By Rolene Marks
I remember when Vogue magazine used to be the fashion bible for the dedicated fashionistas – and Carrie Bradshaw. Being a shoe/bag/fashion lover myself, I have pored over completely unattainable fashion while reading the accompanying articles. I would imagine Teen Vogue is a mini-version of that, complete with a dose of teenage angst.
What I didn’t anticipate was that angst being targeted explicitly at Israel. And not for the first time.
An opinion piece, published to coincide with Chanukah and written by Emma Gometz and titled “How to speak to my grandparents about Israel” rankled me and made my fiery red hair stand on end.
At the outset I must stress that it is vitally important that we listen to young people and acknowledge and discuss their concerns. The Gen Z generation who are most likely to read publications like Teen Vogue, see the world through the narrative of social justice – and that is admirable BUT it is also an imperative to listen to the older generations, many of whom have a lived experience and knowledge that Gen Z and even millenials could greatly benefit from.
To be honest, I found the title and the contents of the article to be profoundly condescending and dismissive of the experience of a generation that remembers only too well a world where there was no Jewish state, who have seen or even volunteered in the IDF as Israel battled several wars for survival, who witnessed the ravages and suicide bombings of two intifadas (uprisings) and waves of terror that have claimed far too many lives.
This article by Gometz is more than just an “okay, Boomer” moment. It is a blatant dismissal of any history or experience of generations far more knowledgeable than Gometz. Theirs are not generations that need or deserve to be condescended to.
It is no great secret that the trendy cause du jour for the socially aware teen is to be anti-Israel. Israel has been carefully wrapped up in a lexicon of words that include “Apartheid”, “colonizer” and “racist’. For teenagers who are acutely aware of the language of social justice but sadly lack facts and knowledge, this is very seductive.
“It” girls, Gigi and Bella Hadid and popstar, Dua Lipa (who coincidentally is dating their brother, Anwar) are their role models of choice and have been featured across social media platforms pushing an anti-Israel agenda. These are the “influencers” that young people look up to. Lipa even has the dubious honour of being featured on a list of most notorious anti-Semites for 2021, compiled by NGO, stopantisemitism.org. The three influencers also featured in an advert in the New York Times exposing their support for Hamas. Instead of apologising, Lipa doubled down on her criticism against Israel.
This is extremely important when one considers that amongst the millions of followers that these three have on social media, is the readership of Teen Vogue, add to the mix a young writer who feels it appropriate to virtual signal to her more worldly grandparents and we can see why we have a younger generation who is less and less connected to Israel – and a magazine willing to exploit that.
What Teen Vogue fail to understand is that not all young Jews are going to be rushing off to lecture the “boomers” about their perceived views of the faults and failures of the Jewish state.
There are many young, proud, vocal Zionist Jews, many of whom face threats, online abuse, intimidation and dangerous situations on their various university campuses who will not be shamed, bullied and silenced.
They are talking so social media to condemn and expose hypocrisy and send a resounding message to those who seek to cancel them that try as they might, they will not be silent – or silenced.
My recommendation to Teenage Vogue is that before they deem it appropriate to exploit young Jews and attempt to re-write history, perhaps they should interview these brave, young lions.
While they are at it, maybe they could interview Israeli teens. They will learn what it is like to grow up under threats of rockets and terror attacks. I advise Teen Vogue to speak to teens from Sderot and surrounds, many of whom carry the internal wounds of PTSD, having grown up with rocket attacks and desperate fleeing to shelters. Maybe Teen Vogue should talk to Israeli teens to understand the enormity of the responsibility of serving your country by going to the army or national service. Israeli teens carry the legacy of the generations before them who survived the Holocaust, who fought to establish the modern Jewish state and defended her borders, who have lived through wars, intidafas and threats of annihilation. It is a massive responsibility on their young shoulders, and yet they bear it with pride.
I would also recommend that Teen Vogue speak to Palestinian teens and maybe ask them how they feel about being raised on a diet of hatred and incitement, what it is like to be forced to become child soldiers and how their trips to “summer camp” are as far removed from arts and crafts and kumbaya around the firelight as one gets. Perhaps Teen Vogue and the sanctimonious Gometz will gain a better understanding of the nuances and complexities of the region.
Before Teen Vogue and their writers seek to lecture the generations before them from the immense privilege and comfort of their homes and offices far removed from the everyday experience of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Unless they are willing to listen before lecturing, offer solutions before sanctimony and practicality before posturing, Teen Vogue should consider the damage they are causing.
By continuing to exploit young Jews for the aims of pushing an agenda that is “in Vogue” – both literally and figuratively, Teen Vogue is contributing to a climate of hate – and that should never be “on trend” as the kids say these days.
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