Violence against Diaspora Jews is not Israel’s fault

If the terror surge spreads elsewhere, the reason will be the normalization of anti-Israel hate and complacency about Islamist radicalism, not Jews bearing the burden of “white privilege.”

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi after a meeting with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem on March 30, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi after a meeting with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem on March 30, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

After three Arab terror attacks in a week that cost 11 lives, Israel’s government and citizens are in a heightened state of alert and worrying about the possibility of a series of individual attacks turning into a third intifada. But security officials spared a moment amid their mobilization to ramp up efforts to combat terror on the streets of Israel’s cities with another concern. According to Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the country’s leaders were also considering the possibility that Diaspora Jews might also be targeted by Palestinian radicals and/or their foreign sympathizers.

Kochavi was quoted by Israel’s Channel 13 television saying, “There is a real concern that the copycat effect could lead to efforts to hit Israeli and Jewish targets around the world.” He didn’t elaborate on this potential threat, though the report said that Israeli security agencies, including the Mossad, were going to need to step up attempts to combat such terror outside of the Jewish state.

If Kochavi is right, it will likely set off a renewed debate among some on the Jewish left about who will really be to blame for attacks on American Jews. Inevitably, some will say the fault lies with Israel for policies that its critics often claim make a terrorist response from oppressed Palestinians inevitable.

That’s the line we’ll likely hear from anti-Zionist groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and IfNotNow, who themselves often traffic in anti-Semitism, they already think that Israel is to blame for everything that’s wrong in the Middle East and elsewhere. Such fallacies will also likely be echoed to some degree by liberal Zionists who ignore Palestinian intransigence and believe that Israel must be saved from itself. Such people think the refusal of Israelis to adopt suicidal policies that American Jews recommend will lead to disaster for everyone.

That is deeply wrong for a number of reasons.

The first is because it reflects the internalization of anti-Semitism by Jews, many of whom have always reacted to hatred against them by seeing it as a product of their own behavior or mistakes. The truth is that anti-Semitism is always about the anti-Semites, not what the Jews think or do. Jews are hated for a variety of often-contradictory reasons, and those who seek to find the cure for it within themselves are always looking in the wrong place.

This attitude also reflects a certain blindness about the way radical Islamists and their left-wing allies have created a belief system that doesn’t so much excuse anti-Semitism as providing with a rationale.

While Israelis have been the primary targets of terrorists looking to kill Jews, Jews elsewhere have also frequently been targeted. A rising tide of anti-Semitism fueled by the impact of massive immigration from the Middle East and North Africa, coupled with leftist bias against Israel, has made it dangerous to walk freely on the streets of major Western European cities while wearing jewelry or clothing that identifies a person as Jewish.

Just last year, Israel’s 11-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza, during which the terror group fired more than 4,000 rockets and missiles into Israel also led to acts of anti-Jewish violence on the streets of American cities. In January, a person seeking to force the United States to release a convicted terrorist took hostages in a Texas synagogue, resulting in a standoff that thankfully ended in no casualties.

Given that there has been a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents in America in recent years, including acts of violence, it would hardly be surprising if a new flare-up in the Middle East would cause would lead to a new round of attacks against Jews elsewhere.

That elements in the United States are supportive of anti-Jewish terrorism was made clear this week when several hundred demonstrators from radical groups marched through the streets of New York against Israel. While originally planned as a companion protest to March 30 “Land Day” demonstrations by Arabs inside Israel, those who showed up from a number of pro-BDS and anti-Zionist groups made clear their sentiments. They chanted “intifada until victory” and other slogans, such as “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “resistance is justified when people are colonized,” “New York to Gaza, globalize the intifada” and “there is only one solution—intifada revolution.”

They can be dismissed as outliers. But what can’t be ignored is that their views are rooted in ideas propagated by anti-Israel groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which may pose as advocates for human or civil rights and formally disavow anti-Semitism but which are instead strongholds of radicals who support Israel’s elimination.

The ability of such groups to successfully claim that they speak for all American Muslims is bad enough. Even more troubling is the way some on the Jewish left are willing to echo their claims that organizations that highlight their radicalism are bigoted. Pointing to the connection between Islamist beliefs and violence in the Middle East and elsewhere is common sense, not “anti-Muslim.”

The acceptance of some on the Jewish left of a false narrative about “Islamophobia” essentially disarms Jews and others in the struggle to speak up against those who supporting anti-Semitic activism. As JNS reported this week, a JCC in Omaha canceled the appearance of Richard Green of the Clarion Project, which monitors online extremism (and whose advisory board is partially composed of leading Muslim moderates) because of false claims from, among others, the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League that it was a “far-right” and “anti-Muslim” group.

While deeply disturbing in and of itself, this mainstreaming of Islamists and the marginalization of anti-Islamists creates an environment in which anti-Semitism gets normalized. Just as some blame Israel for those who hate it, the same thing happens with others who speak up against Islamists. The Islamophobia narrative essentially turns the truth on its head by treating any attention given to radical Muslims as hate while ignoring or rationalizing hatred for Jews and Israel.

It is also connected to the growing influence of intersectionality and critical race theory. Those toxic myths embraced by academia and many progressives falsely label Israel and its supporters as oppressors who are beneficiaries of “white privilege” and analogous to opponents of the American civil-rights movement.

It is that way of thinking that has led many on the left to do the same for figures like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who are essentially given a pass for their expressions of prejudice against Jews and support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement. Indeed, when they and other “progressive” colleagues like “The Squad’s” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) reacted to the Hamas terror offensive with speeches in the U.S. House of Representatives demonizing and smearing Israel, it was hardly surprising that violence against Jews in the United States followed.

What happened last spring demonstrated that the link between inflammatory rhetoric directed against Israel, which is steeped in traditional anti-Semitic tropes, to verbal and physical attacks in the streets remains far from tenuous.

Seen in that light, potential violence against American Jews during a theoretical third intifada is not something Mossad intelligence work can suppress. Rather, it is the product of a political culture that has legitimized anti-Semites and seeks to delegitimize their opponents. And rather than the natural reaction to Israeli behavior, potential anti-Jewish violence will be the result of the enabling of Jew-hatred by political and cultural forces that are dominated by those who buy into woke ideology. If Jews or Israelis are truly concerned about the potential for violence against American Jewish communities, then they should focus their attention on intersectional ideologues—both Jewish and non-Jewish—and not on futile efforts to curb anti-Semitism by those who will always blame Israel first.

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

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