World, it seems like whatever Jewish people do, whatever contributions we make to the societies in which we live, however much we keep our heads down and try to contribute only positives without making a fuss, it is never enough to stem the hatred, it is never enough for you.
Blake Ezra , August 9, 2014
Blake Ezra is a London based writer on Middle Eastern Politics and the Jewish World.
Dear world, I’m writing to you from a place of despair and confusion. When I say ‘world’, I don’t simply mean the planet upon which we all live but I address personally whoever is reading this. As a Jewish person, I have a question for you. It’s a genuine question to which I can’t find a suitable answer through my own thoughts… What do you want from us?
I’m writing from London, where only yesterday a black Islamic flag was flown from an estate in Tower Hamlets, and a passer-by was shouted at by a group of Muslim youths, “Fuck off Jew, you’re not welcome here.” In the past month, in the supposedly liberated and forward thinking capital of England, a Swastika has been daubed onto a Jewish home, protestors have carried placards with slogans such as ‘Hitler Was Right’, and an independent arts venue has imposed sanctions upon an apolitical Jewish Film Festival.
In Scotland, a property sales consultant called Richard Ladd, a professional suit-wearing gentleman who deals with the public each day, tweeted “Shut up you ugly Jewish c***. If only Hitler was still around to sort you out” to a Jewish footballer. In France, rioters have looted and burned Jewish shops, and attacked synagogues. In Germany, two Jewish people were attacked only for being Jewish, and an Imam in Berlin told his congregants, “Count the Jews and kill them to the very last one.” In Belgium, a café has displayed a sign banning Jews from entering, and four people were indiscriminately murdered on the street outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Flags of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom call for death to Jews, have been flown in cities including Sydney and Vancouver. The cover of Newsweek Magazine recently featured the headline ‘Why Europe’s Jews Are Fleeing Once Again’. World, shockingly I really could go on for much longer, but hopefully you get the picture…
I don’t feel safe as a Jewish person in my own city at this moment in time, and this is a sentiment shared by many of my co-religionists, regardless of their levels of religious observance or political affiliations – it is solely due to the religion into which they were born. It is truly difficult to believe I’m writing such a post, condemning the most vicious forms of racism with masses of people in numerous countries genuinely calling for death to Jews, whilst using a military situation in the Middle East as their excuse to make these ferocious desires appear somewhat justifiable. Perhaps Lord Rabbi Sacks, a respected thinker and former Chief Rabbi of the UK, summed it up better than I could in the British House of Lords last week: “My Lords forgive me, if I say that I did not expect 120 years after the Dreyfus Case and 70 year after the Holocaust, that the cry of ‘Death to the Jews’ would be heard again in the streets of France and Germany.”
World, what do you want from us? I’m not asking in order to be prosaic, in order to write for writing’s sake. I’m asking because I genuinely don’t know. Trust me, as I sit here fearing for what my city may become in the next five or ten years, I’m really trying to answer the question, but I can’t. There is a passage in the Passover service read by Jewish people every year; it lists the gifts that God has given to us. After each one we say “Dayenu”, which in modern vernacular means, “This would have been enough for us.” World, it seems like whatever Jewish people do, whatever contributions we make to the societies in which we live, however much we keep our heads down and try to contribute only positives without making a fuss, it is never enough to stem the hatred, it is never enough for you.
The Jewish people have never constituted a large proportion of the population of this planet, yet have given humanity so much. Jewish people who have helped shape our world include Gabriel Lippmann, Nobel Prize Winner for Physics in 1908 for inventing colour photography, Albert Einstein with his theory of relativity, and Jonas Salk who invented the first vaccine for polio. What about Levi Strauss, who’s probably creditable for the trousers you’re wearing right now, Ephraim Hertzano who invented the game of Rummikub, or Nat Rothschild and Moses Montefiore who helped Britain become ‘Great’. What about any of the 193 Jewish Nobel Prize winners across the fields of Medicine, Economics, Literature and Peace?
World, do the Jewish people not deserve some respect for giving you Emile Berliner, who invented the gramophone, Louis B. Mayer, who first came up with the idea of the ‘Oscars’, or Erich Weisz, better known as Harry Houdini the founder of modern magic? Surely the cultural contributions of, to mention a very selective few, Jerry Seinfeld, Dustin Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Barbara Streisand, Larry David, Harvey Keitel, Drake, Dame Vivien Duffield, Felix Mendelssohn, Gene Simmons, Graucho Marx, Adam Sandler, Mark Zuckerberg, Pink, Yehudi Menuhin and Steven Spielberg warrant some level of recognition that, as a people, we do not deserve death threats in almost every country on earth? World, this list of achievements is in no way claiming that Jewish people are superior to others, we are not, I just believe that surely we’ve given enough to society in order not to deserve Muslim youths in East London declaring their neighborhood a ‘Jew Free Zone’.
The stark reality of a liberal Jewish Londoner, in 2014, listing the positive contributions made by his ancestors to society-at-large whilst questioning why we face almost unprecedented amounts of vitriol and threats, is in itself an outrageous indictment of how far society has failed to progress when it comes to the hatred of Jews. Blogs like this shouldn’t have to exist; we shouldn’t have to grovel. My grandfather was English enough to have put his life on the line and fight in the British Army, yet my great grandmother’s tombstone in Manchester is Jewish enough to have been desecrated last month by local youths. We are prepared to give our lives for the countries in which we live; yet we are disrespected in death.
World, what do you want from us? Jewish people have never insisted that whichever country they inhabit becomes kosher, Jewish people have never insisted that their fellow non-Jewish citizens keep the laws of the Jewish Sabbath, Jewish people have never insisted that their Synagogues dominate the skyline of towns across the diaspora. We mean no harm, we come in peace, please stop threatening to kill us.
Legendary Jewish comedian Jackie Mason puts his own slightly politically incorrect spin on it, by saying “Jews aren’t threatening people. I’ve never seen a group of black guys walk down the road and say to themselves ‘Shit, we better cross to the other side, there’s a group of Jews heading this way!’”
World, of course Jewish people do not have a monopoly on suffering, indeed many peoples are suffering as I write, from Yazidis to Kurds to Palestinians, but we have certainly become accustomed to it, from the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70CE, to the Spanish inquisition in 1492, the pogroms in Russia in the late 1800s, and many other atrocities in between. Yet, we are still scarred by the Holocaust, which stands alone as the most inhumane chapter of humanity. On a timeline of world history, we remain within touching distance of this horrendous suffering at the hands of the Nazis, indeed many survivors are still alive to this day. It is not part of our past, it remains part of our present. Six million of my ancestors were brutally murdered in what can only be described as a systematic genocide. Having listed some contributions Jewish people have made to society, I wonder how much more humanity could have benefitted from the descendants of those murdered and their potential contributions to our world. It is clear that the Holocaust proved correct the assertions of Theodor Herzl, an irreligious man seen as the founding father of modern Zionism, as it became apparent to him as a European Jew that the Jewish people, however much we gave and however much we attempted to emancipate, would never truly be accepted in Europe. There would always be a threat, people would always find a reason to hate. World, these atrocities against Jews all came before the existence of the State of Israel, which is why it is so difficult for Jewish people to believe that the hatred being indiscriminately hurled in our direction today, at this very moment, is a direct response to any military action in the Middle East… it is not.
The State of Israel became a reality, established with international approval as one country on earth that would always provide a safe haven for Jewish people facing the threat of discrimination in the countries they call home. However, this young country has now become a stick with which to legitimately beat the Jewish people of the diaspora. Before Israel existed, people claimed to hate Jews because they were the root of an economic downturn in Germany, because they were responsible for killing Jesus Christ, or because they were plotting to overthrow the world. In fact, there have been hundreds of excuses used by whichever hate-mob of the time, to justify this inherent revulsion. Luckily now for those who despise Jews, there is Israel, doing its best to survive but an easy target for criticism. No more outrageous conspiracy theories needed, just disproportionate and vitriolic criticism of Israel mixed in with a few death threats to Jews, occasionally disguised purely as support for Hamas.
Jewish people have even been hated for being supposedly intelligent. In fact many haters claim Jewish people are so intelligent that they have masterminded the atrocities against themselves as a method of gaining sympathy. I have even read that fanatical Islamist terror group ISIS, responsible for so many murders in this past month across the Middle East, are not Muslims at all, they’re Jews dressed up as Muslims. World, you couldn’t make it up, although clearly somebody has.
