There are persistent and credible reports that the oldest hatred – hatred of Jews – is back, with a vengeance, and is escalating throughout the world. For sure, some of the statistics are inflated by organizations that are in the business of monitoring Jew-hatred. And there are overt instances of Jew hatred that are ignored by these same organizations for partisan, political reasons, as they try to curry favor with their ideological siblings at the expense of distorting their mission and business model. (I still hate using the expression “anti-Semitism,” as I have yet to meet a Jew who defines himself as a “Semite.” The term itself is an obvious attempt to minimize this hatred.)
Is it true that Jew hatred has returned? Or is it more possible that it never left?
I tend to believe the latter. After all, the Sages were quite clear that Jew hatred has been our fate since we left Egypt (if not before), and certainly since we received the Torah at Sinai. Sinai was so named, the Talmud (Masechet Shabbat 89b) because from there, hatred (sin’ah) of the nations towards us descended to the world. We are different, have always been different, and maintain a set of divinely-ordained values that sets us apart from the world, and that the world – in whole or in part – has always struggled to adopt. It is no surprise that Jew-hatred endures.
It is likely true that the communication revolution of the past twenty years brought much Jew-hatred out of the shadows. The aftermath of the Holocaust drove many Jew-haters under cover. It became decidedly unpopular to openly stigmatize and denounce Jews. But the internet has allowed the most fringe parties on the planet to disseminate their odious ideas in many regards, and Jew hatred is no different. The ranting of otherwise obscure people is given undeserved prominence and thus, like many poisonous weeds, grows and grows.
Nevertheless, Jew hatred today is not generally typified by assaults on certain aspects of Torah and not even on the occasionally misdeeds of Jewish miscreants. It is located and (in many cases) shielded by masquerading as hatred of Israel.
So here’s the time to pull the mask off this new incarnation of the oldest hatred. How often do we hear that to be anti-Israel is not to be conflated with being anti-Jewish, that not every criticism of Israel is necessarily reflective of (all right, I’ll say it for effect) anti-Semitism? Too often, because the reality is that Jew hatred today is most often disguised as hatred of Israel. And yes, to hate Israel is to hate Jews, and to be anti-Israel is to be a Jew-hater of the traditional, historical sort. Complaints about the nation state of the Jewish people have succeeded complaints about the Jewish people. Make no mistake about it, and the next time you read this disclaimer – “just because I am against Israel doesn’t mean I am a Jew hater” – answer promptly: “Yes, it does.”
How do we know and how can ascertain when this new Jew-hatred presents itself? Clearly, there are people who criticize Israel out of love – they want it to be more Jewish, more assertive, more protective of Jewish life, and less accommodating to its enemies. That is not hatred of Jews but love of Jews. But here are a few helpful hints that expose modern Jew hatred in its guise of just being anti-Zionist.
People who maintain that the State of Israel has no right to exist are Jew haters, period. Besides rejecting the Bible, they are promoting the notion that only Jews – of all peoples on the face of the earth – have no right to a national homeland.
People who support the BDS movement to encourage (and in some cases, to actively legislate) the boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning of Israel – and only Israel, of all the nations on the globe – they are Jew-haters, period. They are positing, without any evidence supporting their proposition and with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the State of Israel is the greatest threat to world peace today, undermines world stability, and is a source of great harm to other nations. This is not just preposterous and anti-Zionist; it is rank Jew-hatred that has accompanied us throughout our history. Any person or group that is uninterested in the cruelty and viciousness of any of the world’s dictatorships, and sees absolutely no need to BDS any other country in the world except for Israel is a Jew-hater, pure and simple.
People who complain about Israeli checkpoints that inconvenience Arabs entering Israel and apprehend terrorists are Jew haters, not just anti-Israel partisans. That is because they are maintaining that Israel, alone among the nations on the earth, has no right to physical borders, to control its borders, to exercise sovereignty over its land or to deter Arab terrorists from murdering innocent civilians. The mere assertion that Israel is not allowed to act as other sovereign nations act is Jew-hatred; the elementary rights that all other nations exercise simply do not pertain to the Jewish state. That is Jew hatred.
People who demand that Israel, alone among the nations on earth, has no right to retain the territory in its homeland that it captured in a defensive war but must surrender it in order to create another hostile Arab state in the region are Jew-haters. They are applying to Israel standards that they do not apply to any other nation on earth, all of which captured its territory at one time in defensive (and sometimes offensive) wars. The proffering of rules that apply only to Israel is an explicit indicator of Jew hatred, and must be exposed as such.
Finally, people who claim that they cannot be Jew-haters because they are Jewish themselves, and think they can thus condemn Israel with immunity from the charge of Jew-hatred, are Jew-haters in one of the worst but too common manifestations of the oldest hatred: the self-hating Jew. The self-hating Jew hates himself or herself but also hates other Jews as well. This, sadly, is a well known phenomenon in Jewish history. Being Jewish doesn’t inoculate a person from possessing the scourge of Jew-hatred. Some of the worst Jew haters in history were Jews, descended from Jews, or had Jewish blood in them – and fought madly and violently to erase their Jewish identity.
Perhaps in one of the most whimsical expressions of this dynamic, there are Jew haters today – several American politicians stand out – who are quick to claim Jewish ancestry from Conversos or others in a lame attempt to distract from their Jew-hating policies and pronouncements. If only they realized that some Jew-haters are Jews, and some are even Jews who wear the garb of pious people and observe some of the mitzvot, they would spare us their resort to this tripe, a defense that convicts rather than exonerates its advocates.
I suppose it’s a good thing that Jew-haters try to conceal their Jew-hatred under the façade of just being anti-Israel; that means that it is still considered disreputable in most circles to be construed a Jew-hater. And yet too many Jews have adopted this hackneyed cliché of “being anti-Israel is not at all being anti-Jewish” in order to shelter their home team politicians. It is undeniable that the Democrat Party has become home to some of America’s most prominent Jew haters, and most Jews – confirmed Democrat partisans to their core (for some it is their primary identity) deny it, defend it, trot out the cliché, or reproach Israel for eliciting this Jew-hatred.
Note that the Republican Party has ostracized Rep. Steve King for remarks he made that were probably more out stupidity than venality. When he asked rhetorically, in an interview, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he was roundly and unanimously condemned by all Republicans, stripped of his committee assignments, and urged to find another line of work. (For the record, if his question had only mentioned “Western civilization,” it would have been fair and unremarkable. But “white nationalist and white supremacist” have been offensive terms, I think, since…forever.)
Yet, Democrats have been cozying up to the rabid, blatant Jew hater Louis Farrakhan for several decades. He is feted at their gatherings, featured in pictures with a host of Dem politicians (including Barack Obama), sought after for advice and (tacit) endorsements. And seldom is heard a discouraging word – from any Democrat politician, and certainly no Democrat legislator is sanctioned, Steve King style, by the Dem leaders.
It is the Democrat Party that is today the home of Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and others –all openly, shamelessly and fearlessly anti-Israel and hence anti-Jewish. They are supporters of BDS, in some form deniers of Israel’s right to exist, and essentially reject the lawful sovereignty of the State of Israel over its homeland. And rather than repudiate such representatives as Omar, Steve King style, she was rewarded with a seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, notwithstanding her anti-Israel and thus anti-Jewish animus, and even her advocacy for leniency for members of ISIS who hailed from Minnesota.
This is not your grandfather’s Democrat Party, but too many Jews are stuck in the past, and too many Democrat supporters of Israel, some Jews themselves, have been cowed into silence. They give a pass and turn a blind eye to obvious anti-Israel expressions and policies if they originate with someone who has a (D) after his or her last name. That does not bode well for the future.
Some organizations – the ADL stands out – are fixated on the Jew-hatred of the white supremacists while whitewashing the Jew-hatred found on the radical left, in part of the black and Muslim communities and their favorite political party. Honesty in their approach would be a welcome change. Others struggled mightily to camouflage the overt Jew-hatred found in the radical feminist movement and their marches. Some, to their credit, prioritized their Jewish identity and walked away – but others did not, the “cause” being greater than their pride and dignity as Jews.
One way to overcome their inhibitions, and speak truth to the new power base in the party, is to decry this new manifestation of Jew hatred, to say unabashedly that, yes, hatred of Israel is hatred of Jews, without vacillation, hesitation, and weaselly obfuscations.
Indeed, that might help maintain support for Israel as a bi-partisan value – and help confront and eradicate this newest incarnation of the oldest hatred. Jew-hatred must be called out – whether it emanates from the left or the right, Democrats or Republicans, Jews or non-Jews. It will be challenging, but as Rav Avraham Kook famously stated: “The purely righteous do not just complain about evil but increase justice.” The diminution of Jew-hatred (elimination is a fantasy) will go a long way in creating a society and a world with justice for all. It begins with eradicating the contrived distinction between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.
It is one and the same.
(You can buy Rabbi Pruzansky’s new book, Volume Two of “The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility,” now in fine stores, at Amazon.com or at Gefen Publishing,)