The Transparent JewMonday 11/01/2021

In 2018, just a few days after my arrival to Europe from Israel, I sat in my teenage bedroom and recalled the countless incidents overseas in which I had lied about my nationality. I started laughing at myself, mildly concerned by how I easily conformed to a different culture, and even more surprised by how quickly my chameleon identity was accepted. I thought to myself, it’s better to laugh than to cry. For the first time, I was able to acknowledge that I had been raised to hide my heritage when I was outside my safe space. Doing so, I decided to no longer conceal my Jewish-Israeli identity.

In my new country, I had hoped to perfect my response to the simple question “where are you from?”. My ideal reply would be short and succinct, one I could pull off and use to secure a harassment-free encounter – nevertheless, it was impossible, and every attempt was to be located somewhere between awkward to disingenuous.

King Solomon was right when he declared, “There is nothing new under the sun”. Unfortunate as it may be, the Jewish necessity to cover its ethno-religious identity dates back in time to the Roman exile – when Jews suffered huge losses and humiliation as their ancestral homeland was colonized, erasing the Jewish identity of the land. Consciously or unconsciously, the destruction of the Jewish temple and the renaming of the land had severe repercussions on the Jewish identity, remaining until today.

Since then, two thousand years of Jewish people “pray[s] to be back in Zion, for the messiah to come and rebuild the temple.”- The eagerness to return to the homeland they came from has never diminished. This is the essence of Zionism, the liberation and restoration of the Jewish identity, that was severely colonized and morphed by countless foreign entities throughout history.

Does this Zionism, (which would later become a political movement) represent the solution our ancestors yearned for – an independent Jewish nation that is capable of both rediscovering its identity while eliminating the inherent hatred within those that had colonized it? In a utopian world – indeed, but not within the society I witnessed.

The creation of Israel is the most successful indigenous liberation in history; it is the hammer that broke the famous, self-tailored, “comfortable” Jewish character – weak and quiet Jews that are easily trampled and find themselves at the mercy of the majority. The founding of the State of Israel generated strong and empowered Jews that pursued their indigenous right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.

Paradoxically, the United Nations is the organization which defines indigenous rights, along with the unofficial-leadership of the P5 – which are collectively known for enjoying a colonial history. The UN consistently fails to preserve Jewish rights as they don’t address the contemporary rise of Antisemitism on both sides of the political map. Nor has it brought justice to the hundreds of thousands of Mizrahi Jews, whose assets were confiscated by Arab governments while they were persecuted and forced to exile(1). It routinely
promotes state-based resolutions against Israel (18 in 2019) while ignoring the actions of China, Hamas, Venezuela, Qatar, Pakistan, and others(2). It continues popularizing anti-Israel propaganda, mainly without any concrete data – just like its false accusations against Israel for promoting gender-based violence in the Palestinian territories.

This flourishing prejudice fostered by the UN and many of its members, comes into practice in different expressions. These range from anti-Semitic attacks, to harassment on the street and to various forms of discrimination. But all roads lead to Rome, or as I stated previously, to the Jewish identity crisis in the diaspora. As part of my personal decolonization process I had to get rid of my habit of lying about my nationality. So, I faced three words that unfold western prejudice: “I am Israeli”. Very quickly I realized that not only are Jews a target, but so are Israelis. This raises the question: in their eyes, what does it even mean to be Israeli?

In Europe, I‘ve been spat on, barked at, questioned, boycotted, and discriminated against – only for exposing one, if not the most essential component of my identity: my nationality. In fact, most people decided for themselves that I am a Jew, a Zionist, a baby-killer, an ex-military officer, and a murderer based on my passport. I wish this was an over-exaggeration. During my time in Europe, almost every reference to the Holocaust or to Judaism was hijacked by political debates and comparisons, mostly based on media-information and history revisionists – even in the academic sphere.

Many Europeans are swept by the anti-Zionist narratives, and I can easily sort them into two groups (which have a tendency to overlap): those that stand against Israel’s actions, and those who deny it’s right to exist. Therefore, not everything about anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic. Israel is not a perfect country and its Jewish characteristic doesn’t grant it immunity from criticism. However, why are Israel’s current political actions equated with the ancient Zionist movement? We can clearly see that many of the modern anti-Zionist narratives are based on anti-Semitic assumptions and prejudices. The border between legitimate political criticism and anti-Semitism is very thin. But claims that consciously erase, or at least ignore, the origins of Judaism and the indigenous status of the Judeans in the land of Israel are inherently anti-Semitic. We can conclude that every type of delegitimization of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitic, regardless of how it manifests, and it is the basic premise of this article.

Anti-Zionism creates the dichotomy between “the good Jews” – the minority that doesn’t believe in Israel’s right to exist (e.g “Neturei Karta”) and “the bad Jews” – which are the 95% of Jews that do believe in Israel’s right to exist(3). Europeans (and quite frankly, far too many people in general) are taught that Zionism is “evil and racist”, without being informed that Jews are Zionists because of the violent racism they have survived. I have no desire or intention to be the “good Jew” these anti-Semites like to tokenize for their own agenda. It is no wonder that the majority of anti-Zionists I have met were from the left side of the political map. They identify themselves with the progressive social values of the left: supporting gender equality and other liberal values that the “good Jews” publicly stand against. This is not a coincidence, it is a known counterfeit tactic used by the left to legitimize anti-Semitism in the name of anti-Zionism.

It is important to highlight that Israel is not a perfect state, nor does it claim to be one – but its roots date back more than 3700 years of Judean civilization and so, it is time that the world abandon the myth of Jews with trembling knees. “We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again” (Prime Minister Menachem Begin Z”L, 1982)

My journey in Europe, which has yet to end, has brought me to the conclusion that I am a transparent Jew. Solely based on my Israeli nationality, everyone thinks they know everything about me, from the grocer to my professors. I have no other identity behind which to hide. I promised myself and my Jewish ancestors that I will not adopt a false identity just to fit the European world. And now, I pay the price. This decision to proudly stand as an Israeli woman has already affected my friendships. I’ve faced academic discrimination and I’ve experienced tremendous fear about publicly displaying any Jewish symbols, whether it be speaking Hebrew in the metro or wearing my Star of David necklace.

It was George Steiner in his book “In Bluebeard’s Castle” who argued that the image of Western culture as self-evidently superior and as the embodiment of almost the sum total of intellectual and moral power is a racially tinged absurdity(4). Maybe, just maybe, western powers should redirect their attention in discussions about the Middle East and Judean indigenous history. Instead of assuming to know all of the complexities and conflicts of the region, my European neighbors should not embrace their deeply inherited superior essence nor should they forget their thriving colonial history, in which they exploited indigenous people.

I am sitting in my teenage bedroom again, recalling my personal decolonization odyssey and the identity liberation we as a community embark upon, and I don’t regret any passage of it.

By Shai Emanuel Yamin

1 “One Year Later — The Answer To “Where Are Your Jews?” – UN Watch”. UN Watch, 2018,
2 “2019-2020 UN General Assembly Resolutions Singling Out Israel – Texts, Votes, Analysis – UN
Watch”. UN Watch, 2019, https://unwatch.org/2019-un-general-assembly-resolutions-singling-outisrael-
3 Weiss, Barri. “American Liberalism In Danger”. Tablet Magazine, 2020, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/stop-being-shocked
4 Steiner, George. In Bluebeard’s Castle. YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS: NEW HAVEN , 1971

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