TRACY-ANN OBER­MAN GETS SE­RI­OUS

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - Tracy-Ann Ober­man

ILEAVE it to oth­ers to do po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis, post the bad news sto­ries and get into the nitty-gritty of the Jewish ex­pe­ri­ence. I’ve al­ways felt my job was to of­fer a bit of per­sonal lev­ity, al­beit with a se­ri­ous un­der­tone, and to chron­i­cle rare news sto­ries like the Ira­nian ob­ses­sion with Jewish wizards or vent my ha­tred of Jewish mother jokes. But this week, I’m in no mood for lev­ity. The war in Gaza rages and chil­dren are dy­ing — and it’s aw­ful. Ob­vi­ously, ev­ery sin­gle em­pa­thetic hu­man be­ing on the planet is in pain for the death toll on both sides of the line.

I’m not go­ing to en­ter the po­lit­i­cal de­bate as to the whys and where­fores of this war. But there is some­thing else afoot. Some­thing that is deeply un­set­tling. Friends and ac­quain­tances who are Jewish, half-Jewish, a quar­ter-Jewish, who iden­tify, don’t iden­tify, who are Zion­ists or res­o­lutely nonZion­ist, have been in con­tact to share how iso­lated and de­pressed they feel at an al­most in­tan­gi­ble sense of an­ti­semitism in the ether.

It’s sud­denly be­come about Jews, not Is­rael. Jews. My aunt-by-mar­riage’s sis­ter-was on the bus the other day, talk­ing to an Is­raeli friend. A woman be­hind them got up and hit her round the head. Look­ing up in pain, and hor­ri­fied, she said: “That’s aw­ful”. The woman shouted back at her: “Yes, you are!”

A friend’s par­ents were spat at in the street when they came out of sy­n­a­gogue. That’s not to men­tion the posters at the Gaza demon­stra­tions declar­ing, “Hitler was right”. Let’s not even go into the poi­son and venom on so­cial me­dia.

The re­port­ing on Gaza has been re­lent­less, non-stop for three weeks. It’s knocked other se­ri­ous is­sues off the news perch — Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Isis, ebola, any­one? Hour af­ter hour of cov­er­age, of­ten one-sided, UN con­dem­na­tion and hard­ened news re­porters like Jon Snow cry­ing into the cam­era at the hor­ror of it all. I would be cry­ing into the cam­era at the hor­rors in Gaza, but I ex­pect more from my news jour­nal­ists. I ex­pect dis­pas­sion­ate facts. Leave the cry­ing to me.

But I un­der­stand it. I un­der­stand that peo­ple are out­raged and fu­ri­ous at Is­rael’s seem­ingly hard­ened lead­ers. What I don’t un­der­stand is why sud­denly the ver­nac­u­lar has changed. The word “Is­raeli”— in lieu of “the Is­raeli govern­ment” — has meta­mor­phosed into “the Jew”.

On a per­sonal note, as an ac­tress, the news that a small­time hip-hop show from a theatre com­pany from Jerusalem has had its pro­duc­tion pulled from the Edinburgh Fringe af­ter one show, has left me reel­ing. In­cu­ba­tor Theatre’s crime is that it’s partly funded by Is­rael’s Min­istry of Cul­ture (a grant no doubt re­ceived over a year ago).

The bit­ter irony is that this com­pany, based in Jerusalem, has opened a plat­form en­abling Is­raeli and Pales­tinian per­form­ers to work to­gether. The com­pany’s re­mit has been to work in both east and west Jerusalem. Who­ever is re­spon­si­ble for pulling them out of the fes­ti­val has to an­swer the ques­tion “Who is the bigot now?”

I ex­pect more from news jour­nal­ists

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