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Testimony 10: Anonymous

My experience of witnessing anti Palestinian racism in the Jewish community doesn’t boil down to any single event, but rather takes the form of strongly held beliefs expressed and passed on to me from a young age by community members and particularly my close family.

My grandparents, who both live in Tel Aviv, have always spoken derogatorily about Arabs and Muslims, and used the phrase “the Arabs” to describe Palestinians in Israel. To them, the phrase is synonymous with people who are lazy, violent, and barbaric. Nothing new here – this is classic racism. But these beliefs underpin the lies I myself believed for years, the lie that Palestinians didn’t exist before the founding of the State of Israel, the fact that they exist only to cause Israelis grief and inconvenience, and the lament that we as Jews aren’t asking for much, we just want a safe haven, don’t we deserve that?

My entire Israeli family, including my dad (who grew up in Israel and migrated to the UK in his 20s), uphold these racist beliefs to varying extents and it’s impossible to reason with them and make them see how racist their language can be. But it isn’t just a problem in Israeli society, it exists all across diaspora communities. 

I went to Israeli Sunday school and I remember a particular song we sang about working together to build the land of Israel. Israel is depicted as a blank uninhabited canvas. There was nothing religious about this school, it was just a way of instilling Israeli national pride (basically propaganda). The insidiousness shocks me now.

Later in life, this type of education was encouraged by communal leaders and family members who told us to “defend Israel’s interests” as we get older and go abroad. When I started questioning this belief system, my Israeli family started using every opportunity (including birthday cards) to remind me to represent Israel positively in my diaspora circles because they think of me as a traitor and are angry with me for the betrayal. The defensiveness that once sounded reasonable and even noble to me now just reeks of hypocrisy.