Antisemitism: A hatred like no other

Jews are the only people who are attacked for being attacked, and the only people who must constantly defend themselves for defending themselves.

Attendees of the “March Against Antisemitism” in London on Nov. 26, 2023. Credit: Salandarianflag via Wikimedia Commons.
Attendees of the “March Against Antisemitism” in London on Nov. 26, 2023. Credit: Salandarianflag via Wikimedia Commons.
Marjorie Davis
Marjorie Davis lives in Providence, R.I. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in Computer Science, and is a Senior Database Specialist in a large, international technology company. She is a frequent writer on antisemitism and Israel.

In 2019 I went on a European vacation with a Jewish tour group. Although the tours were not primarily Jewish-themed, they did include quite a bit of Jewish history. Visiting Italy, Spain, France and Monaco, we heard a litany of persecution, injustice and violence against our people. Indeed, one needs a stiff drink before studying Jewish history.

Jews were blamed for the Black Death. Christians could think of only one reason why their prayers in church were going unanswered: It was because the Jews were not praying in church. Furthermore, it was apparent that Jews were not as impacted by the plague as non-Jews, leading Christians to the erroneous conclusion that there was a sinister reason behind the disparity. In fact, long before modern science—and Dr. Fauci—told us that we needed to wash before we ate, Jewish people were already doing so.

An amalgam of ignorance and hatred produced deadly results for our people.

Antisemitism, a hatred like no other, is unparalleled in its ferocity. It is the oldest hatred, yet always manages to reinvent itself. Rabid, visceral and often based on conspiracy theories, antisemitism is like a virus that survives by morphing in line with current events.

In 2020 when COVID was the world’s biggest problem, it provided a new reason to blame the Jews. When progressives decided to divide the world into a binary classification of oppressor and oppressed, antisemitism increasingly found a home among the left-wing.

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “If the Jew did not exist, the antisemite would invent him. Antisemitism is a view that arises not from experience or historical fact, but from itself. The antisemite convinces himself of beliefs that he knows to be spurious at best.” As an example, Sartre spoke of his classmate who failed a French exam, while a Jew whose family was not of French origin had passed. In order to rationalize his own failure, Sartre’s classmate accused the Jew of cheating.

“Jews cannot fight antisemitism alone,” said Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “The victim cannot cure the crime. The hated cannot cure the hate. It would be the greatest mistake for Jews to believe that they can fight it alone.”

Unfortunately, we Jews seem to have very few allies in our fight. Jews are drastically outnumbered in their counter protests, with few non-Jews supporting them. Very wealthy donors who have pulled their support for their alma maters seem to be mostly, if not all, Jewish. This is disheartening, especially when contrasted with both the number and the diversity of supporters participating in the Black Lives Matter protests.

Antisemitism should not be lumped together with Islamophobia, yet it almost always is. While both types of hatred are equally vile, Islamophobia is far less prevalent. I have not seen anyone burning Palestinian flags or stopping traffic on bridges, or campuses shut down due to anti-Palestinian or anti-Muslim protests. The most high-profile act of violence against Palestinians was the shooting of three students in Vermont. While it was widely assumed that the shooter was Islamophobic, we later learned that the shooter’s writings indicated he was anti-Israel and pro-Hamas. How strange it is that even a supposedly Islamophobic act can be traced back to antisemitism.

Jews are the only people who are objects of hatred for three very distinct groups of people: The far right, the far left and radical Islamists. Antisemitism is the most contradictory and ubiquitous hatred. It is everything, everywhere, all at once. Like the manna from heaven that was said to taste like whatever one wanted it to, antisemitism is adapted at will.

The Nazis killed Jews because we were not considered white enough. Today progressives rail against Jews because of our supposed white privilege.

The far left despises Jews because they say we’re all capitalists. The far right despises Jews because they say we’re all socialists.

The far right abhors Jews because they think we’re all globalists. The far left abhors Jews because they think we’re all isolationists.

Jews are hated for being too weak. Jews are hated for being too strong.

We were once hated because we didn’t have a country of our own. Today we are hated for having a country.

Antisemitism, the great unifier, is perhaps the only topic that far-right Republicans and far-left Democrats agree upon. What else could unite Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) other than their vehement antisemitism, demonstrated by their shameless lies about Jews?

A confounding hatred, antisemitism leads us to question how it is possible for such talented and enlightened people to hold such abhorrent views. How could T.S. Eliot write such magnificent poetry and also write, “The rats are underneath the piles. The Jew is underneath the lot”? How could Wagner compose such beautiful music, yet be connected with Nazism? How could Roald Dahl write such charming children’s novels, yet harbor such Jew-hatred?

Antisemitism is revealed in a variety of ways.

Sometimes antisemitism is blatant. The khaki-clad men with tiki torches shouting, “Jews will not replace us” leave no question. 

Sometimes antisemitism is outed in an unintentional slip of the tongue. French Prime Minister Raymond Barre’s reaction to the October 1980 Palestinian terrorist attack on the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris is a good example. Noting that four people had been killed outside the synagogue—only one of whom happened to be Jewish—Barre stated that “this odious attack was aimed at hitting Jews going to the synagogue, but hit innocent French people who were crossing Rue Copernic.” His comments divulged his belief that Jews were neither innocent nor French.

Sometimes antisemitism reveals itself by way of comparison, proving that comparison is indeed the thief of joy. In 2023, the U.N. General Assembly condemned Israel 14 times, versus seven times for the rest of the world combined. According to this body, Israel is a greater violator of human rights than the aggregation of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Recently at the United Nations, Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan said, “As we speak, there are over one million Muslims being forcibly removed from their homes, all of their possessions taken from them as they face poverty, famine and disease. No, I am not talking about the situation in Gaza, but about Pakistan’s forced displacement of 1.3 million Afghans.” He highlighted the United Nations’ disregard for non-Israel human rights violations, saying, “No Jews, no news.”

Cloaked in concern for human rights, the self-aggrandizing protesters have latched onto the Palestinian cause, ignoring all others.

The Iranian government kills women for not covering their hair and hangs LGBTQ individuals from cranes, yet the U.S. government lifted sanctions against Iran and unfroze billions of dollars to give to the Iranian government. Where are the protests?

In the Yemen war, Saudi Arabia, backed by America, engaged in starvation tactics against innocent civilians. Where were the protests?

China has put an estimated 1 million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. Where are the protests?

Islamist forces are committing atrocities, including mass killings, rape and a modern-day version of slavery, against black Africans in Sudan and Nigeria. Where are the protests?

The Kurds are one of the largest groups of people without self-determination. They are a persecuted people who, unlike the Palestinians, were never offered a state of their own. At least one million Kurds have been killed, tortured, wounded, or deported. Where are the protests?

How ironic it is that students on college campuses use their right to protest to rise up against the only Middle Eastern country that actually allows its citizens to protest.

Hiding behind masks and keffiyehs, protesters consider themselves morally superior, yet they are no better than the KKK who hide beneath white hoods. Unperturbed by the fact that Hamas endorsed them, they do not realize that if a radical terrorist group that committed atrocities against babies and children endorses your cause, perhaps it is time to rethink what you are doing.

Because classifying something as antisemitic can be subjective, in 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) clearly defined what constitutes antisemitism. The definition has since been adopted by 42 countries, including the United States. One criterion is: “Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

We sometimes hear the complaint that one cannot criticize Israel without being accused of antisemitism. This is a specious argument. Of course simply criticizing Israel is not antisemitic, but people who condemn Israel tend to condemn only Israel, indicating a double standard that makes demands of Israel made of no other country.

Bereft of any concern for the welfare of the Israelis, the protesters demand that Israel withdraw, leave the hostages in Gaza, and return home, waiting to be attacked again. Their ultimate goal is the eradication of Israel. They have not called for the eradication of any other democratic country, and they would not deny any other country the right to self-defense. This is antisemitism.

