Diverse reactions to JN’s articles on Rashida Tlaib prove that Jews are – contrary to what many antisemites believe – human.
Like many regular readers of the Jewish News, I recently came across what later turned out to be a controversial interview with Rep. Rashida Tlaib published on this very website.
Not for a single moment did it cross my mind while reading it that the mere decision to interview her was – in and of its own – problematic, let alone “outrageous” or “shameful,” as some readers suggested.
In fact, the more polarizing a topic is – I naively thought – the more important it is to put it on the table, examine it from all possible angles and let unpleasant opinions surface, rather than swipe them under the carpet.
This is not to say that freedom of speech shouldn’t have its limits. Yes, it’s a difficult task to determine where exactly those limits should pass, but allow me to not deteriorate into Godwin’s Law by saying straightforwardly: Interviewing Ms. Tlaib falls well within acceptable boundaries.
Pull out your Jew-O-Meter
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Tlaib is serving as the U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 13th Congressional district, which includes the western half of Detroit, along with several of its western suburbs. This means that she, as a politician, has a direct influence on the people living in those areas, among whom are – you guessed it – Jews, even if they happen to disagree with her.
If you are rolling your eyes now, mumbling to yourself that I must be one of those “self-hating Jews,” allow me to add fuel to your fire.
A brief glance at my CV will reveal an Israeli, secular, atheist, left-leaning Jew who willingly chose to relocate to Germany, which means your ready-to-pull Jew-O-Meter will show a terrible score when grading my Jewishness. Maybe you’ll immediately dismiss my claims.
But wait a second, not so fast. I served in an IDF combat unit; volunteered for 1.5 years with Israel’s Shnat Sherut scouting program before my three-year military service; will serve in the army reserves until I’m 45; and was a member of a Zionist youth movement my entire childhood. That must give me some extra points.
Oh, actually, you know what, never mind. I avoid buying anything produced in settlements, vote for a party which includes Arab lawmakers and have some Palestinian friends with whom – believe it or not – I actually agree on many issues. Guess my Jew-O-Meter grade got lowered again.
The point is clear: Much to many bigots’ surprise, it turns out that Jews are, after all, humans, and as such they also have different opinions… even – especially – when it comes to controversial issues, such as the mere existence of Israel, its relationship with the U.S., its settlement policy or the BDS movement, to name but a few.
Walking among us are also Jews who seem to be, heaven forbid, socialists. Others are apparently capitalists – even Libertarian. Some support BDS, while others are fiercely against it; some live in settlements, others question their right to exist; some denounce Antifa, others are Antifa protesters themselves; some are proudly Zionist, others refer to themselves as anti-Zionists with the exact same pride. Such diversity! Who would have thought?
Not one layer
Indeed, as such diverse individuals, it should come as no surprise that some Jewish readers saw the interview with Rep. Tlaib as a “shocking and appalling decision,” as they made sure to clarify in their letters to the editor. No doubt it is their absolute right to hold such opinion. Others were grateful, however, calling the discussion “necessary” and labelling Tlaib as a “righteous person.”
It seems like Jews hold so many varying opinions, as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore. You could almost conclude that each Jew is an individual with their own beliefs and values — a revolutionary concept our greatest haters would love to dismiss. Do not give them that pleasure. We are not one layer defined solely by our Judaism.
I – and I believe you, too – would rather live in a world where both an article featuring a Muslim woman politician who doesn’t mince words criticizing Israel and the fierce reactions to that article can find a home in a Jewish media outlet, than in a world where neither is possible.
Dana Regev is an Israeli-born journalist who reports on global affairs for Deutsche Welle in Germany and is a contributor to the Jewish News