performative solidarity: do you stand with Jews?
WHAT IS PERFORMATIVE SOLIDARITY?
Performative solidarity is when a person professes solidarity with a cause not out of genuine caring but rather, to increase social capital in one way or another.
In other words: performative solidarity is not about the cause; it’s about keeping up with appearances.
An example of performative solidarity is posting or saying “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting but taking no tangible action to reduce gun violence.
As Jews, we see very little solidarity. And much of the solidarity we do see is unfortunately performative in nature.
We deserve better.
No Jew — not a single one — deserves antisemitism. Antisemitism is not a valid punishment for bad behavior; it’s an ancient, senseless form of hatred that has gotten innocent people murdered for thousands of years.
Before you amplify a Jewish person, pause to think: is there anything in it for you? Say you have an opinion on the Conflict. Say that this Jewish person’s words or posts validate your opinion. Are you sharing their work because — either implicitly or explicitly — you can point to them and say, “see? This Jewish person agrees with me, which means I’m right or that I’m not an antisemite.” If that’s why you are amplifying this person, don’t bother. You are not amplifying them as an ally to the Jewish community. You are tokenizing them.
You should amplify and support Jewish People because you care about us as human beings, not because there is anything in it for you. You should amplify and support us because our safety matters and our opinions matter, not because our opinions validate yours.
Listen to the communal voice of the Jewish People, not fringe Jewish voices. We don’t agree on everything, but there’s plenty of things that most of us agree with, communally. Get to know us, both collectively and individually. One Jewish person or group doesn’t speak for all of us. And one Jewish person or group doesn’t absolve you of your antisemitism.
Antisemitism predates modern right-left politics. It predates white supremacy. It predates lots of things. Claiming that antisemitism is just a right wing or a left wing issue or merely an issue among white supremacists is not only explicitly wrong, but it also misrepresents the root causes of antisemitism and how it spreads.
We see this all the time. Ted Cruz gets accused of antisemitism, so he points to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s antisemitism. In return, she points to his antisemitism to deflect from hers. Meanwhile, as Jews, we end up feeling a little bit like a ball in a football game. This is something that really happened on Twitter. Similar things happen all the time as well.
It doesn’t matter whether the person spouting antisemitism is on the right or the left. What matters is that they are spouting antisemitism, and such antisemitism will fall into the hands of dangerous people. Different antisemites might use different euphemisms, but the formula is the same.
There is perhaps no greater example of this than the BDS Boston Mapping Project. BDS Boston considers itself a left-wing group, of course. But when they created a map of “Zionist” institutions, including Jewish kindergartens, disability centers, and more, that map very quickly fell into the hands of Goyim TV, a neo-Nazi platform. It doesn’t matter that the map was created by leftists; for neo-Nazis, a map of Jews is a map of Jews, period. And this, of course, puts all Jews in danger.
SPEAKING FOR OR OVER US
Jews are not voiceless. We very much have voices. It just so happens that we form about 0.2 percent of the world population. By contrast, according to the ADL Global Index of Antisemitism, 26 percent of the world holds predominantly antisemitic attitudes. At least 41 percent of the world believes one or more antisemitic tropes. In some regions of the world, the numbers are even more dire. In the Middle East and North Africa — the region of the world where most of the news pertaining to Jews comes out of — 74 percent of the population holds predominantly antisemitic attitudes.
We are vastly outnumbered. We have voices, but antisemitic voices always shout louder.
Jews — and no one else — are the authority on what it’s like to be Jewish. We are the authority on the issues affecting the Jewish community, both today and in the past. We know antisemitism better than anyone else because for over 2000 years we alone have been the targets of antisemitism. Period.
As always, listening only to fringe voices is not listening to the Jewish community. Every community has its fringe members, and we are no exception. But it’s important to listen to the communal voice of the Jewish People — not just the Jews that you happen to agree with. It’s also important to diversify your Jewish education. Though we are one people, we are an incredibly diverse people, and all of our experiences are important.
SHUTTING OUT OUR EXPERIENCE
You cannot adequately support Jewish People if you are not open to hearing about our experiences, even when they don’t align with yours. The fact of the matter is that if you are not Jewish, you cannot possibly know what being Jewish is like.
