Confronting & Countering Anti-Semitism
by Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker
It’s time to discuss the rising phenomenon of Jew-hatred, better known as anti-Semitism, both in the United States and around the world. Three-quarters of a century after the close of the Shoah—the European Holocaust and destruction of one third of the Jewish people—hatred and animosity to Jews and Judaism has found its way back into popularity and acceptance in ever-increasing segments of the planet’s populace, and within elements of the American population, despite numerous polls demonstrating the admiration and acceptance of us Jews within this country. On one hand, Jews indeed are popular and well received within American society—just look at the high rate—whether or not you approve—of intermarriage in this country. On the other hand, the ever increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and Jewish property—synagogues, schools, and private homes, as well as violent personal assaults upon individual Jews—not to mention the murderous assaults upon the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Chabad of Poway, California, the Jersey City kosher market, and now the rabbi’s home in Monsey, NY—indicate, to put it mildly, that not everyone in this nation loves us Jews.
Anti-Semitism in this country, and around the globe, essentially can be broken down into the product of four sources: the extreme right, the extreme left, a small portion of the black community, and Islamicism—or Islamic radicalism. The reasons for the animosity that each of these groups has towards Jews and Judaism is different, but the bottom line is that each of these groups dislikes or hates Jews and Judaism, and in their most virulent form wish to see us eradicated, by one means or another—some more violent than others, but with a similar end that Jews cease to exist as a people.
Before examining each of these four strains individually, let me emphasize that all four are virulent, and all four—whether one is a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent —all four pose definite threats to Jews and to the integrity and viability of this country, as well as to the world Jewish community and the State of Israel.
Let’s begin with the classical concept of anti-Semitism, that which comes from the far-right side of the political spectrum. Certainly, throughout the vast majority of the past century this anti-Semitism was and continues to be associated with Nazism and old-school far right fundamentalist Christianity—think of Mel Gibson and such, as well as David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. The Alt-Right of Richard Spencer is also part of this group. Peopled by individuals—usually white males with poor economic prospects who have proven susceptible to conspiracy theories—this group hates Jews because it fears that whatever honor and authority that it has possessed as part of the WASP community, will be stolen away and given to others. Loss of prestige, loss of income, loss of identity, are major concerns that affect this group. Witness the chant of the alt-Right crowds in Charlottesville in 2017: “The Jews won’t replace us!” Such words are the result of fears of displacement on the part of those already occupying the lower rungs of the ladder of success.
Both the perpetrators of the Pittsburgh and the Poway shootings were individuals ostensibly “protecting” their culture from those whom they deemed guilty of attempts to destroy the society that they were trying to protect. Twisted concepts of honor and the acceptance of wild conspiracy theories mark the beliefs of both the shooters and those that think like them.
Fortunately, the “white supremacy” movement—which we must understand is NOT equal to nationalism—the belief in the importance of separate sovereign states as opposed to globalism, which is an imperialist doctrine, as Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony points out in his 2018 book The Virtue of Nationalism—the “white supremacy” movement actually makes up a very small part of the anti-Semitic spectrum. It exists but it is far from mainstream. Indeed, as American-Israeli writer Caroline Glick noted in a seminal article published several months ago:
Last month [August], the “Amcha Initiative”, which documents, investigates and combats anti-Semitism on college campuses, published its 2018 report on-campus anti-Semitism. The report revealed that classic anti-Semitic attacks—that is, right-wing anti-Semitic attacks—decreased by 42%. In contrast, 2018 saw a 70% increase in leftist anti-Semitic attacks on campuses.
This brings us now to the second source of anti-Semitism in this country and internationally, that which comes from the left and/or parts of the “progressive” camp. The reason for leftist animosity to Jews and Judaism may seem strange to us as many American Jews consider themselves to be liberals and thus expect to find acceptance within the progressive camp. However, the reality is quite a bit more complicated and at times difficult to comprehend. But, in essence, the left-progressive alliance does not appreciate that Jews and Judaism tend to swim against the stream. The left’s animosity begins—but does not end—with anti-Zionism. The left buys into what is now termed “intersectionality”—a term coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a black academic, to describe the alleged intertwined relationship of race, class and gender in creating discrimination and/or disadvantage. As a result, Israel is viewed through the filter of Palestinian propaganda and is termed a colonialist enterprise engaged in oppressing the Palestinians. No matter that the Palestinians themselves have two oppressive self-governing bodies in the form of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas—the Palestinian branch of the Moslem Brotherhood in Gaza—and that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs have no desire to be ruled by either of these Palestinian entities. Nonetheless, for the left, Israel remains anathema.
