Antisemitism then and now: What's changed? - opinion

With much respect and kudos to Dara Horn’s People Love Dead Jews, a logical conclusion is that America hates a powerful Israel.

 IDF SOLDIERS in training during an exercise. A logical conclusion is that America hates a powerful Israel, says the writer. (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
IDF SOLDIERS in training during an exercise. A logical conclusion is that America hates a powerful Israel, says the writer.
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

Invoking the pre-Holocaust climate as a comparison with today’s antisemitism is a distinction with a difference, requiring that the appropriate gravitas be given to Israel’s existence and stature as a target and a Jewish state. In contrast to the 1930s and early ‘40s, when Jews faced closed borders in America after first losing their citizenship, possessions and finally their lives without country or hope, Israel was created to provide a safe haven for Jews as a direct response to the Holocaust. Such a resolution would have zero probability of being actualized today.

Despite published and verified reports of the murderous Nazi rule, the meager and illusory 1,500 annual quotas of Jewish refugees into the United States was not allowed to be met during those years. Nazi actions in Germany and its conquered countries were legal under Nuremberg laws and their progeny, just as American border policies were enforceable US policy, and together contributed mightily to the six million.

Inexplicably, the highest percentage of Jews in presidential election history voted for former president Franklin D. Roosevelt – 85% in 1936 and 90% in 1940 and ’44 – despite his inaction. Reliance on laws not made by Jews about Jews was murderous, even as American Jews effectively voted in record force against their European families.

Current data reflect the burgeoning threats to the future of Judaism. For example, more than 60% of students in poll results released in September said that at some point they felt unsafe as Jews on campus or in virtual campus settings and about half of the respondents felt the need to hide their Jewish identity at college. In Nazi Germany, it was illegal for Jews to attend college; if Jewish students’ rights are not protected in America, protective laws and college policies not enforced will eventually have the same impact as Nazi law.

Today, with American Jews at their strongest ever financially and most accepted and ingrained (for now) in its society, and Israel willing and able to defend its borders, people and existence, outrage is expressed at her hard-line and declaring the 1967 eight-mile-wide border an existential threat. All the while, Israel’s destruction is directly and loudly threatened by a regime that America chases to bring to the negotiating table on the heels of a prior agreement verifiably violated. But it’s complicated.

 The flags of Israel and the US are seen at a table during a meeting between officials from the two countries. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO) The flags of Israel and the US are seen at a table during a meeting between officials from the two countries. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO)

America is the guarantor of every agreement with regional neighbors, including the gas deal struck with Lebanon in October; the US also provided $1 billion (NIS 3.43 b.) in military aid over the past year. Despite historical cooperation, antisemitism is empowered by the American administration’s day-to-day actions. We have yet to hear a plausible explanation.

The US hates a powerful Israel

With much respect and kudos to Dara Horn’s People Love Dead Jews, a logical conclusion is that America hates a powerful Israel. The message to Jews is clear: we mourned you at your weakest, but powerful, self-governing Israeli Jews determining their own fate are objectionable, as are American Jews who understand the need for Israel. Perhaps because of historic cooperation, America expects compliance with its overreaching wishes, but it is well-settled that America’s leadership and popular press allow and sometimes lead the burgeoning public antisemitic, anti-Zionist position that Israel needs a political attitude adjustment.

American Jews are seemingly left with no appealing political choices: 1. an unfamiliar Democratic party where its youth is anti-Israel and its elders will soon age out of stopping that wave; 2. a Republican party considered untrustworthy due to racism and antisemitism, as well as being too conservative for the non-religious; or 3. being unrepresented.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, in a post-Israeli election column in The New York Times, may have best illustrated America’s position on Israel, albeit he has less influence than the problematic Kayne West (entertainer with 31.8 million followers) or Kyrie Irving (professional athlete with 4.7 million Twitter followers). It should be noted that their combined number of followers is 250% greater than the number of Jews in the world and 300% more than the total number of Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf purchased from 1925 through 1945.

When Israel meets with Friedman’s sensibilities, he writes with a nostalgic fondness of Israel fighting for its existence, winning unwinnable wars, taking in Holocaust survivors and even holding an unmet hand out in an attempt to negotiate with those who refuse to reach back. When she is against his politics, he blames Israel for America’s right-wing and being a harbinger of wider trends in Western democracies.

Friedman believes that Netanyahu’s comeback will roil synagogues in America with “Do I support Israel or not support it?” as if decisions have not previously been made and broadly declared. At least he recognizes it will haunt pro-Israel students on college campuses... yet, not because of antisemitism (see above data), but because it’s a difficult choice for students.

In the same column, he calls Mansour Abbas of the United Arab List, part of the outgoing government, a rather amazing Israeli Arab religious party leader who recognizes Israel and the searing importance of the Holocaust. “Amazing” is thus defined by recognizing well-established, indisputable facts – something that parties to the Abraham Accords and many other Arab and Muslim-majority countries currently do.

At least there is consistency. The American press labeled three innocent murdered Israelis leaving 11 children fatherless as “occupiers,” their terrorist murderer as an “assailant”, not a murderer or terrorist, and included the democratically-elected prime minister-designate and the words “right-wing” and “far-right” in the fourth sentence of the article suggesting that made the killer’s actions defensible; the fifth describes that the “attack” (not the murder) occurred on the anniversary of the PLO’s proclamation of an independent Palestinian state that has never materialized. Examples abound.

Israel and American Zionist baiting is well beyond politics and deeply ensconced in antisemitism and hatred despite or perhaps due to the deep political ties and support. Israel is not perfect, yet America challenges and attempts to bully her into a political position that agrees with the current administration by treating her as a despot nation despite its intact democratic principles, including a directive announced the day after mid-term elections that the FBI will investigate the death of a Palestinian journalist during an armed conflict.

With each individual misstep, Israel is called to task both politically and in popular American opinion with unforgiving, hateful and intentionally overreaching descriptors of something it is not: not an apartheid state, not controlling America’s future, and not a crippling human rights violator like China, Russia, Iran and others.

In many ways, Israel surpasses America’s perceived personal freedoms, e.g. abortion, religious freedom, and LGBTQ rights, including being the only country to ever save blacks in a foreign land when she sent troops and planes to rescue Ethiopian Jews moments before their would-be slaughter.

The fact she faces a currently unnegotiable problem that began when it was repeatedly attacked from all sides is not going away with tired, impotent venom heard for thousands of years. America’s garbled rhetoric improves nothing except Israel’s resolve unless one considers that it keeps the memory alive of its inaction around the Shoah... something American Jews should find amazing.

The writer is a publishing contributor with The MirYam Institute. He is a retired attorney with 38 years of experience in the areas of children’s and human rights and NGOs in the US, Israel and Africa.