Antisemitism is completely embedded into our world, our cultures, and our societies. It’s known as the world’s oldest hatred for a reason: it’s a 3000-year-old bigotry. Chances are your country has persecuted Jews at some point in history, considering Jews have been oppressed at some period or another in nearly every nation in the world. Chances are you learned antisemitism since childhood. Chances are you have antisemitic biases. Chances are your family does too. If you genuinely want to learn from Jews, it’s inevitable that you will be challenged at some point. Allow yourself to be.
Many “allies” toss Jews aside the second that they feel challenged by their views. Don’t do this. This is not allyship: it’s tokenism.
FOCUSING ON THE WRONG THING
There are many pressing issues in the Jewish community today, the most paramount being our safety. In the United States, for example, Jews, forming only 2.5 percent of the country’s population, are the target of about 60 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes and about 10-15 percent of all hate crimes. Jews are more likely than other marginalized groups to be the target of a hate crime. This dire and extremely disproportionate statistic is even worse when we consider the situation for Orthodox Jews.
And that’s just in the United States. In many European countries, the statistics are much more dire, and that’s not even to speak of the Middle East (outside of Israel).
So while it’s nice when allies support us in surface-level ways — for example, advocating for inclusive Starbucks cups — that really isn’t allyship. Speaking up about inaccurate Hanukkah displays at Target is nice, but I’d much rather you learn about the historical and cultural significance of Hanukkah (and how antisemites are whitewashing it nowadays to erase our 3000-year history because of a 75-year old geopolitical conflict).
Support us in the most pressing and meaningful ways: speak up when we are targeted in hate crimes, especially by those on your side of the political aisle. Speak up when people erase our history, especially when this revisionism is used as an excuse to harm us.
At this point I really don’t care about Starbucks cups or the Hanukkah section at Target. I care about keeping my people safe from harm.
USING SOLIDARITY AS A COVER
Many antisemites use surface displays of solidarity with Jews as a cover for their antisemitism, and frankly, it’s exhausting.
For example, it means very little that the United Nations posted an image condemning Ye’s antisemitism on Instagram when their very own Secretary General from 1972 to 1981, Kurt Waldheim, was a former Nazi. It means very little when the United Nations condemned Israel — and demanded that it pay reparations to Argentina — for capturing Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi Final Solution. It means very little when the United Nations hyper-fixates on the one Jewish-majority nation in the world, at the expense of thousands of other tragedies and human rights violations oftentimes much larger in scale. This is not to minimize the suffering of Palestinians; however, no matter what you think of Israel, it’s really absurd that a country with 0.1 percent of the world’s population is targeted in nearly 50 percent of United Nations resolutions.
Bella Hadid sharing a post stating “I support Jews and the Jewish People” means very little when she actively contributes to a misinformation campaign that has gotten Jews killed for decades. She is very much welcome to advocate for her people, but you can do so without spreading misinformation about Jews.
So many antisemites point to surface displays of solidarity when they are called out for antisemitism. But being an ally is not about sharing a post. Being an ally means centering Jewish communal voices when we speak of the Jewish experience. Being an ally means doing the hard work to unlearn the systemic and institutional antisemitism that has been engrained in all of us for the past 2000+ years. Being an ally means holding yourself accountable for the hurt you have caused, not making excuses for yourself or deflecting by sharing a surface-level post.
ONLY SUPPORTING DIASPORA JEWS
The Jewish People are much more than a religious group. We are a nation (not to be confused with modern nation-state), tribe, and ethnoreligious group, in that order of importance. For 3000 years, we have identified collectively as the People of Israel and the Nation of Israel.
In other words: Jews in the United States, for example, are not a separate people than Jews in Israel or in France or in Argentina or in any other nation. When Jews are hurting in one country, all of us are hurting.
Nearly half of the world’s Jews live in Israel. Most came as refugees, or their parents or grandparents came as refugees. You cannot be an ally to Jews if you exclude half of us. You cannot be an ally to Jews if you encourage or support violence against half of us. And you cannot be an ally to Jews if you demonize the half of us that live in our ancestral homeland, to which we returned as refugees. That is not how solidarity works.
Nearly all Jews have at least some relatives or friends in Israel. We are all interconnected.
This doesn’t mean that you have to absolve Jews who act badly in Israel (or in any other nation!). But supporting and encouraging violence and/or ethnic cleansing targeting Jewish Israeli civilians is nothing more than (very) thinly-veiled antisemitism. You either stand with all of us or you stand with none of us.
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