I was very depressed on the way in to work today.  I was too depressed to do my usual Torah study on the train.  I had thoughts like “I can’t do this.  I can’t go into work.  I just want a normal life.  I just want someone to share my life with.  I want to die.  I’m useless and weak.”  Just feeling that my life is a mess and that I can’t sort it out.  I was worried by how quickly my thoughts go from “I feel depressed” to “I want to die,” which may be an autistic and/or alexithymic inability to really distinguish between emotional states except for the most extreme.

It was a boring day at work.  I felt that I made some mistakes, although my line manager seemed supportive.  She also let me change my workdays so that I can see the psychiatrist after being messed around by the NHS (not entirely their fault, but it’s happened too many times for me to feel forgiving).  But a lot of the time I was doing fairly boring, menial work which let my mind wander, which is never good.

I try not to be political here, but I was thinking a lot about antisemitism today.  The catalyst was the seven MPs who left the Labour Party yesterday.  The media and social media have mostly focused on the Brexit aspect, but I was glad that they publicly called out Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party on the antisemitism that has consumed the party in the last few years.  There has been an antisemitic element on the hard-left long before Israel (the usual “excuse” for left-wing antisemitism) was created, back through the antisemitic oppression of the USSR to the origins of the organised left in the nineteenth century, the assumption that ‘capitalist’ and ‘Jew’ are synonyms and if there is a shadowy group of people controlling the world’s economies, they are Jewish as well as rich and powerful (see the antisemitic mural Corbyn supported on Facebook), but it has only received a fraction of the coverage that the antisemitism of the far-right receives, on both a popular and academic level.  So far as I can tell, most historians writing academically about the history of far-left antisemitism are Jewish, which is not the case with people writing about Nazi antisemitism.

It was difficult to have all these thoughts (and more) in my head all day, although to be honest, there are probably few days when I don’t think about antisemitism at all and this has been the case for nearly twenty years.  I’m constantly obsessing and worrying about it, less about whether I will be attacked or have to leave the country and more what Jews as a group can do when we are defamed and attacked.  How we can stop people hating us.  The answer, of course, is that we can’t.  We can be the best people we can possibly be, but even that won’t stop people hating us.  The problem lies with them, not us.  It was thinking that the problem lies with us that led to unprecedented numbers of Jews abandoning Jewish life in the last two hundred years as a burden or a curse.

Whenever I hear or think about Corbyn and his coterie, I feel angry, anxious and depressed at once, but when Jews voice our fears of growing antisemitism (antisemitic attacks in the UK reached a new high in every one of the last three years) we are smeared as “racists” and “Trumpers” and, yes, part of a shadowy international Zionist conspiracy (one Labour MP and Corbyn ally is claiming the seven breakaway MPs are funded by the Israeli government…), rather than receiving the support that progressives usually give to persecuted minority groups who try to speak out against hatred and abuse.  Unfortunately, these thoughts get triggered in my head a lot and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Then, after writing this, I went downstairs and my Dad told me about nearly one hundred Jewish graves desecrated in France.  This time it was the far-right.  It’s unbelievable.  Struggling with low self-esteem, I’m supposed to dismiss thoughts that everyone hates me as irrational, but since I was a young child, I’ve been aware that, as a publicly-identifying Jew, lots of people hate me for “reasons” that have nothing to do with anything I’ve ever said or done.  That’s hard to cope with even if you aren’t suffering from mental illness.

The thought I hold on to is that I honestly believe that most British people are not antisemitic (which might not be the case in some other countries).  They may be ignorant, but I think most Brits have a ‘live and let live’ attitude.  It’s just three groups of extremists who are very antisemitic: the far-right, the far-left and the Islamists (not all Muslims).  They basically blame the Jews for all the troubles of the world.

This is one of the posts I’ve been most scared to write.  I’ve confessed to some pretty ‘out there’ mental health experiences here and elsewhere on the web (religious OCD; suicidal ideation; fear of sex, but obsession with it), but I’m scared how people will react to this.  Will I lose readers?  Will anyone start a fight?  Sadly, I’ve had to deal with antisemites many times before, both online (which is upsetting) and in the real world (which is a thousand times scarier).  But I had to speak my truth.

