Why is it so hard for Jewish people to denounce Israel’s human rights violations?

Arié Moyal
Feb 14, 2019 · 6 min read
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Photo by T. Chick McClure on Unsplash

People want to know why it’s so hard for Jewish people to denounce Israel’s human rights violations. Let me try and explain.

First let me say that it baffles and angers me that Israel treats anyone badly given what the Jewish people have been through. To understand what is happening you must first understand that our trauma, which studies has shown is passed on genetically through the generations, is being exploited by the white patriarchy for profit. This is not an excuse and I would NEVER say it was. I am, myself, a cycle breaker within my own family and know it is possible to break away from the cycle of the oppressed justifying oppression with trauma but it isn't easy because we're not really taught how and that's by design.

I think Grace Lee Boggs said it best though:

“Being a victim of oppression […] is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother’s womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieves power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.“

The creation of the settler-colonialist State of Israel is the definition of internalised oppression and the military-industrial complex further reinforces the PTSD we acquired through our oppression by continuing to apply pressure on politicians to keep the conflict going .This contributes to the continued and forced conscription of young Israelis into military service with mandatory reserve duty into their 40s. It’s a mess and the backlash for refusing to serve or speaking up against conscription or even admitting to PTSD is huge and scary. In Israel, toxic masculinity is a big part of the culture regardless of gender and there is little patience for emotion. That said, there are many anti-oppression and anti-occupation groups such as Courage to Refuse, Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem in Israel but the patriarchy in Israel fights them tooth and nail. For example, Breaking the Silence and other leftist groups are banned from Israeli schools by a law that was fast-tracked through the Knesset and got 51 votes for and only 17 against.

All of this breaks my heart and I am using my privilege in my spheres of influence to have discussions with other Jews and Israelis. I am no supporter of any states because they are all inherently violent and oppressive and I have no problem denouncing what the state of Israel purports to do in my name. The irony being that, as a racialised Jewish person, I have less credibility with White Jews unless I can fool them with my green eyes and by mispronouncing my name to sound like how they would say it and even then I get written off as an idiot and a bleeding heart liberal. Joke’s on them! My Judaism has led me much further left than “liberal”.

The saddest part for me is seeing other JOCs give their full-throated support to the State given how it has treated them and continues to treat them. The Europeans came to us in Africa and the Middle East with their white saviour narrative telling us how we would be better off in Israel and then proceeded to mistreat us, put our lives in danger and even go as far as steal our babies! Not to mention the danger the Balfour Declaration and the creation of the State by the UN created for so many of us who had to flee and would be stateless without Israel. Which is a stark contrast to the white Jewish people, especially the settlers, who can fall back on at least one other passport if not more should things go wrong.

It’s not easy to move past our trauma, our indoctrination and the machinations of the patriarchy which seeks to turn marginalised communities against each other and masquerades as a friend of the Jews (but being very clear that they are really only supporters of the State of Israel or "Zion" because of the profit they can derive from it) all the while turning us and other marginalised groups against each other by granting us a semblance of privilege. White Jews have for a very long time been seeking acceptance from the patriarchy even though it has always led to disaster but which appears to be the end of all of the threats and trauma we have been through and as such many have latched onto it and are afraid to let go for fear of being on the oppressor's bad side again. Little do they know they are only being used and will never be fully accepted. The privilege Jews have been granted only exists because it can be used to deflect the blame for the effects of white supremacy onto us.

Indeed, the patriarchy is exploiting our trauma and promising law and order and security and stability which is very understandably something people who have been what we have been through would seek when given the opportunity. That’s why the patriarchy has extended us a semblance of privilege. So that we will buy into their shenanigans and see them as allies when they are only using us to seize the Middle East’s oil and use taxpayer dollars and the US’ borrowing abilities to enrich themselves through the sales of weapons to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This fear of ending up in the patriarchy's direct firing line again makes those denouncing Israel's actions a target for those who see Israel as a safe haven for Jewish people and who have internalised the oppressor's us versus them mentality. Like most people in the world, they do not see the patriarchy as a threat. They see them as the patriarchy has portrayed itself so successfully: as the great civilisers who create order and justice wherever they go. And that's not even getting into the worldwide worship of whiteness and white standards of beauty even if whiteness only means having slightly less melanin that other people in your own community. Something I have experienced firsthand. As such, people who see the human rights violations must also weigh the risk of being ostracised by their communities and even disowned by their families. This is not easy. Nor is it easy, especially in an environment geared towards selling you on nationalism and Zionism and fear of people of colour, to admit to yourself that what you were brought up to believe isn’t because it challenges your identity and even your genetics.

I know this sounds like I'm apologising for the behaviour of right-wing Jews. But I am not. And I would hope that you can now see that Jewish people are not part of the patriarchy and are themselves oppressed and while they can be guilty of white fragility (if they are indeed white) but that the hurdles to overcome are much greater for them than for white people. I’m not asking for a pass, I’m asking for some breathing room and even support while those of us who are willing and able to denounce Israel's failures use our privilege to turn this ship around. Please stop using the patriarchy’s taking points about why they support Israel and stop using antisemitic tropes and dog whistles when taking about why the patriarchy supports the State of Israel. Please use your non-Jewish privilege to counter those who use them and explain to your spheres of influence how Jews are being used as a shield for the patriarchy. We cannot let the patriarchy divide us. That’s how they keep getting away with stealing from the working class and killing people of colour.

I welcome your thoughts and questions and hope this has been helpful.

Parsha Posts

Jews giving personal reflections on all things Jewish: Torah, parshat, daf, holidays, food, & life.

Arié Moyal

Written by

Founder of HugTrain, a movement (literally!!) focused on empowerment through small actions

Parsha Posts

Grab your coffee and let’s talk mishnah! Want to write for us? Drop a line to phazelmare@gmail.com, including a brief bio and your finished article. Zay gezunt!

Arié Moyal

Written by

Founder of HugTrain, a movement (literally!!) focused on empowerment through small actions

Parsha Posts

Grab your coffee and let’s talk mishnah! Want to write for us? Drop a line to phazelmare@gmail.com, including a brief bio and your finished article. Zay gezunt!

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