How social media triggered my BZD (Bipolar Zionist Disorder)

I want peace. I want us to be friends with Palestinians, but these nutjob anti-Zionist/Israel folks need to be put in their place. Obviously, I'm the right person for the job. Two, three, five, ten, thirteen TikToks later, I am addicted.

During my third tech company layoff, staring at a computer screen and munching on cookies, my wife texted me around 2 P.M. and asked, “’What are you doing?” “Thinking about writing a blog about how I went mad on TikTok,” I replied. This seems like a good place to kick things off.

 

Despite my disdain for the platform, I had been an avid TikTokker before the war, with a feed filled with funny sketches, recipes, and women recounting bad dates. I could scroll for ages without keeping track of the time, or doom scroll after work, eventually falling asleep to rug-cleaning videos (my nighttime treat).

 

But after October 7, things took a turn. To set the scene: My wife packs up and heads off to the north, indefinitely, on miluim, where a second conflict is brewing. I’m home alone: it’s just me, TikTok, and war. Sporadic clips of fleeing Nova ravers, bound hostages, and Noa Tishby find their way to me. Korean cooking videos slip away as I watch 19-year-old Naama Levy being manhandled by a terrorist out of a pickup truck in Gaza on repeat, bloodied in her face, body, and behind.

 

On the 10th of October, a TikTokker named Charlene Eldon appears on my screen. Her very earnest face intrigues me. As a fellow frizzy-haired Ashkenazi Jew, I assume she is about to express the pain of October 7th. Standing in a forest, she speaks softly to the camera and says:

 

“’The alleged crimes of Hamas have already been disproven. They were propaganda lies spread by the Israeli media first, and then by our [United States] government, and then our media.”

 

Rage. Literal rage. How fucking dare she. Shaken by her words, I come across more videos of people hurling insults at the Israelis and the “Evil Zionist Project.” Bear in mind that I am pretty apolitical; but when I see the likes of Eldon & co, the Zionist in me ignites and burns brighter with every passing anti-Israel video.

 

I return to Charline’s video to reassess. Maybe I misunderstood her. Nope: I did understand. I then do something that I had never done in almost two years of consuming TikTok: I make a TikTok myself.

 

With camera-shy nerves to the fore, quivering at my imminent debut, I call her insane and ask her to explain why there are Gazans celebrating in the streets if these attacks were “disproven.” She comments on my video and accuses me of being paid by the IOF, which I learn is the Israeli Occupation Forces. My video gets almost 10,000 views; before I know it, my comment section is full of some who call me a Zionist as a slur and some who spew hatred against Palestinians while cheering me on. One TikTokker with the username “Zain al Falastin” (Fuck Palestine) “hearts” my video. I hate that.

 

Alas, this is my life now.

 

“I need to find my audience,” I think to myself.” I hate war. I want peace. I want us to be friends with Palestinians, but these nutjob anti-Zionist/Israel folks need to be put in their place. Obviously, I’m the right person for the job. And so, for the next few weeks, I hate-scroll the app with a sort of Hasbara-y vigilantism, on the hunt for these internet criminals.

 

Two, three, five, ten, thirteen TikToks later, I am addicted. The weird abuse seems to rev me up. A little masochism? Maybe. The thrill of online attention? Perhaps. Wanting to engage in this dialogue, and to “explain” Israel to people? Yes, that too. I stop sleeping. Constantly checking the engagement. I am buzzed beyond words. My eye starts twitching, my heart racing. I wake up to find anti-Zionists yelling at me. I am a genocidal maniac. “IsraHell” should not exist.

 

A Palestinian American woman posts a TikTok claiming that the released hostages had a great time in captivity. She replays the hostages waving to their captors upon their release from Gaza, commenting on how wonderful Hamas terrorists are. Rage. I respond. Though I find myself spending more effort on sounding “smart” and snappy than paying attention to the actual matter at hand. The actual matter of hostages sitting in captivity, experiencing God knows what. Is my content creation detracting from the horrific reality? What am I doing?

I rewatch Telegram videos to feel something.

Panic attack.

Nausea.

Cry.

Vomit.

I call wife.

She calms me down, stuck in her own war. Busy bunking with 20-year-olds, not getting any sleep either.

She implores me to take a break.

I abide.

 

Birds tweet in the quiet air. I keep the TikToks at bay. But of course, there’s Instagram; TikTok’s slightly less obnoxious cousin, but certainly not immune to war. X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, keeps me afloat like oxycontin instead of heroin.

 

The war progresses. More people die.

 

I watch Motaz on Instagram. He’s a Palestinian journalist reporting on the war from Gaza. He mostly films our airstrikes on their city, kids screaming and bleeding in bedless hospitals. They get bandaged up on the floor, some trembling from shellshock, some screaming and crying, and some just lying there lifeless.

 

Next an image of Herzog, Israel’s president, signing a rocket that will eventually be launched and slammed into a building full of people. I don’t really have words anymore. Truth is, originally I had wanted to write something making fun of anti-Zionists.

 

Almost four months later, seeing countless dead bodies of both Palestinians and Israelis, screaming, shrapnel-filled Gazan toddlers, hopeless hostage videos, and SmotchGvir hooligans calling for the demise of Palestinians, I think I might be becoming an anti-Zionist myself. I had thought that I hated them. I had seen them as self-hating Jews, whiny Ashkenazim with a bad case of survivor’s guilt. The kind that feel awkward after a terrorist attack, a “sorry I was in the way” kind of attitude dissolving into a puddle of tears and self-blame. They get the “ick” from Ben Shapiro and Israeli flag-waving boomers. But perhaps they’re onto something. Maybe we are the problem.

