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Testimony 14: Nic (Part 1)

My name is Nic Aron. I grew up attending a Zionist Youth movement, through which I first went to summer camp at the age of 10. Eventually, I had to leave this communal space because of the unaddressed racism directed at Palestinians and non-Jewish Arabs. I am grateful to Na’amod for putting together this project – continuing the important work so central to Judaism, and that the British Jewish community needs in order to uphold its values.

I learned so much about Jewish values from my involvement within the youth movement. I was taught about tikkun olam and Tzedek – principles and legacies that guide me to this day, and will continue to guide me through my life. However, I also believe it also indoctrinated me to Zionism, and this indoctrination has taken years to unlearn.

Racism against Palestinians came in many shapes and sizes in the Zionist summer camp. Every year there was a programme where we were required to pretend to be Bedouin by sitting under a table or badly made tents. Cursory attempts were made to share in some aspects of the culture, but the violence and displacement to which the Israeli state subjects Bedouin people was never mentioned. I remember not being allowed to criticise or question Israel, or talk about Palestine at all.  Instead of being listened to, I was silenced and told to build a relationship with love. Meanwhile, the racism went unchallenged. The camp leaders writing the programme material were only teenagers and young adults themselves. Most had been through the same cycle of youth group membership. This is why it is so important to point out these issues within our community: it’s a cycle harmful for young Jewish people, alongside perpetuating racism against Palestinians, among others.

I was on Israel Tour in 2006, during the Israeli war with Lebanon. On my tour bus, I remember people sitting at the back of the bus and chanting: “Beirut, Beirut, Beirut is on Fire! They don’t need no water let the mother fuckers burn.” Despite this violence, the chanters were not confronted. At the end of the trip, some people opted to use their spending money to send parcels to the IDF soldiers, while a few of us decided to donate the money to organisations which were rebuilding Lebanon. I remember the Israeli Madricha screaming at us, demanding to know why we wanted to help “the enemy” in this way. The whole trip was structured to present a particular idea of Israel, and any critique of this was suppressed.