On the eve of Shavuot, the Biden White House unveiled a new, unprecedented national strategy to fight Jew-hatred. This new initiative is called the “US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.” It is a step in the right direction.
Any way that the power of the US government can lend itself – is willing to lend itself, to the effort to combat Jew-hatred is appreciated. It can, potentially, have a significant impact down the rocky road of hatred. The best plan, of course, is one that involves educating the young and the impressionable.
In a recorded video message, President Joe Biden said that his plan sends a “clear and forceful message.” He said that “in America, evil will not win, hate will not prevail.” And then he added, “The venom and violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time.”
The 60-page plan lists 100 items to be implemented to fight Jew-hatred. The list really falls into several rubrics. Most important, I think, is increasing awareness and understanding of antisemitism, which includes its threat to America, and learning more about Jewish history. The plan also includes bolstering security for Jewish communities.
The hardest part of the plan to implement will be the goal of reversing the normalization of antisemitism. Finally, there is building “cross-community” bridges to fight all forms of hate throughout the United States.
At the rollout, Susan Rice, Biden’s chief domestic policy adviser, cited a shocking study that reported that 85% of Americans believe at least one antisemitic stereotype. She called it “unacceptable.”
Deborah Lipstadt, Biden’s envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, was particularly profound and poignant in her comments. Lipstadt said that this was a “historic moment in the modern fight against what’s known as the fight against the world’s oldest hatred.” She said: “Where antisemitism persists, democracy suffers”.
I hope this initiative will make a difference. For years, experts have discussed the reasons why people hate Jews. One suggestion is ignorance and lack of education. Another is jealousy. Others assert that religious animus is the root cause of the oldest hatred.
“It’s particularly notable that this approach recognizes that antisemitism is not about politics – it’s about principles. We are pleased that this strategy comprehensively addresses hate and antisemitism on campus, online and from extremists on both the far-Right and the far-Left.”Jonathan Greenblatt
White House antisemitism strategy will not solve the problem of Jew-hatred
THIS PLAN will not solve the problem. It will not eliminate Jew-hatred. It might, however, make a small difference. And however small that difference will be, I appreciate the effort that is being made. And I hope that others, like me, will express their appreciation.
We Jews cannot solve this gargantuan age-old problem alone. If we could, antisemitism would have been eradicated long ago. Instead, it is rearing its fury-filled, ugly head, across the United States with frequency. This battle requires the masses to stand up and work together to combat this hatred.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog tweeted his appreciation to the Biden administration: “I would like to congratulate the Biden administration for publishing the first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism. Thank you, @POTUS, for prioritizing the need to confront antisemitism in all its forms. We welcome the re-embracing of @TheIHRA definition which is the gold standard definition of antisemitism. Less than a century after the Holocaust, rising antisemitism in America and across the globe is cause for alarm. This report is an important first step in the long fight against this venomous hate.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, has said: “As the US Jewish community is experiencing antisemitism at levels not seen in generations, we deeply appreciate that the White House has stepped up and delivered this significant, comprehensive strategy.
“It’s particularly notable that this approach recognizes that antisemitism is not about politics – it’s about principles. We are pleased that this strategy comprehensively addresses hate and antisemitism on campus, online and from extremists on both the far-Right and the far-Left.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, in his still powerful and insightful essay “Antisemite and Jew,” explains that the antisemite has created the Jew as a target of hate. The Jew represents everything that the antisemite loathes. That hatred is so deep and profound that even though they might love democracy, the antisemite does not even realize that their hatred is destroying the very society they love.
Sartre argues that this hatred is a passion and a deep-seated emotion. He explains that to the antisemite, the hatred is not an idea in the common sense of the word: it is not a point of view that is rational. “It is first of all a passion.”
Sartre tells the story of his high school friend who was livid that he had failed the French poetry test and the Jew, a son of Eastern European immigrants, had passed. The young man’s anger was vicious and so very visceral. He wonders how a Jew could understand French poetry better than he – a true Frenchman.
And then, the truth. Sartre gets his classmate to admit that he failed because he did not study and that it had nothing to do with the Jew. Rather than accept the blame he alone deserved, he transferred his anger and frustration to the ready scapegoat, a Jewish classmate.
Jew-hatred will not disappear, but the more non-Jews who join in the battle, the more likely it is that Jew-hatred will become socially unacceptable and even banished from polite conversation and public interaction.
That is truly the goal of this initiative.
The writer is a social and political commentator. Watch his TV show Thinking Out Loud on the Jewish Broadcasting Service.