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When I saw Bari Weiss’ latest substack essay in my inbox, I hesitated to read it; did I really need to write another piece for Ricochet about the increase of anti-Semitism in America? At the same time, I’m always curious to know about recent surveys or perspectives on this phenomenon, so I read the essay. And I was surprised to learn that not only did Weiss have some intriguing points to make, but she also stimulated new ideas for me on the topic of anti-Semitism in America.
In many ways, Weiss did cover familiar ground: that Jews continue to experience Jew hatred: that destructive acts, such as graffiti and physical attacks continue to be reported. But more important to me is not whether there is an increase in anti-Semitic activities, but why, in a country like America, they are happening at all. The United States of America was founded on religious principles, with no state religion and with freedom of assembly. If anti-Semitic actions are occurring, why are they happening now?
Bari Weiss does believe that the virulent acts are growing in number. She refers to a song by satirist Tom Lehrer (see video) called “National Brotherhood Week”; Lehrer probably wouldn’t have written it unless it was to be sung to a tolerant and free audience. But Weiss suggests that in today’s environment, it would be seen differently:
But these days, the idea that ‘everybody hates the Jews’ feels like less of a punchline and more like an accurate report of public sentiment. It seems every other day a new study or survey confirms what so many American Jews are feeling, as the old joke had it had it, that they are hating us more than is necessary.
I would also add that Lehrer’s song, which targets many groups including religions, would in these times not only be rejected, but he would probably be loudly condemned and cancelled. “Hate speech,” in just about any form, is forbidden.
We also live in a time when people are continually pressured to conform, to not stand out, to not speak against the Leftist status quo. Religious Jews, who are historically the most common subjects of anti-Semitic acts, tend to lay low when these incidents occur; they fear that bringing attention to these acts will incite further violence. Weiss points out that religious Jews, by their culture and beliefs, are the most likely to draw attention and be criticized:
Where liberty thrives, Jews thrive. Where difference is celebrated, Jews are celebrated. Where freedom of thought and faith and speech are protected, Jews tend to be, too. And when such virtues are regarded as threats, Jews will be regarded as the same.
The current demand for conformity — that sense that our difference is dangerous — comes at us from both political extremes. It is a familiar squeeze, even though the particular terms are American.
She states later in her essay:
For Jews, an ideology that contends that difference is anathema is not simply ridiculous — we have an obviously distinct history, tradition and religion that has been the source of both enormous tragedy as well as boundless gifts — but is also, as history has shown, lethal.
By simply existing as ourselves, by insisting on the freedom to be distinct, Jews undermine the vision of a world without difference. And so the things about us that make us different must be demonized, so that they can be erased or destroyed: Zionism is nothing but settler-colonialism; government officials justify the murder of innocent Jews in Jersey City; Jewish businesses can be looted because Jews ‘are the face of capital.’
Those factors that set us apart turn us into targets. You could say, we are the victims of our time.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday removed $1 billion in military funding for Israel from legislation to fund the U.S. government after objections from House of Representatives liberals, setting the stage for a potential fight over the matter later this year.
Some House Democrats objected to a provision in a stopgap spending bill to provide the additional funding so Israel can replenish its “Iron Dome” missile-defense system.
Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, both known for their anti-Israel statements, introduced the resolution to halt the weapons sales. Please note that the Iron Dome is a defensive weapon used to protect Israel against hostile attacks. In addition, these are the steps we have already taken:
The United States has already provided more than $1.6 billion for Israel to develop and build the Iron Dome system, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report last year. This reflects perennially strong support for aid to Israel among both Democrats and Republicans.
Some liberal Democrats objected to that policy this year, citing Palestinian casualties as Israel struck back after Hamas rocket attacks in May. Israel said most of the 4,350 rockets fired from Gaza during the conflict were blown out of the sky by Iron Dome interceptors.
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These are the reasons I’m focusing on the nature of the anti-Semitic attacks rather than the number of attacks. (Anyone who has read my past posts knows that I believe anti-Zionist and anti-Israel attacks are overwhelmingly anti-Semitic.) More than ever, we need to have an ally and a semblance of sanity in the Middle East. Israel has been one of our most reliable allies in that part of the world.
I also believe that when societies are under extreme stress, as ours is regarding government, the border crisis, the economy, the evacuation from Afghanistan and the controversies and fear generated by the pandemic, people will look for scapegoats; Jews have historically served that role.
Finally, when we see these anti-Israel attacks in Congress, and the very people who are supposed to represent this country overwhelmingly approve a resolution by the Democrat party, one is moved to wonder about our government leaders’ attitudes not just toward Israel, but toward American Jewry.
Their actions are not reassuring.
(The title of this post plays on the lyrics in the video above.)Published in