I read the Jan. 10th editorial, Anti-Semitism rise is not a mystery, and was disappointed that it was a cynical attempt to blame President Trump. This rise in the USA is extremely disturbing, and something that many Jewish-Americans could not believe would ever happen here. There should be a thoughtful review of why this is happening, what has inspired this, and what can be done to address it. Jonathan Greenblatt of ADL has said that anti-Semitic incidents had been declining in the U.S. since 2001, but that trend sadly began to reverse in 2014, which pre-dates Trump’s inauguration.
Many people believe that the growth of anti-Israel/BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction) actions is a critical link in mainstreaming anti-Semitism. This has been particularly evident in Europe. Witness Jeremy Corbyn in the UK who has helped institutionalize anti-Semitism in the UK Labour party, formerly the home for many UK Jews. Unfortunately for some people, anti-Semitism morph into anti-Israel attacks. While there are some Jewish BDS supporters, and many of the BDS supporters use this to deny any anti-Semitism, this does not change the illogical nature of penalizing one country in the world for policies they disagree with but not applying the same harsh criticism for any other country.
In the USA, the anti-Israel/BDS movement has proliferated on college campuses by leftist academics who now control many Middle East Studies departments, and this bias is tolerated by some college administrators. Sadly, under eight years of President Obama, who worked hard to put daylight between the USA and Israel, the growth of this movement helped mainstream this movement in the USA beyond just campuses and was partially responsible for the spread of anti-Semitic attacks. Today’s college campuses claim to be tolerant, but if you are a pro-Israel student, you do not feel that tolerance, where pro-Israel events are frequently protested and disrupted.
Again, sadly, it was under Obama that J Street, a fringe leftist Jewish organization that promotes an anti-Israel agenda, became more prominent as he promoted it as an alternative to the bipartisan mainstream AIPAC group. President Obama recruited a number of anti-Israel advisors such as Samantha Powers, Chuck Hagel, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and they promoted policies that side against Israel, and thus Israel lost a powerful ally at the United Nations. Additionally, after the attack in Paris of a Jewish kosher market in Feb. 2015, Obama used the phrase, “randomly shot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris,” rather than acknowledge the motive of anti-Semitism. Why would he be afraid to label it an anti-Semitic attack? His lack of support for Israel contributed to the change in culture on this important issue.
Contrast this with President Trump – he has signed legislation to combat anti-Semitism on campuses, he has nominated strong women to represent the USA at the UN to stand up for the USA and Israel, and he moved our embassy to Jerusalem by the 1995 legislation which required this. Trump has explicitly mentioned the problem of anti-Semitism in two of his State of the Union speeches, and he has forcefully called out the heinous anti-Semitic attacks each and every time. On top of that, his daughter converted to Judaism. He is clearly the most pro-Jewish, pro-Israel president in our lifetime.
Sadly, Israel today no longer has bipartisan support, as shown by the 2018 Pew report which found only 27 percent of Democrats “sympathize” with Israel while the same poll found that 79 percent of Republicans “sympathize” with Israel. While there is not a direct connection between anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism, it is clear that for some the issues are synonymous, and I believe that this is partially contributing to the increased anti-Semitic attacks.
We need to have an honest conversation about this problem since there are many other causes, but this bias against Israel is definitely part of it. Hopefully, future editorials could be more thoughtful.
Laurence A. Goldfarb
Great Neck, NY