 

The content beckons me. Another video of a dead Gazan child. I collapse into a puddle of tears and self-blame, questioning why I even came to this country in the first place—from South Africa, our courtroom buddies, of all places. What the hell is Zionism? Is the cost of a Jewish state too high? Why do we treat Palestinians like shit? Why keep fighting for this stupid land led by despicable people?

 

My anti-Zionist feelings are reaffirmed by the TikTok of a 20-year-old white girl, with the Palestinian flag on her bedroom wall and the watermelon in her profile. She tells me that Zionism is, in fact, predicated on the death of Palestinians. She assures me that she’s not antisemitic. She cuts to an excerpt from Jabotinsky’s The Iron Wall (she calls him Jaabotaanksy) and proves to me that Israel only ever wanted to be a settler colonial state that kills Palestinians. That’s been our plan all along, because the Zionists are sneaky sneaky.

 

Now I hate Israel and Jews with all my heart. Thank you, Watermelon Girl. Swiping on, I come across a video of Israeli soldiers tossing around the underwear of a Gazan woman.

 

I rage. In the throes of antisemitic hatred, I rant to my wife. She gets upset. She defends “her” country. I tell her she sounds “hasbara-y.” She loses her patience and snaps back with a sharp history lesson that slaps me in the face. “There has been a consistent Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, like, this whole time. And did British and Spanish colonizers have a shred of a connection to America the way Holocaust survivors and ethnically cleansed Jewish from the Middle East have to Israel?”

Her words leave me bumbling. “Oh…well…yeah…but…” I sound silly. Maybe us Israelis are all right.

She tries to soothe me. “Lovey, I know we have idiots in charge. We will leave this place one day; we will live somewhere else. Don’t worry.” “No!” I say, patriotically, swayed politically in the opposite direction in a scant second. I love Israel! We are Jews; this is where we belong! She shoos me away. My bipolar Zionism is too much for her; she just wants to decompress and watch makeup tutorials. I go wash the dishes, a born-again (again) Zionist.

 

I think back to that video of the soldiers rummaging through the woman’s underwear drawer. Of course, the woman is nowhere to be seen. Maybe she’s dead, maybe she fled. Who is she? Is she the wife of a Hamas terrorist who, just a few months ago, ripped off the underwear of an Israeli girl at the last party of her life? Zionist rage fills me once again.

 

Another video. A nerdy communist guy with messy hair lectures me about Marx, white supremacy, oppression, and Zionism. I have no idea where he gets his material from, but it sounds like the echoes of countless academic papers and the ramblings of bitter university professors. He tells me that Zionism is the ideological manifestation of the worst parts of the West—greed, imperialism, supremacy, expansionism, and oppression. It all culminates in that thing that Jews (well, the bad Jews) believe in—the creation of a Jewish homeland.

 

I watch Matt Lieb, a terrible comedian who makes sarcastic comedy about Israeli hasbara; Daniel Mate, the son of the world-renowned psychologist Gabor Mate (who has garnered recognition for being an anti-Israel Holocaust survivor). His son Daniel does Instagram livestreams and mostly claims that Israelis who aren’t anti-Zionist are brainwashed goons; There’s Allison 🍉 something; and a girl whose name I don’t remember, who introduces herself every time with “Hi, I’m (something), I’m an anti-Zionist Jew with ADHD and a Wi-Fi connection.” She tells a story about some shitty sexist Israeli boys during high school summer camp—“sexist in a different non-American way”—claiming that their attitude is indicative of the current genocidal Israeli mindset. I hate her.

 

Then there’s the trend of former Birthrighters who talk as if they’ve escaped a cult. “My name is Becca and I’m a recovering Zionist who was brainwashed by a culturally appropriated falafel (I’m paraphrasing).” This is, of course, after they enjoyed the free trip, soaked up the sun and seas, possibly scored a government-subsidized degree at Tel Aviv or Hebrew University, and escaped crippling student debt. But I digress.

 

More of the same content spewing the same stuff, covert antisemitism—yes, sorry if that sounds like a cliche. This stuff isn’t obvious like swastikas and angry men who hate “Hollywood elites and media.” It’s not the classic kind either. Not the old-school antisemitism     —     caricatures of funny-looking, troll-like, devilish rat-type Jew types (pronounced JOO) hoarding bags of money. You know…old faithful.

 

Between that bunch, the Hamas lovers and “Intifada, Intifada now” folks, “Zain al Falestin” types and “your Zionism is an evil curse upon the earth,” I frankly don’t know where to stand. Perhaps I should just go give Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, a piece of my mind, maybe he’s the one to blame. Then perhaps we could all pretend everything was fine.

 

I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out why some people want to go to such lengths to explain to other people that they don’t deserve to be in a land. Not because they’re necessarily hurting someone else, but because they are there, and they shouldn’t be there.

 

Yet. Even as I am finishing this thought, I know we are hurting the people here. Not just by being here, but also by actively hurting them, because they hurt us. And so it goes. Truth be told, I respect the Palestinian who tries to kill me more than the American TikTokker who tells me why my Zionism is bad. Fuck you.

 

Am Yisrael Chai?

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