That Fucking Bitch

For several days I woke up and all I could think about was that fucking bitch in Scarsdale (J). It all started back in July. My son and I were supposed to spend our only weekend in New York with her and, her Husband, who is my friend and ex-colleague. A couple of weeks before that, Israel had launched its latest war on Gaza.

Helpless as we all were in front of the spectacle of the latest Zionist massacre of the Palestinians, at least now there was Facebook so that I could ‘share’ my frustrations, bits of journalism I appreciated and, above all, photos showing the Palestinian side of the story.

I received a message from J a few days beforehand:

“X, I’m surprised given your great jewish friends, the level of anti semitism you show in all these posts.”

I decided, that after 15 years of friendship, the least I could do was review my posts and call. I did. I found them virulently anti-Israeli but not at all anti-Semitic. [To be pedantic, a Semite is pretty much anyone from the eastern Mediterranean, Arab world and possibly beyond, but I’ll adopt for this purpose the widely understood meaning ‘anti-Jewish’].

We exchanged messages and we talked and eventually, with I have to admit, some foreboding, not wanting to throw a real wrench in the works of our friendship, I took my son and we went to their house. It may have been just my sense, but the whole weekend had a chill to it. It felt to me there was an elephant following us from room to room. I spoke to J about the issue, she admitted she couldn’t argue politics, and we moved on to other things. Her husband did not mention it. However he did do one odd thing. At some point he mentioned his religion and my son, who had no idea what their religion was, asked him if he was Jewish. He said yes, and then rolled his head down and showed him the top of his bald pate “No little horns, see?” The presumption that I had educated my son to be anti-Jewish was pretty fucking offensive, but I let it slide.

Instead of realizing that I gave so little a toss about his religion as to never have mentioned it to my son, who had been to their house many times, he did not pick up on the meaning of his ignorance and chose to implicate us both as anti-Semites, and me as a professor in the field. Sunday afternoon came and I was happy to leave. It had not been an enjoyable weekend. The boredom that comes from a sense of being judged, of having to be careful, a lack of enjoyment, a lack of liberty had pervaded everything about those two days. And more than that, there was a funereal feeling as if we were at the wake of our friendship.

As a parting gift, she gave me a bag of flour to make arepas, a Venezuelan corn bread. I made the last batch a week ago. I went on Facebook thinking I’d see what was going on with her. I had been unfriended. I thought ‘what a slimy action, this unfriending after 15 years, with no attempt at discussion.’ A simple message saying that she could not face the stories and so would be avoiding me online would have been fine.

I sent her this message:

“This morning I made the second half of the arepas from the PAN you gave me. Reminded me of you and so I went into facebook to checkout what you’re up to. I realised after a few minutes that you’d unfriended me. I think that deserves some comment. 

The first few months I knew D I made it clear that I did not like Israel. In those days Israel was a deeply unpleasant state, an occupying power in my father’s homeland, and was already guilty of mass atrocities in Lebanon and elsewhere and had the blood of tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians, not to mention other nationalities, on their hands. In those days they pretended to be civilised and the world was mostly fooled. 

Today Israel has been unmasked to the world for what it has been since at least the 1980’s, a country that runs on apartheid principles, that has a fascist-religious leadership dominated by ultra-orthodox Jews, that makes no pretense of being part of a place that respects non-Jews and is the centre of a spider web of violence and disorder in regional affairs. The leadership is arrogant, and, in my eyes, worse than the Afrikaans ever were to the blacks.

However, I am not anti-Semitic. If I were, and I am using the incorrect but generally used meaning of Semite as Jew when in fact it means Levantine, I would not have been friends with you and D for 15 years. I would certainly not count among my best friends, Jews. But you have to realise something very important. Today most Jews and almost every Israeli is trying to equate anti-Israeli with anti-Semitic. Well I will tell you this: if Judaism is a religion whose philosophy expressed in action boils down to Israel, then Judaism has a major problem. If, on the other hand, Israel is a distortion of Judaism the way ISIS is a distortion of Islam (thank god we Christians have got our religion under control for now so there are no Christian analogs) then every Jew who is a decent human being should be opposed to Israeli behavior just like any Muslim who supports ISIS is a supporter of terror and barbarism but any Muslim who stands and disowns ISIS or, like the hundreds of thousands who are fighting them across the region, works against them, is actually helping his religion by showing people that this little pocket of ultra-extremism is not the only face of their religion.

