The rise in anti-Semitism has inspired some to convert the issue into one that is both political and partisan. I see this happening on local and national levels, both within the Jewish community and outside of it. In emails, conversations and articles, I’ve heard as many blaming the left as the right for the current upsurge in anti-Semitism.
Partisanship is especially harmful at this perilous time, when anti-Semitism is rising on all fronts. For example, The New York Times recently ran articles by Alexandra Alter and Farah Stockman on the anti-Semitism espoused by Alice Walker and founders of the Women’s March (here and here). On the other side of the political spectrum, The Times of Israel reported that “Jews clutching cash appear in GOP attack ads in six states.”
The conflict is deeper and broader. We Jews are ALL fighting the anti-Israel and anti-Semitism that is the foundation of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Make no mistake—BDS, which aims to eliminate the Jewish-democratic State of Israel, is prevalent on college campuses and within progressive circles.
At the same time, we are ALL fighting the rising tide of white supremacy that at its core is motivated by anti-Semitism. (Read “Skin in the Game: How Anti-Semitism Animates White Nationalism,” the definitive article by Eric Ward on how anti-Semitism motivates white nationalism.)
White supremacy-linked anti-Semitism has been, so far, the most violent of these movements. Still, Islamism was behind the 2006 attack on the Seattle Jewish Federation, and BDS supporters, like white supremacists, threaten or encourage violence. The “Disorientation Guide 2018,” for example, which recommends, “Slap a Zionist” and “Host a molotov cocktail-making workshop,” was recently found being distributed at Vassar College.
Identifying root causes enables leaders to make smart choices about how to fight anti-Semitism. However, this problem is too pervasive and too dangerous to risk allowing partisan bias to dilute our analysis and response. On the Shabbat following the Tree of Life shooting, Jews who have no synagogue connection came together in mourning and solidarity, flocking to shuls across America. Unfortunately, it took that tragic event to inspire the show of nonpartisan unanimity.
My wish for 2019 is that the silver lining in the current tragic rising tide of anti-Semitism will be a renewed flourishing of Jewish pride and greater unity among our Jewish people.
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