I never thought I will ever be affected by antisemitism. I grew up in Prague, and I don’t remember hearing any anti- Jewish jokes or comments as a child. Well, there were some, but somehow, I never connected it with antisemitism.
“This is like in a Jewish school” – Czech idiom about noisy environment when everybody is talking at the same time. That is one I remember.
I only found out I was Jewish when I was 14 or 15. My family, Holocaust survivors, never told me, because they wanted to protect me from antisemitism and discrimination they knew so well.
Of course, that meant that the most important part of my family history was never talked about. I knew my grandfather and uncle died in the war but didn’t know it was in a concentration camp. As a child, I imagined they were soldiers. Soldiers die in wars, don’t they?
I only found out gradually the horrible change to my family’s lives after the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. The gradual loss of rights and normal life, ending with deportation. Many were killed.
Even when I knew and started to tell people I was Jewish; I haven’t encountered antisemitism. Sometimes the opposite, also stupid. The presumption that I must be more educated, intellectual, sophisticated, because I was Jewish.
But when I spoke to my friend who also grew up in Prague, she told me she did get called antisemitic names at school. “You had a Czech surname, and your father didn’t walk around in short sleeves with his Auschwitz tattoo visible like mine. You didn’t encounter antisemitism because nobody, not even you, knew you were Jewish.” She said.
I live I England, and recently there has been signs of antisemitism everywhere in Europe. The anti-Soros conspiracy theories – it is antisemitism, just replace “Soros” with “Jew”. The quips about “citizens of nowhere”, the reports of how many Jewish people in Europe experienced antisemitism lately.
I see it on Facebook- I recently reported some profile photos with a swastika, and other sites, it is in the news about Labour Party…
Often, it relates to Israel. People who are anti-Israeli politics presume, falsely, that all Jews support it.
I don’t, and so don’t many people. When I visited Israel, I was repeatedly told by locals that it was my home country, I should move there. But it is not. For me, Israel is a foreign country with a system and politics I often disagree with.
Yes, it might be the only democratic country in the Middle East, but that only shows how messed up the whole Middle East is. Being an emigrant, I suppose I am a bit of a “ citizen of nowhere”, I have dual British and Czech citizenship, and I call England my home, but Prague is my home town. I suppose I am home where my friends and family are.
I used to worry about my identity. I didn’t seem to belong to any of the three boxes- am I Czech, Jewish, British?
I remember reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Finkler_Question
I loved the book, but even though it was supposed to be funny, it made me cry. I was depressed at the time, and the book seemed to be telling me that being Jewish means there is no hope for me. That my identity depends on what other people take me for. A character in the book, Sam Finkler is a member of an anti-Israel organisation in the UK “AsHamed Jews”, he is Jewish, and passionately pro-Palestinian. Yet, he, like other Jewish protagonists still falls victim to antisemitic bullying. “There is no escape”, I thought.
When my depression got better, I no longer worried about the identity problem. I decided that I belong to all three boxes, I am British, Jewish and Czech. That feels good.
But observing Israeli politics getting more controversial, with president Benyamin Netanyahu even bizarrely joining the anti-Soros campaign, and wanting to annex part of West Bank, antisemitism seems to be growing.
Pro- Israeli and anti-Israeli activist all make the same generalisation, that Jews must be pro- Israeli, it is natural.
I always disliked generalisations. People are people, and not all members of any nation have the same political views.
The generalisations worry me, like those about Muslims being hostile to our civilisation. SOME are, like SOME Jews support Israeli politics.
I don’t. I don’t support Palestinian politics either, in my opinion, both sides are wrong. And Palestine, like Israel, is a foreign country for me.
But I have a nightmare. Nightmare of Europe becoming more antisemitic and anti-Muslim- it is often the same people hating both groups. Until we might start seeing scenes like the Kristallnacht in 1938.
I hope I am wrong. Surely, we, people, cannot be THAT stupid.
But then I think about all those episodes of ethnic cleansing and violence against minorities all around the world. And I start to worry that we are exactly that- stupid, never learning from our mistakes.