It was horrifically fitting that Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day mere days after a crazed Jew-hater went on a shooting spree at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego, killing 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye and costing Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, his index finger. In an additional tragic twist, the two other congregants who miraculously survived with shrapnel injuries were 34-year-old Israeli Almog Peretz and his eight-year-old niece, Noya, whose parents fled incessant Hamas rocket fire in their hometown of Sderot to live in the United States. You know, for a little peace and quiet, away from blood-thirsty terrorists trying to murder them for being Jews. That was eight years ago.
Sadly for the Dahan family, the synagogue attack was not their first brush with antisemitism in America. In 2012, their house in Sunny southern California was spray-painted with a swastika.
There is no moral to this story other than the obvious one: Jews cannot escape targeted hatred by changing their address.
This unfortunate but age-old fact hit home again hard in two new reports, one by the Anti-Defamation League, and the other by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry in conjunction with the European Jewish Congress, or EJC. According to the ADL report, which was released on Tuesday, “The US Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of antisemitism in 2018, including a doubling of antisemitic assaults and the single deadliest attack [the Tree of Life Synagogue slaughter in Pittsburgh] against the Jewish community in American history.”
The Kantor Center report, which was published on Wednesday, reveals an equally bleak picture. Summarizing the report’s findings, EJC president Moshe Kantor said, “Antisemitism has recently progressed to the point of calling into question the very continuation of Jewish life in many parts of the world. As we saw with the second mass shooting of a synagogue in the US, many parts of the world that were previously regarded as safe no longer are.”
Pointing to the “disgraceful cartoon” in last Thursday’s international edition of The New York Times – which depicted a blind, kippah-wearing US President Donald Trump being led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a seeing-eye dog with a Star of David hanging from his collar – Kantor illustrated the way in which antisemitism “has entered gradually into the public discourse. Threats, harassments and insults have become more violent, inciting to even more physical violence against Jews. It feels like almost every taboo relating to Jews, Judaism and Jewish life has been broken.”
Antisemitism, Kantor explained, “is no longer limited to the far-left, far-right, radical-Islamist triangle; it has become mainstream and often accepted by civil society.”
That’s for sure.
One need only observe the Nazi-themed graffiti and unapologetic Israel-bashing on college campuses across North America and Europe to grasp just how “mainstream” antisemitism has become in places where it was formerly frowned upon, or at least kept under wraps in the aftermath of World War II. The senseless slaughter of six million innocent Jews will do that – for a short while, anyway.
Interestingly, the steady rise in antisemitism has run parallel to an ever-increasing attention to the Holocaust – with monuments, museums and educational programs cropping up everywhere – and legal systems criminalizing its denial. Apparently, it is far easier and more rewarding to mourn dead Jews than it is to coexist with live ones.
But why? What is it about Jews that has driven people bananas throughout the ages and still does? After all, it’s not as though we are a homogeneous group. The quip, “two Jews, three opinions” applies just as much to our streams of religion as it does to our schools of thought.
One scholar who spent the better part of his life trying to get to the bottom of this mystery was the late historian Robert Wistrich, author of A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad.
IN AN interview with The Jerusalem Post in 2007, Wistrich said: “One of the things that enabled the Nazis to succeed was the abundance of ‘fellow travelers.’ Hitler’s rise to power was not self-evident, particularly in such a highly civilized and educated society as Germany. Yet there were many circles that, in moments of crisis, were ready and willing to contemplate collaboration with the Nazi Party.... These circles included intellectuals, members of the upper-middle class, industrialists, church leaders and academics. Antisemitism was particularly attractive in academia.”
Wistrich attributed this elite affinity to “resentment that these ‘outsiders’ were actually changing the societal agenda and modern culture as a whole.”
The fact that Jews did not see themselves as “outsiders,” but rather as “super-Germans, super-French [or] super-Englishmen,” only made it worse, according to Wistrich.
“This is one of the most intriguing features of the antisemitism that became so rampant in Europe before the Holocaust, and which was a main cause of it,” he said. “The more that Jews became similar to their neighbors – the more their differences were dissolving – the more the problems that had been bubbling beneath the surface became acute.”
Well, we now know what solution the Nazis, with a little help from Europe’s enlightened chattering classes, came up with to tackle those problems: the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” genocide.
Yes, the way to rid society of its ills was to kill off all Jews everywhere. No exceptions, no exemptions. Not even for the “good” ones, who viewed themselves as distinguishable from and superior to those, say, with sidelocks.
The establishment of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel, then, was a blessing and a necessity. More importantly, it was an answer to our own Jewish question. For some, it was a biblical calling; for others, a national one. What it has been for all of us, however, is a country in which we are free to be who we are, individually and collectively, without fear.
Well, sort of.
Being surrounded by external enemies who tried to wipe us out from the outset, and have been trying to do so ever since, did put a damper on the dream of a safe haven. But at least we created an army, in which each of us is compelled to serve, for the purpose of confronting those enemies. That Israelis commemorate Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars exactly one week after weeping for and paying homage to the Jews annihilated by Hitler’s death machine is not coincidental. The proximity is purposeful.
So, too, is the fact that Israeli Independence Day begins at the end of Memorial Day. First we remember all those who lost their lives for being or fighting to protect Jews, then we party. Heartfelt tears before genuine jollity.
And there is much for us Israelis to be happy about, in spite of our ongoing low-grade conflict with Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, and the looming threat of full-scale war, directly or indirectly, with a nuclearizing Iran.
As if that weren’t sufficient cause for despondence, Israel has become a punching bag for Western elites engaged in a concerted campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state through boycotts, divestment, sanctions and lies.
Nevertheless, Israelis will celebrate Israel’s 71st birthday next week with great fanfare, and with good reason. Against all odds, the persecuted “collective Jew” is full of life in every respect, with the highest fertility rate in the Western world.
It is also packed with paradoxes, being simultaneously Middle Eastern yet Western; cosmopolitan yet provincial; frenetic yet relaxed; religious yet secular; conservative yet prone to liberal fads; a bureaucratic nightmare yet heaven for entrepreneurship; ill-mannered yet empathic; marriage-oriented yet a singles’ paradise; exorbitantly expensive yet a tourist’s dream; somber yet sexy.
These seeming contradictions are both the result of and responsible for the miraculous fabric of Israeli society, in all its weirdness and with all its warts. The Jewish state, in a nutshell, is enviable, and envy breeds hate.
No wonder antisemitism is busting out all over. But we’ll prevail. We always have.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>