by Eric Rozenman (September 2021)
The Wandering Jew, Samuel Hirszenberg, 1899
Until the end of World War II and the Holocaust, Jew-haters sought the destruction of the Jewish people. Those discomfited by Judaism and Jews, though they personally might not consider themselves haters, stood aside.
Today, Jew-haters aim at the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Those discomfited by Zionism—the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, or, more simply, by the idea non-Jews should treat Jews like they do each other—stand aside. Often, they do so in sympathy, silent or vocalized, with those who attack Israelis.
Israel-haters falsely attribute to the Jewish state the same supremacist conspiracy theories previously pinned on the Jewish people. So, when Israel-haters cannot strike the Jewish state directly, they attack diaspora Jews. This was plain during and after Israel’s 11-day war of self-defense in May against a barrage of 4,000-plus rockets fired by Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip.
Both movements long have been designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. Terrorism is the threat or use of force against non-combatants to influence larger audiences and advance ideological, religious, economic or other ends. Terrorist attacks are crimes under international law. Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are supported by Iran, identified by the United States as the largest state sponsor of international terrorism. Hamas’ charter calls not only for the destruction of Israel and imposition of an Islamic theocracy over it, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip, but also genocide of the Jews. Nevertheless, as Israel struck Hamas and PIJ targets, Jews were threatened and physically attacked on the streets of London, New York City, Toronto, Los Angeles and elsewhere in broad daylight.
“This is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime in Canada,” said Andria Spindel, head of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation and co-chair of End Jew Hatred Canada. Canada is home to 400,000 Jews, the third largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States.
The situation was much the same in London, the World Jewish Congress reporting antisemitic attacks at a record high, 201 in May, with almost all the incidents linked to the Gaza fighting.
Acting as the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland— “First the sentence, then the verdict!”—Human Rights Watch, long a pass-through for anti-Zionist antisemitism, found Israel guilty of war crimes. Melanie Phillips has pointed out how those whose self-image pivots on their imagined status as moral exemplars indict the Jewish state for the crimes of its enemies. In fact, during 11 days fighting inside the Strip, an area roughly twice the size of the District of Columbia and populated by an estimated two million people, Israeli forces destroyed or heavily damaged scores of buildings, plus terrorist command posts, weapons launchers and storage sites and dozens of miles of terrorist tunnels constructed under Gaza streets and residences. Hamas’ own Health Ministry reported 243 Palestinian Arabs died. Among them were perhaps as many as 91 killed by terrorist rockets that fell short, another 100-plus identified by Israel as members of terrorist groups. Hamas acknowledged 57 fatalities and another 22 for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In other words, notwithstanding dramatic video of bombs blasting targets in Gaza, thanks to real-time intelligence, Israeli warnings to civilians and precision munitions, non-combatant casualties were remarkably few. As they were during similar fighting in 2012, erroneous news coverage and mendacious charges by Human Rights Watch notwithstanding. Israeli efforts to minimize civilian deaths prompted the Pentagon, which maintained its own use-of-force restrictions in Afghanistan and Iraq combat, to dispatch a lessons-learned team then to study the Israeli example.
The real crime, for Jew-haters, appears to be not the 4,300 rockets fired at Israel, each launch a violation of international law, but rather Israeli self-defense. This is hardly new. On July 4, 1976 Israeli commandos rescued 106 of 107 passengers held at Entebbe, Uganda during the hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv by two members of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine splinter and two terrorists from the German Revolutionary Cell. Those rescued included 84 of 85 Israelis and other Jews and the Air France crew, all of whom had been threatened with death. More than 100 other non-Jewish passengers had been allowed to go free. The 85th Jewish prisoner, Dora Bloch, a Holocaust survivor, had been hospitalized earlier in the ordeal. After the commandos saved the other hostages, Uganda’s mad dictator, Idi Amin, ordered Bloch yanked from her hospital bed and murdered.
Suppose Iran, especially under its new, reactionary president Ebrahim Raisi, believes the Biden administration will continue to overlook aggression like Tehran’s recent attempted kidnapping of regime critic Masih Alinejad in Brooklyn and its fatal strike against an Israeli-affiliated tanker in the Arabian Sea? Suppose it counts on the White House’s desire to restart the 2015 nuclear deal halted by former President Donald Trump? And assume that May’s battle in Gaza was an Iranian-directed rehearsal for an attack by its surrogate in Lebanon, Hezbollah—much larger and more massively armed than Hamas. Add that Israeli restraint probably encourages rather than deters Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Further consider that in retaliation for hundreds of missiles striking all over Israel daily, overwhelming the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the Jewish state destroys swaths of its northern neighbor in the process of silencing the embedded Hezbollah (Party of God). Israeli officials, including the current prime minister, have warned they might have to.
