The Shadow of the Other

I feel like I should clarify a few things.

I am Israeli. It's a part of me I can't get rid of. This doesn't make me special or exotic. I'm just me. All of this becomes relevant.

If you know anything about international politics, you'll know about Israel and Palestine. Some of you will say that Israel is illegitimate, others that Palestine was not and never will be a state. Some of you will argue for Israel, others for Palestine. Some of you will say that they're both awful. Either way, everyone expects you to choose a tribe.

It's a funny old thing, being a naturalised British citizen. Seen as a Briton it is natural and accepted that I have individual opinions. It is nothing remarkable that I should disagree with my government, and people are generally happy for me to speak about my experiences.

Seen as an Israeli, things are very different. Suddenly, I'm not Osnat who lives down the road; I'm Osnat the foreigner, Osnat who is the ambassador for a country she left when she was very young - and who never asked to be the ambassador. As an Israeli, I feel like Westerners don't understand that I'm capable of opposing the actions of the State of Israel. I feel like they want me to be either the bloodthirsty oppressor who murders Palestinian children or the last defence against those eeeeeeeeevil Muslims. Either way, I'm shouted over by Westerners. This isn't to make me out to be the real victim here - Palestinians have it much worse than I do, for sure. This is to point out that I am still considered an Other, someone who doesn't deserve any better than being caricatured, whereas Westerners get to have individual variation.

The reality is slightly more complex. The reality is that I oppose what I consider to be Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. As a result, some people consider me to be a self-hating Jew or a traitor. I can't say I'm hugely happy about either of these labels; I don't see how wanting people to live in peace and freedom is "self-hating".

Oh yeah, did I mention that some people still hate me because I'm Israeli? I can't take this from Westerners. If I'm a terrible person because I was born on colonised land, if I have blood on my hands because I was born within a particular set of borders, people who were born within other particular sets of borders - sets of borders where governments colonised an awful lot of the globe - are up to their eyeballs in blood.

I have spent enough time crying and wishing I never existed because of people like that. It took me a long time to undo the idea that I'm irredeemably awful because I'm Israeli. I am still undoing that idea.

I will not bow and scrape and grovel to people who wish I never existed. If they hate my existence, I will resist them. That means if you go on and on about how Jews or Zionists (let's face it, how many people just use Zionist as a substitute for "Jew I don't like" instead of using it with an awareness of cultural and historical context?) or Israelis are responsible for all evil in the world, I will not be silent. I am not the good little token Jew you can drag out when you want to show that you're not really a bigot. I have my own life and my own voice and my own work to be doing. Prejudiced people get in the way of that.

This doesn't mean that I'm anti-Palestine, it means that I've got a spine and I'm not going to fawn over people who hate me for stupid reasons. I am not the shadow of the Other. I have agency, a conscience, and a surprising lack of patience for people who don't understand these things.