The problem that dare not speak its name

Racists, white supremacists, internationalists or whatever, from the right and from the left, need to be contained, and the pushback from the Jewish community needs to be across the board.

Marchers honor the memory of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, 85, who was murdered in March 2018 in an anti-Semitic attack. Credit: European Jewish Press.
Marchers honor the memory of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, 85, who was murdered in March 2018 in an anti-Semitic attack. Credit: European Jewish Press.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

In her weekly e-mail letter, The Forward’s editor Jane Eisner wrote on Monday,

“Discussion of anti-Semitism is now the default topic in many Jewish public events … in preparing for [a public] program, we wondered aloud whether we should also talk about anti-Semitism.”

There is no doubt that the visibility of Jew-hatred has risen recently. Whether or not the figures of attacks, as well as the type of attacks, are greater now and more dangerous than at any time in the past decade is beside the point. Jews should not be taunted nor spat at or targeted or physically injured. Nor should their environment be poisoned whether by graffiti or pamphlets.

Racists, white supremacists, internationalists or whatever, from the right and from the left, need to be contained, and the pushback from the Jewish community needs to be across the board. And forcefully assertive. We’re half-a-century since the Jewish Defense League was founded, and I would think the power of the Jewish community has morphed from small partisan efforts.

But it hasn’t. The issue has been tainted by politics and ideologies. Instead of concentrating on the anti-Semites, Judeophobes and haters, Jews are scoring points against their fellow Jews on the background of who supports what political camp in America. So far, thankfully, this is not the case in Great Britain, except for Jewish Voice for Labour and private individuals.

A dozen years ago, Alvin Rosenfeld pointed to a major problem of the Jewish community blindsiding itself as regards what he termed “progressive Jewish thought” and the new anti-Semitism. His essay pointed to a phenomenon that has exponentially increased in that a “number of Jews, through their speaking and writing, are feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.”

To appreciate his point, two years ago, a student at Oberlin College provided an example of the continuing poor vision of the Jewish left. The “Kaddish sayers” of IfNotNow, the “fasters,” even by Rabbis of T’ruah, and the antics of Peter Beinart only show that Rosenfeld was on the mark.

But that is only one aspect of the current failure to adequately address anti-Semitism. There is another anti-Semitism that our Jewish left too often avoids or willingly blindsides itself to its affect.

The Jewish citizens of Israel, its Jewish visitors and tourists and others who support the Jewish state face a virulent, violent and deadly anti-Semitism. It is not only the inherent Hamas anti-Semitism in targeting “Jews” in its charter but what Robert Wistrich wrote—that it is

“an unmistakable indication of the moral sickness steadily gnawing away at Europe’s innards as a result of its feeble response to Islamism and its own self-deceiving multiculturalist mythology … the characterization of Hamas as a typical liberation movement…is deeply flawed—a symptom of European, Western and international delusions …[those lashing] out at Israel while urging the recognition of Hamas … [are] voices ultimately legitimize antisemitism.”

As Palestine Media Watch has documented, the territory of the Palestinian Authority, its schools, media and public discourse is anti-Semitic to a great degree. Among the spewed forth hate can be found the animalization and dehumanization of Jews/Israelis, the portraying Jews as apes and pigs, that Jews/Israelis are evil, they are cancer and suffer other diseases, they endanger all humanity and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is alive and too well in Ramallah, Hebron and Jenin.

Our left, liberal progressives attack U.S. President Donald Trump. They attack Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. They attack Jews residing in Judea and Samaria, and their connections to Christian evangelicals, European nationalists and others. On the other hand, there are those such as Jill Jacobs, who wrote a few months ago,

“People who pay special attention to Israeli policy are not necessarily anti-Semites.”

And while that is true, the worldview of those of that camp pressures them to belittle the actual anti-Semitism that exists among the critics of Israel and Zionism, and that of the Palestinian Authority.

Indeed, as she continued in her article, Jacobs’s conclusion itself points to an inability or unwillingness of left-of-center Jews to dare to call by its name the anti-Semitism that is directed at Israel when she writes,

“An explicit disavowal of a connection to Israel shouldn’t be a prerequisite for Jewish involvement in broader social justice issues, as has become the norm on college campuses and in many progressive spaces.”

The Jewish university student does suffer from the anti-Zionist anti-Israel progressives and other radicals from within the Muslim community shored up by other non-Jewish extremists. The crossing of the lines by Jewish progressives—no matter how they justify their support of a “state of Palestine,” of “resistance,” of BDS and other forms of attacks on Israel and its citizens—is not at all helpful. They are distancing themselves from our community, and they need to realize that they are facing a Rubicon that will be difficult to cross back into normative Jewish national identity.

Linking up with those who deny Israel is joining in anti-Semitism, especially if extending to them a form of empathy. Refusing to accept the existence of Islamic anti-Semitism, whether in America or the words of Mahmoud Abbas, he of the “dirty defying feet,” is not only blinding oneself, but misleading others and whitewashing that pernicious hatred.

It is time to dare to speak its name.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and commentator.

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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