Antisemitism’s mask

The current rise in antisemitism is not about the war, it’s about the Jewish insistence on being different.

Anti-Israel protesters in London on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Koca Vehbi/Shutterstock.
Anti-Israel protesters in London on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Koca Vehbi/Shutterstock.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

It was one of the most challenging phone calls I have ever received from a student. Following the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, this student called me late at night from their college campus in America. I could hear the fear and worry in their voice. Over the past 10 days, my student and other students on their campus had been subjected to antisemitic harassment. Jewish, Zionist and pro-Israel students had faced demonstrations, intimidation and threats. My student wanted to know if they should remove the mezuzah from their dorm room door.

The ADL has reported that there were 832 antisemitic incidents reported in the month following Oct. 7. That’s an average of 28 a day. 112 antisemitic incidents were reported on college campuses alone. These numbers represent a 300% increase in antisemitic incidents over the same period in previous years.

Antisemitism isn’t just rising in America. The British police reported a 15-fold increase in antisemitic incidents over the previous year. Jewish homes, cemeteries and synagogues in Berlin, Rome and Vienna have faced antisemitic vandalism. The scenes at Dagestan’s airport, where mobs of Jew-haters stormed the terminal and runways looking for Jews they had heard were landing at the airport from Israel, are still fresh in our minds.

The notion that antisemitism could rise after Oct. 7 should be an absurdity. Israel was attacked on a holiday by terrorists who assaulted civilian towns. The terrorists went from house to house, murdering, raping, practicing both necrophilia and pedophilia, kidnapping children after slaughtering their parents in front of them, and burning people alive in such horrific ways that almost two months later 300 bodies can’t be identified. Not only should there not have been a rise in antisemitism, there should have been a wave of mercy and empathy for Israel and her people.

Even before Israel took any military action, “protestors” marched in the streets celebrating the murder of 1,200 Israelis. After Israel began defending itself, the same mobs began demonstrating against Israel’s supposed “disproportionate” response. Of course, the mobs and the media that supported them knew that the casualty numbers coming out of Gaza were from Hamas and therefore almost certainly exaggerated or, at the very least, untrustworthy.

What can explain all of this? Only hate. Only antisemitism.

But blaming the Israel-Hamas war for the rise in antisemitism is the easy way out. Antisemitism isn’t about a single event or issue, even if Jew-haters use it to justify their horrific behavior. Throughout history, the excuses have always changed, from the Crusaders’ claim to be protecting the Holy Land to German claims of purifying the race, but the hate remained the same.

In the end, antisemitism isn’t about war, race or even religion. It’s about one thing: Jews are different from other people in their values and behavior. Jews will not treat their beliefs and traditions as subjective and change them according to prevailing trends. The Jewish people’s refusal to bend to contemporary cultural norms, whether in the time of Abraham, the Greco-Syrians or today, has defined the Jews as a unique people. This steadfastness in the face of contemporary cultural norms has engendered Jew-hatred for millennia.

The current rise In global antisemitism is not about war. It is about Israel’s refusal to bend to contemporary demands that it give up its safety and security to a genocidal adversary. To a world determined to give in to terrorists at whatever cost to themselves or others, Israel’s refusal to do so is just another example of the Jews’ insistence, yet again, on being different. After 4,000 years of hate disguised as a righteous search for justice, however, Jews can see behind the mask.

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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