Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Sky is Not Falling

Bob Collins, the late Chicago radio talk show host often used to quip about news he didn’t like, ‘It’s not the end of the world, but we can see it from here’.

This is kind of what a lot of Jewish pundits are saying about the current situation for Jews in America. An example of which was found in Mishpacha Magazine’s monthly column by Yisroel Besser. He began his column as follows:

At what point do we press the panic button? No one wants to be the “it feels like Germany in 1938” guy, a prophet of doom thundering about the end of American Jewish life when people are trying to enjoy a new type of tequila at the kiddush. But at the same time, it feels tone-deaf to haul an extra-large meat board into your home as you pass through the Free Palestine protesters in the front yard. 

He was not saying that this is 1938 all over again. But he does seem to suggest that the golden era of our acceptance in America has passed. And that we may be in a  downward trajectory. He does not say it outright. But it’s hard not to get that message. 

One might also say it’s hard to disagree with those sentiments. Nor do I think he is wrong about the near cavalier way in which we carry on with our lives as though nothing is happening. Jews were attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7th in some of the most brutal ways imaginable since the Holocaust. With promises to keep doing it.  IDF Soldiers are dying in war. Maybe we should not be having lavish affairs right now. 

We cannot afford to be complacent. Until recently pro Palestinian protests on college campuses had been spreading. (Although they have been waning of late.) And Antisemitic attacks had been going up long  before October 7th. We should not be ignoring them. I don’t think we are.

But any comparison to 1938 Germany (or any other country in Europe of that era) is to completely misunderstand what is going on now and what what was going on then. The differences are vast.  

First, antisemitic attacks have indeed gone up. But they are still mostly being committed by tiny right wing fringe groups that have always existed. They have just been more emboldened to act. (The reason for which are beyond the scope of this post.) 

Second, the vast majority of protests on college campuses are by students that have been influenced by leftist anti American professors. Not just anti Israel professors. Most of the protesters are either Palestinians or of Palestinian descent. Or have been influenced by them.

In  some (many?) cases they were influenced by charismatic leftist professors to see America as the Great Satan and Israel as the Little Satan (...terms first used by Iran but expresses their leftist sentiments, too). These are the same students that have been boycotting Israel long before Hamas attacked Israel. Israel’s response to that attack has given them cover to promote that agenda in a more public way because of he terrible optics of war - which the media loves to focus upon.

Third, there are Jewish students ignorant of their own Jewish heritage that are involved in those protests. Many of them screaming ‘Free Palestine’ right along with their fellow Palestinian student  protesters. They consider Israel to be an illegitimate colonialist occupier of Palestinian land.  

Then there are groups like Jews for Justice in Palestine. They may be relatively small in the actual number of Jews, but they exist and have existed long before October 7th.  They get a lot of play in the media which loves to focus on Jews who side with Palestinians. 

I can assure you that there were no Jews for Nazis during the Holocaust.

Fourth there are those optics. Which has been the focus of the media almost daily for over 6 months. To the extent that there is any public opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza - in the vast majority of casess - is based on what they (eroneoulsy) believe is due to Israel’s rage at Hamas and thereby not paying enough attention to civilians casualties. Not on any sort of antisemitism at all.

And finally there is the US government. The vast majority of both politcal parties still support Israel. Conservative Republicans without reservation and Liberal Democrats  with reservations about Israel’s conduct in the war. And animosity to Israel’s prime minister. Which has been the case for many years – long before the war with Hamas. But even with those reservations, the vast majority of congress not antisemitic. In fact a lot of Democrats are Jewish. The closest thing to antisemitic House members are Tlaib of Michigan and Omar of Minnesota. And they will deny it. 

None of these factors were in existence in 1938 Germany. Antisemitism was then a part of their historical heritage - drawn out by Hitler’s Third Reich and their propaganda machine. There is no such government propaganda machine today. 

The opposite is true. Never has there been such a strong congressional response to antisemitism as there is now.  Same with the Executive branch. Consider what happened to 2 presidents of top tier universities after their tepid responses to questions about antisemitism on their campuses, They resigned.

 All that being said, Things can always change. We must constantly be aware and vigilant. We have had centuries  long history of persecution after many years of  golden periods in countries like Spain and even Germany. Things changed very quickly for us in both cases. It could happen here too.

But the one thing that is clear (at least to me) is that it ain’t happening here now. Not even slightly. It is not the end of the world and I CANNOT see it from here.