And thank you for the kind response as well! I am grateful that we can have this exchange.

To begin, I will say that Jewish Voice for Peace is an incredibly toxic organization that notoriously spreads misinformation; I followed them for a long time as I am very much a leftist/socialist and I was told that I would agree with many of their politics from some of my Jewish leftist friends. I ultimately unfollowed because while I appreciated their advocacy for our Palestinian siblings, I was appalled by the hateful and incorrect information they were peddling (for example as I referenced earlier, pushing notions that Ashkenazi Jews are all white--you are welcome to look at my Instagram page and let me know if you think I look like a typical white European. I am fully Ashkenazi and my whole family is dark-skinned with curly dark hair and very Middle Eastern features. Peddling this idea delegitimizes the idea that Ashkenazi Jews could have any indigenous claim to Israel because over time we've allegedly "become white" in spite of the events of the last 75 years which constantly prove otherwise).

If I'm being entirely honest, while I've committed most of my adult life to social justice, I've experienced the majority of antisemitism in leftist circles (in fact, Marx himself was profoundly antisemitic. Despite having Jewish ancestry, he despised Jewish people and even wrote an essay "On the Jewish Question" which is a sentiment that has echoed through many Marxist/socialist/leftist circles), so I'm not surprised if you have heard information that may not have sounded *overtly* antisemitic but peddled misinformation and rhetoric that is inherently very antisemitic. For example, just today a Green Party representative and former Liberal Congresswoman from Georgia announced to her tens of thousands of followers that "Zionists did 9/11." Conspiracy theories like these usually serve to reinforce what is referred to as "blood libel" against the Jews. You can easily replace "Jew" with "Zionist" most of the time when people make sweeping defamatory (or just plain evil) statements about what Israel or the Jews have done, and this phenomenon is almost as old as Judaism. Jews have been accused almost everywhere we've sought refuge of drinking the blood of children, causing national calamities (this is actually precisely how the Nazis galvanized the German populace--by alleging that everything and especially their economic woes were the fault of Jews), creating wildfires with Jewish space lasers and so on.

Incidentally, that is why it's hard for me to read what you had heard about the alleged Jewish involvement in the slave trade. It's absolutely true that 1.25% of slave owners in Southern America were Jewish. However, in 1820 (around the height of the slave trade), there were only 10,000 Jews total in America. Compare that to the overall population of 9,638,453... Jews have always constituted a tiny minority of the global population--today we are only 0.2% of the global population and 2% of America's population, but most people off the street think that Jews are a majority, or at least that they control the media/government/economy. These are ancient, cruel and slanderous allegations that perpetuate myths of Jewish control, and the idea that Jews are oppressors who will violate and extort and crush everyone they come up against. It's simply untrue, and it's deeply harmful for all of us just trying to live our lives in peace (for all beings--not just for ourselves). I would never attempt to deny or diminish the fact that 1.25% of slave owners were Jewish, and it's a shameful blight on our existence in this country for which (aside from it being a natural function of solidarity with people who are hurting or oppressed) American Jews must continue to atone and commit their support to the fight for racial justice. But to amplify that and suggest that Jews are majorly responsible for the slave trade? It's honestly absurd--as we know very well, the slave trade was predominantly facilitated by the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese and the British. These are places that killed, deeply ostracized and/or otherwise refused to even admit Jews into their countries. How on earth would Jews be major co-conspirators in the creation of slavery in a situation where they couldn't even take on mainstream roles in any of these societies? Jews were forced to live on the margins in the number of countries listed above which deigned to allow them to exist for whatever time before murdering them through pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust or any other systemic discrimination and abuse. Can you see why it's astounding to hear based on this information that someone would suggest Jews did this? It just doesn't sound any different to me than any of the numerous times I heard growing up that Jews were responsible for literally every event in human history. At a certain point, one must take on a bit more skepticism.

Not everything that is pushed down is being "suppressed" for a bad reason. Meaning, "The Jewish Onslaught" sounds like it was perpetuating blood libel myths that were incredibly antisemitic, and given the fact that Jews are still facing dangerous antisemitism worldwide, I'm not sure what the use is of something cloaked in "academic" credibility that is actually propagating mountains of deeper and completely unwarranted hatred. After all, academia is not only notoriously antisemitic, but it's also profoundly racist, classist, and generally intolerant of most non-white, non-wealthy, non-men. Even if an academic writer is Jewish, or a woman, or Black or socialist, the ways that internalized hatred and bias creep into people's worldviews--especially when they form identities that adhere to a particular group's alleged values, the greater the odds that these values and biases will show up in their writing and advocacy. Even if the goal isn't merely to be hateful, it's something we all experience. In America it's normal to say "we're all a little bit racist" -- that is, growing up and being conditioned in a society that is built on white supremacy makes it such that every human being here, even if it's subconscious (even if you're a Black person!) experiences some conditioned level of hatred/fear/resentment of dark skin because of how our society is structured. America (and most of the world) is just as fundamentally antisemitic as it is anti-Black, but it is unpopular to suggest that the majority of people harbor these biases, in spite of the fact that even before the KKK (which represents modern "white supremacy"--note that they hate Jews in addition to but just as much as Black people), Jews have never been welcomed or respected in the United States.

