Say 'no' to antisemitism

My Word: I blame the Jews! Just kidding.

A WOMAN holds a hanukkiah during a solidarity rally in Brooklyn on December 29 following the attack in Monsey on Jews who were celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah at the home of a rabbi. (photo credit: AMR ALFIKY/ REUTERS)
A WOMAN holds a hanukkiah during a solidarity rally in Brooklyn on December 29 following the attack in Monsey on Jews who were celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah at the home of a rabbi.
(photo credit: AMR ALFIKY/ REUTERS)
It was a near-miss massacre. On Saturday night, December 28, Jews gathered in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, New York, to light candles for the seventh night of Hanukkah. Grafton E. Thomas – armed with a machete and an ideology of hate – burst in and hacked at the people peacefully celebrating the Festival of Lights. Five people were wounded. That there were no fatalities was not for lack of trying on Grafton’s part.
Something changed in the aftermath of the Monsey attack. There had been deadlier incidents – just last month two Jews were killed along with a non-Jewish employee and a policeman in an attack in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City. And the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue complex in Pittsburgh in October 2018 and the murder of Lori Gilbert-Kaye as she prayed with her community in Poway, San Diego, in April 2019 should not be forgotten. But the attempted massacre at the rabbi’s home was not an isolated incident during the holiday season.
It seemed that every day of the eight-day festival brought news of another attack of some sort on Jews living in places like Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Manhattan and New Jersey. Places where they thought they were safe. Places where they should be safe.
Since December 13, there have been eight reported incidents in New York alone in which ultra-Orthodox Jews – men, women and children – have been punched or thrown to the ground simply for being Jewish.
There are now Jews in New York who admit they are scared to go out dressed in their identifiable clothing. They join their brethren in cities across Western Europe. On Yom Kippur, a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in the German town of Halle, killing two passersby when he was unable to breach the locked, security doors. Jewish schools, places of worship and community centers throughout Europe have long required an increased police presence and security measures.
Monsey was another shocking reminder to US Jewry that antisemitic attacks are not something that happen to someone else, somewhere else. Last week, on the other coast, the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills was seriously vandalized and its Torah scrolls desecrated. The community is largely composed of Jews who fled Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and thought they had reached safe shores in America.
Last month, utility poles in the quiet town of St. Albans, Vermont, were plastered with posters declaring “It’s okay to be antisemitic.” When local residents were asked what they thought about the fliers, they answered in polite, measured tones that they were “unfortunate” and “disappointing.” I waited in vain to hear someone say unequivocally that the notices were “unacceptable.”
A local police officer said the posters had “antisemitic undertones.” But these are not “undertones.” The person who took the time to print them and post them might have wanted to keep their identity concealed but they were not hiding their thoughts. The threat might be veiled, but the antisemitism was open.
I BLAME the Jews! Just kidding. But when it comes to antisemitic attacks there is no shortage of people who blame the victims. Part of the problem is that Jew-hatred is a multi-tentacled beast. Hating Jews is the only thing that can unite as disparate zealots as white supremacists, Islamists and the radical Left. The Jersey supermarket attack was allegedly carried out by members of an extreme community of Black Hebrew Israelites (not related to the Zionist Black Hebrews who live in Israel). The reported internet searches of Grafton, who is black, include “Why did Hitler hate Jews” and “Prominent companies founded by Jews in America.”
At a UN-sponsored seminar with Palestinians held in Moscow just over a year ago, I was subjected to accusations that the Jews control the world’s banks and global media and that today’s Jews have no ties to the Land of Israel. That Hanukkah is a celebration of the miracles and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE is a fabrication as far as the Jew-haters and anti-Zionists are concerned.
There is an understandable effort to make sense of the unfathomable. After every attack, the guessing game begins: Was it a white supremacist? An Islamist terrorist? It is easy to blame the “other side.”
US President Donald Trump, a divisive figure, is accused by the Left as fostering the hate crimes against Jews (despite his support for Israel and his evident pride in his Jewish daughter and her family). America is polarized but it is in the hands of its people to refuse to further that divide.
When Jews in the UK faced increasing antisemitism and were concerned that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who calls Palestinian terrorists his friends – could come to power, they set aside their differences and acted as one to condemn the attacks and call out the would-be prime minister.
Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center’s annual report on antisemitism, released in May, stated that 2018 and the beginning of 2019 “witnessed an increase in almost all forms of antisemitic manifestations, in the public space as well as in the private one. A sense of facing a state of emergency situation is increasing among Jews in some countries.”
The number of the major violent cases reported by the Kantor Center team increased by 13%, from 342 to 387 with the countries having the highest number of incidents being the US (more than 100 cases) and the UK (68).
“Antisemitism is no longer only a part of the activities of the triangle, made of the far Right, the extreme Left and radical Islam,” the Kantor report concluded. “It has mainstreamed and became a constant presence of reality.”
The report also found that American college campuses are becoming “increasingly hostile for Jewish students who support Israel.” This is sad, damning even, but not unexpected in an age in which anti-Zionism has morphed into the new antisemitism.
Those who like to pretend that Jew-hatred is the purview only of the Right should be reminded that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, singling out Jewish and Israeli businesses, is the modern way of saying “Don’t buy from Jews.” It’s not progressive; Jews who lived through darker eras are only too familiar with it.
Political correctness does not prevent antisemitic attacks – or domestic terrorism in any form. If you can’t name the problem, you can’t deal with it. If you have to couch your language in terms like “antisemitic undertones,” you can’t voice the real threats.
An American friend in a liberal community this week admitted that she felt their synagogue was at risk, but not all members approved of the possibility of having trained congregants carry arms.
“What can I tell my kids?” she asked.
“Tell them to never stop being proud of being Jews,” I replied. “Refuse to be the victim.”
Antisemitism in all its forms needs to be condemned. No country should try to dupe itself into believing that Jew-hatred ends with the Jews. Hatred is a cancer. Untreated, it will spread and attack one minority after another.
It took too many lethal attacks by jihadists for the world to realize that the incitement and ideology must be stopped at source – in places where it is being preached and fostered. The same is true of antisemitism. However politically incorrect and awkward, churches, mosques and campuses must be made to understand that antisemitism cannot be tolerated. Even cases in which the perpetrator is considered to be psychologically disturbed cannot be ignored. They do not occur in a vacuum but in an atmosphere that fosters violence.
The videos showing Jews being punched and pushed to the ground should be removed from social media. These are not pranks. They are assaults. And their presence on the internet inspire copycat attacks. Similarly, acts of vandalism and slurs should not be dismissed: A swastika here and a curse there cannot be the harbinger of anything good. They are the seeds of hatred that grow into physical attacks and murder. “Never again” starts with “No more!”