For more than two decades, it has been clear to those who study antisemitism that its most prevalent current form is anti-Zionism.
Jews were hated first for keeping to their belief in their one God and following their distinct traditions. They refused to convert, and for this, they were denigrated, exiled, and murdered. Later they were hated for their ethnicity, for not having the same bloodlines as the majority in countries where they lived. They were confined to ghettos, hunted down, and murdered.
In our current era, hatred of Jews for their religion or bloodline is most often considered to be beyond the pale. There are still those who traffic in an old form of antisemitism but, in the main, they are ostracized. However, Jews today are openly and violently hated for having a Jewish-majority country.
Unsurprisingly, there has never been a time when antisemites believed they were being hateful or irrational. When Jews were murdered or exiled for not becoming pagan, Christian, or Muslim, this behavior seemed appropriate, even honorable, to the perpetrators.
And when the Jews were slaughtered in the world’s only industrialized murder machine, the Nazis told themselves they were purifying their lands from the evil of Jewish ethnicity.
Jews are now a problem for the world because Israel exists
Today, again, Jews are a problem, not because of ethnicity or religion, but because there is now a Jewish majority country in the original Jewish land.
Establishing the modern State of Israel entailed an entirely legal process during more than 100 years of internationally recognized agreements; purchases of land at exorbitant prices; approvals of the United Nations and its forerunners; and the building of infrastructure and the legal foundations for a new, democratic country.
It continues to be the only democracy in the Middle East, home to Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouin, and other groups, all of whom are full citizens freely practicing their religions, serving in all professions, and engaged in Israeli life.
UNTIL THE founding of the state of Israel, Jews continued to live in what is now called the Middle East from the time of their first exile from Israel nearly 2000 years ago. Lyn Julius’ book Uprooted, is a comprehensive study of how “Jewish civilization in the Arab world vanished overnight.”
Within a few years of the establishment of modern Israel, 850,000 Jews who had lived in the Arab world for generations were forced out. Many were murdered in the attacks of the Farhud. Forced from their workplaces and then from their homes, most Jews lost everything they had. Now, most of these countries have no Jews at all.
Current antisemitism claims that, unlike any of the other peoples of the world, Jews should not be allowed a country in which they are a majority, even in their indigenous land. In this antisemitism, it is Jewish peoplehood that is maligned.
After centuries of being considered a unique ethnicity and being ostracized for it, suddenly the Jews are considered only a religious group, one that should not be allowed its own country. If there is only one country in the world that “deserves” to disappear and this just happens to be the world’s only Jewish majority country, certainly this is antisemitic.
Attacks on Jews now take place in many of the countries where Jews still live and they are shocked by the violence against them. Certainly, it is shocking. Clearly, there should be no attacks on synagogues, Jewish stores, homes of Jews, or Jews on college campuses.
Recently there was hope that the US government would create a plan for tackling antisemitism. Sadly, the 60-page document does not focus on attacks against Jews that occur nearly daily in New York City, in Los Angeles, and on college campuses, nor does it clearly address anti-Israelism or antisemitism. Instead, the focus is on hate in general. Bizarrely, the anti-Israel organization CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) is included in the task force.
IT IS our responsibility to accept reality. Anti-Israelism/antisemitism is not going away. This is not the fault of Israelis any more than it was the fault of Jews in the past. Nor is it the fault of Jews living in the US.
The current iteration of antisemitism, as anti-Israelism suggests, is that you can say “I’m a Jew but I don’t like Israel” and then you will not be harmed or discriminated against. But this is not the case.
None of the recent attackers of Jews have stopped to ask their victims about their views on Israel or anything else. Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative congregations have been vandalized and attacked. Jewish sports clubs have been attacked. Jewish grocery stores. Jewish-owned cafes. Jewish students and professors have been denigrated and treated unfairly.
Although there are more attacks against Jews than any other group, Jews are not the only ones experiencing violence. Clearly, there is an uptick in violence generally in the US, Canada, UK, and EU countries – places where Jews still live. People feel unsafe, especially in the big cities, and working with these like-minded people will help. Certainly, the vast majority of Americans are not promoters of violence; they, too, fear and are angry about rising chaos in the US.
And we must protect ourselves. Krav Maga, legal weapons training, and neighborhood watch are important. Every synagogue, Jewish school, and Jewish-owned business must have security. We cannot depend on police arriving in time or there being enough police to handle confrontations.
Of course, Israel is not always safe, either. But it is safer and more protected than big cities in the US. The major difference is that when Israel is attacked, the IDF can fight back, even if much of the world still seems to object to us Jews standing up for ourselves.
The writer is author of Framing Israel, a personal tour of media and campus rhetoric. She made aliyah from California where she was a professor of rhetoric and writing.