I feel exhausted and frail now.  It’s probably not so much the effort of writing this post as the result of work today, which was tiring, even if I was glad just to get through it and get a reasonable amount done.

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5 thoughts on “Illegitimi Non Carborundum

  1. I don’t see anything “out there” about this post. It does make me realize how little awareness I have of antisemitism that’s active in the world right now.
    I’m 1/4 Lebanese and the Lebanese (Christian) contingent of the family (my grandfather and his siblings) were quite antisemitic, which presumably they had picked up from their parents. My mom didn’t pick up the antisemitic bit but is anti-Israel over the Palestinian issue. I just wonder why everyone can’t find more productive things to do with all this energy that gets thrown into anger and hatred.

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  2. I don’t see anything wrong with your post at all. If you were to lose a reader over this, I hope your attitude would be “good riddance!” The growing antisemitism IS scary. I know this is a subject of study for you. What are your thoughts as to its causes, or did you already write a blog post about that? If not, I’d love for you to write about it sometime.

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  3. I’m not sure if I have written about it. I certainly haven’t written about it on this blog (I used to have a blog where I was sometimes more political). The causes of antisemitism is obviously a HUGE topic, but looking just at the kind of hard-left antisemitism that I focused on here (and with the caveat that this is an off-the-cuff answer without any special research), I think it’s not actually that new. For one thing, I think (and this isn’t something I’ve really seen in the academic literature, but it seems obvious to me) a lot of it is surprisingly rooted in Christian antisemitic stereotypes. The hard-left is mostly secular, but I don’t think that negative stereotypes are uprooted easily; they got rid of Jesus, but a lot of them kept the idea of the Jews being greedy, materialistic and the enemies of progress. This was not helped by Karl Marx, who was a self-hating Jew; his essays on the Jewish question are really vile in their presentation of Jews as greedy and materialistic. Then the fact that the USSR supported the Arabs during the Cold War, and persecuted the Jews of Russia reinforced that feeling on the left (bear in mind people like Jeremy Corbyn and those around him in the Labour Party in the UK have vocally supported the USSR and its client states like Cuba).

    Then with millennials on the left, even the moderate centre-left (who in the past were not so antisemitic and anti-Zionist), antisemitism and anti-Zionism are a form of virtue signalling and getting rid of middle class, first world guilt. If you’re European and feeling guilty about imperialism, or you’re American and feeling guilty about Vietnam and Iraq (and more), you look for a scapegoat. Israel looks enough like a Western country that attacking it feels like making “the West” pay for imperialism or neo-imperialism, but it is obviously easier to attack an obscure little country in the Middle East, rather than to boycott the USA or the EU, let alone attacking your own country. Plus, it’s got to the stage where if you don’t attack Israel in some circles, you’re viewed as suspect. Plus, with it being so long since the end of the Cold War, and since the financial crisis made capitalism look suspect, it’s become possible again to talk of being a Marxist or a communist so all that Soviet antisemitism and anti-Zionism can be wheeled out again, especially as anti-Americanism leads people to support groups like IS and al-Qaeda that are obviously antisemitic.

    But I think it’s worth stressing that all three types of antisemitism I mentioned (far-right, far-left and Islamist) are targeting certain groups (disaffected white men; millennial middle class elites; young Muslims), but I don’t think there is a mass antisemitic movement in the USA or the UK (not sure about Europe; scary things are happening there). I think most British people don’t care strongly one way or the other about Jews or Israel and I think in the US most people actually think positively of Jews (I think surveys have repeatedly shown that Jews are the most respected minority group in the US). The problem is that the internet allows the radicalisation of vulnerable individuals while leaving the rest of the population not just unaffected, but unaware that there is actually a problem, so that they think the Jewish community is over-reacting when they complain.

    So, that’s my ‘on one foot’ answer!

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