It happened on the train. A text message from an old friend of my husband’s, thinking she’s doing the right thing or maybe not trying to be kind at all.
“You’re being a Nazi,” it read. “It’s too bad you support the genocide of innocent people.”
Both of us froze. The words glared at us like flashlights, impossible to ignore. I wanted to cry. Suddenly, I couldn’t explain away her anger. My attempt at understanding antisemites fell flat. I, the great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, was being called a Nazi.
My anger wasn’t hot. It was cold. My body was frozen in shock and fear. I had just read that the returned hostages would be given pregnancy tests. And it isn’t Stockholm Syndrome when you’re being raped. My hatred for his old friend – and let’s call her Ana because that’s her name – settled into my body comfortably.
I wondered if I should give her an education. Maybe she had never heard of the days-long train rides spent standing up. Or the bunk beds holding a dozen people a night. It was possible she’d never learned of the moldy bread, or the human science experiments, or the long walks in the snow without shoes. But she must have heard of the ovens.
Everyone has heard about the gas chambers and the labor camps. Everyone knows the number 6 million. It’s a number so carefully tracked that not one could be missed. Auschwitz still has the list on display. I have rifled through it, searching out the names of my family and imagining what their lives might have been like.
I always felt blessed not to have lived through that. Growing up, the stories of Egypt and Germany were thrown around the table like water. Always there, never anyone’s first choice. Some of my aunts had numbers. The Holocaust never died for the Jews – we never imagined how it would come back alive for the rest of the world.
People today like to use the word privilege. White skin, large paychecks, male. They use these words to justify their own anger and hatred. They apply it to other people to allow their own prejudice. But I have come up with a better word: narcissism.
As a Jew, I have always understood the Muslim community’s need to stand up for the Palestinians. No matter how I see the conflict, the Palestinians are their family. The way the Israelis are mine. I will never agree, but I can respect it. But their focus should be on their people, not the hatred of Jews.
The rhetoric at pro-Palestinian protests has called for the gassing of the Jews, a Jewish genocide, and the slaughtering of every single Jewish Israeli alive. Practically no one is boycotting China for the genocide against the Uyghurs. Many don’t even know there is a genocide going on. Chinese Americans aren’t afraid for their lives because of the Chinese government’s actions and people haven’t stopped vacationing in Beijing.
It is not because it is different. It is because people hate Jews.
Jumping on the anti-Israel trend, and claiming you are as educated as you need to be because you’ve read one-sided media, is ignorant. Claiming you understand that conflict better than those that live it is narcissism. And calling a Jew a Nazi is hatred.
I know Ana doesn’t stand alone. I know she is backed by thousands of people whose cushy North American lives leave them needing something to believe in. I know that Americans hate the Jews because of their ‘privilege.’ But I wonder how privileged a nation can be when it has been persecuted as often as the Jews, I wonder how white a nation can be when millions of its people come from Africa, and I wonder how blinded by your own hatred you can be, to justify calling a Jew a Nazi.