I have been to Israel once in my life, when I was twelve. I can’t remember any of the trip, except for a very vague recollection of visiting a distant aunt. Her apartment was tiny.
I am not Israeli. I am third generation Australian. My father’s parents were both born in Australia; their parents had the prescience to escape Russia before the war. My mother’s mother came here as a baby. Her uncle had been offered a ticket to Australia from Poland but declined. He thought he and his family would be safe at home. My great-grandfather took the ticket instead. My grandmother’s uncle was wrong. He and all of his extended family were slaughtered by the Nazis.
I am not Israeli. But as a Jew in the Diaspora, I need Israel to exist. Anti-Semitism is rife around the world. I don’t understand it, because I don’t understand what crimes the Jews have committed to be so frequently and passionately hated. Jews in the Diaspora do not proselytise. Jews in the Diaspora do not commit hate crimes against other religions. Many Jews in the Diaspora are high achievers and value education, no doubt because of the immigrant mentality. Why this should make us reviled is beyond me, truly.
But this is why we need Israel. Because if there is another Holocaust, if anti-Semitism gets out of control again, where are we to go? What happens if the Jews in France are unsafe (which they pretty much are now). Tony Abbott doesn’t want persecuted minorities from other countries here in Australia. Where will they go? Who will save them?
Believe me, I don’t ever want to move to Israel. I am Australian. I am as keen to move to Israel as I am to move to Thailand or India. But if it was a matter of life and death, I know that Israel would take me and my kids. And as part of a frequently persecuted minority, that gives me security.
But here’s the thing. That does NOT mean I agree with all of Israel’s policies. I do not vote in the Israeli elections because I am not Israeli. I have no say in their handling of the Gaza conflict. I bear no responsibility for civilian deaths.
Most – but not all –Israelis are Jews. But only around 40% of the world’s Jews are Israeli. And it is exhausting and infuriating and depressing to constantly read commentary about ‘the Jews’ when what is actually being referred to are ‘the Israelis’.
I am not Israeli. I am Jewish. I support the right of Israel to exist but I do not condone civilian deaths. How could I? The fact that I even need to state this is more distressing than any non-Jew can possibly imagine.
I understand the desperate position that Israel is in. I understand that Hamas’s sole aim is to destroy Israel – not to protect its citizens, but to destroy another country. I understand that Hamas has spent millions and millions of dollars – money that could otherwise have been spent on hospitals and schools and infrastructure – on enormous tunnels to facilitate terror attacks. I understand that there is a blockade on the Egyptian border of Gaza, which no-one seems to talk about, because all the focus is on Israel. I understand that there is no easy solution, because we have one country that is fighting to exist and one that is fighting to destroy it.
But that does NOT mean that I condone civilian deaths. Of course I don’t.
Please. Please. PLEASE people. Stop confusing ‘Jewish’ with ‘Israeli’. And stop assuming that by supporting Israel’s right to exist I am condoning the death of innocent civilians. I am praying for peace, just like everyone else. I am praying for peace.
And perhaps recognise the irony that it is this kind of anti-Semitism that led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Because Jews needed a homeland after the racist hatred that led to the Holocaust, and the death of six million innocent human beings.
Don’t let it happen again.