What happened? What happened to turn the passionately committed anti-apartheid children and youth that I was part of into fearful, hating racists who want all Arabs dead?
This new flare-up of war between Israel and the Palestinians has once again brought into sharp focus the disease that has swept through Jews in South Africa and many of my old classmates, and I do not understand it one bit.
I went to King David High School in the late 70s and early 80s. Yes, I was always considered to be an outspoken rebel, but my thoughts about apartheid were shared by all of my friends and many more who weren’t. Some of us went on to be even more outspoken, committed and involved in the struggle once we went to ‘varsity. We all knew that apartheid was evil and wrong, and even though we were white and had moments of fear about the future, the fear was never enough to turn us away from what we knew was the absolute truth. I certainly remember thinking how I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be black, disenfranchised, without power, without access and absolutely oppressed. We all did.
And now, these same friends have turned into paranoid, hysterical, ranting racists and Arab haters who believe, from South Africa (FFS), that their people are threatened and that Palestinians; refugees contained in virtual prisons, are what threaten Israel’s existence. How? How did this happen to those people I knew?
I am devastated by this. I know it isn’t everybody. I have friends and family in Israel who are deeply opposed to the war and are desperate (and vocal) protestors for peace. Just like we were in those days. But I am scared and shocked by how few of us there are, and that most of those old friends have turned into the oppressors we feared and hated and fought against.