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Testimony 12: Anonymous

I have encountered racism against Palestinians many times in the British Jewish community since my childhood but the level of hatred expressed seems to me to have worsened in recent years.

I grew up believing that, like everybody else I knew in my Jewish community, Palestinians were a violent, degenerate people who for centuries had let the land of Israel waste and, by so doing, had forfeited the right to keep it. When the Six-Day War erupted, I acted up, proud of myself for kicking a car with an Arabic number plate that I passed in central London. It was a pointless act of immaturity and vandalism but I wanted to include it here to illustrate what can happen when young people are brought up to despise those of another so-called race.

Eventually I left London but stayed in touch with friends, we’ll call them A and V. A was a gentle intellectual and V, a dynamic NHS professional. V and I corresponded about many things but there came a time when she began to express hostility towards Muslim communities in London, claiming they were taking over and making life difficult for non-Muslim Londoners. I was sceptical but we easily preserved our friendship at first and I was delighted when A and V came to stay for a few days. One evening we were having a discussion, and I don’t remember in any detail how the conversation shifted towards the tensions between Jews and Palestinians in Israel but gradually the talk became very dark and ended with A hammering on the table, demanding that it was time for a hundred Palestinians to be killed for every Israeli life they took. That evening was a watershed for our friendship and though I have tried to stay in touch, sadly I have lost contact with them.

In another case, I was so disgusted with a friend, P, that I was the one to cut off any possibility of a further relationship. He was trying to develop a career as a public commentator on the Jewish-Palestinian conflict in Israel and had been interviewed on an Evangelical television channel when I last came across him. He invited me to have a meal one evening and made his argument that Palestinians had no viable claim to any part of Israel. Historically, he told me, there had never been such a thing as a Palestinian nation and Judaism affirmed the Jewish claim to the whole land. Because I had recently read Martin Buber’s essays on Zionism, I later wrote to P about the way Buber might modify that interpretation of Jewish teaching. His response was very aggressive, involving a personal threat and I learned that behind the polished political pose he was enthusiastically involved in lewd, racist, social media debates describing Muhammad as a paedophile and bigamist and linking that to grooming gangs in the UK. His political arguments against Palestinians were an expression of covert racism.

Over the years I have lost a number of friends to anti-Palestinian racism. The loss that I most regret was that of a childhood friend, D. His life had brought him much sadness and I blamed his grief when he turned against me and insisted that I accept his right to kill any Palestinian who threatened his daughter, making it a condition of our continuing friendship. What he wanted was a superficial complicity. He knew well enough that I would not agree but he escalated the hypothetical into an ultimatum. His disrespect for my personal opinions, the depth of his anger and hatred of Palestinians meant I could not give him what he demanded. In truth, I believe he knew that and found my own tolerance intolerable.

I now tread very carefully indeed with friends and relatives who from experience I no longer trust. There are too many who will not accept any expression of concern about Israeli-Palestinian relationships, however carefully I tried to frame it. I am ashamed to admit that I often feel unable to air my own thoughts nowadays, but the truth must be out so I have to submit this testimony, if only anonymously.