The State of Anti-Semitism

The State of Anti-Semitism

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

Something is fundamentally wrong with how people are responding to the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. This increase in anti-Semitism is global as well as in the U.S. According to the ADL, the F.B.I., and the NYPD the number of anti-Semitic acts in the U.S. has increased with different numbers and rates depending on the beginning and ending date. As for the approximately 100 bomb threats made to Jewish Community Councils and the three confirmed cemetery desecrations in 2017, so far none of them have caused any physical harm to Jews.

Similarly, it is clear that the rise in anti-Semitism did not begin on January 20 in the U.S. nor is it likely to end whenever Donald Trump is no longer President. On the other hand, the response of various political figures to the rise in anti-Semitic attacks has been varied, troubling, and confusing. It has also led to a public misunderstanding of what is transpiring. (The only thing that one can be sure of is that Jewish organizations will exploit this wave of anti-Semitic incidents for fund-raising purposes precisely as they do when there are a rash of attacks in Israel.)

President Trump was decidedly late to respond publicly to the sudden wave of anti-Semitic incidents. As he behaves whenever he is criticized, Trump jumped back at his critics. His suggestions that some of these incidents or desecrations may well have been perpetrated by Jews in order to embarrass him and his Administration were totally absurd. On the other hand, when he finally responded in his address to Congress —not merely in passing during his visit to the National Museum of African American History—Trump was direct and firm. The reported request to increase Homeland Security funding to protect synagogues, Jewish Schools, and JCC’s, among other non-profit institutions, was very forthright as well.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s trip to Israel this past weekend while certainly signaling his concern over the increase of anti-Semitic incidents and his solidarity with Jews and Israel appeared–to many–as blatantly political. It was an unnecessary, transparent signal to American Jews and to Israelis that he is beginning his run for the White House in 2020.

Meanwhile the leader of Netanyahu’s opposition, Isaac Herzog, responded to the escalation of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., by calling for American Jews to escape anti-Semitism and move to Israel. This technique was similar to the one employed by Bibi himself when he went to Paris in 2015. In Netanyahu’s effort to show solidarity with the French Jewish community following the Muslim slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and then the murders at the Jewish Hyperchacer store, Netanyahu urged French Jews also to make aliyah to Israel. Netanyahu and Herzog both sought to exploit a serious situation for political ends missing the opportunity to show true solidarity with Jews in the Diaspora.

Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to be a disease which the late Professor Robert Wistrich referred to as the “the Longest Hatred”. One wonders if public officials will ever learn not to exploit hateful events to score political points.  

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