I’m an Israeli in the UK, and I don’t want to go back

November 24, 2016 23:11

Although some well-meaning people decorate me with the unbecoming title "dissident", my motive for leaving Israel was not political, but rather professional and personal. But the political has a lot to do with why I'm not keen to go back.

I can hardly say I'm in the UK merely because I refuse to live in a country whose government invades other countries and kills thousands of people in them. Tony Blair could teach Benjamin Netanyahu a thing or two about atrocities.

But there is a constant trend in Israel moving against democracy, against human rights, against all the things that made Israel so acceptable even to its harshest critiques.

In 1984 when it was revealed that the security services have beaten to death two Palestinian teenagers who kidnapped a bus, after capturing them, the country was in turmoil. Granted, there was a criminal cover-up that had to be exposed but the media the politicians and the high court of justice all branded this a travesty, a crime.

But in 2016, when soldier Elor Azaria shot a Palestinian insurgent who lay on the ground neutralised, his parents received a warm phone call from the prime minister, cabinet ministers visited him in prison, and a popular movement was created to support him. The media is openly debating whether it is ok to shoot a 14-year-old who is waving a pair of scissors at a soldier.

My first political memory was the murder of Emil Grunzweig by a grenade thrown into a rally against the invasion of Lebanon. The whole country was shaken. In 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered for signing the Oslo agreements. We thought this was the biggest national trauma of our time.

But in 2015, 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered in Gay Pride, for marching in solidarity with her LGBT friends. Cabinet members are openly preaching against "lefties" who are "traitors", poets and playwrights persecuted for exercising their freedom of speech, and gangs of the notorious La Familia vigilante group, supporters of the racist Beitar Jerusalem FC, are roaming Mahne Yehuda market searching for "Arabs and lefties".

Last Friday, in Jerusalem, I attended a secular wedding at St Andrews Guest House. The soft light coloured the old city in gold. The bride and groom, like many of my friends and family members, belong to the fan-owned club Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem, which poses an opposition to the violent dominance of Beitar. Hapoel Katamon's social enterprises bring together Jewish and Arab players through football, working with the most socially deprived and politically oppressed. It is hard to not get swept up by their optimism, enthusiasm and hope. But the political demography is not on their side. I fear they are fighting a losing battle. The hatred towards "the left" is chilling. Will my nephews really be able to live in Jerusalem in the future?

In my living room in East London three days later, I said a little atheist prayer for Hapoel Katamon's success. Then I started counting how many mattresses I could spread on the floor. Just in case. Just in case.

Daphna Baram is an Israeli journalist and a stand-up comedian, living in East London

November 24, 2016 23:11

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive