Editor's Note: As part of our on-going mission to hear perspectives from all sides, we invited Leslie Anne Wilkinson, a self-described "proud feminist, ashamed white womxn who goes by she/her pronouns", to write guest blogs for Flappr. You can read Leslie's other blogs "Drag Is Beautiful And Necessary", "Decolonize Your Diet" and How White Supremacy Ruined The Oscars here.
I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well after this past week. Naturally, I’m referring to the recent terrible events in the Middle East, in which millions of Americans (like yours truly) were shocked and horrified to learn they may have aligned with the Wrong Side of History™.
It all began on October 7th when my X feed began blowing up with images and videos of the violent attacks against Israel. Of course, I am not one to sit back comfortably at ease when horrific tragedies like this occur. Within minutes, I rushed to the aid of the distraught Israeli people by promptly adding the Israeli flag to my bio on all my social media accounts.
Well, I thought I was doing the right thing. It just made sense to me. You see, my bio already includes the Pride Flag, the Trans-Pride-Progress flag, the Ukrainian flag and several Get the Jab! emojis, and I was sure I would soon see the Israeli flag among the bios of my many X friends too.
So, you can imagine my surprise and dismay when my X feed was instead flooded with several complaints. All of a sudden, I was confronted by the fact that I may have inadvertently shown support for an imperialist/colonialist/apartheid state that is holding nearly three million people in the world’s largest open-air prison!
Suffice it to say, I was full of emotions.
This criticism was coming from some highly trustworthy and brilliant X users, I'll have you know. I had to admit I didn’t know as much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as I thought I did, and out of an abundance of caution, I took down the flag with the requisite apology.
I decided to hold off on any more X activities until I could gather more information. I'd like to think that I am a very mindful person, after all. However, as the days went by, this proved more difficult than expected.
First, students protested at Harvard and Columbia and other universities in support of Palestine. Easy, I thought to myself. Any cause that bright-eyed inexperienced twenty-something's support must obviously be the correct one. However, a few days later, university officials issued statements distancing themselves from the student protestors in no uncertain terms.
How odd, I thought. I’ve never seen university officials push back against the opinions of genius BIPOC students before. This was unnatural. I was aghast.
Later, congressional Democrats criticized the remarks of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the Squad. Then Joe Biden delivered a forceful condemnation of the attacks. So, maybe, I thought, I was right all along...?
But of course, the usual morons on the Drumpf Ultra-MAGA Republicans muddied the waters even further. Some of those rabid neo-Nazis were making full-throated defenses of Israel and the Jewish people. I mean, they were having field day!
Can you believe those idiots were insisting that Iran (a completely separate country, by the way) was somehow involved in the attacks? What are they talking about?! Just look at a map! Iran isn't even next to Israel!
And then, they go off criticizing the Biden administration's decision to give Iran six billion dollars for humanitarian purposes. How can a pile of cash earmarked for humanitarian aid possibly be used for terrorism? My God, I wonder if they can even hear themselves sometimes.
Anyway, on any given issue, I can pretty reliably calibrate my opinions to be the opposite of whatever those right-wing nutjobs say. Alas, and to my horror, what should I see next but a clip of the king nutjob himself, Tucker Carlson, openly questioning American support for Israel. Now, that really threw me for a loop. I can’t possibly be on the same side as Tucker Carlson, can I?
This left me very puzzled, so I went to ask my husband Bertram. Now, let me tell you, my Bertram is just about the most informed person I know. He reads the New York Times daily, subscribes to the Atlantic, and listens to NPR in his Prius whenever I ask him to go to Whole Foods to pick up an organic squash for supper.
According to him, it’s definitely true that Israel was the native homeland of the Jewish people, but then things got complicated. Apparently, Israel was absorbed by all these other empires, like the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, and so on, until the Arabs came in and took over the region for over a thousand years.
I didn't know what to think.
I mean, who colonized who? I guess you can say the Jews colonized Palestine and turned it into Israel, but in a sense, wasn’t Israel already colonized when the Romans turned it into Palestine? And later, when the Arabs took it over, wouldn't that still have made it colonized land? Which would make the modern-day Israelis the decolonizers, right? Maybe...?
I mean, it seems to me they took back lands that were stolen from them a long time ago. Except they had help from the United States, which is itself an imperialist/colonizer nation, so I’m not sure.
Do you see what I mean? Nobody ever explains this to me, and I’m too afraid to ask, because I know if I do ask, people will say that it’s up to me to educate myself, but how can I educate myself if I’m not allowed ask?! Ugh…
Another thing that really confused me were the references to Israel as an apartheid state. Again, I had to ask Bertram about this and he said that apartheid was a segregationist code of laws in South Africa.
But what does South Africa have to do with Israel? Did South Africans move to Israel and pass apartheid laws there too? Or are they just using “apartheid” figuratively? That could be the case, but I never considered social justice activists to be the kind of people to throw words around willy-nilly like that.
Goodness, you have no idea how hard it is to be on the right side of history sometimes. On the one hand, I strongly feel that beheading babies and violating teenage girls is wrong in all circumstances, but on the other hand, I guess Rashida Tlaib could persuade me that is justifiable...? Like, violent atrocities are the voice of the unheard, or something...?
I mean, I sure wouldn’t want to live in the world’s largest open-air prison*. Now, that’s truly barbaric! Why would Israel lock up millions of innocent people like that? I had no idea they were doing anything of the kind, until several knowledgeable X users pointed it out to me. Did you know they even have schools and shops and homes inside this prison? And their own government too. I think it's called Hamas. Or wait? Isn't that the group behind the attacks? Gosh, I'm so confused.
So, for now, what I'm saying is I think I support Israel, but am willing to change sides in a heartbeat. I simply can’t wait for people smarter than myself to make up their minds about what to think about all this.
At the very least, I’m pretty sure that once Israel does anything whatsoever to defend itself, the picture will get a whole lot clearer. Proportionality is a word I've been hearing a lot of lately, and that just sounds like a word that only the smartest people in the room use. You can trust that people who use big words like proportionality and reciprocity must know what they're talking about.
Stay safe (and triple-vaccinated),
Leslie Anne Wilkinson
* I’m ashamed to admit that, up until quite recently, I thought the Gaza Strip was a fancy shopping district.