This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines

Stop the anti-Semitic lies of Rep. Bowman and other inciters to violence

In the words of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “The hate that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.”

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) speaks during a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Photo by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) speaks during a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Photo by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Steven Burg
Steven Burg

We are seeing an increase in the natural outcome of anti-Semitic Israel-bashing in the latest wave of open, violent hate crimes against Jews around the world, including the nonstop barrage of rockets—more than 4,000 in total—the 11 days before the Israel-Hamas ceasefire that went into effect at 2 a.m. on Friday.

Let that number sink in. This is only one piece of a larger picture of the increase in violent anti-Semitic acts against Jews around the world.

On May 11, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) announced to the world via his Twitter feed: “Enough of black and brown bodies being brutalized and murdered [by Israel], especially children. Enough of the inhumanity. The White House must act.”

This was not an isolated statement. We previously suffered Bowman’s similar racial slurs and lies when Israel started vaccinating its citizens.

Years ago, while in graduate school, I read The Devil and the Jews, a book explaining how the murder and persecution of the Jews in the Middle Ages were made palatable by the false narrative of comparing Jews to the devil. Unbelievably, we are faced with a modern version of this today. If in woke culture the “white colonial man” is the devil, then that must be the point of comparison for the Jews.

To stop this trend, it’s important to understand the origin of these insidious lies and why they are so dangerous. And why it is incumbent upon all people to stand up and protest.

While Bowman, together with a number of his colleagues, perverts the narrative to fit their agenda, they are grossly misinformed about the racial makeup of the Jewish people in general, particularly in Israel. About 45 percent of Israel’s Jewish population identifies as either Mizrahi or Sephardi (which means Middle Eastern—or, as Bowman would say, “brown”); just over 44.2 percent identifies as Ashkenazi; about 3 percent as Ethiopian; and nearly 8 percent as mixed or other.

Israeli citizens also include Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, Persians, Africans, Armenians and Samaritans. There are also resident communities of Filipino, Sri Lankan, Indonesian and African migrants.

So, my question is: Who exactly does Bowman consider the “white man” in this long and complex list of Israel’s population? There are an awful lot of colors that comprise the racial makeup of Israel; and those in power include black, brown and white Jews, as well as a significant number of non-Jews.

By using the false narrative of Israeli “white man” occupiers, it makes it easier for Americans to buy into the “black/white, oppressor/victim” lie. Bowman and others like him become the pawns of terrorist organizations that have openly admitted (in Arabic only, of course) that it is an effective tactic to get American activists, organizations—and, yes, even politicians—to support their cause emotionally and financially, by co-opting the Western-American colonialist, “settler/occupier”-as-oppressor narrative.

There is an oppressor of little “black and brown” children—white children, too. And those oppressed children are Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. They are oppressed by Hamas—in Gaza, in Israel, and within the Palestinian Authority.

In Gaza, in many sectors of the P.A. and in some Arab-Israeli communities, women are denied equal rights, freedom of movement, and an education. There is no democracy in Gaza and the P.A., no freedom of the press, and no freedom to dress as one wishes.

In Gaza, rockets are stored in media buildings, kindergartens and hospitals. For the terrorists, wiping Israel off the map is more important than saving children’s lives.

Bowman knows better. He has access to the same information about the racial makeup of the region that you and I have. He represents a district and ran on a platform that expects integrity and understanding of the Jewish community and its racial diversity in the United States—and in Israel.

We know that his words influence his constituents; we just witnessed the recent violent desecration of four synagogues in his district. Each incident of vandalism in his home district received less of his attention than his current spate of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement.

I must give credit to President Joe Biden, who stood up to relentless pressure from the dangerous faction within his own party that spews this jihadist, anti-Semitic “Israel as white man” narrative. He has consistently supported Israel. He understands that the conflicts in the region aren’t about colonialism or race, but rather about Israel’s right to exist.

Pressure continues to mount on our nation’s leaders to capitulate to this anti-Semitic trope that is designed to make the decimation of Israel possible. And it has been allowed to continue because the collective American-Jewish community hasn’t forcefully put a stop to it.

We need a bipartisan, united voice as a Jewish community that says it’s OK to disagree with Israel’s policies and have different views on solutions for the region. But it is certainly not acceptable for the American colonial “white man” narrative to have any place in an educated, proper understanding of Israel.

We must create a unified and energized push to keep the dialogue on Israel open, making it clear once and for all that the racial lie Bowman has been duped into believing has no place in any political discourse with integrity. It is a destructive and complicated cloak for anti-Semitism that results in violent, frightening vandalism of synagogues and the beating of random Jews on the street.

I urge every American-Jewish citizen to write to Bowman today. Tell him in no uncertain terms that using the race card to falsely paint Israel as an aggressor and a “colonial regime” is a dangerous libel. It amounts to anti-Semitic incitement that endangers the lives of Jews and non-Jews in Israel, America and throughout the world.

Because in the words of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “The hate that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.”

Rabbi Steven Burg is the CEO of Aish.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Israel is at war - Support JNS

JNS is combating the barrage of misinformation with factual reporting. We depend on your support.

Support JNS
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates