Rosa Doherty

The community of good sees our pain and just scrolls past it

When did people wake up and decide rape is a form of freedom fighting?

October 09, 2023 15:22

Imagine Glastonbury, attended by thousands of teenagers partying. Then imagine armed terrorists falling from the sky while others arrive in jeeps and motor bikes, intent on killing. Imagine 260 young people being gunned down at that festival. 

Then, in a nearby Somerset village, imagine babies and toddlers being ripped from their beds in the early hours of the morning, separated from their families.  Imagine your elderly relatives shot on their doorsteps in cold blood.  

Then imagine your social media feed after this.

Had this atrocity taken place in the UK or another Western country, the immediate proclamations against terror would be there for all to see. The hashtags in solidarity with the terror victims would trend for days. 

The Jewish people have lost more Jews than on any single day since the Holocaust. And yet overwhelmingly the online “community of good” is silent. Seven hundred dead Jews but from my social media world, largely populated by progressives, nothing.  

Women were raped next to the murdered bodies of their friends. Yet on my feed I had self-styled feminist influencers pushing the narrative that the rape and brutalisation of innocent women at a festival was somehow part of a wonderful resistance against oppression. Kylie Jenner, who did post support for Israeli civilians, then immediately deleted her posts because the hate they attracted was presumably too much to bear. Thanks a lot, Kylie.

As depravity exploded in Israel my silly little online world stayed silent. And it does seem silly to talk about the impact of social media on a diasporic community thousands of miles away in relative comfort. Especially when families in Israel are facing the brutality of going to war or the desperation their loved ones are still unaccounted for. 

But the feeling that Jews like me, who ordinarily see ourselves as part of the diverse, progressive community, actually live in an alternate universe grew stronger this weekend. 

I wonder, genuinely, at what point did people wake up and decide sexual violence is a form of freedom fighting? At what point is it resistance to kidnap a Holocaust survivor and cart her off to Gaza? 

I’m pretty sure the community of good didn’t spend days wrangling with the notion that Russian soldiers committing war crimes and raping Ukrainian women was barbarity on an unprecedented scale. There were no 10-slide Instagram posts carefully contextualising that rape and murder. 

My anguish as a British Jew is nothing in comparison to that of an Israeli women kidnapped with her babies by a death cult. But as a Jewish mother with children the same age, my sense of safety and peace shatters into a thousand pieces at the thought of her reality. 

Her image is just one of many from this weekend that will haunt me forever. I wonder how many outside our community are thinking at all about her now or any of the others? 

I’m uneasy with how something as innocuous as social media can cause me so much agony. And I’m angry that I’m devastated that Jewish lives matter so little to people I don’t even know. But even more, I’m silently broken at the other reality - that Jewish lives don’t seem to matter to people.

I’ve often asked myself at what point Jews count as human beings to self-style progressives? And at what point did we become sub-human?

Our bagels and kosher delis are Instagram-worthy and our Holocaust stories make great Hollywood blockbusters. Historical trauma is great, but our murder and brutalisation today, not so much.  

These online leftists love to tell you they would have rescued Jews in Nazi Germany. But their silence - or worse, defence - of rape and murder tells me they wouldn’t have. These are people I and many others now know to avoid -  and to keep my family safely distant.

I’m done with having to deny reality, to tick the check boxes of what it is to be a “good Jew” - for it not to be OK to rape and murder me or kidnap my children. 

However pathetic - or maybe just human - the desire to be cared about by people you otherwise identify with is, I know I’m not alone. It’s the conversation we are all having with each other, but it is not one we have with our non-Jewish friends. Maybe the disappointment of facing "yeah but" from people we know will result in us having to ask the kind of probing questions of our networks that we don’t have the emotional bandwidth for. 

I work in the Jewish community, but I grew up in non-Jewish schools as part of a broad, multi-cultural community. I've always celebrated that over the alternative, but in the last few days I’ve been reminded that membership of that world as a Jew feels conditional, in ways it should not.  

The next few weeks will be spent agonising over the catastrophic human cost of this atrocity. Jews like me, however, are grappling constantly with a contradiction. We see ourselves as part of a community of good – but that community doesn’t see people like us at all. Or worse, it sees us and our pain and just scrolls past it.  

October 09, 2023 15:22

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