The New Jewish Reality and the Old Antisemitism

             By Dalia Zahger
          In the last few weeks two violent anti-Semitic attacks took place in New York City, a violent anti-Semitic attack took place in Berlin and last week two members of Alpha Epsilon Pi (the Jewish fraternity) were verbally assaulted in Towson University. There is a clear rise in anti-Semitism in the world and as a concerned Jew I ask why.        

According to the State Department, anti-Semitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”. Since the end of World War Two, anti-Semitism has been generally acknowledged as negative, unacceptable and dangerous. The whole world was aware of the horrific results anti-Semitism had had in Europe and realized how critical it was to protect Jews from such hatred.

As a Jew who grew up in Israel anti-Semitism was mostly a concept I studied in school, when learning about War World Two, or from my grandmother's stories of her time in the diaspora. I grew up believing there was no place for such hate in today's world, especially in a place like America.

This illusion was wrong, and there is data to show it. According to the Anti-Defamation League, during 2017 there was a 57% rise in anti-Semitism in the United States. When trying to understand the causes for this alarming increase, I examined the definition of anti-Semitism and realized that this definition by the State Department, quoted above, was no longer adequate.

The reality is that there are new forms of anti-Semitism, and it is not in the hands of the Jews to define the hate against them anymore. Evident mostly on college campuses, a new form of anti- Semitism is on the rise, camouflaged under careful language and propaganda. The new concepts, defined as anti-Zionist, constitute a new name to anti-Semitism, but when Jews point this out, their claim is dismissed. Here's one example to show the true roots and nature of the anti-Zionist movement:

Picture taken from the Freedom Article

Picture taken from Atlantic Sentinel

On the left is a propaganda cartoon used by the Nazis to convince the Germans that Jews controlled the world (a well-known anti-Semitic assumption). On the right, an anti-Israel image, with the Star of David and the letter Z for Zionist on it, conveying that same message of world domination (or the world’s leadership in the white house). Zionism is the Jewish movement which holds that Jews have the right to return to their historical homeland. Anti-Zionism is now used by many as a façade for anti-Semitism.  

After experiencing the language used on campuses towards Zionist Israelis or any individual who identifies as a Zionist, I realized the time has come for the Jews to redefine what anti-Semitism really is. Today, when Jews try to claim that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, they are mostly dismissed. Since anti-Semitism is illegal in many countries, attention has been shifted instead to the only Jewish country in the world. Although criticism is important, and I myself criticize Israel often, criticism has crossed the line towards dangerous hatred. In a number of anti-Israel events on Columbia’s campus, I heard Israel accused of being responsible for all conflicts in the Middle East (which is a lot like controlling the world), I heard that Israel was responsible for increasing homophobia among Palestinians and that it was legitimate to kill any Israelis in order to fight the state of Israel. All baseless, absurd accusations targeted to promote hatred. By propagating these fabricated wild accusations their proponents clearly intend not to argue with Israel or its policies but to delegitimize it. We have learnt from history that delegitimizing a people sets the stage for attacking it. Having heard these expressions and views, and realizing their scary similarity to what my grandmother was witnessing in Europe during the 30’s, I am not surprised there is a significant and consistent increase in violent attacks against Jews.

It is time for the Jews to define what hatred against them looks like. Our reality cannot be defined from other people’s perspective. Allowing someone else’s view of a reality to define your own is a post-modernist approach which is dangerous to the Jews, and any other threatened minority. There is one reality and truth when it comes to anti-Semitism, and it is the Jews who can describe it best and accurately.  

African Americans, Muslims, Native Americans and all other minority groups rightfully denounce any expression of bigotry against them and work to have it recognized as such. Thankfully, most student bodies on college campuses are supportive of such movements representing minorities. When Jews try to stand up to the hatred directed towards them and call it for what it is, they are told they are merely trying to protect their country by hiding behind such important definitions. When will enough be enough? are these surges of anti-Semitic attacks not enough? is the call for killing of Israelis on campuses not enough? I say it is.  My friends and I will do all we  can to fight this new anti-Semitism and call it for what it is until the right to define our own grievance will be given back to us. I hope my fellow Jews and Zionists, as well as all those who cherish the truth, freedom of speech and minority rights will join us in our new, yet old, struggle.           Dalia Z. is the President of Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University.