OPINION Caught in the crossfire: what my teenage daughter taught me about the ‘cult of woke’

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OPINION Caught in the crossfire: what my teenage daughter taught me about the ‘cult of woke’

Intimidated and silenced by college friends who tell her Israel is the enemy, here's my plea for educational self-defence for Jewish youth

Screenshot Twitter/X @visegrad24
Anti-Israel protesters in New York City trying to storm a McDonald’s, December 2023
Screenshot Twitter/X @visegrad24 Anti-Israel protesters in New York City trying to storm a McDonald’s, December 2023

A panicked Whatsapp to the family chat from your 16-year old daughter is never a good thing.

It’s especially ‘not good’ when she is in town with non-Jewish college friends who, she furiously types, considered popping into McDonald’s for chips but then drastically reconsidered because the fast food chain ‘supports Israel’.

She’s now standing in the middle of the street, whispering on her phone, because she doesn’t know what to do. How should she respond? She tells me that they’re posting ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ across their social feeds.

Since Sunday’s IDF targeted military airstrike on two Hamas terrorists in Rafah and the secondary blasts which went on to kill dozens of Palestinians, the AI generated image on Instagram (which looks nothing like Rafah) has been shared north of 40 million times.

Never mind that those secondary blasts were likely caused by a Hamas weapons stockpile deliberately stored in the relocation zone, designed to cause maximum devastation to life. Never let the truth get in the way of a good excuse to excoriate Israel for alleged genocide, again.

AI generated image has been shared more than 45 million times across Instagram

These college kids know my daughter is Jewish. That she has Israeli family. They’re a mixed group across communities and faiths and she tells me that whilst its acceptable for them all to support causes like Black Lives Matter, Israel and Jews are a different matter entirely.

So, what does she say? What does she do? I know what I’d like to do, but it’s not going to do her any good in the long run.

It was also the night of the pro-Palestinian rally in Westminster which saw 40 arrested. So within three minutes my brother, who is over-protective at the best of times, is prepped and ready to race up to town with me to drag her home.

Billie Eilish at the Oscars 2024. Pic: Instagram

But she’s adamant she’ll handle it. She doesn’t want to make a fuss or make things worse for herself at college. She’s got a year left, she tells us.

“They’re acting like sheep,” she adds. “They just see a picture and assume. There’s no thought in it. Why does everyone immediately go against us? I really struggle to understand it. No matter what I say at school, it’s always thrown back in my face.

“I tried to explain to them about the meaning behind the bloody red hand badge that Billie Eilish wore at the Oscars, and my friend said, ‘But I know her. She’d never do anything like that. It’s just a misunderstanding’.

“And I thought to myself, ‘Bitch, please’. The power that celebrities hold is so dangerous. It’s scary to think how quickly people can turn against the Jews when you consider what happened in the Holocaust”.

When she gets home, she speaks to our Israel editor, Jotam, who does his best to distil October 7 and the subsequent Operation Swords of Iron (the name given to the IDF’s campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip) into bite-sized pieces suitable for consumption by a 16-year-old.

Alternative AI generated images.

It’s not the first sorry episode and it certainly won’t be the last, but this one in particular has made me think that for so long, ensuring our kids felt ‘secure’ has been about encouraging them to learn Krav Maga. To learn how to defend themselves physically. That was what we focused on.

What we have never prepared them for is an information war on such an unprecedented scale. Where what they’re up against is adoption of the ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ post as the latest badge of woke honour. Never mind that those posting it have little interest in discovering what really happened. And by the time the media reports what really happened, the damage has been done.

The majority of our teenagers are not fluent in international politics. There aren’t any educational initiatives for young Jewish kids to learn how to verbally and factually defend themselves, especially those who don’t go to Jewish schools.

So whilst we can say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’, I beg to differ. Yes. Yes they will.

Alternative images to ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ being widely shared by Jewish community on social media.

These are 15 and 16-year-olds, who are proud to be Jewish, may have gone on Israel tour and loved the experience, but feel utterly intimidated when confronted with so much propaganda and false information. Every minute of every day. Meme by meme, minute by minute.

I defy anyone to claim full mastery of the politics of the current war in Gaza. Our international media can’t. Hell, many of the politicians meant to be leading this country can’t either. So how can we expect it of Jewish teenagers, thrust into the big wide world with voices yelling at them that everything they stand for is evil, wrong, and genocidal?

With all this in mind, I send out a heartfelt plea to our extraordinary educational community organisations, to StandWithUs UK, Campaign Against Antisemitism, UJS, UJIA, Tribe and Etgar: consider how we can prepare the youth of today we are so protective of, to enable them to stand up for themselves and their tribe in the future.

Obsessed with Marvel and always one to have the last word, my daughter quotes Spiderman who said: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.

She adds: “Influencers can just brainwash people to think something. Just because you love a singer and love their work doesn’t mean everything they do is right. It’s so barbaric. It’s actually mad.”

  • In April 2024, McDonald’s announced it would buy back all of its Israeli restaurants. Sales at the fast food burger chain have suffered following customer boycotts of the international brand over its perceived support for Israel. McDonald’s was also criticised after Israeli franchise branches gave thousands of free meals to members of the IDF. 
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