He won’t know it until he reads this column, but my editor Jake Wallis Simons is the reason for the breakdown of a friendship.
That’s piqued your interest, hasn’t it? I shall elaborate.
Seven years ago, I befriended a young woman who is now 21. W (as I’ll call her) comes from a terrible background; she has atrocious parents who have done and who continue to do things that make me weep.
And yet despite the serious abuse W has suffered, she is the kindest young person, an astonishing example of the triumph of nature over nurture. I recognized her inherent goodness when we first met at her care home and it is why I have looked out for her ever since. She deserves love.
Or rather I did look out for her. On November 9 I got a text from W saying she was sorry, but our relationship was over. She was “watching an interview your Jake Wallis Simons is giving” on television and, “truly I don’t know how this is the side you’re on. I am so disappointed and upset and so many other emotions, but I can’t be friends with anyone who defends Israel.”
It is no coincidence that my editor’s brilliant interview (yes, I know this reads as an outrageous schmooze, but he really is superb on air) was the reason W wanted to end our relationship. I had suggested she read his book Israelophobia.
Ever since October 7, W has been posting endless streams of extreme antisemitic propaganda on her social media platforms. Only she doesn’t realise they are antisemitic because the vicious lies she is spreading are about Israel. She believes there is a bright, clear line between hating the Jews and hating the Jews’ nation state. Her belief is hardly remarkable. As I hardly need to say here, it’s a popular view among the privileged and educated, two things that W is not.
But while she is not educated, her horrible family having put paid to that early on in her life, W is exceptionally bright so I recommended she read my editor’s book. I also sent her links to articles in this newspaper and others, and I responded gently to the babble and baloney (I’m being polite), she posted on her socials.
And while I patiently unpacked the lies W was unwittingly spreading, I also said I knew her views came from a kind place. I said I understood that by nailing her colours so firmly to the Palestinian mast, she genuinely believes she is siding with the underdog.
I mean, in one sense she is. The Palestinian people are pawns on an Islamofascist chess board. But that’s not how W sees things, of course. She gets her news from the same place where she shares it: social media, and in particular TikTok, which has more than one billion monthly users, six in ten of them between the ages of 16 and 24, like her.
I went on the app before writing this column and was seized by panic. It is teeming with pro-Palestinian videos and comments like “Hitler got it right”. It is not overblown to say it is turning an entire generation into Jew-haters. In fact, last month the actor Sacha Baron Cohen accused TikTok of “creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis.”
W’s other main news source, Instagram, is also depressing. There, the pro-Palestinian hashtag is found 26 more times than the pro-Israel hashtag.
It’s alarming that young people like W are being brainwashed by these emotionally satisfying tirades against the Jews. For while many Israelophobes are hardcore antisemites, I’d wager that as many again are simply lazy. People think with their emotions because it is easier than thinking with facts. It takes time to read the history of this region, to check sources, to understand geopolitics.
This is the difference between my partisan view on Israel and W’s. Mine has been formed by years of reading, hers comes from TikTok videos. That’s why I directed her to Israelophobia. In one Facebook exchange she said it was in her Waterstones’ basket. I do hope it’s made its way from there to her flat. Because I still care about her and hope that one day our relationship will be restored.