After the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, any rational person understood how unjust and downright stupid it would be to blame a random Muslim person for that act of terrorism. Today, however, and even before the Oct. 7 attack, on college campuses Jews have been routinely blamed for anything Israel does that their fellow students perceive to be unacceptable. This is antisemitism.

The progressives would rightly find it unthinkable to ask a Chinese student to denounce China, a country with atrocious human rights violations; however, before Jewish students have been allowed to join clubs and advocacy groups, they have been asked to denounce Israel, effectively shedding part of their Jewish identity. This is antisemitism.

In an act that is the apex of injustice, LGBTQ actually protest against Israel for providing rights to LGBTQ. Claiming “pink-washing,” they refuse to acknowledge that LBGTQ have rights in Israel because it is a modern, progressive democracy. It is noteworthy that they do not criticize any of the other countries in the Middle East, where LGBTQ are arrested or murdered. The fact that these LGBTQ would complain if Israel did not provide rights to their group, yet also complain that they do, indicates that in their eyes, Israel is always wrong. This is antisemitism.

Antisemitism is the most illogical hatred.

Jews are the only people who are attacked for being attacked, and the only people who must constantly defend themselves for defending themselves. Antisemites rationalize their hatred by claiming that Jews are responsible for violence against themselves.

It is true that today Israel has the most right-wing government in its history; however, if you think this is why there is no peace, then you must explain why there was no peace when the prior government, the most diverse coalition in Israel’s history, was in power.

If you think the settlements are the problem, then you must explain why there was no peace before there was even one settlement built.

If you think that Israel’s existence is the problem, then you must explain why the Arabs committed pogroms, including wide-range killing, mutilation and rape, well before modern-day Israel existed. The list of pogroms in the 20th century include the 1920 Tel Hai and Nebi Musa pogrom, the 1921 pogrom in Jaffa and the 1929 pogroms in Safed and Hebron.

If you think that Zionism is the problem, then you must explain why the Arabs’ first recorded pogrom took place in the mid-1800s, 25 years before the Zionist movement began.

We thought the days of acceptance for public spewing of antisemitism by the likes of Father Coughlin and Henry Ford were over. Today, students call for the murder of Jews with impunity.

There is an eerie similarity between the events of today and those of Germany nine decades ago.

Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha, recently likened today’s situation on college campuses to his father’s experience growing up in eastern Europe in the 1930s. He recounted how his father had to cross the street to get away from an angry mob who accused the Jews of genocide. Today Jews at Columbia and other campuses must avoid protesters who unrelentingly shout invectives at them. In fact, strangely, today it is safer to wear a yarmulke in Abu Dhabi than on many American campuses.

In 1938, at the University of Vienna, Nazis blocked Jews from entering. In recent days, in America, protesters have prevented Jewish students from going to class.

The Jewish people cannot afford to ignore these warning signs. The following is an excerpt written by the editor of a Jewish newspaper in Berlin in 1933:

“We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in Nazi newspapers; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob. They cannot do this because a number of crucial factors hold powers in check…and they clearly do not want to go down that road.”

On the last day of my 2019 European vacation, we visited Tuscany and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In person, the tilt was even more pronounced than in pictures, and it was a marvelous sight.

After visiting the tower, we strolled through a plaza in Pisa and came upon a street musician playing an accordion. To our surprise, he was playing the Hebrew song “Havah Nagilah.”

What else could we do but form a circle and dance the Hora? It was a wonderful way to end a tour that included much Jewish history that was difficult to hear.

So, we danced right there on a continent where so many succeeded in killing our people, yet could never kill the Jewish spirit.

We danced right there in the city of Pisa, for we had just seen that it is possible for a leaning tower to withstand all external forces, to defy all expectations, and yet never be toppled.

Originally published by The Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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