In the first 24 hours after my column appeared, my mailbox was full of responses from people complimenting me: finally someone who simply writes it in the newspaper. I breathed a sigh of relief, because I had weighed my words very carefully because it was all so precarious. I had read it well, I thought. Listened to a lot of people.
And above all, I was and am affected and I lie awake at night because of the horrible images that keep coming. With so much violence and death, it is one thing to still have doubts about whether something can be called a genocide disgrace.
But then came the backlash. From someone I hold in high esteem. A friend. And that made it really hard for me. The criticism was not about the term genocide and the horror about it. But about my chosen words and my analysis of the use of the slogan ‘From the river to the sea‘.
In my view, many people use the slogan with the intention of saying that the Palestinians should be free. By determining from the outside that it is by definition a call for the extermination of Israelis, it becomes just that. What I had written was: you silence oppressed people even further by now also determining for them which slogans they can use.
‘But did I realize that Hamas had hijacked this sentence and was actually calling for the murder of Israelis – Jews? Did I realize that Jewish people in this city also do not dare to go out on the streets, and that schools are closed for fear of violence?’
To be honest. No.
Or yes, I had read that, but my brain had apparently closed itself off to it. It’s trivialized next to all the visible violence. A big blind spot.
And why didn’t I call the Hamas massacre on October 7 a mass slaughter? The impression of my piece could now be that I accuse Israel of genocide without taking into account that fourteen hundred people were extremely brutally murdered out of pure hatred and provocation.
As a columnist it is up to me to make sense of things. To inform me well, to read up on it. And to always choose my words carefully. This week I called a friend who is a journalist in Israel, and I spoke to an acquaintance who is a correspondent there.
I followed the report of a friend who went with one of the convoys with aid to Gaza. I talked for a long time with friends with contacts in Gaza and with friends with family in Israel. With Jewish people. With Muslim people.
The summary is that everyone is broken. That no one I speak to hates Jews or Muslims. Perhaps that is my bubble, which usually indeed consists of good people. Everyone is a victim. Of Hamas, of the ultra-right Netanyahu government, but also of the language and the words, the opinions, the politics, the history and all the heartache and need for revenge.
Tinkebell writes a column every week Het Parool. Read all her columns here.