Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Violent Islamic Antisemitism

Jonathan Greenblatt (PBS)
Esav Sonei L’Ya’akov. These famous words of Rashi recorded in his commentary in VaYishlach  are cited often  by certain types of Orthodox religious educators. They use those words to impress upon their students - the non Jewish world’s natural hated of us is.  

Esav is a euphemism for non Jews that descended from Ya’akov’s evil twin. Most of whom today are of European origin. The idea I suppose is to disabuse us of the notion that Goyim are in any way people we should befriend or emulate. In some cases they go so far as to say we are required to hate them. Something I have heard from more than one of these educators. 

I do not need to restate my absolute revulsion at that notion. There is absolutely no Mitzvah whatsoever to hate non Jews.  

I mention this only to address the common notion that antisemtism is inherent in the culture because of Rashi’s abovementioned comment. That is patently untrue. What is true is that SOME Goyim hate us - for a variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this post. 

That said, old habits die hard. Especially those that have been extant in a people for centuries. Which is why I think that most of Europe still feels that way in their heart of hearts. I believe that Rashi’s comment does apply to them. Although there are many notable exceptions - heroes of imeasurable courage - who did risk their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews, they were nonetheless in the minority. 

What about America? Do Americans fall into that category of Esav Sonei L’Ya’akov?  I addressed this question many times. As recently as yestrerday. The answer is unequivocally a hard No! Esav  Sonei L’Ya’akov does not apply to the vast majority of Americans. It does however apply to the many right wing fringe elements in this country such as neo-Nazis and White Supremacists. They are not only antisemitic. They are extremely dangerous.

There is however another fringe element on the rise here. One that is growing and far more respectable since they have what many believe are legitimate grievances against the Jewish state.  They consist mostly of Palestinian immigrants, their children, Arab Americans, assorted other Muslims, and a left wing intelligentsia and the politicians that support them.  The more violent among them take their anti Israel animus out on us – the Jewish people. I am not going to get into why their hate is not justified other than to say that it is not. Be that as it may, they think it is and that is the main reason there has been an increase in violent attacks against us. 

It is comforting to know that the vast majority of people reject that hatred and abhor the violent attacks. The question is,  are the American people fully aware of what is going on? And what do we – all of the Amercian people - do about it? 

This brings me to an interview with Anti Defamation League (ADL) CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt I saw yesterday on the PBS News Hour

Jonathan is someone that I often do not agree with. I believe he tends to the view the world through the progressive lens of the Obama administration in which he served before he became head of the ADL. Which usually blamed most anitismetic violence almost exclusively right wing fanatics while playing down Islamic violence. But yesterday he hit a home run. The full interview can be seen here. Here is some of what he said: 

The ADL track between the two weeks of the conflict and the two weeks before a 63 percent increase (in antisemitic attacks). And that surge is far greater than what we have seen in prior incidents, like 2014, for example.

But what I would also note is not just the quantitative, but the qualitative. The span of these attacks, they spread like wildfire across the country. You mentioned a few, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Florida, acts of harassment and vandalism and violence.

So, number one, the span is much greater than what we have seen, but secondly the tone, the brazenness, the audacity of these assaults in broad daylight. We have seen people basically say, if you are wearing a Jewish star, you must be a Zionist and you should be killed.

We have seen people hurling bottles and objects at homes with mezuzot on the door that were identifiably Jewish. We have seen people driving cars or marauding through Jewish neighborhoods and yelling, "We're going to rape your women," right, or yelling things like "Allahu akbar," and literally then wreaking physical violence on people.

And one of the incidents that was captured was in broad daylight in Times Square, a group of people beating and bloodying a Jewish man whose only crime was he was wearing a kippah, to the point where he was left unconscious in the street while people kicked him, bloodied him with like crutches. It was really quite disgusting.

And to think that this is happening in America is really unconscionable. 

Yes, Jonathan. It is unconscionable. I only wish you had realized before now - the extent of Islamic hatred for us. It is just as dangerous as it is from the extremist right. 

As you also noted: 

None of the people committing these crimes wearing MAGA hats… (In) this case, we have people waving Palestinian flags and then beating Jewish people. 

I would even say that danger is even greater.  That’s because there is a lot of sympathy generated by the media for the plight of the Palestinians. Although the media cannot be blamed for this new violence against us, they cannot be completely absolved of it either. Focusing almost exclusively on the suffering or a people without the slightest bit of context as to who is mostly responsible for it, grants a degree of legitimacy to the violence – even while the violence itself  is being totally condemned. 

Nor does it help matters that the media pays an inordinate amount of attention to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, 2 of the of the most antisemitic members of congress. Despite their protestations to the contrary. 

That the media roundly and completely condemns the antisemitism of the right should not be a surprise. Who doesn’t condemn it?! But when Palestinian protests are treated as a legitimate reaction by Arab Americans to what happened in Gaza (as the media has presented it) it tends to overlook or minimize hateful comments like  ‘Hitler was right’ now being regurgitated on social media.  

For a change someone on the left has finally woken up. Jonathan Greenblatt has made it clear that the American Arab hatred of us is no different that neoNazi hatred on the right and just as dangerous if not more so: 

(T)oday, we have unhinged, fictionalized conspiracies about Israel, that somehow the Jewish state is systematically slaughtering children or committing genocide.  

Thank you, Jonathan. What about the questions I raised? Jonathan addresses that too: 

(P)eople, regardless of where you are on the spectrum, need to speak out clearly and firmly and forcefully and say, in an unambiguous way, that anti-Semitism is unacceptable, because, again, this isn't activism. It's hate, and it should be called out as such.

I agree. But I would go a bit further and not limit it to individuals. Major institutions of popular culture need to say the same thing. and to some degree it is already happening - as noted yesterday with the Miami Heat and today with the Chicago Bulls. Ken Yirbu!