It’s like whack-a-mole. One area of tolerance gets better, but another gets worse. In the past few years, tolerance of LGBTQs’ place in society has grown—which is wonderful. But the signs are unmistakable that mindless prejudice against Jews, which many of us hoped was largely behind us, is making a comeback.
Much, but not all, of the resurgence is occurring in Europe. It’s not just the Jewish storekeepers who were slain two days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. It’s the head of east Ukraine claiming he rebelled because the rest of Ukraine is run by “miserable Jews.” It’s the job advertisement in the French newspaper specifying “if possible, not Jewish.” It’s the gang in north London storming a synagogue. It’s the “burn the Jews” chants at a Dutch soccer match. It’s the president of Belarus slamming a regional governor for not taking the country’s Jewish population “under control” as he had ordered. It’s the Conservative Party candidate in England commenting on the Labor Party’s nominee for prime minister: “Never ever will I drop that low and support the Jew.” It’s the vandalizing of a Copenhagen church to protest a visit by the former chief rabbi of Denmark. It’s actor Michael Douglas, poignantly describing his son’s first taste of anti-Semitism, while vacationing in Europe last year.
By the numbers, anti-Jewish attacks reported to French police doubled during 2014. Pew Research Center, with its typical exhaustive thoroughness, has noted a sharp increase in harassment of Jews around the world, reaching a seven-year high in 2013.
Here in North America, when the head of the international soccer organization FIFA got arrested for taking bribes, he knew how to deflect attention: just blame the Jews. In Toronto, the police report that the most victimized group last year was not LGBTQs or African Americans, but Jews. In Passaic, a man sets off firecrackers during a synagogue service while screaming “Allahu Akbar.” In Arlington, Virginia, just last week, neighbors were upset to find anti-Semitic fliers on their doorsteps.
At liberal UCLA, students posed a question to a nominee for the student Judicial Board: “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” A similar thing happened at Stanford where a Jewish candidate for student office was asked if her religion would affect her view of divestment from Israel. Both the president of Germany and the president of the United States commented last month on the troubling increase in anti-Semitism.
Why is this happening? To some extent, it’s happening because of the spread of Islam. Muslim-dominated dictatorships have ruined their own countries so thoroughly that hundreds of thousands of Muslims have fled to the West. A few carry with them the brainwashing of Muslim scriptures, which are viciously anti-Jewish from the Qur’an on down.
Another source of the problem has been the decades-long PR campaign of the government of Israel to identify itself with world Jewry. Israel is the embodiment of all Jews, they insist, and all Jews are a mystical part of Israel. Though this idea is logically nonsensical, they’ve done a thorough job of selling it. So thorough that whenever the government of Israel commits another outrage—as it does with alarming frequency—it’s too easy for too many people to think, “There go the Jews again.”
Pop quiz: Which country’s president just canceled, on religious grounds, a bar mitzvah ceremony for four severely autistic boys that was to be held at the presidential mansion, in honor of their impressive achievement? The answer is not Iran, but Israel. The boys’ parents, you see, were the wrong flavor of Judaism: Conservative, not the officially favored Orthodox. If I were Jewish, the last institution on earth I’d want to associate with would be a despicable gang like that.
That’s how they treat their fellow Jews. The way they treat non-Jewish people in the territories they’ve conquered (using our money) is a thousand times worse. Last week’s news item on the destruction of water cisterns needed by non-Jews to support their livelihoods was so ho-hum that most media didn’t even bother to report it. Disturbing video released last weekend of Israeli soldiers savagely beating an unarmed man with their rifles opens a window on what life is like for conquered people.
The single biggest blow to the underpinnings of anti-Semitism that the rest of the world could strike would be to trash, once and for all, the religion-based “two-state solution” nonsense that would only serve to cement rival theocracies on either side of whatever line is drawn. There needs to be one, passionately secular government in the territory now controlled by the government of Israel, intensely committed to neither favoring nor hindering any type of religious belief or nonbelief. No other type of government there should receive Western aid, weapons, or diplomatic recognition.
Short of that—and I’ll admit that in today’s political environment, both major parties are so cowardly it’s farfetched—the best we can do is to be vigilant and come down as hard on expressions of hatred against Jews (and Muslims) as we do on the dehumanizing of blacks, gays, women, atheists, or anyone else. Blame individuals for what the individuals do wrong—not for what someone else who looks like them did.
I normally dismiss the commentary of Hollywood types on political issues, but Michael Douglas has this one right: “If we confront anti-Semitism whenever we see it, if we combat it individually and as a society, and use whatever platform we have to denounce it, we can stop the spread of this madness.”