Then Jew-hunting in diaspora likely would escalate. There well might be more Dora Bloch-like targets on Western streets than there were in May. Perhaps many more. But Jews, their advocacy organizations and Western security forces give little appearance of preparing to counter such a maelstrom.
It’s not antisemitism, it’s Jew-hatred
In 2018, a white supremacist massacred 11 Jews inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. In 2019, another such fanatic murdered one worshipper at a shul in Poway, California. Later that year Ethan Carr—then the Trump administration’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism—recommended that all U.S. synagogues and Jewish community centers post armed guards. Many, but by no means all, have done so. The special envoy’s post in the State Department was created in 2004, three years after the United Nation’s anti-Israel, antisemitic, anti-Western hate fest in Durban, South Africa. U.S. and Israeli representatives walked out of this perversely named World Conference on Racism, Racial Intolerance, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Durban’s rhetoric preceded al-Qaeda’s destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and attack on the Pentagon in Washington by one week. The special envoy originally was to monitor and combat international Jew-hatred. Domestic threats were added later.
Nothing like these developments occurred in the West, certainly not in the United States, during and after Israel’s sweeping triumph in the 1967 Six-Day War. This was an existential struggle in which the Jewish state’s Western friends, notably France and America, held it at arms’ length. Nor did it happen in conjunction with the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Jerusalem repelled—with difficulty—surprise attacks by Cairo and Damascus. And little displacement of violent hatred of Israel onto diaspora Jewry took place during or after Israel’s 1982 war against the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon.
But times change, and not always for the better. As a result, Americans Jews now talk about and organize around “fighting hatred.” Blacks discuss fighting anti-black racism. Asian Americans (even less monolithic than Africa-Americans) condemn anti-Asian hatred. There is the risk, and perhaps at least an unconscious desire, of reimaging the threat from Jew-hatred to just generalized “hatred.” Hence the anodyne yard signs, in color and iconography reflecting Obama-for-President placards, proclaiming “Hate has No Home Here.” Of course not. Yet what about enlightened hostility to the so-called apartheid Jewish state? Sitting through an ADL-led anti-hate workshop at my local Jewish Community Center after the U.S. synagogue shootings, I got the impression participants hoped they might deter antisemitism through a united front in which Jews as a group constituted one embraceable participant. But the trend, seeded at Durban, is toward exclusion of Jews and their concerns from the progressive multi-cultural rainbow.
The threat Jew-hatred poses is more pointed and dangerous than generalized “hate.” It is particular, isolating and ultimately lethal. Even unaffiliated Jews understand deep down the lesson of 2,000 years in diaspora. Tolerance is not permanent; marginalization, isolation, ghettoization is dangerous. At its core, as Karol Markowicz has written, “antisemitism is specifically about dehumanizing Jews until their murder makes sense.”
Even the most liberal Jews, for whom mirror-imagining is a reflexive response and who conceive of themselves and therefore their non-Jewish colleagues, friends and neighbors as enlightened and universalistic, deep-down fear their own particularity. Their continued membership in “a people that dwells apart”—even or especially if to serve as “a light unto the nations”—remains continually troubling. So, they attempt to polish their bona fides by criticizing or rejecting Israel, twisting themselves pretzel-like by insisting that today’s anti-Zionism does not merge with antisemitism.
Calling hostility to Jews and Judaism “antisemitism” can itself mislead. The term is too soft and meant to be that way. As a result, the persistence of Jew-hatred, not only an undying default obsession in troubled Western societies but also ultimately red in tooth and claw can be interpreted as a potential rather than immediate danger.
In Germany in the late 19th century, Jew-haters sought to make their ideology sound more “scientific” and less medieval, less Church-based. So, they coined antisemitic and antisemite as positive labels. This worked for a time, at least on the Continent, until the visible excesses of the Nazi Holocaust against European Jewry discredited antisemitism in the West. For a generation or two.
But in the Soviet Union and its satellites, Jew-hatred was kept alive under the banner of anti-Zionism. It focused on Israel as well as Soviet Jews. Hence, the Kremlin’s official Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public, headed by a Jewish World War II Red Army hero, Gen. David Dragunskii and controlled by the KGB secret police. When Israel defeated Soviet-armed Egypt and Syria in the 1967, anti-Zionist campaigns intensified, most notably in Poland, then a Moscow satellite. Thousands of Jewish academics and other professionals were driven out in a vitriolic anti-Zionist purge that also fingered them for allegedly causing demonstrations on campuses and in the streets against the country’s communist rulers.
