TRACY-ANN OBERMAN GETS SERIOUS
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