Add to the just mentioned concerns about Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian lands—a misnomer since the lands technically are “disputed territories” and therefore not to be termed “occupied”—is the fact that, as mentioned earlier, Israel and Israelis are firm believers in nationalism—the right of each nation or ethnic group to a nation state of its own in which the particular aspects of its identity are recognized and given prominence, while respecting the rights of minority groups within the politic. For the left, which lionizes globalism, and sees it as the solution to the world’s problems—since it attempts to create one universal system that would theoretically provide an equal footing for all, Israel’s nationalism—its insistence on a Jewish identity—proves that Israel, and by extension, all Jews who wish to remain visibly different from the crowd—are racists worthy of utter contempt for refusing to meld into the majority. It is this stubborn “otherness” on our part as Jews, our refusal to disappear and blend completely into the majority, that irks much of the left.
So too, as both Hazony and Yael Tamir, in her recently published book Why Nationalism, point out, the western European states of the E.U. hold Israel to a double standard—expecting Israelis, many of whom came from European nations and thus absorbed European “values” to share the E.U.’s desire for universal government and forgo their “nationalist claims”, conveniently forgetting that the majority of Israel’s Jewish population came from Middle-Eastern Moslem nations where universal human rights weren’t known, nor are they known today. Interestingly, the leftist bent for universal government is not at all popular in eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland or the Check Republic where memories of the dubious benefits of “universal government” under the Soviet Union remain quite strong. Incidentally, it is precisely these nationalistic states that have said no to the open border policies that have permitted large scale Middle-Eastern Moslem immigration to radically change the face of much of western Europe.
It is the left’s desire for a utopian “end of history”, a term coined by American political theorist Frances Fukayama, which drives much of the animosity towards Israel, and likewise against Jews in general. Bottom line, they don’t appreciate that we aren’t prepared to disappear as a separate people—neither as a nation, nor as a religion.
The third source of anti-Semitism or Jew-hatred comes from a small but noticeable part of the black community—especially within urban settings such as New York’s borough of Brooklyn where the Jewish and black communities live in close proximity or are intertwined. Normal daily frictions due to different lifestyles are easily exacerbated and poor communications have led to violent confrontations. Additionally, youthful aggressiveness has played a disproportionate part in the violence. And turf boundary concerns have added to the frictions. Both Jews and blacks are minorities, but that fact has not always created mutual concerns and understandings—especially in lower economic situations where resentments can fester. And a small proportion of black militancy adds fuel to the fire. At present black animosity seems focused at the ultra-Orthodox communities of Hassidim, but the overt anti-Semitism of the Black Muslim movement of Louis Farrakhan includes the entire Jewish world in its hatred.
We now come to the fourth source of anti-Semitism, that of radical Islam. Let me say from the outset, that Islam per se is not gravely anti-Semitic—although it has anti-Semitic passages in the Quran, just as Christianity has anti-Semitic passages in the New Testament, and to be honest, Judaism has anti-Christian and anti-Moslem passages within the Talmud and related midrashic materials. That said, we need to recognize that a fair part of the Moslem world has bought into the radical anti-Semitism that was espoused by the founding theorist of the Moslem Brotherhood, the Egyptian Sayed Qutb, some ninety years ago.
In his study of Islamist anti-Semitism, entitled Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, the German political scientist Dr. Matthias Küntzel points out that today’s Islamist movement is the direct progeny of the Moslem Brotherhood which was inspired to return to the violent jihad of the era of its founder Mohammad by its admiration of, and desire to follow, the tenets of fascism as manifested in the Nazi movement of the thirties and forties. Küntzel reminds us that the author of the Iranian Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, borrowed wholesale the thinking and the tactics of the Moslem Brotherhood, overturning a 1,200-year quietist approach in Shiite Islam in order to invent his Velayat-e Faqih and launch his jihad to conquer the Islamic world.
