How I became a Zionist

My name is Walid Tamtam; I was born on June 20th, 2002 in Gatineau, Quebec to a family with some Moroccan roots. I quickly grew into a reality that taught me that my background was more than just my DNA or ancestry; rather it came with luggage like stereotypes, political views, and greater access to certain communities.

My first experience in my life was in the second grade orientation week of the school year, it was September of 2008, right after the summer Olympics that inspired the teachers to organize all students into groups of 5, each representing a country. Being such a young group of kids, it made sense that we were all meant to wear a large flag, attached as a necklace so they would not go all missing while we played around the schoolyard in multiple games of tag. The significance of this event was not on the campus of my former elementary school that I went to for 7 years; rather it was the 7 minutes outside of school on the way home. It was on the sidewalk of my path back home where I experienced the reality when I was approached by a 20-year-old looking University of Ottawa student (was wearing a Laurier Sweater) who proceeded to grab the flag of my neck and rip it into 4 pieces on the sidewalk and send 7 years old me crying back home. I never fully told this story to my mother until about the 6th grade I believe but it stayed with me as I grew up in the following years. When I would once again see Israel flags, I questioned all the negative backlash and what happened, I asked friends, classmates, and distant family only to come up with a list of reasons why I should feel the same for the most part.

The experiences from the 2nd grade took me to my later years where it planted the seed of my Anti-Zionist thinking. When friends and family friends invited me to join marches in favor of raising awareness for the Palestinian cause, I went in without a second thought, marching on the streets and laying near local synagogues to bring the attention of this cause to Jewish people who wish to practice their faith within safe walls. Such an image disturbs me today, when people march for Yemen against Saudi Coalition efforts or the Syrian War or anything of sorts, they do not march to Mosques, as they should not conflate the issues of governments and with its peoples. The practice of extreme conflation of issues, peoples, cultures, and history is the beacon of the process that makes such a conflict so messy and polarizing in the first place. It becomes very hard for Arabs to separate what they are speaking on, is it Jews, Israelis, Jewish Israelis, the Israeli government or America. This inability to not conflate issues with peoples is a perfect example of how the Anti-Semitic double standards are systemically thriving within the Palestinian movements, where Palestinians and Palestinians with experience on the ground are the extreme minority.

The climate in Canada on these issues seems to be inspired by its demographics of Muslims and Arabs who chose to put this cause beyond many others for identity politics rather than the understanding of the cause itself. They are in favor of standing with their Palestinian brothers and sisters by claiming Al-Quds (Jerusalem) is the land for Muslims and only Muslims, failing to understand that not all Palestinians are Muslim. They speak on inequalities between the Jews and Muslims of the land by conflating national identifies such as Israelis or Palestinians, ignoring the fact that as of 2019, Israel was home to nearly 1.9 million “Israeli Arabs” citizens.

My paradigm shift on the issue for me woke up and realized itself finally around 2018 when I realized the toxicity I see in schools among anti-Semitic students who make holocaust jokes in class and my Arab friends talking about Jewish people in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had woke up to the harsh showing of the true connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. At this same time, however, I challenged this with peers and strangers from school to social media to every other place where I find myself, only to receive harsh backlash and even remarkably, the harsh anti-Semitic tropes sent my way. Disregard less of my background with the only goal to strip me of my humanity for my humanity to the Jewish people and Zionist indigenous liberation cause. I realized that this may be a space and cause that can use a voice like me to break down the voices of hate, extremism that buy into the binary nature of the very foundation of this toxic conflict that has frankly hurt too many on all sides at all times and has yet to resolve itself.

The future I see if one when people can critique what deserves to be critiqued, the middle-east can stop obsessively hating Israel and blaming its very existence for the suffering of the Palestinian people. When the binary manner of thinking that was brought on by British colonialism in the region by promising or dividing land by different groups set the stage for this over 72 years old, conflict. Physiological decolonization and a wake up to the reality to people who thought as I once did may offer a better future that I am sure they may also desire but not understand the way they get there. I must admit that there are indeed activists in this space on the so-called “pro-Palestinian” side that have good intentions, but that is the very problem, it’s the hijacking of these good intentions that allow one to fall into an anti-Semitic echo chamber. This reality perfectly illustrates the history of anti-Semitism is one of pinning real suffering on the blame of the Jewish people, therefore causing division within communities that energize hate against this already historically targeted group. I am here not only to change the narrative on Israel but also fight against this very old form of hate which I find as an attack on all people of color and minorities, while hate may start with the Jewish communities it does not finish and the attack of Western values and plurality are always next in line.

In conclusion, I believe by elevating my voice today as a proud Zionist and an ally to Israel that I can open up a new manner of thinking to many more like me and of all kinds by using my skills to reach new markets and heights of thinking. Frankly, much of what we see today is a repeat of old sentiments and talking points that need to be challenged with a new, next-generation approach that I and other activists in the field can offer. Please be tuned in to my story on how I fight to write another chapter in history the Canadian way, by bringing people together around a new reality on the issues in the Middle East and the communities affected by them.

About the Author
Walid Tamtam was born in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, growing up hailing from a Moroccan background in schools, mosques, and other familiar social environments, anti-semitism seemed to be acceptable if not encouraged. Since two years ago Walid, broke out of his echo chambers to tell the full story and break down the polarization of these communities and act as a bridge to bring people together.
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