As part of its drive to finish cleansing Poland of Jews—the Holocaust murdered 3.2 million of the country’s then 3.5 million Jews—the regime revived the mother of all antisemitic conspiracy theories. This would be the late czarist era Russian forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The Protocols purportedly related the workings of a covert Jewish cabal to control the world. Copies were sold on the grounds of the U.N.’s 2001 Durban conference and its popularity in Arab and Islamic countries continues unabated.
In the United States, the Nation of Islam’s insidious 1991 production, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, plays a similarly corrosive role. It falsely assigns to Jews a leading part in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Nation’s membership is small. But its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, America’s highest profile antisemite, and the movement’s doctrines exercise outsized influence. Perhaps most illustratively, leaders of the 2017 Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez and Bob Bland (fashion designed Mari Lynn Foulger), reportedly tolerated when they did not promote antisemitism in their movement.
Mallory, a Farrakhan groupie, had attended an event at which the NoI leader claimed, “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and that “satanic Jews” control the news media. (The accused Pittsburgh gunman, a white racialist like Farrakhan is a black racialist, also ranted about “satanic” Jews and their control of the “Zionist occupied government [ZOG]” of the Trump administration.) Sarsour, a Palestinian American adored by much of that same media, has asserted that “nothing is creepier than Zionism” and that a feminist could not also be a Zionist, Golda Meir et. al. notwithstanding.
So, antisemitism and anti-Zionism have been entwined, a DNA-like double helix of hatred, for 125 years. To be clear, antisemitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association, amounts to “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The definition, adopted by several dozen countries including the United States and United Kingdom, cites among examples of Jew-hatred “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” Though “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” anti-Zionism merges with antisemitism when it “denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination … by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” or “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Antisemitism “frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’”
Natan Sharansky has put the formulation directly: Anti-Zionism becomes antisemitism when it uses the 3-D’s, double standards, delegitimization and demonization to attack Israel. Hence the recent international popularity of the “Jews-spread-Covid-19” trope, an obvious revival of the medieval libel that Jews spread the Black Death by poisoning wells, and equally threadbare upgrade in the charge that Israelis “harvest” the organs of Palestinian prisoners. That Israel, which rescued tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews from oppression in their native country, is somehow an “apartheid” regime or that, despite repeatedly treating the leaders of Hamas and their family members in Israeli hospitals, it conducts “genocide” against Palestinian Arabs, are similar zombie-like allegations. But in our post-truth era that privileges subjective over objective, their very extravagance, their bombastic inversions, protect these glaring counterfeits against falsification.
Having canceled critical debate in university after university, newsroom after newsroom, at times on the online platforms of the tech giants, having excluded the original oppressed and still chronically threatened minority from minority status, anti-Zionist progressives luxuriate as anti-racists fighting racists, as defenders of the non-Jewish oppressed. This enables them to accuse the Jewish state of being and its backers of defending a racist nation with a supremacist ideology. Which is what the Nazis did. That is, condemn supposedly inferior yet cunning Jews for believing in “Jewish superiority.” So, today’s antisemites try to have their cake and eat it too—opposing the IHRA definition of Jew-hatred while claiming to fight antisemitism and allegedly anti-Palestinian Israel.
But wait, there’s more!
*In July, influential African-American studies Prof. Cornel West resigned from Harvard University. He blamed the school administration’s “cowardly” and “disgusting” “hostility to the Palestinian cause” as one reason his request for renewed tenure was denied. This was reported with a straight face by news media like The Washington Post, when in fact elite and non-elite schools across the country not only teach the false Palestinian narrative of Zionist displacement and Israeli apartheid but suppress exposure of it. West’s supporters had echoed his claim, which Harvard’s Hillel rabbi called “an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory.”
*Also in July, at Franklin and Marshall College, a private liberal arts school in Pennsylvania with an undergraduate enrollment of 2,300, more than 100 alumni endorsed a faculty condemnation of “Jewish supremacy.” The faculty statement fantasized a “brutal system that controls Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” that “is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy, rules over the lives of Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel alike, and is practically committed to the territorial theft from Palestinians who continue to resist physical removal and existential erasure. [emphasis added].”
Every charge and assumption in that statement is false, often an inversion of reality. The “existential erasure” libel illustrates the IHRA’s “Israelis-as-Nazis”/”Palestinian Arabs-as-Jews” example of anti-Zionist antisemitism. When other faculty and alumni criticized statement, the signers claimed to be fighting “antisemitism along with all other forms of racism” while opposing “Israeli apartheid.”
