As a little girl, I was taught to watch my words. Words could be dangerous – hurt other people’s feelings, lead others astray, or damage someone’s good name. My grandfather told me that you are born with one good name and your job is to guard this good name all your life.
We look for shortcuts or headlines that best reflect our ideas, our fears and our enthusiasms. We end up using words that we would not own if we gave them a little thought. For example, we call our neighbours “non-Jews,” which suggests an otherness, rather than call them by a description that they would choose for themselves. We call other Israelis Arabs who are Muslim or Christian. This term can lead to racism in Israeli society among Jews. When Israelis who are Muslim or Christian commit a crime, they are not given a name in news reports. They called ‘Arab terrorists.’ If each person were given a name, we would understand that a particular person committed crime; but calling the nameless person an Arab places everyone in the category under suspicion.
The liberal Christian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign looks for news stories or even gossip to prove their point that only the Palestinians suffer in this long conflict and always it is the Jews and / or the Americans who are to blame for these injustices. They claim that they are not antisemitic – only against Jews who support Israel. We are put in a black-or-white position. If one of us wants to question a particular Israeli policy, we cannot do so publicly lest we be seen by our fellow Jews as being on the other side. Liberal Christians who do not support BDS are put in an awkward position too. They are also prevented from asking questions lest they are seen as siding against their own.
It is time to put away shortcuts, in our speech and on social media like Facebook and Twitter, to stop “liking” or passing around stories that may be false or ideas that don’t really reflect our own thinking. We each have only one good name.