columnSchools & Higher Education

American Jewry’s poor prognosis

Regardless of one’s permanent residence, the very idea of an inhospitable “goldene medina” is unsettling, to put it mildly.

A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student tent encampment at Brown University in Providence, R.I., April 29, 2024. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student tent encampment at Brown University in Providence, R.I., April 29, 2024. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The steep rise in antisemitism in the United States, which has soared to new heights since the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, has reawakened the debate about whether the so-called “Golden Age” of American Jewry has run its historical course. It’s a reasonable question.

Rather than arouse horror over the sadistic crimes that Hamas committed against innocent men, women and children on that Black Sabbath, the mass murder galvanized Jew-haters across America. Almost spontaneously, protests against the Jewish state erupted before southern Israel was even cleared of the thousands of terrorists who’d infiltrated the Gaza border.

This wasn’t due to a lack of information about the worst atrocities against Jews since the Holocaust. On the contrary, the Hamas perpetrators not only filmed themselves raping, burning, beheading, mutilating and kidnapping men, women and children; they proudly posted their deeds all over social media.

The response on the part of Muslim extremists and their progressive fellow travelers has been to alternate between denial and justification. On the one hand, they reject Hamas’s brutality. On the other, they hail it as heroic.

Nor did they bother waiting for the Israel Defense Forces ground invasion nearly three weeks later to accuse the “apartheid state” of Palestinian genocide. No, they shouted their lies in megaphones about the “occupation” of Gaza just as promptly and forcefully as they tore down posters of hostages. Even the picture of 9-month-old Kfir Bibas and his 4-year-old brother, Ariel, in the arms of their terrified mother, Shiri, wasn’t spared being ripped and trampled on.

Once the war was in full swing, the protesters parroted the bogus casualty figures put out by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. They were bolstered by left-wing voices in the media and academia hungry for any opportunity to vilify Israel—not that an excuse to do so was needed by the likes of Joseph Massad, a tenured professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, who referred to Hamas’s deadly raid on Oct. 7 as “awesome.” 

Such incidents would turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg, however, as the recent surge of physical and rhetorical anti-Israel violence on the campuses of Columbia, Harvard, Brown and other institutions of higher learning illustrates. The only positive aspect of these frightening displays is that they’ve let the cat completely out of the bag.

Indeed, despite hiding behind face coverings, the demonstrators have unmasked their true intentions. Shedding the pretense of decrying Israeli government policy, they—like Hamas and Hezbollah, whose flags they’ve been waving—are openly rooting for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Their message is so clear that it renders the U.S. State Department and International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitions of antisemitism superfluous. These “working definitions” arose to erase the false distinction between various manifestations of Jew-hatred, one of which is targeting the Jewish collective.

The slogan, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Must Be Free,” for example—a call for the elimination of the State of Israel—falls under this category. So do demands to “globalize the intifada” and the plea to “burn Tel Aviv to the ground.”

But the chants of the rioters who have been camping out in tents on college lawns now include unmistakable antisemitic epithets. Yes, while preventing Jewish students from traversing the quad, these unabashed promoters of terrorism have been screaming at them to “go back to Poland.”

To make matters worse, university administrators have been slow to take action, going as far, initially, as to forbid police from entering the premises to protect Jewish students and restore order. Their excuse focused on the mantra of upholding “free speech.”

The real reason was fear of offending the privileged hooligans whose Marxist indoctrination has taught them to fabricate victimhood and then weaponize it. It’s the “tyranny of the weak” on steroids.

Kfir Bibas Poster, New Jersey
A half-ripped poster in Ventnor, N.J., of Kfir Bibas, an Israeli child abducted to Gaza with his 4-year-old brother and parents on Oct. 7 by Hamas terrorists who attacked southern Israel, April 28, 2024. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.

None of this is new. Whenever Israel is forced to conduct defensive military operations against the Tehran-backed terrorist organizations within and surrounding its borders, the “cry-bullies” come out of the woodwork.

Assaults on Jews in major U.S. cities were rampant, for instance, during “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” Israel’s 11-day conflict in May 2021 with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza. That this was precipitated by massive rocket barrages on Israeli population centers made no difference to the keffiyeh-clad mob and their ignorant American-born bedfellows.

At the time, I found myself nervous about a family visit to New York. This was surprising on two counts. For one thing, I was born and raised in Manhattan until moving to Israel at the age of 19, and in those years, it was being female and white, not Jewish, that jeopardized my safety.

Secondly, I had just emerged from two weeks of running for shelter from Hamas rockets raining on Tel Aviv. This was after spending decades trying to guard my children against attacks in the form of missiles, rocks, Molotov cocktails, suicide-bombings, stabbings and car-rammings.

Nevertheless, the travel warnings to Israelis to keep kippahs and stars of David out of sight—in America of all places—caused me greater anxiety than air-raid sirens. Hearing that an acquaintance in Los Angeles had decided to remove the mezuzah from her front door was almost too much to process.

Regardless of one’s permanent residence, the very idea of an inhospitable Goldene Medina is unsettling, to put it mildly. So, the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris survey ought to have put trepidation to rest.

The poll revealed that an overwhelming majority of Americans support Israel over Hamas. According to Harvard-Harris co-founder Mark Penn, the findings indicate that the student protests are not in line with overall public sentiment.

As much as this is a relief, it’s misleading. Statistics may serve as a kind of weather vane, but they can’t convey the complexities of a cultural climate. Nor can they determine what percentage of Hamas supporters would suffice to tip the scales towards societal disintegration.

Woke culture has already been contributing to America’s decline. Perhaps all it takes for the metaphorical “canary in the coal mine” to be poisoned by undetected carbon monoxide is a small dose of the antisemitism that has pervaded both the ivory tower and halls of Congress. If so, the prognosis for American Jewry is not good.

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