The Franklin and Marshall affair echoed a larger eruption at Princeton University in May. Hundreds of faculty members and students signed at open letter condemning Israel and opposing “Jewish supremacy.” The same boilerplate smear circulated in July at Franklin and Marshall condemned “the brutal system that controls Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Those territories, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, comprised the remaining, disputed and unallocated five percent of British Mandatory Palestine, Jordan being an Arab state on 77.5 percent of mandate lands, Israel the Jewish state on 17.5 percent].” Hence the careful wording of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), the keystone of all subsequent successful Arab-Israeli diplomacy, anticipating an enlargement of Israel’s vulnerable 1948-1967 armistice lines to “secure and recognized boundaries.”
No matter. The Israel system, the signers claimed, “is ideologically founded on Jewish supremacy” committed to erasing the Palestinian Arabs’ existence. Actually, erased was Palestinian rejection in 2000, 2001 and 2008 of Israeli offers of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for mutual recognition and peaceful end to the conflict. No, these Princetonians instead projected onto Israel the fever dreams of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and their Iranian backers regarding the Jewish state. Israel’s supporters at Princeton replied with a letter bearing hundreds of signatures. Bedeviled university administrators diluted their original statement against antisemitism by issuing a revision apologizing for any offended Palestinian sensibilities.
In June, in Boston, the anti-Israel and functionally anti-Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine moved off-campus. In the words of Dexter Van Zile, of the Boston-based, 65,000-member Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA): “Last Thursday, June 24, 2021, I was publicly humiliated and scapegoated at a rally organized by the UMASS Boston Chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, (SJP). More to the point, I was shoved, spit at, called a bitch, a Nazi, a pig, and doused with water at a rally organized by a student organization supported with funds collected and distributed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SJP has been organizing rallies like this on college campuses throughout the U.S. for years, but now, SJP is moving off campus, with the powers that be taking little notice. …
“Throughout history, people have been voyeuristic bystanders to anti-Jewish violence. These days, people who engage in antisemitic attacks are egged on, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, by people who declare they are on the side of peace and justice.
I am not a Jew, but what happened to me … is part of an ongoing campaign designed to drive Jews out of civic life in the U.S. This is not about Israel, but Jews. And it’s not just about Jews, but about undermining the rule of law and poisoning inter-group relations [emphasis added] throughout the country—using public funds.
Why the resurgence of antisemitism now, after two generations of being marginalized in the West? As Van Zile noted, it’s not about Israel. Or rather, not only about the Jewish state. It’s about the understanding that with the Jewish state isolated or even eliminated, Jews anywhere and everywhere will be relatively defenseless. That is, returned to their “natural” state of pre-Israel, Holocaust-epitomized vulnerability. And, since in many respects Israel is merely the warm-up act, the “Little Satan” and the United States “the Great Satan,” Israel the little apartheid Jewish settler colonialist nation, the United States the big, racist European settler-colonialist nation, it’s ultimately about America.
It’s probably a mistake to think that more interfaith or civil rights outreach and teaching about the Holocaust can counter the resurgence of “the oldest hatred” or its mainstreaming as anti-Zionist antisemitism. A leading historian of antisemitism, Robert Wistrich, wrote in 2015, “there is an illusory belief that more Holocaust education and memorialization can serve as an effective antidote to contemporary antisemitism. … On the contrary, today ‘Holocaust inversion’ (the perverse transformation of Jews into Nazis and Muslims into victimized ‘Jews’ all-too-often becomes a weapon with which to pillory Israel and denigrate the Jewish people …”
We should not mistake the antisemitic violence in the United States, Canada and elsewhere during and after Israel’s battle in May against Hamas as something new. Rather, it represents the continued and escalating normalization—tolerance and conflation—of anti-Zionist antisemitism. Remember, after the murderous attacks on a kosher market in Jersey City in 2019 by followers of the Black Israelite cult, a school board member called Jews “brutes” for moving into local neighborhoods and pushing up housing costs. The mayor and governor called for her resignation. But a congressional candidate and the county Democratic Black Caucus defended her. One supporter asserted “the antisemitic label is a bunch of crap. Throw it away … “ She kept her position.
As far back as 2002, anti-Zionist antisemites rioted at San Francisco State University, reflecting the atmosphere of Durban the year before, shouted “Hitler didn’t finish the job!” and “Get out, or we’ll kill you!” at pro-Israel students. Instead of arresting the rioters, campus police marched the pro-Israel students to the Hillel building and posted a guard outside. This made Hillel a sort of temporary campus mini-ghetto. In 2017, nothing having improved at San Francisco State, Jewish students filed a federal suit against the administration for tolerating a “hostile learning environment.”