Modern violent jihadism begins with Khomeini and the Iranian revolution of 1978-1981, but the roots are to found within Qutb’s writings for the Moslem Brotherhood. The link between the Brotherhood and Nazism was furnished by the Mufti of Jerusalem, the Palestinian national Islamist, Mohammad Amin al-Husseini, who had spent the entirety of World War II in Berlin, supporting the Nazi war effort. Al-Qaeda and Daish—that is, the Islamic State—are but the modern manifestations of jihadi movements that all employ anti-Semitism as a unifier to rally the faithful to the cause of a purified Islam. Seeing Israel as a European and American tool to colonize and desecrate Moslem holy lands, the jihadis, whether Sunni or Shia, regard all Jews as the spawn of Satan, and lay all the ills of this world at our door. If you want to know how powerful we are—at least in their twisted way of thinking, just read any of the propaganda printed by al-Qaeda, ISIS, or the Islamic Republic of Iran about Jews and Judaism.
If all of this is getting you a bit queasy and sick to your stomach, get used to it; the internet is awash with all of this garbage—conspiracy theories and false or “fake” news are the stock-in-trade of our detractors, right, left, white, black, and Islamist. If all of this is new to you, you have been living in blissful ignorance, but I’m afraid that it’s not the figment of this rabbi’s wild imagination—it’s real.
Now, to tachles—let’s get down to brass tacks. How do we deal with this increasing epidemic of anti-Semitism? The problem is real and should not be swept under the rug, whether Persian or otherwise. But at the same time, Jews need not panic; it’s not 1939! We don’t all need to book the first available flights to Israel. What we do need to do is to open our eyes and recognize that it exists, and thus we need to confront any and all manifestations of it.
However, in confronting anti-Semitism, we need to remain calm and realize that nether the president, nor the Democratic Party are anti-Semitic, and any and all such name-calling is not only infantile, but also self-defeating. Are there a few anti-Semites in the Democratic Party? Yes, but there are also a few in the Republican Party as well. Does the president occasionally say things that are stupid and easily open to misinterpretation? Unfortunately, yes; but that doesn’t make him anti-Semitic, nor will he be the last politician to say, or do, something stupid. Trust me, it goes with the territory.
What is necessary is to remain vigilant and be proud of our Judaism. We don’t need to be aggressive, but we should be assertive, and politely correct anyone using anti-Semitic language. Speech, written materials–whether in print or electronic–should be watched carefully and held accountable. Our public officials need to hear our concerns as well as our thanks when they speak out on our behalf and/or support legislation aiding Israel.
Furthermore, our physical security can only be guaranteed by our own vigilance. The police are on our side, but they are over-worked and cannot be everywhere 24/7. Thus, we must accept the responsibility to create watch group and security patrols to guarantee the safety of our synagogues, schools, institutions and communities. Learning Krav Maga and proper use of firearms—where permitted by law—is part of the picture.
Unfortunately, there will always be anti-Semitism—anyone who says otherwise is a charlatan and utopian dreamer, and should not be trusted. But we have it within our power to confront and slowly reduce this scourge—if we but have the courage and fortitude to do so. We can help build coalitions with other groups to help support the American concept of a free, just society.
No one said it would be easy, but the rewards of peace and prosperity are worth the effort. President George Washington spoke of this American ideal in his letter to the Touro Synagogue in 1790; it’s our duty as Americans to keep that flame of liberty and justice alive for all.
 Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism, Basic Books, New York, 2018.
 Caroline Glick, “American Jewry’s days of reckoning”, Jewish News Syndicate, October 6, 2019, https://www.jns.org/opinion/american-jewrys-days-of-reckoning/
 Yael Tamir, Why Nationalism, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2019.
 Mitchell D. Silber, “How to Protect New York’s Jews”, The New York Times, December 31, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/31/opinion/how-to-protect-new-yorks-jews.html?fbclid=IwAR0qmMt1R2on-bV0uB8sdQvg3qrwSB5EcGUkIXWsdm2vcXzj_nUw3U5Jgx4
 Matthias Küntzel, Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, Telos Press Publishing, New York, NY, © 2007.