liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
I have to admit that some of what's behind my generally low / anxious mood lately is the news. I normally don't react very emotionally to hearing about things like terrorist attacks. It's a tragedy, I feel sad for the bereaved, but it doesn't feel personal, and it doesn't affect me much more than knowing that people are dying in wars and road accidents every day and not making news headlines. But the events in Paris this month have really got to me, not so much the attacks themselves as the reactions to it.

I was already quite upset by the #JeSuisCharlie thing. I think free speech is important, but the kind of gleeful righteousness at having a moral justification for republishing lots of racist cartoons all over the place felt distasteful to me. Partly just seeing the cartoons over and over again had a cumulative effect, whether they were being published for reasons of defending free speech in the face of a really nasty terrorist attack, or for reasons of showcasing just how horribly racist Charlie Hebdo can be. I think mainly what upset me was the sense of society's priorities. Like, when it's racism against Muslims suddenly the most important value in the world is the right to publish racist filth.

And yes, of course, free speech is just as important when it's speech I don't agree with. I would never have wanted to censor Charlie Hebdo, and it is sickening and morally vile that the terrorists killed the journalists for publishing unpleasant cartoons. But I am not Charlie, I have no interest in exercising my "right" to publish racism. I agreed very strongly with [personal profile] kerrypolka's commentary:
So many journalists have been killed in Syria, so many people of all kinds have been killed by drone strikes and Alliance of the Not Evil troops, and what gets people out on the streets to demonstrate and go "I AM THIS THING" is a racist rag being attacked?
I am really, really scared by the backlash against Muslims. (I have no time at all for "Islam isn't a race"; the anti-Muslim cartoons were using racialized depictions of Muslims, that's exactly why they're so problematic, not because they "criticized religion". Cameron writing to Muslim communities and asking them to justify that they support "British values" is nothing to do with theology, it's all about those weird foreigners immigrants brown-skinned people who might somehow be more loyal to our enemies than to the state.)

If people really care about free speech above all values, why aren't they out on the streets protesting about intensive surveillance of Muslims and removing their citizens' and human rights if they say anything that looks like it might be a bit critical of the government? How is France arresting a bunch of people for "glorifying terrorism" somehow good for free speech? (Well, ok, it's marginally less bad than shooting people for publishing racist cartoons, but.) Could it be because the right of white people to be as racist as they like is really really important, but if any non-white Muslim dares to criticize the status quo, well, they should totally be imprisoned without trial or made stateless or extradited to countries that torture prisoners of war, and that's just the price we have to pay to be safe from terrorism.

And yes, it's less important than the backlash against Muslims, but I think the thing that's really making me feel scared and vulnerable is just how many people have decided to blame the Jews for the whole thing. People from really quite respectable pro-Palestinian organizations making statements to the press about how the attacks on Charlie Hebdo were some kind of Israeli conspiracy. And when the terrorists went on to attack a kosher supermarket and take Jewish hostages, several of whom were murdered in the stand-off, that was still the Jews' fault because the Israeli occupation of Palestine causes otherwise perfectly reasonable Muslims to become murdering fanatics. The journalist who told a traumatized woman in Paris that her experiences served her right because now she's getting a taste of how badly Palestinians are treated by the Israeli military, because some random Jewish woman in Paris is totally responsible for everything bad Israel has ever done.

The Jewish community is jumpy. In the UK, even, there's been spates of graffiti and other Holocaust denial stuff around the upcoming Holocaust Memorial Day (my discomfort around the way Jewish mourning and commemoration gets policed is another topic, but this is a whole different level, it's outright spraypainting stuff with "Jew Liars" and swastikas, that kind of crap). All the synagogues are on high security alert. My friends who have kids in Jewish schools are reporting that the littlest children are learning gun drills, applying the training devised in Israel so that children too young to really understand why it's important learn to hide and stay quiet if a shooter comes into their kindergarten. I mean, maybe schoolchildren needing to practise hiding from armed attackers is a normal state of affairs in the USA, but in this country you just do not expect pre-school age children to need to know how to react if someone tries to shoot them, not unless they're Jewish.

And I feel like we're being manipulated in whom we're supposed to be afraid of. Being afraid of far-right violence is fairly normal, and that far-right element is getting more and more mainstream, particularly in Europe but to an extent over here too. I'm reading articles in the mainstream Swedish press with things like an interview with the grandmother of a friend of mine who says she hasn't felt afraid in Sweden since she arrived as a refugee from Belsen in 1945, and now she's afraid. And lots of my friends are having conversations on FB to the effect of, you just have to hope your love for your country will be requited, but you never really expect that. I know enough how that feels to be really worried for Muslims when you get Cameron questioning their patriotism; even if nowadays we talk about "supporting British values" rather than more direct "loyalty to Britain", it's very much the same kind of thing.

