere, and it suddenly felt necessary to distance myself from any sort of support for the actions of the Israeli government. A week later, I was rather excitedly quizzed about the conflict by a person, whose politics align rather more with the view that Israel has the right to blow Palestine into oblivion, about my convictions as a Jewish person. In both cases, gentiles equated my Jewishness with support for brutal military action by a government that is wholly unrepresentative of my Jewish identity or any of my politics. Both left me reeling somewhat and I would like to address the issues I see in these assumptions.

To the left, who perpetrate the first of those microaggressions daily, you should not be on your guard when you find out someone is Jewish.

Perhaps because I don’t look Jewish, I rarely feel animosity as a Jew, yet, in this situation, it felt necessary for me to qualify myself as one of the good ones by explicitly stating a position which, considering every other political belief I hold, would not be required of me but for my Jewishness. If we were to shift the context to a conversation about gun regulation, my position as a massive lefty would far outweigh any preconceptions built on my Americanness.

The issue here is a failure to separate Jewishness from support for the violence perpetrated by the Israeli government and thus, the Israeli government itself. To require this kind of clarification of a Jewish person goes against the common rhetoric of an anti-Zionist/antisemitic distinction. The fact that I feel as though I must now clear up that I do, in fact, believe that you can have a non-antisemitic anti-Zionism, is incredibly indicative of the fundamental issues plaguing Really Existing Anti-Zionism. You cannot claim radical inclusion and harbour preconceptions on ethnic grounds.

You see it in different forms online, where Jewish people who make statements against military action or go to marches and protest the Israeli government are shared, reposted, and held up as commendable – aren’t we all pleasantly surprised that this Jew has a heart? (I think we all know why I used the word Jew in this context). In this era of intersectional social media activism, the pressure to make a statement as a Jewish person, to have to separate yourself from negative preconceptions based on your identity, is a hypocrisy unseen in activism relating to all other areas of conflict. When I speak on Israeli military action, I speak as a person and the fact that I am Jewish does not give you the opportunity to imbue my words with any greater meaning for the cause.

To those on the right who have more of a penchant towards the second microaggression, you cannot justify your callousness towards the Palestinian people by claiming to act on behalf of Jewish people. This is problematic beyond your support of a brutal dictatorship.

I have already outlined issues regarding the assumption of an inherent Jewish support for Israeli violence, however, in this case, this action further enforces antisemitic narratives. The idea that support of this kind of violence can be sanctioned by Jewish people through the simple fact of their Jewishness is incredibly problematic.

To attempt to separate oneself from an issue by offloading moral responsibility onto a Jewish person/Jewish people is something which gentiles have done to maintain structures of antisemitic domination for millennia. By framing support for Israeli retaliation through support of Jewish people, the actions of the Israeli government become representative of Jewish people and Jewishness in the eyes of the public. Many Jewish people struggle with their identity and the weight of these assumptions does nothing to alleviate this struggle. The only reason that the self-hating Jew stereotype exists is through this external insistence on the position of the Jewish people relative to a government that is, for many, in a different continent.

The imago of an Israeli government representative of the myriad views of Jewish people encourages the continuation of the understanding of an immoral Jew. We all know the immoral Jew; the one who murdered Jesus, caused the bubonic plague, and now runs the world. To seek validation from, or justify your views through, those of a Jewish person is to reproduce and act upon understandings to the detriment of Jewish people. You can see the consequences of the reproduction of these understandings in the prevalence of antisemitic hate crimes that plague our society and spike during increased violence perpetrated by the Israeli government; be it swastikas on doors of Jewish homes or the confrontation of, and violence towards, those who look Jewish. By aligning the blame for the actions of the Israeli government with Jewish people, you are lending reason to antisemites behind which their hate can be veiled.

To every gentile reader, I would remind you that while I do not speak for all Jewish people (and I am sure there are many who do hold their Jewishness in their allegiance with Israel), it is vital that this conflict is viewed as a humanitarian issue between actors who claim to be religious. We must separate the actions of the Israeli government from any association with Jewishness because their actions are of fascists, not Jewish people.


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