Journalist Jonathan Rosen, writing in New Yorker magazine a few weeks after the al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon, put it this way: “I had somehow believed that the Jewish Question, which so obsessed both Jews and antisemites in the 19th and 20th centuries, had been solved—most horribly by Hitler’s ‘final solution,’ most hopefully by Zionism. But more and more I feel Jews being turned into a question mark once again. How is it, the world still asks—about Israel, about Jews, about me—that you are still here?”
Never Again! Not So Much
How has the post-World War II, post-Holocaust era in the West of respectable people insisting “Never Again!”—and understanding that it referred first to murderous hatred against Jews—withered? Forty-six years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Soviet-inspired, Arab League-adopted resolution that “Zionism equals racism.” Though repealed in 1991, it continues to influence many. And “racist!” is the secular fundamentalist equivalent of “Christ-killer!”—the ultimate, indefensible indictment in the post-factual “woke” intersectional catechism.
Generational as well as ideological turn-over has weakened social-cultural barriers to resurgence and mainstreaming of open antisemitism. As the World War II “greatest generation” gave way to the “baby boomers” and we now to our children and their children, the fastest-growing U.S. religious affiliation is the “nones,” now about 20 percent. The idea of Judeo-Christian ethics at the core of American civic culture—in fact, at the heart of what has made Western civilization civilized—and of the Jewish people as prime bearers of that ethical tradition, becomes a harder sell. Like, dude, who are you with your made-up commandments from your imaginary God to tell me, my infinitely remoldable self-worshipping idol, what to do?
That sell becomes especially hard when nones are added to “wokes.” The latter generally if unconsciously are neo-Marxists with the proclivity of religious acolytes. Their new-found and highly intolerant faith amounts to a secular fundamentalism. And like most fundamentalists, religious or ideological, they strive to suppress dissent as heresy. Chief among their hierarchy of heresy is recognizing Jews as an historically oppressed, or oppressible, small minority and an ancient indigenous Middle East people entitled to part of its historic land.
What can be done? One of the only useful things said at July’s pathetically small “No Fear Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People” at the U.S. Capitol was this by Joshua Washington, head of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel: “Never concede. Never concede.”
Never concede the historical inversion called the Palestinian narrative that insists on Arab displacement by an “apartheid” Israeli regime. Not when large-scale illegal Arab migration into British Mandatory Palestine and Arab violence from 1936 to 1939 induced the British to close mandate territory, intended by the League of Nations for a re-established Jewish homeland, to Jewish immigration on the eve of the Holocaust. And never accept the delegitimization of the United States—the world’s most successful experiment in free self-government—as fundamentally racist. Never accept group identity and group entitlements over individual rights and individual opportunity in political arrangements.
Also speaking at the rally, less than two weeks after being stabbed eight times preventing a Jew-hater from entering a Jewish day school in Boston, was Rabbi Sholom Noginsky. Noginsky grew up in the Soviet Union. “I remember how even as a young child, I experienced terrible antisemitism,” he said. “Never in my darkest dreams did I imagine that I would feel the same way here in the United States, the land of freedom and endless possibilities.”
The psychological war that renewed itself against Israel and the Jews after the ’67 Six-Day War began by inverting the Goliath of the Arab states against the David of Israel into the Goliath of Israel crushing the Palestinian David. Mere guerrilla sniping from isolated faculty lounge corners and leftist European publications at first, it gained commanding heights after Columbia University literature professor Edward Said—himself a member of the PLO’s national council—published Orientalism in 1978, conjuring a hermetically sealed but widely influential field of anti-Western, anti-Zionist post-colonial studies. Today its disciples, knowing and unknowing, populate academia, journalism, even show business and increasingly, the Democratic Party.
The psychological war incites and justifies the physical war against Israel and Jews. Its promoters must be overturned by those who never concede. The latter require not only new leadership, movements and institutions, and where possible reinvigorated older ones, but also knowledge of the old certainties, Jewish, Zionist and American. To borrow from a Talmudic sage, Rabbi Tarfon, time is short and the work long; we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither may we desist from it.
Eric Rozenman is author of Jews Make the Best Demons: “Palestine” and the Jewish Question (2018, New English Review Press) and From Elvis to Biden, Eyewitness to the Unraveling; Co-Starring Nixon, Warhol, Clinton, The Supremes and Obama! (forthcoming this September from Academica Press). This essay draws in part on Jews Make the Best Demons and a July Zoom presentation for Adath Israel Congregation, Cincinnati.
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