Anti-Semitism Must Not Be Dismissed

Anti-Semitism Must Not Be Dismissed


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The brazen attack on Saturday night in Monsey, New York, against Jews who were celebrating the festival of Hanukah is the latest anti-Semitic incident which are increasing throughout the United States. It represents the second violent event in the greater New York area in the past few weeks and, according New York Governor Andrew Cuomo the thirteenth anti-Semitic incident within this same period. This recurring pattern underscores the concern and fears being raised by many Jewish leaders in New York and throughout the country that insufficient resources are being allocated by police and national law enforcement agencies to make serious inroads in addressing this growing epidemic.

The lip service that Jews that has been manifested is not effectively reducing the number of attacks; in fact, there has been an escalation of incidents. Jews are demanding demonstrable protection and aggressive investigation. They are also seeking leadership beginning with the President, to eliminate the proliferation of anti-Semitic attacks.

American Jews are seeking a governmental response which does not undermine civil liberties, but they need to be reassured that law enforcement authorities are responding to this latest form of prejudice and domestic terrorism in as effective manner as they would likely have done were these attacks being carried out against Blacks, women, gays, etc.  Jews sense a complacency on the part of Governments to understand the seriousness of these attacks; especially since the Charlottesville march in August 2017. (The major media outlets are not as focused on anti-Semitic attacks as they should be, especially in terms of investigative reporting.)

There is a need to recognize that blaming the right or the left for fostering the rise in anti-Semitic attacks is not effective and is irrelevant. Politicians must understand that this is not about scoring political points; it is about addressing the scourge of multiple attacks on Jews, their synagogues, their schools, and on Jewish institutions. The Jewish community does not seek responses that blame one side or the other; they want it to stopped before their worst fears are realized.

It is equally important for the Jewish community not to interpret these attacks as expressions of anti-Israel feelings. While pro-Palestinian forces may be passive on attacks on Jews, these incidents need to be recognized as direct and blatant assaults on Jewish-American citizens, their Houses of Worship, their gathering halls, and their institutions. Jews remain very sensitive to expressions of anti-Israel sentiment, but that is not what is happening here.

America’s political leaders must recognize that protecting all citizens from religious discrimination of any kind is a fundamental obligation of Government. America will fail as a viable democracy if any group of its citizens are de-legitimized by attacks on any of its Members and its institutions.

Similarly, the Government of Israel can articulate its concern for what is transpiring in the U.S., but it would be a mistake for its leaders to offer Aliyah to Israel as the solution. Historically, all Jews identify with other Jews when there are in trouble; but the Israeli Government needs to be careful as to the extent to which it offers a self-serving political solution.

Anti-Semitism must be confronted directly as must all forms of racism and prejudice.  Hatred of any kind will not succumb to platitudes. Jews need to be vigilant, but Governments—at all levels– need to be unequivocal. Law enforcement must be aggressive. Policing must be comprehensive at both the visible and investigative levels. If Governments fail, it will immediately trigger a serious political backlash against authorities and encourage more violence against Jews.

As has occurred over the past few years in Europe, particularly in France and Great Britain, anti-Semitism is on the verge of becoming an accepted part of life. Throughout its history, this has never happened in America. If anti-Semitism continues unabated in the United States, democratic values will be severely tested.

Immediate action must be swift and demonstrative. It must come from religious leaders of all faiths as well as all political leaders. Aggressive law enforcement policy must be instituted to protect all religious institutions. If the current wave of anti-Semitic incidents is tolerated, it will serve to legitimize those who seek to harm to American Jews.


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