My Journey Through Antisemitism to Supporting Israel
There are many cultures and faiths out there that have a rite of passage of sorts. Christians have Baptism, Roman Catholics have confirmation, Jewish people have Bar Mitzvahs, and for a lot of Muslims, it’s expressing a hatred for the state of Israel, and the majority of its citizens; the Jews. For as long as I can remember, I grew up hearing some form of antisemitism. From hearing the casual “let’s go shoot some Jews” to being advised not to be open about my support in Eurovision for Israel, to being told that the holocaust was “Allah’s way of showing the Jews what would happen if Israel was formed”, to being told that I “look like a Jew with a big nose” as an insult, it became so normal to hear such sentiments, that they essentially became background noise. Luckily, I have a Mother who is open-minded, and was educated by a fantastic teacher who taught emotively about the atrocities of the holocaust. Whilst my teacher read us accounts of its victims with such sorrow in her voice, my Mother fulfilled my birthday request for her to take me to see Auschwitz and other Holocaust sites (I was a strange child), and I educated myself about Jewish culture and the horrors of the past as much as I could, despite knowing no Jewish people. This eventually led me to the conclusion that the Jewish people deserved their own homeland, a viewpoint that made me about as popular as Judas Iscariot at a disciples reunion. From the reiteration of the “Allah showing the consequences” argument, to being told I was a victim of the brainwashing by the Jewish overlords that run the world, everything but the kitchen sink was thrown back in retaliation, all accompanied by that old chestnut; “this isn’t antisemitic, it’s anti-Zionist”. So, naturally, I backed off, and took a more neutral stance of not taking sides until I could go over to Israel and see the situation for myself. Luckily, I got the chance, and was able to visit both Israel and Palestinian territories. Not only was I able to see many holy sites that hold a lot of significance for me as an ex-Muslim-turned-Catholic-convert (a story for another day), but I was also able to explore the beauty of Israel’s culture, to hearing from Israeli settlers (top tip, if you’re looking to shed a few braincells, look up Baruch Marzel), to seeing the Kibbutz where cute Winnie-the-Poo murals were painted on and inside bomb shelters so the children would not be afraid, to seeing the celebration of martyrdom in the refugee camps, and the expectations that awaited the little boys when they grew up, I changed from being neutral to being a Zionist, which, as it turns out, is the mere belief that Jewish people should be able to have a homeland. So far, in terms of backlash from the community, I’ve only received bizarre threats from people on online, I’ve been accused of working for the Mossad and Israel (trust me, I’m broke, so if any country wants to pay me to argue on the internet, I won’t say no) and called a fascist, so you know, a standard day on the internet. In the real world, I’ve had people from the community complain that Jewish people “whine too much about antisemitism”, and I may have had to put parental controls on the TV to cut short the Christmas day tradition of watching Al Jazeera. However, before demonising the Muslim community, we need to understand the root of the problem. Like many things, it always comes back to land and conquest. Remember that Islam once had its own empire, and the existence of Israel is a reminder of the felt pain and anguish over such a great empire now only being a memory. Secondly, the formation of Israel is seen as something that was implemented by the British. As you may know, the British empire didn’t end on good terms with the Muslim world. From the Suez crisis to the partition of India and Pakistan, the wounds from British imperialism are still fresh, and therefore the association between Israel and the British empire is again, a painful memory of the past. Also, bear in mind that many in Muslim communities don’t know anyone who’s Jewish. It’s much easier to have a fear of the other, and to build upon it, and exaggerate when it’s someone you’ve never had the chance to relate to. When it’s someone you don’t know, you can form whatever cruel and awful image of them, because they are a stranger, and it doesn’t affect you. Finally, rather than being seen as a discriminatory mindset, the antisemitic feelings towards Israel and its Jewish citizens are often legitimized by the West. From protesting the Israeli embassy, to BDS to the antisemitism scandals in the Labour party, hatred of the Jews is given a green light by many in the political and cultural sphere. There’s a saying that 1000 lemmings can’t be wrong, and when a racist viewpoint is legitimised by so many in the West, it’s hard to see it for its true and ugly colours. So what can we do to eradicate this problem? Education and empathy are key. We need to first of all be able relate to the anger and pain of many in the Muslim community, and then reach out and educate. Organisations such as Muslims Against Antisemitism, Quilliam and Athena Research and Education are reaching out, and it’s a start, but we need more people to come out and take a stand against this seemingly culturally acceptable racism. Muslims and Cultural Muslims alike need to put our heads above the parapets regardless of social backlash so that others will follow in our example, and learn that the conflict cannot be solved with vitriol. Only then, will we be able to move forward.
Zara is an Ex Muslim who has converted to Catholicism, and is of British and Pakistani origin. She is politically conservative, and would describe herself as a Zionist, and a proud Lahori.