Rachel Wahba

Never Again/ Silence = Death

“Can you be “less of a Jew?” she asked over lunch. “No, but I can be more of one.”

I wasn’t “too Jewish” like Jackie Mason or even Seinfeld. I am so not. Not the American Ashkenazi Jew with roots in Europe and New York that I grew up wishing I was. I grew up Stateless in Japan. Culturally Middle Eastern, Judeo-Arabic, not Yiddish is my mother-tongue. I grew up on Arabic food and Arabic music.  Zionism/Israel, inextricably linked to my identity as a Jew, was the offending issue.

Several months before being asked to be less of a Jew, she made a request I was happy to oblige. “Help me out here,” she said, “I am surrounded by a sea pro-Palestinians.”

I gave her Albert Memmi’s  Jews and Arabs, Martin Gilbert’s In Ishmael’s House, and explained how under Islamic ideology all of Israel is a “Settlement.”She learned there was such a thing as Arabic Jews, that more than half of Israel were Mizrahim, Jews from Arab lands.

Surely with her bright mind and raised consciousness she could do something about her anti-Zionists.

As an out lesbian, she knew what she was asking of me. She was smart enough to know there is no difference between a liberated Jew and a Zionist. She also realized there was no room in her scene for an out Zionist any more than there was for her as an out lesbian in her family 20 years ago.

“Don’t ask don’t tell?” Even among Jews, I’ve seen rabbis in Reform and Conservative synagogues have to “come out” as Zionists.  This is how far Arafat’s Lie and Hamas and Fatah’s crocodile tears have rejuvenated anti-Semitism.

Perhaps a behaved Jew could join her circle, especially one with such an “unusual” history. But a Zionist was distasteful, uncool, an oppressor of brown people. Never mind that I am brown, never mind that my family, especially the Iraqi side lived in fear as second class citizens. Yes, there were better times and worse times for Jews under Islam, but a Jew was always unclean. And now, in too many progressive circles, the Zionist Jew is unclean.

For me to stop caring so much about Israel (and anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism) seemed reasonable.  Think of all the fun we could have without this unseemly identification.

Just forget about it, be less of a Jew and fit into her social group, travel together, instead of just meeting alone for short dinners or lunches.

My negative response made me the intransigent Jew, bringing up Saint Mary’s and Stella Maris, my childhood missionary schools in Japan all over again. The nuns didn’t understand — Jesus was a Jew, why was I refusing to join the party?

It looked like a lot of fun, and I wanted to go to Confession and get rid of my sins like the other girls. I wondered what the wafer would feel like melting on my tongue.

“You are Israel,” she texted me once, before she began posting videos blaming Israel for the horror in Gaza. No posts about Hamas’ unrelenting attacks and bombings, nothing about their savage placement of ammunition in the midst of civilian centers, no posts describing the unrelenting practice of indoctrinating children with hate and Jihadi ideology dedicated to total destruction of Israel and Jews.

I understood she was about to be isolated in her own group, the sea of anti-Zionist pro-Palestinians. But my heart sank anyway, I had hoped she was smart enough and strong enough to care about Jewish survival. She had Jewish grandparents who survived the Holocaust.

When Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks of her suffering as a Muslim woman born in Somalia, the horror of Sharia law, the brutal enforcement of Islam in Saudi Arabia, and the tragic need for reformation as she confronts Political Islam/Jihad, she is labeled “Islamophobic.” With unbridled courage Hirsi Ali continues to fight for freedom and “loves Israel” the only free country in the region. She endures constant threats on her life for doing so. In her latest book Heretic, she tries to wake us up.

I feel the pain of running in progressive circles when it comes to Israel. Anti-Zionism is growing in popularity as Radical Islam rises. In his last weeks in office, Barak Obama has gone further to delegitimize Israel’s sovereignty than most liberal Jews, myself included, ever imagined he would. It’s the settlements, not Political Islam that is the problem.

When “Silence=Death” raised consciousness during the AIDS epidemic every progressive I knew rallied, as they should have.  Silence when it comes to terror groups like Hamas, hypocrisy like the BDS movement, going numb when another bomb explodes in Tel Aviv, when terrorists bomb buses, cafes, teach children to stab Jewish pedestrians, and Palestinian leaders celebrate murder by handing out candy to children raised to be suicide bombers, ignoring terror, ignoring terror, ignoring terror… the insanity is almost unbelievable.

“Never Again” means making sure Israel is safe. Never Again not only in Europe, Never Again in the Middle East. Never Again in Israel.

About the Author
Rachel Wahba is a San Francisco Bay Area based writer, psychotherapist and the co-founder of Olivia Travel. An Egyptian-Iraqi Jew, Rachel was born in India and grew up stateless in Japan. The many dimensions of her exile and displacement are a constant theme in her professional work as well as her activism as an advisory board member for JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).