Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: Not Quite Human

Jun 1, 2021 | Jeremy Jones

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

I well remember the first time I was told publicly and clearly that, because I am Jewish, I have fewer rights than any other human being.

I had been invited to speak at an international conference in Asia devoted to world peace. 

Due to a variety of circumstances, I was allocated a spot on a coveted plenary panel, together with two prominent political figures and a diplomat from a global power. 

In my speech, I urged all those present, many of whom would never have heard a relatively mainstream Jewish position, to consider that the best way to advocate for the Palestinians was to think of them, and also Israelis, not as props to further political agendas but as real human beings who had no personal interest in maintaining hostility with their neighbours. 

When it was time for questions, all of them were directed to me, despite challenging presentations by my distinguished co-panellists. 

The first question came from a person from Iran identified as a serious leader of Shi’ite Islam. 

He explained that, in his educated, informed, theological and political opinion, it was simply not accurate to describe Israelis as human beings. 

The moderator of the session was taken aback and apologised, and I requested permission to ask a question in return. 

I asked him also if he really believed that there were human beings of different intrinsic value and if his issue was with Jews, not simply with the one state in the world with a Jewish majority. 

His response was that Jewish people are essentially the enemies of humanity and could not be considered equivalent to others.

I thanked him for his honesty, repeated his comments so that everyone present could hear, and watched as he nodded his head to confirm the accuracy of my interpretation. I then continued fielding questions on the different options available to those who sought a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians. 

The Iranian’s comment was made in front of an audience of a few hundred and appeared to be a bit of virtue signalling, with the most unvirtuous of content. During May this year, I received numerous messages from Muslim friends and contacts around the world which implied that I as a Jew, was not only not entitled to peoplehood but that the world would be a better place if all Jewish people were returned to the status of second, third or fourth class citizens of the world. 

Some forwarded videos of various people identified as Jews (without verification in most cases) who pushed a narrative which went against foundational Jewish teachings. 

Others forwarded allegations that Jews commit and/or support genocide and apartheid, and/or confirm stereotypes promoted in the notorious antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. 

Most of my interlocutors have been willing to hear what I have to say about the various items they have been forwarding and more often than not were grateful to hear my opinions on them. That said, some maintain that there is one group who are oppressed and one which is the oppressor, and to act as if there is nuance must be rejected because it complicates this simplistic paradigm. 

Not directed at me personally, but possibly the most offensive behaviour visible through my news feed was that by veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen.

In an act of arrogance and bullying, he tweeted an article offering one Israeli journalist’s opinion of Judaism, and then instructed “every Jew” to read this explanation of “Judaism”, identifying “racism, hate and violence” as Jewish values. 

Disregard for a moment the odds that Jewish people don’t know what we think and believe, but consider the likelihood of the same person sending an email highlighting what he saw as the most negative features of Islam, instructing “All Muslims must read this!” 

I suppose we should be grateful when BBC reporters, like Iranian theologians, show their double standards, lack of ethics and contempt for Jews so publicly and blatantly. 

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