I can imagine that, for a teacher, a GCSE religious studies lesson on racism may be one of the most challenging classes to teach, especially in a school like mine; overrun with teenage girls desperate to voice their opinions in an attempt to seem more intelligent than their classmates.
The other week, I was sitting in class, learning about prejudice, already pissed off having had to discuss why ‘reverse racism’ is simply just ‘racism.’ Doodling Radiohead lyrics over my folder and pondering why on earth I had chosen to study RS, I couldn’t help but tune into a conversation between two of my classmates. One girl, for the sake of privacy let’s call her Jennifer, was explaining to a friend why Israel obviously belongs to the Arabs, not the Jews. Fair enough, if she has evidence to support this. But what Jennifer said next surely would’ve angered anybody, let alone a girl like me whose family has been directly affected by anti-Semitism. “The Jews could’ve stayed in Germany after the war, instead of going to Israel. What Hitler did sucked, but it didn’t just effect the Jews.”
The idea of the Jews staying in Germany after the war is, for blatantly obvious reasons, utter bullshit.
How could the Jews possibly stay in Germany? The country was in ruins, physically and economically. Children had been separated from their parents and the concept of ‘home’ had been completely eviscerated. How can you immediately rebuild a community that has been destroyed to such an extent? In 1933, when Hitler became chancellor, there was circa 500,000 Jews living in Germany. By 1950, there was only 37,000. Why stay in a country in which you have experienced the most severe trauma?
What Jennifer has done here is made the very link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism which racists everywhere deny they are doing. It is perfectly possible to be against the Israeli government and their brutal domestic policy, and simultaneously not be an anti-Semite. But as soon as you relate the Holocaust to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the way that has been done here, you are both insensitive and ignorant.
Just to clarify, I agree completely with the fact that the Holocaust is not personal to Jews alone, as other minorities were also persecuted. But Jennifer is implying that the Jews are, in a sense, making it out to be worse than it was. 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. We are allowed to be upset. We must talk about the Holocaust today, because if we do not do so, then eventually, it will just become a terrible story that you hear from your grandparents, but never believe is true.
For a moment, I would like to de-personalise this story- to ensure its objectivity, I have reflected on what really bothered me about what I heard.
Once all reference to my cultural roots had been edited out, and it had been reconstructed as a skeletal story, I had the following realisation. I worked out that what bothered me the most was not the direction of the hate, but the absence of honesty or intellectual rigour in its construct.
If you want to be a revisionist, be a revisionist. If you want to hate Israel, hate Israel. If you want to hate Trump, hate Trump, and ditto Hilary. But don’t conflate your hatreds into one unfathomable mass, or we won’t be able to see you coming.
I am sick to death of self-righteous, self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ girls, who think that, because they are at an international school, they cannot possible be racist. I am sick to death of people who think they can assume their opinion prevails over everybody else’s, without even attempting to see both sides of the argument, or give accurate evidence. You cannot truly be a liberal, let alone an intellectual, if you do not have reasonable backing and foundations behind your beliefs. Get over it.
(The publication of this article has catalysed debate amongst the community that I live in, including some healthy closure on the issue between the key players. I would like to clarify that whilst I stand by every point I have made, my opening annecdote was merely a tool to get across a wider idea. People don’t always consider the wider significance and possible interpretations of their words, and it is important for me to emphasise that things like this should not define someone as a person.)