Anti-Jewish Racism, Self Esteem, and Israel

The existence of Israel is vital for our collective self-esteem, a People among people, as Jews everywhere.

Why aren’t we smart enough to override the anti-Jewish racism we have internalized, now posing as anti-Zionism?

I grew up “Stateless,” the child of an Egyptian father and an Iraqi mother kicked out of their native lands and stuck in Japan. I know the shame of not being able to get a Japanese passport and not being able to travel. I know the shame of being considered a Forever Foreigner.

But I (and two generations after mine), grew up with a living breathing Israel, not just a Passover wish. We grew up represented by Israel and that is huge. We experienced ourselves as a People, no longer forced to be “Wandering Jews.”

Although my tiny nuclear family remained stateless in Japan for twenty years – my mother held out for America, that other “Promised Land,” we were always aware we belonged to, if not in, Israel.

But the option to make aliyah was there, to join our family on both sides in the maabarot if we had to.

We knew Jews were no longer at the whim of this or that regime. And that made a world of difference.

It wasn’t so long ago, in 1950 through the 1960s when Jews had no future left in their ancient Jewish communities all over the Middle East and North Africa. 850,000 Jews were kicked out or forced to flee. 650,000 Jews, refugees from Arab lands, settled in transit camps, the maabarot, dirt poor, struggling to survive Israel, haunted by the Holocaust and hate.

As an adult, I always knew I could choose what my parents didn’t, aliyah. Life got in my way, not everyone gets to make aliyah. But no matter whether we get to live in Israel or not, our self-esteem as Jews is raised tenfold by the fact that we have Israel.

It breaks my heart and boggles my mind that increasingly, American Jews feel “distancing” themselves from Israel consciously or unconsciously, is a sustainable position.

Don’t we Diaspora Jews know we need Israel – If not for anything else but our self esteem?

The importance of Israel should not escape us. Not just a place to flee Iraq as my mother did after the Farhud, the pogrom in Baghdad, or Nasser as my father did, not because the Holocaust happened or as possible future victims of Pogroms – Not just that. But because as long as Israel exists, we are represented as a People, mirrored and homed.

Just by existing, Israel raises every Jew’s self esteem. Unless we unwittingly fall into the expectation/trap that Israel not only aspires to be, but is that perfect “Light Unto Nations,” a proposition as tricky and unrealistic as John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Israel, like each and every human, is not perfect. If we demand perfection, if we imagine ourselves as Israel and look in the mirror and expect what Snow White’s stepmother expected, we are in trouble.

Repeating how “I used to be a Zionist (until I saw that Israel is a state like every other country)” is internalized self hatred. A crazy demand.

It’s easy to do. We are fed terrible lies and double standards when it comes to Israel. Particularly the “Zionism is Racism” lie.

Arafat’s cunningly manipulative “Zionism is Racism” pronouncement adopted by the United Nations in 1975 that the Israel-resenting Left embraced, is now embedded into Ethnic Studies courses that fail to mention how half of Israeli Jews are not Western, and until very recently from Arab lands.

Of course, Arafat knew what he was doing, lying and achieving his goal. He was there in the Middle East. He was there when it was (except for Israel) emptied of Jews. He saw. He also understood the world’s ambivalence about Jews having a country.

Arafat’s lie has not stopped spreading. I have heard too many intelligent people, Jew and non-Jew in the Left say; “If one Palestinian has to die for Israel to exist it has to go.” It’s insanity, that’s what antisemitism is, anti-Jewish racist insanity. And then of course how we Jews are White racists oppressing Brown people. That lie Arafat popularized.

Racism, regarding skin color? Jews come in exactly the same shades as Arabs, especially Arabic Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Jews from Arab lands. Many Ashkenazi Jews retain those same Middle Eastern skin tones and colors. Many Palestinians, Christian or Muslim, are much lighter skinned than me or my family or many Ashkenazi Jews. We look alike because we originate in the same place.

We Jews of every skin color, class background, and personality, love of being a Jew or hate of being a Jew, have been kicked out of just about every country from Spain to England to Iraq. The Beta Israel, the eternal Falasha/Stranger in their native Ethiopia continue to be airlifted to Israel.

Slaughtered in the Holocaust, legally othered as dhimmi in Muslim lands, Jews must realize Israel gives us our standing and keeps us from being eternal “wandering strangers” in the world.

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