columnIsrael at War

Don’t fall for the Islamophobia scam!

A false narrative about Muslims being under attack after the Oct. 7 atrocities has it backwards. It is Muslim groups and their leftist allies who are fueling the surge in antisemitism.

Girls write a message on posters showing  photos of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Girls write a message on posters showing photos of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

What’s the federal government doing in response to a massive surge in antisemitism on American streets and college campuses since the Oct. 7 atrocities on Israel by Hamas terrorists? It’s getting serious about stopping Islamophobia.

The announcement that President Joe Biden has assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to work on developing “the first-ever U.S. national strategy to counter Islamophobia” can be dismissed as nothing more than a political gesture. It’s clearly intended to counter the bitter criticism he has received from his party’s left-wing intersectional base that is deeply upset about the president’s support for Israel.

As The New York Times has reported, the Democratic Party is splintering over the administration’s stand in support of Israel’s efforts to eliminate the Hamas terrorists running the Gaza Strip. Not even his efforts to delay the Israeli offensive or his insistence that it allow humanitarian aid to enter the terrorist-run enclave that effectively resupplies Hamas has been enough to dampen the criticism that is placing his re-election campaign in jeopardy.

While his pro-Israel stand has shored up his support with centrist Democrats and independents, his party’s intersectional wing is, unlike most Americans, hostile to Israel. The only way for him to conciliate them is to double down on the administration’s embrace of the ideology of racial and ethnic grievance that is the driving force of liberal Democrat activism in the 21st century.

The myth of an anti-Muslim backlash

The nation has been shocked by the brazen Jew-hatred on display in the pro-Hamas demonstrations in many cities, in academia and in the widespread increase in anti-Jewish incidents. But even as the administration acknowledges this dismal reality, it is also buttressing a false narrative about hatred for Muslims.

Prejudice against any group is deplorable, and where there are incidents of bias against Muslims or Arabs, they should be vigorously condemned. Yet as FBI statistics for the past two decades have shown, there is little or no empirical evidence to back up the claims that Muslims faced a backlash of prejudice after the 9/11 attacks.

Throughout this period, it has been the Jews, who constitute a small fraction of the population, who have been the targets for the vast majority of religious hate crimes. That continues to this day with a real backlash. Paradoxically, the worst mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust—the barbarous Oct. 7 attacks that resulted in the deaths of 1,400 men, women and children, the wounding of thousands and the kidnapping of as many as 230 civilians—has created a surge of sympathy for Hamas and their jihad to eliminate the one Jewish state on the planet and to slaughter its Jewish population.

The evidence of burgeoning Jew-hatred on American streets and college campuses comes in many forms. It’s not just demonstrations and speeches where mobs chant their support for the destruction of Israel and their contempt for Jewish victims. It also means acts of intimidation and violence against individuals or those who publicly express their opposition to Palestinian terrorism.

Vandalizing victim posters

The most ubiquitous evidence of this hostility to Jews has been the frequent incidents in which people are tearing down posters showing the images of Israelis who are being held as hostages in Gaza. As another Times article made clear, those who commit these acts of vandalism believe that it is wrong to highlight Jewish victims since it distracts from their efforts to flip the discussion about the war Hamas launched into one about Palestinian suffering. According to the Times, the posters are viewed as “anti-Islamic war propaganda.”

The fact that so many people are carrying out this anti-social act—who, after all, would think of tearing down a poster for a missing cat or dog, let alone one about a child abducted by terrorists—speaks to something truly insidious in our culture. While there have been no reports of police tearing down the posters—as they have done in British cities such as London and Manchester, presumably to soothe the hurt feelings of Muslims who are offended by them—the contempt that these Muslim and leftist vandals feel for Jewish victims is raw, unadulterated antisemitism.

But as counter-intuitive to the facts as it may be, it actually makes a great deal of sense that an administration that has embraced the intersectional worldview of critical race theory, like Biden’s has, would attempt to flip the script from this blatant antisemitism to one about alleged Islamophobia.

To those who have embraced the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the only legitimate forms of diversity or inclusion involve those races or groups designated as victims. From that point of view, it doesn’t matter that incidents of Jew-hatred overwhelmingly outnumber those few reported incidents of anti-Muslim prejudice. Since Jews and Israel are falsely labeled as possessors of “white privilege” and oppressors—and Arabs and Muslims are “people of color” and victims—only the latter really count.

The administration’s willingness to impose DEI policies that reject equality in favor of racialized quotas rendered their much-ballyhooed plan to combat antisemitism meaningless. And that betrayal is only underlined by the pivot to Islamophobia in the midst of the greatest crisis to face American Jewry in living memory.

If young people on college campuses, as well as thugs on the streets of all backgrounds, are tearing down posters of Jewish victims, it is because they have been indoctrinated to believe that Jews have no right to live in freedom in their own land or to defend themselves. In the upside-down world of intersectionality, it is the terrorists and their supporters who deserve sympathy—not those they attack or the forces seeking to stop the murderers from striking again.

That’s the reason why the administration believes that it must play the Islamophobia card.

The one story that backs up this decision is the murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American child by his family’s landlord, reportedly because of anti-Muslim prejudice. This murder was shocking and tragic. But that incident—likely motivated, like so many mass shootings including those at synagogues, by mental illness as much as bias—does not demonstrate a national problem. More to the point, those crying out about Islamophobia are, in almost every case, the same people and groups who are guilty of promoting antisemitism.

An unreliable source

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the source most often cited for the claim that there is a surge in Islamophobia. To say that it is not to be trusted on the subject is an understatement. Founded in the 1990s as a fundraising group for Hamas in the United States, it has since rebranded itself as a so-called civil-rights organization. But it has been consistently guilty of promoting Jew-hatred and has sought to silence groups that called attention to their incitement by falsely labeling them as Islamophobes. That continues to this day when it reacted to the Oct. 7 atrocities by refusing to condemn Hamas and, instead, blaming Israel for the attacks.

Once one strips away the veneer of concern for a religious minority, CAIR demonstrates that most of what is called Islamophobia involves those calling out groups like its own and others that champion efforts to destroy Israel or to target Jews and Israelis via illegal BDS discrimination campaigns, for their open antisemitism.

As we have seen in the last month, Muslims and Arabs are not the ones being attacked by Jews or, for the most part, by anyone else. Instead, they are the ones who are targeting Jews—and as the videos of the pro-Hamas demonstrations and the poster incidents show, they think they are right, even proud, to display their Jew-hatred.

It is no consolation to recognize that Biden’s Islamophobia initiative will be no more serious than his administration’s efforts to combat antisemitism, or that he has assigned the least respected and most ineffective member of his team in Harris to lead it.

Nevertheless, putting the government’s imprimatur on what is nothing more than an effort to create a false moral equivalency between a surge in antisemitism and the belief of those fueling that hate that they are the real victims is deeply troubling. Criticism of the antisemitism spewing forth from the Muslim and Arab sources—and those who back up their hatred—is not a form of prejudice. The Islamophobia scam means legitimizing those supporting the eradication of the one Jewish state on the planet and the murder of its Jewish population. Rather than helping to curb prejudice, the Biden administration is encouraging it.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

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