Rosa Doherty

If you deny our fear, how can we stay friends?

'More than 80 per cent of the content on my Facebook feed should come with a trigger warning.'

November 13, 2019 18:09

Before the end of last week, I already had the overwhelming feeling that this election was going to be a struggle.

I started to realise just how exhausting it was going to be when a family member, who is not Jewish and who is pro Corbyn shared a picture of Neturei Karta a tiny Strictly Orthodox sect, along with the caption that they were the “real Jews” because of their support for the Labour leader.

Oy vey, I thought as I whatsapped my mum furiously about how ignorant the individual had been. I often chastise her, mostly in jest, over the gift that comes from being part of a multicultural family. “Well, it is not my side” she replied, washing her hands of responsibility.

I can’t tell you how much fun it is trying to explain who the Neturei Karta are and how impossibly unrepresentative of the rest of us they are — and why it is probably just a teeny bit racist to share pictures of visibly Jewish men just because you think they agree with your narrow world-view.

And then, adding that the only reason they support your precious leader is because they oppose the creation of a state of Israel until the coming of the Messiah. No, Jeremy Corbyn is not the messiah they are thinking of. In fact, he’s a very naughty boy.

I search for the funny side because it is essential for my mental health. And I know that, as my mum always reminds me, I would not be me without the wonderful diversity gifted to me at birth.

But it’s not just family. And it’s not just me. As a Jewish friend sympathised, “my Facebook is full of Jews putting up stuff about Jezza and all their mates piling in saying he’s a good bloke, and the antisemitism is all made up as a smear, and then it kicks off.”

He may as well have been speaking for me. More than 80 per cent of the content on my Facebook feed should come with a trigger warning.

In fact, if anyone from Facebook should happen to be reading this column, could we have a feature for the Jewish community for the General Election, like the mark “safe” during a disaster?

Here’s a post from a trustafarian, who wouldn’t know a siddur from a synagogue. He’s sharing Jewish Voice for Labour links with the self-appointed authority of a rabbi.

And here are people complaining about Jews having a “monopoly on media coverage” or “ulterior motives” in the election. These are people I know. Or do I?

Do I say something? Should I use the opportunity to try and educate the poster? Can I do it without rage and fury? Is nuance even possible?

Maybe I should just ignore it, again and again. But how can I leave the misinformation to go unchallenged? All these quandaries race though my mind when I came on to Facebook. And all I wanted to do was check if any of my friends had their birthday, and see what my friend half-way across the world had for dinner.

I often wonder, before social media, how people discovered that the people they like were bigoted lunatics.

Nowadays, you don’t need to wait years to discover that a friend is a raging homophobe, racist or antisemite. You just follow their Twitter feed and see their mental word vomit exploding all over the page.

I have always felt aligned with the Labour party and socialist values.

It was only when I started writing about, documenting and experiencing antisemitism, particularly within the Labour Party, that I started to feel there was something about me that fundamentally doesn’t belong.

It is never what I think about education, social housing, or supporting people who need help, that makes me feel a little out of place. It is the really simple fact that I think Jewish people should not have to hide or denounce integral parts of their Jewish identity in order to fit in.

I’ve listened with sympathy to stories of families and friendships clashing over Brexit. While I voted remain, it was never going to be an issue over which I would fall out with others. But this election is different.

And my anxiety is compounded by knowing that, by December 13, friendships will have been lost and tears will have been shed.

I have friends of all political persuasions. I understand our views on certain issues will always differ. It doesn’t make them or me bad people; it doesn’t mean we love each other any less.

But when it comes to antisemitism it is not a simple difference of opinion. If you dismiss the Jewish community’s experience of racism in the context of the Labour party and the election, I just can’t have a genuinely friendly relationship with you. 
 How could I?

November 13, 2019 18:09

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