Now, the State of Israel is providing mass swathes of populations across the world with a new tool, a new excuse, a new method with which to be cruel to Jews. Friends, let’s be clear, being critical of any government policy, including Israel’s, is acceptable within the realms of freedom of speech, but much of what we see nowadays is the inherent and abject hatred of Jews, thinly veiled as ‘anti-Zionism’ as a means of justifying this vile phenomenon. Shouting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas” is not simply criticism of the State of Israel, it calls for the murder of Jews. Today a protest against military action in Gaza has been planned to be held outside a small Synagogue in Cambridge, on the Jewish Sabbath; this extends far beyond the realms of anti-Zionism and punishes Jews on their sacred day of rest.
So, world, you’ve given us a country where we can feel safe and secure as Jews, yet when that country faces threats to its own existence and attempts to defend itself, you are up in arms on a disproportionate level reserved exclusively for the Jewish State. In 2013, there were 22 UN Resolutions that singled out Israel, and 4 that singled out countries in the rest of the world combined. That so many murderous regimes go unpunished or unnoticed is a tragedy, as much of the world turns their back on these atrocities as they look towards Israel like a coiled spring, ready to ignore whichever terror group are violently plotting a downfall of the Jewish State and condemn, condemn, condemn. This is bringing anti-Semitism, or more accurately ‘Jew hatred’ into the realms of officialdom and diplomacy. It is the respectable face of hatred towards Jews.
Executive Director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer summarizes the disproportionate condemnation like this, “If in the past year you didn’t cry out when thousands of protestors were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran, women and children in Afghanistan were bombed, whole communities were massacred in South Sudan, 1800 Palestinians were starved and murdered by Assad in Syria, hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks, 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists, villagers were slaughtered in Nigeria, but you only cry out for Gaza, then you are not pro-Human Rights, you are only Anti-Israel.” As Ali A. Rivzi wrote in his much-read piece ‘7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict’ on the Huffington Post, “If I were Assad or ISIS right now, I’d be thanking God I’m not Jewish.”
Whilst the Jewish State is being diplomatically pilloried, Jews around the world face increased vitriol and threats in their own high-streets, prompting them to show even more support for the State of Israel as it becomes increasingly apparent that one day we may need it more than we ever expected, simply in order to stay alive. Upon noticing our increased support for the only country we may be able to call home, you punish us even further for doing so, with your Hitler placards and burning of Jewish shops, with your Jewish Film Festival boycotts and shootings in Belgium. This, in turn, makes Jewish people even more resolute in their backing of the Jewish state. It is a vicious cycle that is gaining momentum, being fuelled by nothing less than the hatred of Jews amongst the masses, and the ambivalence of many. Clearly not every individual on earth harbours a deep detestation for Jews, but remember all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Sometimes, world, I wonder if your plan is to make Jewish people feel so uncomfortable in the countries they inhabit that they all move to Israel, all the Jews in one place would certainly make it easier for a fanatical group to wipe us all out in one fell swoop. Are you really working towards this mass International ghettoization?
World, I’m still desperately trying to decipher what we could have done differently, in order to avoid this deep-seated hatred that is seemingly coming to the fore this year. Last week on facebook I read a comment by a man called Andy Burns, it said, “The Jew is being exposed for what it is. Maybe its time to rethink what drove the decent people of Germany to take such drastic action to rid themselves of the Jew.” On a long and busy thread of comments, only one person questioned this abomination. Meanwhile in Somalia, Al-Shabaab proclaim, “The Jews are spread out throughout the world, and the Jews’ properties are spread everywhere. In light of this, the Muslims must attack the Jews and their properties in every place, and they must pray for their brothers in Gaza”.
World, I’m at a loss. Throughout my entire life I have encouraged tolerance, involved myself in inter-faith activity, raised money for charities and always tried to do the right thing according to both Jewish and universal values. As we sing “Dayenu” at our Passover service next year, I’ll also ask the question, can we EVER do enough to be accepted by you? World, I ask you in the hope that one day I’ll understand… What do you want from us?