There she stood in the darkest corner of the room, looking dazed, probably altered by some earlier sipped doses of heavy alcohol but still looking terribly handsome. The room was saturated by a thick fog of cigarette smoke, some rock music was beaming out of the loudspeakers connected to a laptop reading some “illegally” downloaded mp3 files and everybody was speaking and laughing out-loud. Although I’m not an alcohol drinker, I rarely object to sharing my friend’s (almost all of them drinkers) party times. Indeed I enjoy it most of the time. The scene I’m describing happened last Saturday in my colleague’s place when he invited us all over to celebrate his… mm… how shall I say?… “career promotion.” I know… it sounds pompous, but it was more of a pretext for partying. Anyway; at one point that night, I was approached by this young lady:
“Hi! my name is Cécile. I know you’re a Moroccan. My parents were Moroccans too”
At which point I woke up from the state of lethargy I was slipping into. The whole evening I was listening to stupid argumentation about football, politics and some boozed-up stories of absolute nonsense, so I was pleased to engage into what seemed to be a promising conversation with a becoming interlocutor of the sort any sober being would be pleased to chat with.
“Yes indeed I am a Moroccan. Have you ever been in Morocco yourself?”
Her eyes were looking tired but she managed to gather strength and looked as if she was struggling to focus on every word she was going to pronounce. As if her life depended on it:
“No, I’ve never been in Morocco and my parents left the country when they were teenagers; they fled the country with the French in the late 50’s and they never wanted to go back. The country will never be as it was in the past, my father always explains.”
I thought: “F-L-E-D the country? what the hell is she talking about?”
“Are you sure you’re talking about Morocco? I don’t understand. If your parents were Moroccans, why would they have to leave with the French, why didn’t they stay and enjoy independence?”
“My parents are Jews and they were afraid of the aftermath” she answered. “They feared the reaction of Muslims after the French protectors were gone. Now; don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Muslims but you can see how Jews are treated there nowadays… I think my parents took the right decision.”
I always worry when anyone starts saying: “I do like Muslims, BUT…”; “I’m not a racist, BUT…” It’s often a disclaimer for an issuing covered up racist diatribe. At that point, I felt that my blood was starting to boil and that I had to hold my fire and try to dig this intriguing matter up as dispassionately as I could.
“With respect, I really don’t see what you’re talking about. In my whole life I’ve never heard of or witnessed a Moroccan being attacked or discriminated against because he was a Jew. Yes you can find some scarce instances of mean racist behavior of the kind you’d find in every western society, but nothing really malign. In fact Jewish people -with all due respect to your parents- have fled the country not because they were threatened but because they were encouraged to do so, or deliberately pushed into a state of irrational fear of the Arabs (I mean Muslims) by the so many pernicious activities of Israel’s Zionist agencies.”
She turned red, but I didn’t quite work out whether she was hurt, upset or just going to go berserk.
“I’m a secular Jew, I don’t quite care about religious matters. In fact I’m agnostic. I’m suspicious of everything religious. You can’t deny mounting antisemitic feelings amongst Muslims… and you cannot just put the blame on Israel… the only democracy in the region and a secular state.”
There we go. My goodness! I glanced to my watch thinking: “I don’t wanna get bogged down into this… Is this really worth loosing my time?” I was really annoyed by what I’ve just heard ’cause I really started to like the irresistibly attractive lady standing in front of me, looking offended.
“I’m not denying mounting antisemitic feelings not only amongst Muslims,” I replied ” but in every corner of the planet and I’m deeply saddened and concerned by that. It’s very difficult to deny the obvious and I have no reason to denying that… But I think you’ve missed my point. Antisemitism is a despicable phenomenon; a symptom of a much profound disease. If you think like a Doctor you would surely want to treat the symptoms but you know that as long as the deep and pernicious source is left undiagnosed, you’re running the risk of relapse. And you don’t have to work it out that hard. The diagnosis has got a name: it’s Zionism. Now, sure Zionism cannot be blamed for all the filthy antisemitic nut cases out there but it’s surely a fundamental motive for many ignorant extremists and racists who find in Israel’s actions and those of her supporters, the ideal pretext for further stigmatizing and defaming Jews for no reason other than they are Jews. But I think that you should stop deluding yourself with regard to Israel: First it is not a democracy… Did you get that? IT IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. No democracy in the world would divide its citizens into two or three classes: Ashkenazi being first-class citizens, Sephardi and Falasha being arguably the second, and last & indeed least, the unwanted pesky Arabs put in some sort of non-citizenship status. As for Israel being a secular state: I agree that the founding figures of Zionism, from Herzl onward, have been for the most part secular; in fact most of them were atheists, but you have to admit that Judaism was used by those same figures to gain political and moral support for their scheme. If you mistrust anything religious as you claim, I don’t see how you can miss the ludicrously obvious religious undertone of the Israeli state which claims to represent all Jews on this planet?”
Now she’s seriously blushing. May be I should work out a way out of this. I don’t want to be ripped apart by this young lady. Cowardice? Yea! maybe. Who wouldn’t lack courage in front of such a delicate creature? She finally replied:
“I don’t like Israel, nor do I like Arabs… I mean Arab countries… I mean States. I know where you’re coming from but I don’t like politics anyway. I don’t like politics…”
Well I didn’t ask her to dislike Israel or even to love Arabs… All I was asking for, is a bit more of fairness. Now I can’t help defining as racist anyone proclaiming his or her dislike or even liking of one group of human beings or another because this is the typical kind of irrational mindset that brought terrible tragedies in the very near past. I mean Arabs, Jews, Blacks or Asians are not clones or a bunch of perfectly homogeneous individuals; therefore there is no reasonable basis for liking or disliking each group as a whole. There is no black and white (no pun intended) kind of answer for that.
We decided to cut short the conversation, changing the subject and trying to enjoy the rest of the evening, not without a little pinch of disappointment in my heart. “Never trust appearances” my grandmother always told me… yes! but I still wonder if I should have asked for her number… to expand on the conversation of course not for what some twisted minds would think… of course!