WONDER WOMAN - WEIGHTLIFTER PUAWAI MUNRO-HALKYARD
NZ/CA. Student. Scientist. Queer. Geeky fangirl.
The other day, I posted a series of tweets about how I was sick of seeing “These Jews are protesting against Israel” photos being tweeted and retweeted. I explained that those Jews are usually from extreme religious sects who are anti-Israel because of their messianic beliefs. I said that it was bullshit tokenism from the Leftie Liberal Twitter Bubble considering that they wouldn’t agree with these groups on any other issue, especially given their views on women.
I got a lot of fluffy responses, “thanks for telling me this,” “oh wow that’s so important to hear” and I also got a response that was thoroughly anti-Semitic and made explicit reference to the murder of Jews in the Holocaust. So I took a screenshot of it and posted it on twitter with the commentary “Being a Jew in public”.
The responses I got from that were even more irritating, “oh my goodness, I’m so sorry” “Wow”, lots of expressions of shock and surprise. I’ve had a lot of feelings over the last week as I’ve been watching but not engaging with the conversation, such as it exists on twitter, about the current assault on Gaza by Israel and so I sort of… exploded. I posted a series of emotional and angry tweets about why Israel exists, why it reacts the way it does, what my connection to it is, how Kiwis (and especially white Kiwis) don’t have any understanding of what is actually going on over there, and why I don’t normally discuss these issues in public.
Afterwards, when I calmed down, I took those tweets and other thoughts that I had, and wrote this in an attempt to explain why I feel the way I do about Israel.
Roots and Butter Curls.
A great-great-grandmother of mine led a fundraising effort in Groningen, Holland in the early 20th Century to buy a cow to send to a kibbutz in what was then Palestine. The cow was bought, sent, and duly named after her, “Rebekkah”. When her grandson, Joop, my grandfather, was a young man and was turning out to be somewhat wayward, he and his cousin Fritz were put on a boat to Palestine, to join the Jewish community there. When the war started, they tried to return to fight for Holland but by the time they got to Europe, the Nazis had already invaded. They were redirected to England where Joop and Fritz both joined the Princess Irene Brigade of the Dutch Free Forces, eventually making their way over to Europe to fight in Operation Market Garden
During the war, my Dutch and German families were decimated, unprotected & turned on by their home states. I grew up with stories of my grandmother, Anneliese, fleeing from her school on Kristallnacht, the house being ransacked, and my great-grandfather being arrested by the Gestapo. My grandmother, aged 16, travelled alone from Germany to France to England where the rest of the family were waiting for her. Her journey took a year. My great-great-grandfather, aged 85, died in Bergen-Belsen. He kept himself clean, free of the lice that spread disease. He exercised, he was living, he would have survived. But his false teeth broke and he couldn’t eat the hard bread that was the only food and so he died. But for those broken teeth, he would have survived.
Lives were restarted & rebuilt in England; previous careers were useless. Who wants an old German lawyer in England during war time? My great-grandmother ran a British Restaurant, a scheme set up to feed the public during the Blitz. My clumsy academic great-grandfather watched for fires from the rooftops, while learning English from newspapers, unable to help in any other way. He was a decorated veteran from WW1 and was not afraid.
My grandmother worked in a hotel, alone, several miles from her family, too far to visit regularly. Her job was to set the tables with the dishes for breakfast. One day, homesick, she scraped the butter into delicate curls in each dish, like she remembered from when she was a child. Each curl was squashed into ugly lumps by the woman who ran the place, “We don’t do that here.”
My grandparents met in England & my mother was born in ‘47. She was unexpected but greatly cherished. Her birth brought hope after so much loss. My mother was seven months old when the State of Israel was declared.
Eventually the family moved to Israel and spent years there. My mother served in the IDF during the Six Day War in ‘67. My aunt did her army service by acting as a guide in the National Parks. But it’s a hard country, full of anger, and eventually my mum & the middle sister left.
My grandfather is buried in Haifa, my grandmother in Jerusalem. My other aunt, the youngest sister, lives there, in Orthodoxy. She is blessed, her son is engaged and her daughters are both married, one with a son of her own.
