Marika Stein
Marika Stein

Why Are We So Hard On Each Other?

I’m really, really saddened by what I’m seeing online lately among my fellow Zionists. Now unless you have no internet access, live under a rock or are wise enough to avoid social media altogether, keyboard war zones will not be news to you, the ad hominems, the cat fights, the personal attacks, the “he said/she said” are all just another Tuesday.

Now if two Jews equals three opinions, 5 online Jews equals three thousand two hundred and seventy eight point six opinions, then two online Zionists equals… do the math. (Hint: there’s more than one right answer. And one of them is “indigestion”).

I’m aware that we are living in unstable times. Shootings, stabbings, vehicular attacks every couple of days. Brexit. The omnipresent US Presidential Election. Brutality by the police. Brutality against the police. And with the fears for our safety, security and stability come the emotions that play tricks on our minds. Naturally fearing the worst as we are wound up into a lather not only by the media, but by interest groups that would politicise and otherwise exploit these events for their own ends.

Now I could go on as I have been, like a broken record, pleading with my Jewish brothers and sisters in vain to be kinder to each other, reminding them that we have “real” enemies out there, imploring to agree to disagree or at least acknowledge the other’s viewpoints when challenging them, without using accusatory words. After all, words can hurt…..even if they are not ad hominems, there is still a difference between denigrating and challenging someone’s ideas.

But what I want to talk about is way more disturbing.

It happens in coexistence groups. Specifically, online coexistence groups where both Israeli and Palestinian supporters can meet, thrash out issues that they feel are halting the peace process, have dialogue, and break down social barriers.

Now I refuse to be cynical. I will continue to participate in these groups. I won’t give up. I’m the “Pollyanna” of Zionism. But damn if it’s not disillusioning sometimes. Oh, and did I mention that it’s not for the reasons you think? The rancour I refer to is the treatment of Jews by other Jews in these groups. That’s right, we Jews can’t even coexist with each other in coexistence groups.

It starts off with the best of intentions. Someone starts a group (say, on Facebook) and adds people they think will be well suited. Often these groups will be co-adminned by both Jews/Israelis and Palestinians. Predictably, as soon as a “hot” topic comes up, things start to fall over. Members of both camps are on the defensive as they face uncomfortable truths.

Honestly, I believe that this fear and confusion overload is messing with our heads, causing us to oversimplify and compartmentalise the information into simplistic tropes and exaggerations in order to process and make sense of the senseless.

However, this is where group moderators should be stepping in. Which is what they do, just very, let’s just say….selectively. To put it bluntly, the Jewish moderators are harsher on their fellow Jews who may or may not have crossed a line, and are quicker to eject them from the group for the most minor of “transgressions” – sometimes within a thirty minute timeframe – than their Arab or Palestinian co-admins would. Meanwhile the latter tends to step back and watch the show.

On the other hand, when it comes to anti Israel and antisemitic vitriol? See no evil, hear no evil…..


Could it be just different respective admin styles, and therefore just coincidental?

Could it be less coincidental and more cultural?

Are the Jewish admins trying to make an example of their fellow tribe members? Do they have higher expectations of their fellow Jews?

Do they feel the need to overcompensate out of legitimate embarrassment at some the genuinely bigoted comments made by a handful of Jews against Palestinians or Arabs?

Could they be trying to garner some brownie points, at the expense of other Jews, with pro Palestinians as a long term strategy, in the hope that over time, this will be reciprocated by their non Jewish co-admins over the anti-Jewish comments?

I’m loathe to suggest this, but could the relative silence by many Palestinian co-admins there be a bit of schadenfreude in seeing “the other” taken down?

I can’t speak for others, but describing my personal experience, I often felt like I had been invited to a party where the surroundings initially appear warm, welcoming and chilled. So I take off my shoes out of respect and savour the plush, soft, fluffy carpet under my feet. I interact and exchange pleasantries with other guests. Then all of a sudden my feet are burning and I yelp in pain. I look down, and realise I’m standing on hot coals. Then I look up again and notice that half of the guests are looking at me with hostility, and not even giving me a chance to recover from the pain and shock before they start shovelling more burning coal over my feet.

To be fair, we all have emotional responses to what we perceive as injustice, but most of us investigate once the emotion has passed and are open to dialogue with those who see the conflict differently. But those that cling to radical or “all or nothing” ideology remain in a place of heightened emotion and ego, including anger, resentment and self righteousness, therefore they shut down any facts that might challenge that sense of righteousness. And this applies to those on either side of the conflict.

So I ask again, what is hoped to be achieved by the double standard of “Jew-shaming” and ostracism? Can we really complain that the world holds Israel to higher standards when we do the same to our own people?

My friends, herein lies the reason why that on matters of Israel, Jews are getting their backs up against each other, shutting down communication, blowing up at each other for the most minute slight. We look at our fellow Jews as being somewhere on the “Kapo-Kahanist” spectrum and judge them accordingly. Instead of engaging them further and putting in the same persuasive energy as when we troll our enemies, we eliminate them, crappy reality TV show style. (Doesn’t sound very pretty when put that way does it?).

If we are willing to be extra tolerant to our future peace partners even when they make distasteful comments against us, then we’re going to have to apply the same standards to ourselves. Or the same policy of “zero tolerance” to provocative and disrespectful statements. Be consistent.

Also think about it, by “voting each other off the island”, aren’t we simply pushing partisan loyalties further towards either end of the spectrum? Do you think you will cure your opponents “ills” by shunning and exclusion? (And ironically, doesn’t this sound awfully like something else we’re dealing with?).

It will be a very sad day where arguing, debating, antagonising and offending each other is no longer as involuntary as sneezing (and equally as contagious). We didn’t survive as a people for three thousand plus years only to end up in a rhetorical “safe space”. Where’s the fun in that?

About the Author
Kooky vegan, Zionist, liberal minded, animal loving, non conformist but very congenial soul from Sydney who left the insurance industry to work as a nanny and self employed pet sitter, when she realised her "inner socialist" was incompatible with denying insurance claims. Defies Jewish stereotypes by enjoying a few wines after work, but compensates for this by cooking enough food on chagim to make even her mother tear her hair out!
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