By the way, Black people absolutely do go back to Africa, and even Ghana in particular has been very vocal about welcoming Black people back there. In fact there is a major movement led by a Black visionary and prominent leader named Marcus Garvey called "The Back to Africa Movement." The difference between this movement and the response from various African countries such as Ghana is that the people living there are the families of those who were violently removed--not the conquerors.

The inherent complexity of the Israeli Palestinian complex lies in the fact that the Palestinian people stem from the Arabs who conquered the region in the 7th century; Jews were expelled for a reason. The Arab conquerors (who ultimately ceded to and became at some point the Ottoman Empire) had no desire for coexistence with Jews, hence the violent expulsion. And that is also why there wasn't exactly a warm welcome--before the British Mandate in 1920, some Jews who were fleeing persecution and murder in places especially around the Middle East were seeking to come home and find refuge in Israel. Palestinian settlers revolted as more Jews started flowing in, which is why the British (who controlled the region after defeating the Ottoman Empire by 1918) didn't allow European Jews to flee there in order to escape the Holocaust--nor did they allow Jews into their own country to seek refuge. There isn't a happy sibling dynamic between Palestinians and Jews that is underwritten by history; it is a fraught and violent history with complicated origins and evolution. It's very different than a Ghanaian American person looking to go home again a few hundred years later.

As for the idea that Jews and Arabs got along before the state of Israel was created, that is simply untrue. Here is a list of things Jews couldn't legally do before Israel existed in the Middle East/Palestine:

1) be at eye level with Muslims

2) ride horses

3) build synagogues as high as mosques

4) could not bear arms and could not testify against Muslims in court

5) could not move freely after certain hours

6) could not dress without imposed Jewish symbols

7) had to pay a tax to not be murdered and pillaged

Does that sound altogether happy? I don't think so. You are welcome to do further reading but endless sources will validate that these were the preconditions for Jews existing in that region, and they were abominable. Again, does that justify how Israel has since behaved? Of course not. The territories are a human rights violation and an atrocity. We are in full agreement in that respect. But we cannot attempt to paint a picture of something beforehand that is unequivocally false.

And Ashkenazi Jews are a narrow majority of Jews worldwide, but they are a minority in Israel. This is why most of Israelis have dark skin and many look virtually the same as their Arab siblings. It's true that many of Israel's politicians have been disproportionately light-skinned and Ashkenazi, but colorism (favoring lighter-skinned individuals) is a disease that has affected almost every country on this earth as white supremacy has reared its ugly head with globalization and long before.

I deeply appreciate your advocacy against antisemitism and your willingness to learn. I too stand with and love my Muslim brothers and sisters and believe that hate has no place in this world. I wish for Palestinian people to be free. But I also wish for my people to have safety and refuge in our homeland, and like I said I don't think those things need to be mutually exclusive.

You had mentioned that the Holocaust was indeed a large part of the conversation for the inception of Israel in the 1940s and that is true in the sense of the global events and stage at the time, but ultimately Zionism long pre-dates the events of those times, and Zionism simply means "Jewish self-determination on ancestral/indigenous land." There's no asterisk for oppressing or harming or displacing Palestinians, but that is the definition that was created long before the political events of the 20th century unfolded. And the fact of the matter is, the British Empire and the Allies won the war, which had been the unfolding of one imperial/warmongering event after many, many others. Every border that exists in the Middle East today was created by the same Balfour Declaration that created Israel. All borders are inherently colonial and imaginary (but with real, tangible consequences and identities that stem from them).

I'm aware of the hundreds of Palestinian villages that were burned during what they refer to as the Nakba, but I'm also aware that many of them left on their own accord under the impression that a brand new Jewish country for the most hated people on earth couldn't stand a chance against a united army against them. And yet, they survived. And they continued to survive repeated attempts from surrounding Arab nations to annihilate them even through 1967, which is when they "acquired" the territories of Gaza and the West Bank. They held these as bargaining chips asking only to be recognized formally in their statehood by the Palestinian leaders and people in exchange for a two-state solution. This was refused, and the situation has ebbed and flowed ever since, never in the favor of Palestinian people especially who live in fear and poverty, but neither for the Israeli people who are constantly terrified of annihilation and attacks on civilians. It is never good or healthy or productive for any person or group of people to grow up and live in fear and hatred.

The last thing I'll say is that yes, Germany owed reparations to Israel without a doubt. Maybe Israel owes reparations to Palestinian people now too after what they have endured. At a bare minimum they deserve statehood and sovereignty and the ability to live with dignity and without fear. All people deserve this. Black and Indigenous people in America deserve this as well.

The one thing I'll disagree on is that our exchange can't do anything for Palestinian people; I think having meaningful, open and educational exchanges is precisely how we build the framework for peace. If we don't have understanding, even if we act from a sense of urgency, we are often doomed to repeat the same cycles of hatred and violence and ignorance that caused problems to begin with if we cannot find ways to open our hearts and minds and move forward. I feel a sense of urgency to help Palestinian people, but I also feel a sense of urgency to protect my people, and I don't believe one of those must undermine or discount the other. Thank you again for this exchange, I appreciate you.

Queer non-binary Jewish writer who loves puzzles, cats and meditation.

Queer non-binary Jewish writer who loves puzzles, cats and meditation.