My German grandmother had no gift for languages. She always said that God knew this and tested her, making her learn English, French and Hebrew. My mother speaks six languages. I’ve told this to people and they refer to her as lucky, as blessed to speak so many languages. But it wasn’t really luck, it was necessity - they moved around a lot. Refugees have no roots.
When people ask me where my mother is from, I tell them either “It’s complicated” or “Europe.” She herself tends to identify as Israeli. Born in England, they moved to France, she learned German at school, moved to Israel, moved back to France, moved to Israel again (did army service and a degree), moved to Holland (met my British father there), moved to Italy (my brother was born), and finally, finally, moved to New Zealand, where I was born. When my parents made the decision to move here, it was with the knowledge that it would be permanent. They were leaving behind their families but my life, my brother’s life, would not be disrupted the way my mother’s had been. We could start growing those roots that had been missing.
I have started to refer to myself as Accidentally Kiwi, the only member of my family born in NZ. My mother was already pregnant with me when she arrived here. But, you know, we’re not real immigrants. We’re white, we have money, we speak English. We fit in, we pass. We even have a Christmas tree, just like my thoroughly-assimilated German grandmother did as a child in the ‘20s and ‘30s before everything changed.
I have almost no extended family in New Zealand, aside from some second cousins in the Bay of Plenty. I had to explain to a co worker in charge of a style guide that “Christian name” and “First name” are not synonymous, that unless you’ve been christened, you don’t have a Christian name. The phrase stayed put (“Perhaps in the next version?” I was told. This was five years ago). When I pointed out, in a progressive space, that a karakia is generally a Christian prayer, multiple cultures were belittled when someone replied that karakia don’t really count. I get questions when I take time off to help my mum set up for Pesach or Rosh Hashannah. I’m sick of educating people about my traditions.
People ask stupid questions (Do you speak Jewish? Isn’t that the one where you can only eat pork? Isn’t Judaism a kind of Christianity? Why did you kill Jesus lol lol?) or they tell me I’m the first Jew they’ve ever met or they share some uncomfortable and ignorant observation and suddenly I am different, my butter curls are squashed, as people realise that my family are new to New Zealand and that we’re not what they expected.
As a child, I read the novel Altneuland by Theodore Herzl. It is idealistic and unrealistic but it drew a picture of safety, of collective support and community, of familiarity, of no longer being a stranger in a foreign culture. I fell absolutely in love. My feelings were immature and without nuance but after a childhood of making Christmas cards at school and knowing that something about Easter just wasn’t quite right, reading about a Jewish country was a revelation.
I grew up in a socialist zionist youth movement. My movement had its roots in the scouting movement of Britan and in the vibrant community that used to exist in Poland. Members of the Polish movement fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. From nine years old to 21, this was my main connection with my history, the faith and the race that I came from. When I was 18, I worked and saved and the Jewish community in New Zealand helped pay for me to spend a year studying in Israel. In return, I was to give two years of leadership back to the youth movement and the community. In reality, it was more like five – I had been leading since I was 17. The ideals of Theodore Herzl seemed marvellous. We painted his portrait on the wall of our moadon.
The utopian socialist vision from Herzl does not and can not exist. As a naïve 18 year old who arrived in Israel, thinking that as a Leftie she was well educated in its flaws, this was a source of exhaustion and heartbreak. It’s the flaw in every ideology – we forget that people don’t exist in a vacuum, that they’re influenced by their experiences.
Israel is twisted by its foundation of pain & suffering, the actions of its government guided by paranoia. It’s like the entire country has PTSD, constantly exacerbated by the ongoing conflict. Israel cannot be weak! Any perceived weakness will be exploited! There is no other way to continue to exist! These are harsh lessons, learned from hundreds of years of slaughter, pogroms, expulsions, riots, holocausts, exterminations, bad faith and betrayal. To trust any other country or government to keep us safe is to be foolish.
I don’t support the attacks in Gaza. I don’t support the settlers in the West Bank. I abhor the greed and the racism and the violence and the thirst for conquest that I see in the extreme right in Israel. Nothing in the zionism I love says anything about oppressing others. But I can’t not support Israel’s existence. Israel fucks up over and over but I keep hoping it’ll get it right one day. When I was in Israel, I went to a peace protest of 10,000 people organised by Shalom Achshav. It was held in Kikar Rabin, a public city square named after a Prime Minister killed by a Jewish right wing extremist who hated Rabin for his peace process. This was 10 years ago. Those peace protests haven’t stopped. I’m not defending Israel or justifying its actions. I’m just asking for a little bit of understanding.
