I grew up in a Jewish household. Both my parents were Jewish. Both of their parents were Jewish. And on and on as far back as you can go. How do I know that? According to 23andme, my DNA is 99.7% Eastern European Jew. I’d really love to know more about that .3%!

I grew up in a moderately observant Jewish family in New Jersey. When I was a young boy my mother found religion and decided to send me and my brothers to thrice weekly Hebrew School at an Orthodox synagogue. It worked out fine for my siblings, not so much for me. I’ve always been a questioner and from an early age I was blessed with a finely tuned BS detector. And some of the things they were telling me fell into that category.

I’ll give you a couple of examples:

  • We were taught that “Jews are god’s chosen people”. What does that mean, I asked? Are we somehow better, in gods eyes, than everyone else? What does it mean to be unchosen people? This line of persistent questioning earned me a free trip to the Rabbi’s office.

  • They also taught us that “Arabs are our enemies”. I kid you not, one of my teachers said that in so many words. This prompted me to ask things like “they can’t all be our enemies, right?” and “isn’t it wrong to assume every Arab is our enemy?". Bear in mind this was during the US Civil Rights era when even young kids my age were attuned to the concept of prejudice. You can guess where those questions got me. Hello again, Rabbi Marcus!

Fast forward to the days after October 7. Joe Biden called the Hamas attack “pure evil”. Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness”. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared “We are fighting human animals”. You can find many other examples of such rhetoric in Section D of South Africa’s complaint before the Internal Court of Justice (“Expressions of Genocidal Intent against the Palestinian People by Israeli State Officials”).

It’s a lie. Palestinians are not evil. They want what everyone wants: the right to live in freedom, without being surveilled, and harrassed, and oppressed, and humiliated. Dehumanizing Palestinians is the easy way to explain what happened on October 7. The more difficult and less convenient truth is that the hatred you saw that day was a product of decades of oppression and domination by what Amnesty International officially classified as an Apartheid regime.

In those dehumanizing words uttered in the aftermath of October 7, I hear echos of Mrs. Weiss telling our class “the Arabs are our enemies”. And once again, just like when I was 10 years old, I call bullshit.