There are warning signs all over the place in history.
Antisemitic incidents typically signal a society’s impending decline and the rise of extremism and violence.
Since Israel’s response in Gaza to the horrible Hamas terrorist murders of Israeli civilians on October 7 was indiscriminate, the wave of global hatred directed against Jews should not be understood as merely a reaction to the Middle East once again stumbling into conflict.
Recent antisemitism is a symptom of the destructive forces that are wreaking havoc on the already fragile democracies of the United States and western Europe.
Events have unfolded since the Hamas attacks, which were a pogrom against Jews that claimed the lives of 1,400 individuals (mainly civilians). The Israeli government has responded with airstrikes and operations in Gaza against Hamas, and the resulting scenes of carnage in Palestinian communities have the potential to further erode international support for Israel and, in some cases, contribute to an environment that risks amplifying harassment of Jewish people.
A mood of rising anxiety permeates American society.
There is a break in the schedule for Jewish day schools. Locks have been placed on synagogues. Hatred for Jews has erupted on social media, leaving a community that will never be able to forget its past traumas wondering if and when they can ever feel secure again.
Increased hostility can be felt. It’s hard to believe that in 2023 Jewish American students at Cornell University, a prestigious institution in upstate New York, would be so afraid for their safety that they wouldn’t dare eat together on campus. Nonetheless, this is the situation after internet death threats. A Cornell professor added fuel to the fire when he said he was “exhilarated” by the Hamas attacks on a pro-Palestinian event because the group had shifted the power dynamic. He expressed regret for his statements afterward. New York’s Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul visited the school on Monday and vowed that “we will not tolerate threats, or hatred, or anti-Semitism.” Cornell Centre for Jewish Living co-president Molly Goldstein, however, reported a climate of terror on campus. “Jewish students on campus right now are unbelievably terrified for their lives,” she said to AWN. This is the last thing I expected to hear on campus.
Fearful online threats at Cornell are just one example of the recent upsurge in antisemitism that has been exacerbated by the aftermath of the Gaza war, leaving many Jews to wonder if they are truly safe anywhere in the United States, let alone in Israel, where the attacks have shattered any remaining illusion of security for the Jewish people. Republicans and some Democrats have warned that schools are in the grip of far-left radicalism due to pro-Palestinian protests that have crossed the line into antisemitism.
In another incident, antisemitic graffiti stating “F— Jews” was spray-painted on the Beverly Hills home of a Holocaust survivor. Europe, which has been criticised by US officials in the past for doing too little to crack down as the disease spread across the US, has also seen an increase in antisemitic incidents. An Israeli flight landed in Russia’s predominantly Muslim area of Dagestan on Sunday, and locals greeted the passengers by storming the airport while yelling, “There is no place for child-killers in Dagestan.” The onslaught Russia has launched against citizens in Ukraine over the past 18 months has brought to mind similar pictures from the 1940s, a decade of destruction and slaughter.
Nearly a century after the rise of Nazism and the beginning of the Holocaust, which killed at least 6 million European Jews, the descendants of the victims are once again under attack because of their identity, history, and religious practises. As Vice President Joe Biden noted in his Oval Office address on October 20, after returning from a visit to Israel, nations that often vowed “Never Again” at Holocaust memorial events now face a responsibility to tackle antisemitism at home, just as they were forced to mobilise against anti-Muslim rhetoric, violence, and prejudice after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001 by al Qaeda, which is also still a threat today. There is no place in our society for hatred of Muslims, Jews, or anybody else. That’s what superpowers do, and we’re a superpower, he remarked.
On Monday, Vice President Biden announced new initiatives to combat antisemitism on college campuses, and other high-ranking officials stressed the importance of doing so. John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, stated on “AWN This Morning,” “It’s dangerous, it’s unacceptable — anywhere in the world, certainly here in the United States of America.”
Antisemitism has reached “historic levels” in the United States, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday, thus this is an urgent requirement.
“In fact, our statistics would indicate that for a group that represents only about 2.4% of the American public, they account for something like 60% of all religious-based hate crimes,” Wray said of Jewish Americans in a Senate hearing.
But while the horror in the Middle East unfolds, efforts to fight the issue with increased security may fail.
Israel denies that it is targeting civilians in Gaza and instead places the blame on Hamas, alleging that the militant group has placed military facilities in densely inhabited areas. Nonetheless, Israeli military strikes have resulted in numerous civilian casualties, and the Gazans it has urged to leave their homes are trapped in a region experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe due to a lack of food, water, and medical treatment. Many people were killed and injured on Tuesday when an airstrike by the Israel Defence Forces on the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza resulted in a large explosion.
It would be perfect if the backlash against Israel’s tough government stemmed solely from the condemnation of its military response, rather than from Jews around the world.
However, in reality, antisemitism may become more widespread in the following weeks.
An increasingly widespread issue in the USA
Antisemitism in the United States has been largely propelled by far-right movements in recent years. An unforgettable slogan from the 2017 White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was “Jews will not replace us.” Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump echoed an antisemitic cliche by stating American Jews were torn between two allegiances to the United States and Israel and that they owed him greater gratitude for his actions towards the Jewish state. Antisemitism is also on the rise on the radical left, as seen by responses to the escalating situation in Israel and Gaza. For example, some American pro-Palestinian protestors seemed to support Hamas, a Palestinian militant group designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States. Hamas is responsible for the repression of Palestinians in Gaza and the massacres committed by Israel.
During tense moments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, antisemitism tends to rise, according to academic studies. This indicates that it is a hidden but potentially explosive force in contemporary American culture. There has been a 400% rise in antisemitic occurrences in the United States since October 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League. However, domestic forces including the increase of radical rhetoric and violence-fueled hate appear to be fueling the problem as well, as seen by the fact that organisations like the ADL have recorded rising hate towards American Jews in recent years despite a relatively tranquil era in the Middle East. The report documented a record-breaking 3,697 antisemitic occurrences in the United States in 2022, an increase of 36% over the previous year.
A balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still extremely difficult to achieve in light of the increasingly tense and divided politics in Western nations already shaken by extremism. Partisans who are already inclined to favour Israel or the Palestinians often connect the activities of Hamas and the Israeli government with people who have no control over them, and the problem is exacerbated by the toxic debate on social media and the rush of erroneous information.
In addition to the threats and harassment Jews have seen in recent weeks, the Department of Justice is investigating the murder of a 6-year-old Chicago kid of Palestinian heritage, who was allegedly stabbed to death by his family’s landlord. The terrible slaughter highlighted the huge human tragedy that is the Middle East, where innocent individuals of both Israeli and Arab descent are frequently caught in the crossfire of violent conflicts in which they have no part or control.