Terry H. Schwadron
Feb. 21, 2019
There have been signs well over the last two years, of course, but there is no question now that anti-Semitism is on the rise both in the United States and internationally — along with more and more expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-black fears and, thanks to our border debate, anti-Latino feelings and actions.
In separate articles on separate pages of same issue of The New York Times, yellow-jacketed protesters in the French streets were mouthing anti-Semitic loathings about someone who disagreed with them and police in New York City were recording a 72% on an admitted low base of anti-Semitic reported crimes year over year. A New York synagogue reported an anti-Semitic attack on the same day. Earlier this week, seven members of the British Parliament broke with the Labor Party over anti-Semitic policies and remarks by the party leadership.
As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I tend to take it all a bit personally, I’ll admit.
All this followed last week’s blow-up involving freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s poorly worded critique of the AIPAC Israel lobby that was meant to point out undue influence on Middle East policy, but came across as linking Jews, money and sway, an old, ugly trope.
In France, the change in utterances on the street have turned from protests about gas prices to something much uglier and more indicative of mob justice. The object of hate on this day was essayist Alain Finkelkraut, who has written against the protests, but the form they took was personal and anti-Jewish — a trend that has been building over the last few years. On Tuesday night, thousands of people attended nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following the recent spike in attacks. The desecration of a Jewish cemetery with swastikas on Monday was just one of many recent anti-Semitic attacks.
With the arrival of Donald Trump as U.S. president has come a rebirth of nativism across borders, generally prompted by the arrival of new Middle Eastern immigrants, but also building on a resentment about growing signs of separatism about Muslims and other emigres who try to preserve their own cultural identity within the larger France. The official response has included new laws to bar Muslim clothing in public areas and other such actions.
In Israel, the government has been quite specific in inviting French Jews who feel increasingly uncomfortable to leave.
In the United States, meanwhile, we have a continuing parade of anti-gay, anti-trans, and incidents of racial discord. The Southern Poverty Law Center continues to record a consistent rise of white supremacist incidents and, in general, more hate crimes. If we were to try to summarize our government’s response, it would be hard to avoid the anti-Latino talk from the White House as part of the pro-border Wall arguments, the discordant notes of the Charlottesville, Va. rioting from a White House that found good people “on both sides,” and the never-ending incidents of fearful white people who call the police to stop black people pursuing perfectly ordinary behaviors.
Each incident stands on its own, of course, and it is folly to try to put all of them into a single basket for judgment. But when you hear the same tropes and explanations offered over and over, it is time to speak out.
Much of the anti-Semitic wave has as much to do with the policies of the current Israeli administration as it does with anything Jewish. Jews are split about support for Benjamin Netanyahu and the politics of settlements, Occupation-like administration of justice and the avoidance of anything that moves closer to a two-state solution.
Indeed, by polling numbers, evangelical Christians tend to be more supporters tend to be much more supportive of Israeli’s right-wing government than American Jews as a group.
Congresswoman Omar’s political positions — offered in response to questions — were aimed at the Israeli government’s policies rather than at Jews — or even Israelis in general. Likewise, U.S. leaders generally have taken some care to separate statements about radical Islamic fighters from followers of a thousand-year-old religion and culture. By contrast, Trump and team have gone out of their way to use a much broader brush, through sanctions, travel bans and speechifying against Radical Islam that seems to include adherents who don’t behead foes.
In general, the call for America First and closing off the United States from as much contact as possible with the rest of the world unless it is in paying tariffs and tributes to America is based on a certain chest-puffing pride that seems to glory in supremacy in all things.
There is yet a larger problem here even than the tribalism we are seeing worldwide. It is the loss of how to talk with one another, how to argue over immigration or trade or my way versus your way without resorting to a bullying tone that dismisses the other party, often based on the memberships or associations or ethnicity of the other party. I see it in the comments these columns draw, among other places.
I look at the rising anti-Semitism and see a problem and want to calm the flames. What about you?