And if you require me to a supporter of the murderous, disgusting, fascist, religious-extremist regime to the South of Lebanon in order to count you among my friends, well then, I guess we will not be friends.

You need to decide whether Israel is more important than being a human being. In the end, the choice has more bearing on you than anyone else because Israel itself in on the slippery slope to international pariah status, and I am happy to see the distaste in which the country is held, even in the one place where propaganda held off the truth for a long time, the US. 

Let me not mince words. Israel, under its current regime or under any regime similar to those that have ruled since 1980 disgusts me as a human being, and I will rejoice at its downfall.

Friend me, unfriend me…that is not the issue. Try being a human before a Jew, try being a Jew before a supporter of Israel.”

The ensuing to and fro involved her regurgitating some tired propaganda that I can’t believe is still spread by anyone it is so outdated and discredited, and, more importantly, calling me names:

Your pathological hatred towards Jews and Israel goes beyond any rationale or decency and equals that of the Nazis and their brethren. What have the Israelis done to you, a Christian Lebanese, besides assisting you against almost being expelled from your own country?

 Aside from the laughable claim that Israel has assisted anyone in the region, my favourite part is the jump to me being a Nazi. I am impressed the way someone who has known me well for 15 years can call me a Nazi and believe that I am a compulsive hater of Jews who may have a mental illness causing irrational hatred of Jews. Amazingly she let such a person into her home a few months ago. Wasn’t she worried that my illness might lead me to slit their throats in the night? Wasn’t she offended by my presence to the extent that she should have forbid me coming to see her family? Or was she one of those fearful, obedient Jews who would have followed Nazi orders and not raised her voice as she was shepherded to the death train, afraid to not invite me to her home?

This whole incident raises a lot of questions for me. Is the cognitive dissonance in a decent person who also supports Israel so high that they must isolate themselves from the anti-Israeli point of view in order to function?

Is the tossing away of a 15 year old friendship something that occurs naturally when politics gets in the way?

Is it really that J is an anti-arab, that cleaning me out of her contact list makes her environment more homogenous and tidy? The same way the Nazis wanted to purify Germany?

Will not the purification by Jews of their contact lists end with the inevitable anti-semitism that results simply by the natural tendencies of groups to hate outsiders, in other words they make themselves into a group of outsiders? Isn’t that a dangerous path to tread? The very path that some early Jewish anti-zionists feared, that by emphasising their Jewishness over their Englishness, they would end up viewed as Jewish and not English and eventually marginalised.

What should I think about the arrogance needed to exclude the counter-punctual narrative to that extent? Is it arrogance or just fear?

At this point I will admit that with all my Jewish friends there is a slight little something that doesn’t quite connect. I feel close, very close, but it’s like a mirror image, identical in every way, but not the same. Culturally we get along,  but I can never quite belong. Some of it comes from the fact that the social groupings do tend to be almost totally Jewish. I have often found myself the sole Goy, honored but separate. But that doesn’t mean I turn against them, actually it is like a wrinkle in a shirt, I look for ways to smooth it over.

I lived in England for 25 years and left with no English friends who were not also Jews. I lived in France too and only have one non-Jewish French friend. Maybe that is why the accusation has bothered me so much. It casts into doubt the reality of those relationships. Maybe also the fact that 15 years can be tossed aside like a bad lettuce leaf strikes fear into me about the value of those relationships, their sturdiness when put the test, their ability to handle stress and conflict. Isn’t it essential that in our handful of real friends we find people who are not only pleasant to be with in times of calm but will be there when the shit hits the fan?

Or maybe no friendship has that quality. Perhaps it is asking too much of others to plight their fate to yours through thick and thin. Maybe it’s even to much to ask of a wife. In the end, perhaps we are all better off relying on bits of gold in a safe deposit box or the insurance payouts guaranteed by contracts. But isn’t that a cold world, not worth living in. I once read that a corporation can be viewed as a nexus of contracts. If we, human beings, become biological nexuses of contracts, have we not somehow removed the only thing that matters from our lives, namely, love?

What hurt, hurt enough to make me take cover in anger, was her lack of knowledge of me. To call me an anti-Semite struck to the very core of who I am NOT. I should not have invested the relationship with so much value. They were not able to know anything about me after all this time.

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