a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

I’m not an Anti-Zionist!

Posted on: June 24, 2015

boycottI’m not a Zionist either, well at least not in the modern view of the word.

Do I think Israel should exist? Yes.

Do I think Israel is a country void of problems? No.

~

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve received email and Facebook messages inviting me to “lefty-Jewish” events. Everything from Shabbat dinners to Havdalah celebrations. And in these emails it is presumed that I, too, am a lefty-Jewish queer anti-Zionist, radical activist. These invitations are often linked to articles about anti-Zionism and pink washing. If they would have caught me about 4 years ago, I would’ve been game, but today I’m a bit more hesitant.

(also, they’re clearly not reading my blog)

When I was considering Judaism I had very strong feelings about Israel. I compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of Blacks in South Africa and Blacks in our country. I still see those comparisons and the word Apartheid used to describe Israel and I’ll admit that for my part, the comparisons were and are sloppy. I had such strong feelings about Israel that giving Israel a try was a promise I made at my beit din. It wasn’t as if they would not let me go to the mikvah if I didn’t love Israel, it was just an invitation to open my heart a bit. I reluctantly agreed and I got naked and kept my date with the mikvah.

Though, I made an agreement, I knew that I still thought Israel was the worst country on the planet.

Until I got there.

There is no Israeli flag hanging in my house. I don’t hate Palestinians or Muslims, gosh, I even have some Muslim friends (though they’re not Palestinian). Nor do I hold Israel on a pedestal. I know that there are many (many) things wrong in that country; treatment of Palestinians is just the tip of the iceberg.

So to be invited to Jewish things by queer Jews in the Pacific Northwest and to see the words “lefty” I’ve sorta got my hazards on. It’s been my experience in NY that you just don’t talk about Israel. I’ve seen it in Jewish professional spaces I’ve worked at and it’s sometimes the unwritten rule around a Shabbat table. Just like your parents always told you, in addition to religion and money you don’t talk about Israel.

Like Jews who introduce themselves as lefty and anti-Zionist, I find that the unspoken rule to not talk about Israel is just as problematic. Sure it usually ends in fights with bruised feelings and friendships, but I prefer a hard conversation than the extremes.

 

2 Responses to "I’m not an Anti-Zionist!"

But here’s the thing. The whole “we don’t talk about Israel” thing is a form of coercion. People who want to talk about it in terms that aren’t consonant with the status quo get shouted down and often ostracized. So it becomes safer just to never talk about it. And when you never talk about things, nothing changes.

Yes, it’s more comfortable to let the subject of Israel lay where it is and avoid risking hurt feelings, insult, or the need to go find a new synagogue. But as Jews, we aren’t supposed to be about avoiding risking grappling with the hard questions. If we were, we’d never have set off into the desert two millennia ago. And, of course, by this point we wouldn’t be Jews anymore, either.

I love that you have such a nuanced view on Israel. Maybe the folks who are inviting you to these events need to hear it?

So true, so true.
Though, I’ve found that – in Jewish professional spaces at least – if there is a “no Israel rule” there’s a NO ISRAEL RULE and shit hits the fan when you veer off that course. Believe me, I’ve seen it!
I got an email back from the person, we shall see. It’s just a weird way to introduce yourself to a new potential friend, right?

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