A while back, I was having a moan to a very good friend, annoyed at the kneejerk reactions of white Kiwis who know nothing about anything, annoyed about assumptions made about me.
“I can’t stand it, I don’t want to talk about it with these people! Because I’m not, I’m not…” I struggled for words.
“Because you’re not a zionist!” she exclaimed, sure that she’d struck the right phrase.
I was disappointed by her lack of understanding though perhaps I should have expected it. With my history and experiences, with my family’s experiences, how could I be anything else? It is as integral to my belief system as my feminism and just as misunderstood by other people.
What I meant was that I didn’t want to be a mouthpiece, I didn’t want to be anyone’s Jewish Authority On The Issue. It is not my job to be an ambassador or an educator about my culture. At a party, drink in hand, I don’t feel like being lectured or interrogated by a POLS student, or Wellington policy wonk who did a few religion papers at Vic, for whom this topic of conversation is interesting, it’s academic. He (because let’s be serious, it is usually a he) is sure that if we can just talk about it enough, we can all sort out it out and get peace in the Middle East! Jews are just so interesting with all their history and stuff! How laudable they are, these discussions.
I set my friend right very quickly, by the way. I am a zionist. It is not a dirty word for me. It means freedom and defence and safety and unity and friends and family. It is self determination and family history. I know there are Jews out there who don’t think I am zionist enough. I know there are Jews out there who think I am too zionist. There’s not a whole lot I can do about that, I only know my own experience and I’ve tried to explain it here. As the old saying goes, where you have two Jews, you have three opinions.
My grandmother remembered lying in bed as a child in Germany, listening to her family in the garden, laughing with each other on a summer’s night and feeling safe, cherished, and loved. My mother has no such memory. By that point the family had all been murdered or scattered around the world. I have a vague idea, as my parents built their lives here in New Zealand. I hope that my future children will be the ones to have grown those roots again, whose butter curls won’t be squashed.
Bergen-Belsen: Nazi concentration camp.
British Restaurant: Communal subsidised kitchens set up throughout London which sold very cheap but nutritious meals without taking ration cards.
Gestapo: Nazi Secret Police.
IDF: Israeli Defence Force, the army of the state of Israel. There is compulsory military service in Israel.
Karakia: Prayer in Māori, often Christian in denomination.
Kibbutz: Collectivist village, originally with an agricultural focus.
Kristallnacht: “The Night of Broken Glass”, 9/10 November 1938, a series of attacks carried out on Jews across Nazi Germany and Austria.
Pesach: Passover, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover
PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rosh Hashannah: New Year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosh_Hashanah
Shalom Achshav: Peace Now, a peace organisation in Israel.
Zionism: The belief in the right of the Jewish people to their own state.
[on diversity in media] I think it’s social responsibility. I think it’s our responsibility to stand up and say what we want. I think if you look at television in the past two years, it’s becoming the decade of the female. Like, all these new shows with female leads. Even if you look at television, as well as cable, as well as films, there’s been a resurgence, as far as the leading woman in Hollywood, which is great. And I think we’re also at the point now…you know, it’s interesting…x
my favorite thing in stories is when the antagonist doesn’t die, but instead they realize they were being kind of a stupid dick (maybe because the protagonist saved them or something) and then they have to kind of awkwardly tag along with the heroes in order to make up for their mistakes and gradually become slightly less evil
i want so badly to ignore this and just get on with my life, considering that i’m in the midst of tour and traveling the US right now, but it’s clear that I can’t escape this. this is a very long post, i am keeping it under a cut.
additionally, at least until tumblr moves on from this, my askbox is off. it is a nightmare. i can’t deal with it right now.
so. I was an invited panelist at Dashcon, and I was on 10 panels over the weekend. my name is mark, I run Mark Reads and Mark Watches, and have been doing so for 5 years next month. (HOLY SHIT THAT IS A LONG TIME.) I have been attending cons for over a decade and been speaking at them as a panelist or a guest since 2011. Including my own tour events outside of cons, I have participated in over 150 “panels,” ranging from 50 minutes to 4 hours. I’m including this upfront because I’ve already been accused of being a 16-year-old nobody who doesn’t know what he’s doing at cons and is ruining fandom. Also, I’m apparently white and straight. ALSO THIS IS A MESS.
