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I’m British, don’t hate me!

July 10, 2007

Last summer I took the decision to change my surname. After years of hating it for various reasons (it was too long, no one could spell it, plus I didn’t like people knowing something personal about me – an assuming my political beliefs based solely their knowledge of on my religion) I decided it was time for a change. My passport was up for renewal anyway so it wasn’t a massive extra cost. But what spurred me on the most was what was going on between Israel and Lebanon at the time.

I’m not religious. I don’t take that much of an interest in what’s going on in the Middle East because I feel the situation is so complex and both sides have their fair arguments. But in this case, it seemed to me that Lebanon had kidnapped Israeli soldiers and so they were in ‘the wrong.’ Israel responded with force – something that many saw as a tad extreme, and perhaps it was. But I wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of anti-Israel beliefs from many left-wingers and liberal folk (people who, I thought, were just like me). It left me very afraid and insecure about my position as a Jew, and it was this that finally made me sign the papers and change my surname to something a little more agreeable to the rest of the world.

I hate to agree with Richard Littlejohn, but his programme last night The War On Britain’s Jews (CH4, 8pm) really struck a chord with me. It concentrated on the various factions of Britain’s society that are slowly but surely expressing (and spreading) anti-Semitic views. These range from the obvious Neo-Nazis and Palestinians to (shockingly) left-wing, Guardian readers who pride themselves on their tolerance and anti-racism agenda. It might seem odd to you but I’ve had experience of this myself.

A few years ago, Mr Badger and I attended the wedding of some friends of his. It was a proper hippy wedding with bare feet and flowers and afterwards we all went back to the pub for a good piss-up. I was sat with some friends of the groom and somehow we got into conversation about surnames. I mentioned my (then very Jewish) surname and was met with a barrage of (admittedly drunken) abuse about Israel’s foreign policy and the fact that they’re America’s darling, etc. I was shocked and looked at him in disbelief. He was talking to me as if I should feel guilty or responsible. But I was born in Chester for gawd’s sake! I’ve only visited Israel once – how could I be held responsible for somewhere like that?

The final straw for me (and my surname) came when the Lebanon thing kicked off and my boss assumed I was on Israel’s side. Why? Sure there is a part of me that is loyal to my race, but why would I automatically agree with Israel? To be honest, I did actually think Lebanon shouldn’t have kidnapped the soldiers in the first place, and they should know not to mess with a country that has both military might and not much tolerance for provocation, so in that instance, I think I did ‘side’ with Israel. But that’s beside the point. I hate the fact that people assume things about me based only on my being Jewish. And I hate people knowing that I’m Jewish before they even know my eye colour for example.

Sometimes when I see Israel’s treatment of Arabs left in Gaza and I was left very uncomfortable. For some reason, I did feel guilty and slightly responsible – but why? I’m British! It’s crazy! It’s not as if I’m even religious at all.

One thing that made me think in Littlejohn’s documentary was that Israel is actually very small compared with the rest of the Arab world. He made an interesting point, demonstrating the vast areas of Arab land compared with Israel on the map.

One thing we have to remember is that Jewish people (and Israelis) can also be racist. Our religions have various laws that followers must abide by and many of these are outright racist. Jews aren’t allowed marry non-Jews for example. I understand that it’s primary goal is to keep the blood-line ‘pure’ but this sets limits on Jews and creates outcasts – an ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude if you like. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been at a family gathering and someone sniffs at another family member because they ‘married in’ or gossiped about some distant cousin who ‘married out’. This kind of racism disgusts me and makes me very angry. Surely if you fall in love with someone that’s all that matters.

I think part of this racism also stems from the paranoia and fear that many Jews feel because of the abuse they’ve had over the centuries. It stands to reason that if you get bit too many times, you begin to fear and hate the dog, right? You stick to your ‘own kind’ and dislike anything that’s different. But Jews and Arabs aren’t that different. We’re both Semitic religions, so can’t we all just get along?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 10, 2007 10:39 am

    You keep saying that “Lebanon” kidnapped the soldiers. They didn’t, it wasn’t the actions of the Lebanese military and it was not sanctioned by the Lebanese government. That is why people were so offended when all of the people of Lebanon were made to pay a price – with their lives in some cases – for the actions of a small number of militants.

    How would you feel if your home was attacked simply because you happened to live in the same town as a criminal?

  2. Badger Madge permalink
    July 10, 2007 10:42 am

    But isn’t that exactly my point above? I *do* feel I’m being targeted because of Israel’s actions and people’s hatred of Israel. So I can tell you how I feel: I feel scared and angry…

  3. Rich permalink
    July 10, 2007 4:10 pm

    “so can’t we all just get along?”


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