Hate is twice cursed, mercy twice blessed
Jews know the pain of losing a home. Jews know what it is like to never be able to return to one
“I think I may well be a Jew.”
Same, sister Sylvia Plath, same! If I had any doubt, it was dispelled on November 11 in London when the United Kingdom (UK) saw the second biggest people’s march ever in its history. I found myself right at the head of the Palestine solidarity march as protestors gathered demanding an immediate ceasefire.
One of the first batches to cross the river towards the American embassy, the Jewish community of London led the charge against the complicity of the UK government in letting Benjamin Netanyahu continue with his impunity. It does not take much to do the right thing, as the Jews demonstrated by decrying State violence against the civilian population of Gaza. They know best what it means to be collectively dehumanised. Jews understand that faith-based hatred knows no bounds. The Jews also realise that silence is not the answer in the face of injustice. In the wake of growing anti-Semitic violence in European cities after the escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict, Jews know that the boulder of hate is almost impossible to control once it rolls down the path of irrational justifications. It unleashes indiscriminate destruction with no concessions for anyone. Once you live by identity, you die by identity.
Jews know that identity of one kind doesn’t necessarily preclude other identities. Or decency. On November 11, the participating white population of London seemed to have outnumbered black and brown Londoners. The marching Jews were particularly conspicuous with their placards and, sometimes, orthodox appearance. An old Jewish woman, visibly tired even before the march began, upheld the placard saying “Not In My Name”. I later spotted hundreds of similar posters and banners. Multiple iterations of “This Jew Does Not Support Bombing Gaza”. Jews know that collective punishment is not only immoral but also ineffective. It sets off a chain reaction.
Many war-thirsty experts — mostly non-Jewish — see any Jewish support for a ceasefire in Palestine as the doing of ‘self-hating’ Jews. If self-hate must be defined today as empathy for unarmed civilians, mostly children, it is certainly more desirable than murderous self-love. Jews young and old are shunning the criminality of the Israeli military action against Gaza’s civilians. Jews know that bloodshed in their name doesn’t keep them safe. Jews know that hate is twice cursed, mercy twice blessed.
A sinister triumvirate of identity politics, geopolitical machinations, and economic gains fuels the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jews understand it all. They have seen it before. Many times across centuries. The ‘gentile gaze’ and ‘Islamophobia’ are but two sides of the same coin. Jews are now shunning both.
Some people raised anti-Jewish slogans during the march, clearly intent on causing trouble. But the marching Jews were unperturbed. Jews know all about raising the strawman. The march steered clear of any religious iconography or overt religiosity. No religious slogans, no Muslim-Jewish-Christian claims and counter-claims. The only reigning emotion and slogan — “We Are All Palestinians”. Pure solidarity.
Jews know the pain of losing a home. Jews know what it is like to never be able to return to one. Jews know what historian Simon Sebag Montefiore says, “Jerusalem was a city of continuity and coexistence, a hybrid metropolis of hybrid buildings and hybrid people who defy the narrow categorisations that belong in the separate religious legends and nationalist narratives of later times.”
Nishtha Gautam is an author, academic and journalist. She’s the co-editor of In Hard Times, a Bloomsbury book on national security. The views expressed are personal