"convention staff swindle $500 per year" factoid actualy just statistical error. average convention staff swindles $0 per year. dashcon georg, who lives in cave & swindles $17,000 each day, is an outlier adn should not have been counted
|dad:||oh god it's starting shut up i've been waiting for this for months|
|dad:||THESE ARE THE BICEPS OF FREEDOM|
|dad:||i don't know what's happening but the french guy fighting cap looks like french macklemore|
|me:||how do you even know who macklemore is?|
|dad:||i'm hip. i'm cool|
|me:||don't you do it|
|dad:||i'm gonna pop some tags, only got 20 baguettes in my pocket|
|(five minutes later)|
|dad:||is that the Falcon? that's totally the Falcon|
|me:||how do you know?|
|dad:||i used to read the comic books trust me on this i'm an expert. his superpower was that he could talk to birds|
|dad:||i mean in hindsight it probably wasn't the most useful thing ever|
|dad:||if this winter soldier is supposedly a ghost in the machine that nobody's ever seen, and nobody will ever catch, you would think showing up in broad daylight and blowing up cars would not be his modus operandi|
|dad:||how the heck did he laser through concrete??|
|me:||idk dad it's nick fury he can probably do whatever he wants|
|dad:||i'm sorry attractive nurse who just so happens to live next door, my heart belongs to a seventy year russian dude with a bionic arm|
|dad:||nick fury isn't dead. justice never dies. he probably has a billion clones in some top secret storage facility, just waiting for their organ harvest.|
|me:||ew dad gross no|
|dad:||i really relate to that apple store employee|
|me:||we all do dad|
|dad:||oh that's that guy from the first movie! i remember him! he was my favorite, his eyes were so blue, and he loved steve so much. i wanted them to get together|
|me:||dad good god|
|dad:||he was a little less marilyn manson at that point though|
|dad:||not that guyliner isn't a good look for this guy|
|dad:||when a deadly russian assassin wears eyeliner, it's 'he's so dreamy' and 'wow what a badass'|
|dad:||but when i do it it's 'you're too old' and 'bald guys can't pull off make-up'|
|me:||dad it was halloween and it was one time you need to let this go|
|dad:||so bucky barnes, aka cute cocky guy who died in the first movie, aka steve roger's best friend/boyfriend, is a top secret super scary brainwashed hydra agent?|
|dad:||do you think single handedly destroying jets is just a common, everyday thing for cap? punch a few tanks, feed a few pigeons, take out a plane, help old ladies cross the street...|
|dad:||captain america is like your grandad minus the booze and the cussing|
|dad:||in all honesty that was a little anti-climactic|
|dad:||i was 100% sure nick fury was gonna descend majestically from the heavens, 'All I do is Win' blaring in the background, and single-handedly save everyone's ass|
|dad:||scarjo and chris evans are two of the most beautiful people in the world and they are both in this movie and i don't know how to feel about it i have butterflies in my stomach i'm a schoolboy again|
|me:||you know on second thought we should have brought mom|
|dad:||where's hawkeye? where's bruce? where's tony? where's thor? WHERE ARE ALL THE OTHER AVENGERS AS THE ENTIRETY OF SHIELD IS COMPROMISED AND NICK FURY DIES|
|me:||maybe they figured steve could handle it|
|dad:||maybe they're all lazy assholes|
So I have always been extremely embarrassed that my left ear is deaf. I tried to hide it in every way possible. It made me feel broken and useless, especially listening and playing music. My original idea was to put music notes behind my ear, but for some reason the idea just didn’t feel quite right considering I couldn’t hear said music. I came up with the mute symbol idea because lately I have learned to embrace my deafness. I tend to joke around that my left ear is like my mute button when I want to ignore someone. Now I am no longer ashamed and find strength in the humor of my tattoo.
That is pretty great.