Not a conversation about the Middle East

Outside of my house, I have had exactly two conversations about the Israel-Hamas conflict since October 7th. I have taken a stand on social media, here and there. However, the stands were intentionally phrased in ways that do not welcome comment. Frankly, I am out of conversation on this.

A lot of it has to do with my insecurity that my allies are my allies. I looked back at the last time I was stung by someone who I thought had similar basic values to mine. Since then, I don’t assume.

Here’s what happened in 2019:

I put out a call on my Facebook page for people to post that they oppose antisemitism. I specifically asked non-Jews to do so. I got a response from a Catholic colleague who asked what he could do “besides sharing the meme opposing antisemitism.” I thought he meant, “in addition to,” but what he meant was “instead of.” His comment created a conversation that involved people on his feed. It went downhill from there.

The attack that prompted my request was a knife attack at a Chanukah party in New York. That was December, 2019. A man took a train from New York City to Monsey, came into a party and stabbed as many people as he could. One of the attacked men died from his injuries. That attack was one of several in the New York City area that season. There was a knife attack in November, and a gun battle earlier in December.

In addition, there were multiple reports of less lethal attacks on “visible Jews” throughout New York City. For many haters, “visible” Jews are people who dress in the fashion of Orthodox Jews, such as men in Hasidic style clothing and women in loose, modest dress.

This is what I wrote in January, 2020:

I found myself in a Facebook conversation with well-intentioned Catholic activists with long histories of social action work. I was deeply disappointed. A man I do not know just did not get it.

This is the direct quote of the first part of our conversation:

He: The orthodox Jews look so strange and weird to so many people, it’s difficult to figure out who they are. I know many people who have no idea they are Jews, observant Jews. I have several black friends in the area and resent them taking over their turf.

Me: I am concerned by your comment. Are you saying that looking strange or moving in “taking over turf” justifies murder? That sounds like all the comments made about whether black teens who are shot by police were misbehaving. What happened yesterday was a planned attack on a holiday party. It was intentional murder of Jews by non Jews.

The conversation went on for about 20 rounds of comments. He kept insisting that people on this Facebook thread need to understand the context of the attacks and the anger of the local non-Jews.

The person who started the post was also well-intentioned. He tried to make peace. He, too, just did not get it.

His aim was to calm things down. First, by telling me that the first commenter has a long social justice history and it is a given that he stands against violence. Next by calling for unity, by using the words of Robert F. Kennedy.

He did not explain unity for what ideal (since no one was practicing non-violence in Monsey). He, too, was miffed when I repeated that what I was objecting to: an ongoing explanation by the other commenter about how the Jews have made the Christians angry.

In the end, I gave up on this conversation. I was accused of being “angry,” refusing “unity,” and being uncool for questioning the motives of a Christian who thinks now is the time to explain why the Jews in Monsey had it coming.

So. I don’t always succeed. But I do regularly try.

In 2023, I currently have no incentive to try. If you don’t oppose antisemitism, please don’t tell me why.

If you want to learn something about the situation, I suggest you pay attention to this list of resources.

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