Anti-Semitism Is Not a Novel Problem, Even In the Trump Era

I have read countless articles since the Pittsburgh massacre blaming President Trump for the tragedy. Let’s get this out of the way. Is Donald Trump a friend to the Jews? No. Can we unequivocally say that he’s not anti-Semitic? No (remember those good people in Charlottesville chanting “the Jews will not replace us”?). Does Donald Trump act responsibly as a leader, especially given his platform? No. Does Donald Trump use scare tactics that incite anger in people (e.g. the caravan)? Yes. Is Donald Trump the worst President in history? Yes. Okay. We’ve got that out of the way. Now let’s discuss anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism has been around for longer than any of us, or any of our relatives have been alive. It’s been around not for years, not for decades, not for centuries, but for millennia. Look on the globe. Pick a country. Then Google that country next to “anti-Semitism” or “persecution of the Jews” and you’re bound to find something. Whether it is the Egyptians, Romans, Spaniards, Germans, or Russians, history is littered with Empires who loved to subjugate and murder Jews.

In the present day, anti-Semitism is a growing problem, as you likely have read. The Anti-Defamation League has noted the increase in the last two years of anti-Semitic acts here in the United States. Unfortunately though, anti-Semitism is a global problem. You’d think the Holocaust never happened if you walked around Europe and saw how Jews were viewed and treated. And forget the Middle East. Israel hasn’t been able to go more than a few years at a time since its inception without its neighbors trying to “wipe it off the map”.

Before we get to Israel, let’s discuss anti-Semitism on the right wing. You have your fascists who have loved nothing more than to blame the Jews. And now some of them go by a new name here in the United States, the “alt-right”. I don’t use that term when I write because it’s just a fancy way to say “racists” or “anti-Semites”. The racist and anti-Semitic movement on the right has grown under Trump and they’ve become emboldened. Seriously, just watch that video of the Charlottesville march. Hell, Steve Bannon was in Trump’s administration. The right wing has a blind spot when it comes to anti-Semitism because they think they’re immune to it because they support Israel. It’s the Jewish version of “but I have a black friend”. No, anti-Semitism is a growing problem on the right wing and unfortunately it’s a militant movement as we have seen in the recent and not so recent past.

But let’s not go congratulating ourselves on the left wing just yet because we’re not much better when it comes to anti-Semitism. Here is a premise you need to understand: When you delegitimize Israel or deny its right to exist, you are an anti-Semite. Period. The Jews have one home, and it is in Israel. It is the Jews’ historic home where Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of recorded history. Only in the last century did anyone actually start to recognize that fact. And believe me, if you’ve been to the United Nations or seen any of its hearings, you’ll know that the vast majority of nations don’t want any part of recognizing Israel’s rights as a nation in the present day.

So where does the anti-Semitism exist on the left? It is more difficult to identify because the left-wing anti-Semites don’t chant “the Jews will not replace us”. No, anti-Semitism hides in movements like BDS, which seek to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. Now, I don’t believe that we have to support every last decision Israel makes. I’m a liberal so I’m for the minority party in Israel, just as I’m for the minority party in the United States. But does that mean we should boycott the one nation that shares our values on that entire side of the globe? Should we boycott a nation that invests so much money and intelligence here? No.

Anti-Semitism is also a huge problem on liberal college campuses where liberals tell Jewish students that they can’t be on student councils because they can’t be objective when it comes to Israel. That actually happened at my alma mater, UCLA. I was called a Nazi in college for wearing a Jewish star around my neck. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know, well, then I don’t know what to tell you.

So why do people want to boycott Israel and not other nations that behave far worse? Well, if your answer isn’t anti-Semitism, then ask yourself where the BDS movement is when it comes to a nation like Saudi Arabia, a nation that financed 9/11, a nation that treats women as second class citizens, a nation that doesn’t allow the LGBT community to exist. There are LGBT parades in Tel Aviv. There are LGBT killings, sanctioned by the government, in most other nations in the Middle East. So why do left wingers reject Israel’s rights as a nation when we share so many common values and societal structures with Israel? Because we have an anti-Semitic problem on the left as well. It’s just more subtle. If we fail to see the anti-Semitism that Jews, including liberal Jews, have to come up against in day to day life on the left, then we fail to see reality as it exists.

The hate toward Jews is a growing problem all over the world and it is fostered on both sides of the aisle. Anti-Semitism should not be used as a tool to push a political agenda. Instead, call it out when you see it and eradicate it in your homes, in your families, in your schools, and in your communities. Until you start to do that, you’re just part of the problem. And if you’re using the Pittsburgh massacre to score political points, shame on you.

To conclude, as a liberal Jew, I don’t want any part of Trump as a President because, among many other reasons, he is no friend of the Jews. But as a Jew I also know that Anti-Semitism was alive and well before Trump and it will be alive and well after he’s gone from office. The Pittsburgh massacre is a chapter in a long book of crimes against Jews. Before you start pointing fingers, open that book and read about who’s doing the Jew-hating. You may be surprised to find that it’s a lot more prevalent than you thought and that it travels in circles you might have thought were safe spaces for all.

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