I think it's in the interests of the powerful to set Jews against Muslims, though. I'm worried because some of my Jewish community acquaintances on FB seem to be falling for this line, reposting things about how this attack shows "we" have to take a hard line against Arab / Muslim terrorism / all Muslims are anti-democracy and anti-semitic. Honestly I think it's much more likely that some white supremacist will attack a synagogue or Jewish organization than that a Muslim or Arab will, but it feels like the world, both the political sphere and individuals chattering on social media, are much more ready to condemn a rare attack like the one this month where the perpetrators are Muslim, than to actually stand up against white supremacists. After all, they do have the free speech right to deny the Holocaust and republish Nazi propaganda, and we have to defend the free speech of people we disagree with, right?

And the French situation, well. I no longer keep up with French media at all, so I really don't know what's really going on. I do know some people personally who have left France because they feel it's too dangerous for Jews to live there any more. I am grieving over synagogues being closed and not daring to hold Shabbat services for the first time in seventy years, which is to say, for the first time since Paris was under Nazi occupation. At the same time I am absolutely horrified at Netanyahu jetting in and telling French Jews to get out and come to Israel. I mean, he has an agenda, obviously, and he's inflaming an already volatile situation. Some of my crowd suspect that the report about anti-semitism in Britain that got a lot of coverage in the media recently was actually planted by fifth columnists trying to advance Netanyahu's agenda; the organization who did the survey is a group nobody's ever heard of before, they don't appear to have any real connections within the Jewish community.

In [personal profile] rmc28's Watership Down readthrough we've been discussing Hazel's Decision to leave the warren because of the danger that Fiver senses is coming. And I'm reading that in the light of considering the question, is it time for Jews to get out of France? And if it is, how long should I be staying in Britain? Like most Jewish people I know, I've always had an escape plan, I've always told myself that if things get bad I'll be one of the people who get out before it's too late. But when is "before it's too late"? Being too skittish about minor events, a few fanatics who don't matter, is obviously a terrible idea; for me, leaving my home and job and friends would be a rather bigger deal than it is for the mostly outskirter rabbits to leave their warren, and even for them, well, they don't want to ruin their lives for a false alarm. (If I do leave I'm not very likely to end up in Israel; for one thing Jews are not in fact safe there, for another it's a terrible place for religious non-Orthodox Jews and this whole propaganda campaign to get people to make aliyah is really targeted at purebloods, not people like me, and that's quite aside from not wanting to participate directly in the occupation.)

Not entirely rationally, the thing that's making me feel most vulnerable is not the obvious violence, either by the far right or by terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam. It's the way that people who are supposed to be on my side, secularist, cosmopolitan, Enlightment Europeans keep trying to blame the Jews for everything. I sort of lost it when lefties started calling Teresa May a Jew-lover and a Zionist because of her attempt to use the attack as an excuse to increase surveillance powers. I mean, I hugely disagree with May, I think this idea of banning all encrypted communication is completely terrible, but the people I thought I could rely on to help me fight this latest attack on civil liberties have decided that it's all my fault because I'm from the same ethnic group as illiberal politicians in Israel.

So like, it's the Jews' fault that terrorists attacked journalists, it's the Jews' fault when the same terrorists also murdered Jews, it's the Jews' fault when governments make a power-grab playing on people's fears of these terrorist attacks, it's the Jews' fault that people are responding to a terrorist atrocity with islamophobia and xenophobia instead of working for unity. So who does that leave on my side?

I know that there's been a concerted effort to promote Jewish-Muslim unity and lots of really good responses in the media with Jewish spokespeople countering the bleak picture painted by the weird out of nowhere survey. I think part of what I feel vulnerable is that I'm not as actively involved in the Jewish community as I'd like to be; I read about this stuff on Twitter and FB and it helps, but it's all a bit second-hand, and if I lived in London or somewhere with a bigger community I might have been participating in unity and interfaith events, not just watching. And I suspect that's also why several people from my communities are scared, we're seeing the security alerts and the scary news stories, we're not seeing the positive, thriving Jewish communities well integrated into society.

I'm going to Manchester day Limmud with [personal profile] withagreatlove next week, and I think that will help me to reconnect. And while I was thinking this through I was taking comfort from snippets of Psalms and liturgy, it's kind of always been like this, we have a religious framework to handle being no more than grudgingly tolerated in general society, until we're not. But I think in general the right answer is to engage positively in my community, rather than to let these nebulous feelings of being scared and unwelcome dictate my response. And get my interfaith group up and running again.

This is the kind of thing it's probably more foolish to put on the internet than talking openly about my sexuality. But never mind, I generally trust my readership to respond sensitively when I'm talking about really hard stuff.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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