Raymond W. Kelly, Bruce Buck, Brooke Goldstein, Doron Horowitz and Caroline B. Glick speaking at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In the past 12 months, American Jewish communities have witnessed the two worst attacks against Jewish sites on US soil in history: 11 worshipers murdered and six injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh in October, and one killed and two injured at Chabad of Poway in April.
Moderating a panel on “Can antisemitism be stopped or are Pittsburgh and Poway the new normal?” at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday, Jerusalem Report editor Steve Linde delved into the social, legal and enforcement aspects of the fight against racism and bigotry targeting Jews.
“The Jewish communities are perceived as a soft target: our mission is to change this perspective,” said Doron Horowitz, senior national security adviser of the Secure Community Network (SCN), an organization established in 2004 as the first national nonprofit devoted to homeland security initiatives on behalf of the American Jewish community.
Horowitz said the SCN’s focus is not to understand why or where antisemitism comes from, but rather how to train communities to respond to the threat.
“The first crucial step though is to acknowledge the reality: Jews are targeted,” he warned.
As former NYC police commissioner Raymond W. Kelly noted, synagogues in Europe are much better protected than in America.
Kelly shared the experience of his fact-finding mission in several European countries to understand both the scope and characteristics of the antisemitic threats there, and the measures implemented to respond. He noted most Jewish sites had adopted a “double door” system, where visitors cannot enter the institution until they had been cleared and the door behind them had locked.
“This did not happen in Poway and Pittsburgh,” he said. He added that money would need to be spent, with the federal government providing some, but also with synagogues understanding that security guards or volunteers need to be deployed for this purpose.
The fight against antisemitism starts with understanding that antisemites are not such because of what Jews do, former senior contributing editor of The Jerusalem Post Caroline Glick further pointed out.
“Their hatred defines them,” she said. “They are beyond our control. They are not antisemitic because of what we are, but because they are bigots and they attach their bigotry to the Jewish people.”
Glick explained that a problem currently facing American Jewry is that American Jewish institutions sometimes facilitate antisemitism by not calling it out, as in cases of BDS, which is not always considered a manifestation of antisemitism by mainstream Jewish organizations.
Glick highlighted that the main target of BDS in the United States is American Jews themselves, and especially students on college campuses, contrary to what might be true for Europe.
“BDS movements try to marginalize Jews, to make them pay a personal and academic price for voicing their support to the Jewish state,” Glick said. “Their target is not Israel, it is them. The primary issue at stake is to protect Jewish students and American Jews in general in their right to be whatever they want.”
She added that American Jewish organizations are not fighting properly for this goal.
Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of the Lawfare Project, a global network of legal professionals aimed at defending the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and pro-Israel community, reinforced Glick’s statements.
“There needs to be a complete shift in our language: let us begin to call BDS illegal commercial practice and racism,” she noted, emphasizing how there is no difference between choosing to not entertain business relations with someone because of their national origin, and owning a restaurant with a sign stating. “No Chinese allowed.”
In recalling how the Lawfare Project has brought to court hundreds of cases of discrimination all over the world thanks to their network of over 350 attorneys, Goldstein stressed how “no matter how antisemitic one is, they will act out of their own best interest.” Therefore, she suggested, they might not care about letters or op-eds against them, but they will care about lawsuits, criminal charges or damages to pay.
“The beauty of liberal democracy is that civilians can take advantage of the judicial system and set civil rights precedents,” she emphasized, adding that it was time for Jews to set civil rights precedents protecting them.
“We have to encourage Zionist pride,” she said. “Zionism is the original civil-rights movement. It is a progressive value. We have to empower the Jewish community.”
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