This was originally posted on the blog I write documenting the process of conversion to Judaism. You can read more on exodusblog.org.
I always avoided Twitter because it seemed like the place where rational discourse goes to die, but I finally got an account a few months ago when I published a piece in a widely-read magazine. Since then, I have had the honor of being baptized in the depths of human nastiness on Twitter. The primary cause of exposure: advocacy for Israel.
I became familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict many years ago when I read a piece in an international newspaper whose headline described an Israel soldier shooting and killing a Palestinian teenager. “That’s not good,” I thought, and read the entire piece. Somewhere down at the end was a brief mention about how the Palestinian teenager was actually 17 or 18, no child, and had snuck up behind the soldier and stabbed him. That that information seemed relevant only at the end of the piece struck me as highly suspicious.
As I began to dig deeper into the conflict and media coverage around it, I realized this was par for the course. Only a couple of days ago, when an Israeli solder was killed by a Palestinian who threw a cinder block down onto his head, breaking his helmet and crushing his skull, the New York Times wrote a piece about it and the first paragraph described the incident thusly: “A 21-year-old Israeli soldier was killed early Tuesday when he was struck in the head by a heavy rock.” It isn’t until later that we find that this heavy rock didn’t just fall miraculously from the blue sky – no, it was thrown from a house, by a Palestinian, with the intent to kill. And only a few days earlier, when the same newspaper discussed the incredible Israeli effort to combat coronavirus, they wrote: “The Israeli Defense Ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up, with stealth tanks and sniper drones among its more lethal recent projects. But its latest mission is lifesaving.” Okay.
You can feel however you want to about the conflict, and there are legitimate arguments to be made on each side. Palestinians suffer greatly under Israeli military rule simply by virtue of what it is, and they suffer even more at the hands of their vicious and corrupt leaders, who deny humanitarian aid like hospitals and medications when they come from Israel, and who buy themselves mansions with a $35 million price tag and fly around in private jets.
But however you feel about the broader conflict, you cannot deny that the media coverage is patently biased against Israel. So are the relentless condemnations that come down from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which in any given year condemns Israel more than all other countries combined, and does so even as they ignore violations in North Korea, China, and Syria. I hesitate to make evil a contest, but it’s impossible to argue that Israel, a country at war with a many murderous neighbors, commits human rights abuses that even remotely begin to approach genocide, reeducation camps, labor camps, or organ harvesting.
If you mention any of this, however, you can expect to be immediately labeled any and/or all the following: Liar, big nosed, hooked nosed, ugly bitch, apartheid endorser, genocidal maniac, settler-colonialist, white supremacist, Zionist shill, Hasbara agent, Israeli propagandist, Jew, stupid Jew, filthy Jew, and Nazi.
Never mind that my conversion isn’t finished yet, and we’ll go ahead and put aside the question of whether one becomes a Jew when one feels like a Jew or when one enters the mikveh with the rabbi’s blessing. Neither of those things really matter to the wider world of the anti-Semite. One doesn’t even have to be Jewish to hear this stuff. One’s merely associating with the Jews, advocating for Israel, suggesting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more nuanced than the simple oppressor/victim narrative is enough to get a virtual bucket of shit dumped on one’s head.
Of course, the people doing this dumping have absolutely no interest in fact or history, or even simple respect for language. They demonstrate this by using terms like “ethnic cleansing” to describe Israel’s policy towards Arabs, and if you point out that a full 20% of Israel is made of Arabs who are well-integrated into medicine and law and who have full voting rights, they’ll simply switch track and accuse you of apartheid. When you point out that Israel shares nothing in common with apartheid in South Africa except the rhetoric they employ, they’ll switch track and accuse Israel of being baby killers. When you point out that Israel makes calls and drops leaflets in civilian areas before they bomb the missile launchers that Hamas puts on homes for the express intent of ensuring civilian deaths, or that Hamas has been called out by the U.N. for encouraging parents to bring their children to protests where they are exposed to live Israeli sniper fire as their parents throw molotov cocktails and fling stones in massive, lethal slings, for the express intent of ensuring these children will be injured or killed so Israel gets bad press coverage, they switch tracks again. If all else fails, they can insist that if you marched in and raped their sisters and stole their home, they would be entitled to fight you with violence. So on and so forth.
In theory, I was no stranger to the tremendous antagonism that many people feel towards Jews, but the amount shit I’ve gotten online in the last few weeks has been breathtaking. Perhaps the most surprising of all is that, even more often than being called something along the lines of Jewish scum, is the amount of times I get called a Nazi. This alone shows you the lack of dignity these people have when discussing the conflict.
As anti-Semitic incidents grow year after year, and Jews are smashed in the face with bricks, or are, in the same week, specifically called out by the mayor of New York for violating social distancing and also attacked by thugs in the street who rip off Jews’ face masks, one begins to see the beginnings of a disturbing historical trend rearing its hideous head once more.
After a difficult morning when I was particularly troubled by the internet viciously rejoicing at the death of the same IDF soldier I mentioned earlier, the mother of the kids I nanny told me: Welcome to the club. This is just one of the benefits of membership. You’ll deal with this for the rest of your life.
Then we took a deep breath, she gave me a hug and a bowl of matzoh ball soup, and we went on about our day.