I grew up in Dubai in the 1980s. It was the freest of any part of the Middle East for Westerners, but that freedom had its limits.
I went to the Jumeriah American School, which is now the American School of Dubai. I had fantastic teachers and a wonderful education. But that education only went so far.
Our geography textbooks were missing a country. Open to the world map and there’d be black sharpie marker covering over the word “Israel,” which was sometimes hidden under the word “Palestine” glued into the book. The Israeli flag was redacted by censors. Encyclopedias, almanacs, history books, etc. had passages about Israel taken out. Sometimes the pages were redacted. Sometimes the pages were just torn out.
In ninth grade, our class took a trip to Greece. I remember standing in the agora beneath the Acropolis in Athens and our history teacher pointed up to a flag and asked us what it was. I don’t remember any of us recognizing it. It was white with blue bars and a blue star on it — the Israeli flag.
At 43, I have still been to more countries than states. As a result of growing up in Dubai in the eighties, every few months we had to leave for a few days for visa renewals. My dad’s company would send us off around the world. Though I have been to Hong Kong and Belgium and Greece and Thailand, I have never been to Israel. I have never floated in the Dead Sea or seen the shores of Galilee.
I went to school with kids from China, Sweden, Canada, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, and elsewhere, but there were no Jewish kids in school.
I learned about the Holocaust in high school back in the United States. That was not a topic we studied in Dubai, though I seem to recall it lightly touched upon as we studied World War II.
There are a lot of Americans who do not think anti-Semitism is a big problem. They have not lived in a part of the world that blots Israel off the map.
Palestine, which some Americans champion, is actually a word of oppression. Though the Roman General and future Emperor Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, Emperor Hadrian finally drove out the Jewish people from their homeland around 132 AD. To punish the Jews for their revolts, Hadrian forbid the Jewish people from continuing in Judea and he renamed it Palestine.
In ancient history, the area had various tribes from the Canaanite to Philistine. It was the Israelites who created an empire there and brought the land under one common control. Though repeatedly driven out by oppressors, invaders, and others, the Jews have always gone home to their land.
But there is historic revision now afoot and it is not just some freshman Minnesota congresscritter. On the far right and the mainstream left, people who support the right of Israel to exist are accused of dual loyalty. The Holocaust is minimized. Now even some say Jews are just like other white people and the persecutions they face are exaggerated.
The Jewish people have a history of being persecuted. Before the Romans there were the Diadochi and Alexander and before them the Babylonians. After them there were the Muslims, the Germans and others.
Many of us stand with Israel because Israel is a democracy among autocracies and a positive influence surrounded by a breeding ground of terrorists. Many of us stand with Israel because we understand both history and those who would bastardize it yet again to persecute Jews.
All of us should be troubled by members of Congress cheering on anti-Semitism and others excusing it. We should all be troubled by white nationalists echoing them. This country has a growing problem with anti-Semitism and we need to confront it and denounce it.
History shows time and time again that the enemies of the Jewish people ultimately wind up being enemies of freedom. When we see their rise up in this country, we need to push them back onto the ash heaps of history from which they and their ideas come.
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