I’ve written multiple times in the past about my Jewish upbringing and the concern I have over rising anti-Semitism not only in the United States, but also globally. My Jewish grandmother – my Bubbie – always said growing up that “anti-Semitism is alive and well.” We used to make fun of her. I’m not sure it’s very funny any more.
Though there is a decent amount of attention on this subject matter right now, I still feel discontent for a few reasons. There is quite a double standard in terms of how this subject gets treated versus others. Moreover, the alarming number of people who come out of the woodwork to support the anti-Semites makes you realize the problem is much greater than one might think.
One might think that as a Jewish person, I am very upset with Kanye West. Of course that is true, but it kind of misses the greater point. What Kanye West said actually exposed the greater anti-Semitism at-large within our society. Go on just about any Twitter or Instagram post or news story online that covers this topic and the comments are riddled with people boldly declaring anti-Semitic tropes and issuing their support. Twitter does nothing about this of course. Famous NBA star Kyrie Irving followed in Kanye’s footsteps with a social media post about a book that espouses conspiracy theories about Jews, and the reactions are largely adoring fans who agree that Jewish people have manipulated black people since the dawn of time. Never mind that Jewish people were some of the greatest allies to blacks during the Civil Rights Movement of the Martin Luther King, Jr. era.
What infuriates me more is the hypocrisy of people who claim to be on the side of social justice. These people call out anti-Semitism when it is convenient for them to do so. When a right-wing shooter kills Jews in a synagogue, they get to blame Donald Trump for it. That’s good, and sadly, it’s almost convenient. But when Hasidic Jews are killed by Black Hebrew Israelites in Jersey City, it’s less convenient, and politicians blame the Jews for their own murders. When a left wing Muslim man travels all the way to Texas to hold Jews hostage in a synagogue and openly declaring anti-Semitic motives, the FBI suggests there were no anti-Semitic motives and there are crickets from the same people. When the anti-black, Trump-adoring anti-Semite Kanye West makes ridiculous comments, the progressives come out of the woodwork once more. But when their heroes in the Squad invoke stereotypical Jewish tropes over and over again, there is silence.
Anti-Semitic attacks account for over half of the country’s religious-related violence. Think about that: a group that represents less than 2% of the population makes up over half of the violence related to religion. How often do you hear the progressive left railing about this problem vis-a-vis, say, something like Islamophobia? What is particularly ironic is when the LGBT community takes an adamant stand for Palestine, a country well-known for its homophobia. In fact, a gay Palestinian man was recently kidnapped out of Israel – where he had fled for safe haven – and dragged back to Palestine where he was beheaded. All the while, the same people who are cheering on the women in Iran for standing up against Sharia Law are quite often the same people who root for the demise of Israel, whose political opponent next door treats women exactly the same way they are treated in Iran. These advocates may rightfully claim that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, but they seem to miss the point that there are many within their clan whose hypocrisy only has one real answer. Look no further than the Chicago Dyke March several years ago, which banned Israeli flags at their event. Yes, a march for gay rights prohibited the flag of the one country throughout the entire Middle East that is tolerant of the LGBT community. In the aftermath of vicious propaganda about Israel and its supporters, Jews worldwide were targeted in hate crimes. In London, pro-Palestine supporters marched down streets talking about rounding up Jews and raping their daughters, and in the US, Jews were attacked simply for being Jewish. What did we get? A blue square on Instagram.
On college campuses nationwide, pro-Palestinian supporters are marching up to campus Hillels to intimidate their Jewish counterparts. Regardless of your position on the very complicated issue of Israel and Palestine, please understand what your reaction would be if a bunch of white students showed up a black safe space on campus to protest against Black Lives Matter. Would there be national outrage? I like to think so. You cannot on one hand say that Jews and the state of Israel are two different things but then on the other hand literally show up to a Jewish place of worship to make a political protest. Those are incongruent claims. What is particularly ironic is that one of these anti-Semitic outburts occured at George Washington University. In D.C., there is quite literally an Israeli embassy right down the street from where the Jewish students worship, but no – the protesters choose to protest at the synagogue instead. Why is that? And what would anyone’s reaction be if Jewish protesters showed up at a mosque to protest the plight of women in Iran? You know the answer.
