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Antisemitism Today and the Great Debate
by Gary Fouse
As a Gentile teacher who first became alarmed at campus anti-Semitism about 13 years ago on the University of California at Irvine, I have witnessed what I feel is a transition in that issue. Let me explain.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a hot button issue on American college campuses. The only logical explanation, in my view, is that the Palestinian movement, both in the Middle East and North America, has been very effective in convincing many uninformed and gullible students that Israel is guilty of massive human rights violations against the Palestinian people including apartheid and even genocide. This pro-Palestinian movement is well-organized and well-funded. In my view, more than any other factor, it has led to a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the US and Canada.
In Europe, where the situation is so grievous that Jews are leaving by the tens of thousands, Israel is more an issue to the native Europeans. In contrast, the wave of recent Muslim immigrants, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, need no Palestinian issue to stoke their centuries-old hatred of Jews. Not all Muslims, of course, but it is undeniable that hatred of Jews (and Christians) is deeply embedded in Islamic history and teaching.
Over that past decade, as I have written about anti-Semitism, I have said that the focal point for the resurgence in anti-Semitism in America is on our university campuses for the reason I mentioned above. Now, however, I see it metastasizing into the population at large removed from academia. The universities refused (and still refuse) to confront it, and now it has spread.
If there is anything positive to come out of that, it is that now the problem cannot be denied just because the universities hide their heads in the sand. How hard it has been for myself and other people concerned about the problem to convince the outside community that there was a problem on our campuses. Even mainstream national Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, the various chapters of the Jewish Federation, and Hillel shielded the universities from scrutiny because (in the case of the latter two) they were too embedded and dependent upon the universities and because they did not want to see a drop off in Jewish attendance at their respective schools. "Jewish life is thriving," they said even while Jewish students were going to school in an atmosphere of intimidation by the pro-Palestinian bullies in the Muslim Student Associations and Students for Justice in Palestine. Now the public at large knows the problem exists nation-wide. But now, it is not just on our campuses.
Most notably, the recent attacks on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California have captured the attention of the nation. Now the public is talking about it. President Trump is talking about it. That is a positive development that comes from two massive tragedies and a troubling resurgence in Jew hatred.
The great question now before us is who is responsible? Already this has stirred debate, and well it should.
The two men who attacked the aforementioned synagogues were white nationalists (but hardly Trump supporters). Those attacks in particular have put the spotlight on white nationalism, and I will be the first to admit that we have a problem in the US with this rise, which is due to many factors outside the scope of this writing. Suffice to say that we must condemn groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis, and the Aryan Brotherhood and call them out for their hatreds whether they be against Jews, blacks, Hispanics, or whatever.
But the question is -the point of the great debate- is whether they are the biggest purveyors of Jew hatred today. Without in any way trying to protect these groups -I condemn them- my belief is still that most Jew hatred in the world and in the US today is being stirred from Islamic quarters. I would rather use the word Islamic rather than Muslim here because I don't accuse all Muslims of being Jew haters. I do repeat, however, that Jew hatred has a long history within Islam and is part of Islamic teaching in the Koran and the hadith.
It is so much easier and convenient to put all of the blame for anti-Semitism today on white nationalists in North America and Europe than to talk about Islamic anti-Semitism and acts or speech against Jews by Muslims. After all, the politically correct crowd does not want to call out a so-called protected group like Muslims for criticism.
I personally witnessed this up close and personal shortly after the beginning of the Trump administration when the Bat Yahm synagogue in Newport Beach hosted an inter-faith event in 2017 dedicated to the idea that Trump supporters and other white nationalists were the main cause of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. I attended and watched speaker after speaker, Jew, Christian, and Muslim bemoan the white nationalist hatred being perpetrated by Trump supporters. The then Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UC Irvine, Thomas Parham, spoke and lambasted not only Trump, who "didn't have the moral decency of a cockroach," but called then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions a "racist from Alabama". Not one word was devoted to the problem of Islamic anti-Semitism. Some of us tried to get it in, but we were rebuffed. They would not even address the issue of anti-Semitism at UC Irvine, whose campus was located just blocks away from the synagogue.
The UC Irvine issue leads to another important point. The pro-Palestinian crowd, which includes people like CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), US Representatives. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and others will tell us that their opposition to Israel is simply anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish. Bull. To be anti-Zionist means that you want the Jewish state of Israel destroyed and replaced by an entity called Palestine, "from the river to the sea," which consists of a Muslim majority state where Jews remain at their own risk.
So now that anti-Semitism is on the front burner, we must debate the question of who is primarily responsible. If we just pass it off to white nationalists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis, we are not fully addressing the problem. History tells us that anti-Semitism comes from many quarters and that its nature changes from time to time given what the perceived grievances against Jews are. This is the state of anti-Semitism today as I see it. We are going to have to fight hard to prevent a mostly false narrative of anti-Semitism from controlling the discourse. I am gratified, at least, that anti-Semitism is now in the open and being discussed. Honesty demands that we identity the perpetrators no matter who they are.