Just so we are clear, I am not suggesting that supporting Palestine or criticizing Israel makes someone anti-Semitic. What I am instead saying is that when one does so while not applying similar standards to other countries (say, China, for example, which has literal concentration camps of Uighur Muslims, or, say Russia, where we all know what is going on), then it is a little fishy. It is a little fishy to say Judaism and Israel are two separate things but then to show up at Jewish places of worship to protest against Israel. It is incongruous to beat the drum for women and LGBT rights and suggest that Israel is “pinkwashing” by supporting both. What is “pinkwashing?” A made up term by progressives with no evidence whatsoever that says that Israel only does these things to garner support from the international community. How is that working out in progressive circles for Israel? And lastly, it is absurd to only give a damn about lost lives in a terrible conflict when they only come from one side.
If you’re not familiar with some of the facts I have mentioned above, it is probably because they are under-reported. It should be telling to you about how we got here. I mentioned a moment ago that anti-Semitic hate crimes are skyrocketing. Look no further than the boroughs of New York, where anti-Semitic hate crime has jumped exponentially. The victims are disproportionately Hasidic Jews and the perpetrators are disproportionately black men or teenagers. This is an inconvenient narrative to report in a time when the country seems ultra-focused on performative pandering. It is certainly hard to treat white-passing, Trump-supporting Jews with very conservative beliefs with any form of respect in today’s media environment. Even as a Jew, I have my own grievances with the Hasidic community, but I certainly would never wish ill will upon them and physical violence, and I would hope that we would treat all victims with the same level of respect and the attention that they deserve.
Over the last few years, we have heard countless athletes and celebrities step up to denounce hatred and racism. Some players have even threatened to boycott games. It certainly seems telling then that the country’s most woke league – the NBA – had no one step up to denounce Kyrie Irving. Can you think of a single NBA player who had a thing to say about it? In fact, the only players I know who have spoken up about it – LeBron James and Jaylen Brown – both support Kyrie Irving and have stated that they think his punishment is too harsh. What planet are we living on where LeBron James can tweet to his millions of followers that a white police officer should go to prison for shooting to death a black teenager who was in the midst of stabbing another black teenager to death, while in the same breath suggesting that Kyrie Irving “meant no harm” with regards to Jewish people? Why is it that when the victims are black that the league’s most vocal social justice warriors feel more inclusive than when they are Jewish? Just so we are clear on this, the film Kyrie Irving promoted suggests that the Holocaust did not happen. I’d imagine this is as offensive to Jewish people as it was offensive to black people when Kanye West said (wrongly!) that “slavery was a choice.”
What’s even more telling is the Dave Chappelle bit that shortly followed on Saturday Night Live, in which he essentially echoed all of the same anti-Semitic tropes. He insinuated that you can only get canceled for anti-Semitism, seemingly ignoring the aftermath of George Floyd in which people were literally fired if they refused to participate in DEI trainings, or, say, people like Louis CK or Aziz Ansari, who were canceled for misogyny, or, say, Alex Jones for being a total lunatic. This idea that Jews “pull the strings” is awfully dangerous in a society where people are more apt than ever to believe in conspiracy theories. Do you think right-wing QAnon people are nuts? If so, then ask yourself why people are so susceptible to these crazy ideas and subsequently ask yourself if it is responsible for people to “joke” about such things when the average person is one or two Google searches away from finding David Icke, who famously believes Jewish people are lizard people trying to enslave the planet. Speaking of which – famous author Alice Walker also believes this theory and she is widely celebrated (and certainly not canceled!). Why is that?
If it seems like I am angry, it’s because I am. People do not really seem to understand what anti-Semitism is, and even if they do, they often seem OK with ignoring it. Why is that? Because unlike most other forms of bigotry, the tropes against Jews have to do with their relative success in modern society compared to other social groups. This allows people to convince themselves that Jews are indeed manipulative, scheming people who step on the backs of others to get their way. Or at the very least, it is seen as “punching up” to criticize them. In other words, they don’t really need anyone’s help — they’re doing well enough. All the while, the same tropes were used for a mass extinction event that wiped out half of our population less than a century ago.
As I’ve scanned my social media the last month or so, I have one non-Jewish friend who almost made me cry at work. She posted on LinkedIn about how much she learned about anti-Semitism in a work training and asked others to take it more seriously. She will remain nameless, but it’s equally encouraging to see someone learn about it and get it as it is concerning that I can only spot one person with the cojones to say anything about it. As a Jewish person, I’m hearing stories about people leaving America because they are scared. I would be lying if I were to tell you it has not crossed my mind.