Charlottesville and the New Antisemitism
Like all good people, I was upset by the violence and racism in Charlottesville. But I was surprised to receive a disturbing letter from a cousin, who said that he was “torn up” over Charlottesville and “those who would destroy Israel and the Jews.”
Most concerning to my cousin were those on the political right, who failed to speak out — not against neo-Nazis, but against Donald Trump’s handling of the issue.
My cousin wrote: “I don’t know what was worse; watching those torch laden marchers chanting ‘Jews will not replace me’ or the President of the United States defending them, saying many of them are ‘good people.’”
It is clear which side was worse. The neo-Nazis were worse. The person who took a human life was worse.
But what has been lost in the political firestorm is the ability to maintain a healthy perspective.
We should be concerned about the antisemitism that was on display in Charlottesville. It is time that we had a national debate on the issue. But isn’t it also time that we had an international debate?
The United States ranks near-last on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) list of the most antisemitic nations (95 out of 100). Russia ranks 55th, France ranks 37th, Poland ranks 26th, and coming in at 21 is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
During the same week as the Charlottesville tragedy, Iran threatened to restart its nuclear program. Iran’s leaders chant “death to America” and vow to “erase Israel from the map,” while building nuclear weapons that would allow them to do so. Shouldn’t we also be “torn up” about that?
The Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are the #1 most antisemitic population in the world, according to the ADL. Palestinians pay terrorists to kill Jews, and teach their children to hate, despise and murder innocent Jews just because of their religion. So where were the media stories about these outrages?
And what about the widespread antisemitism on American college campuses? Last week, I met a student who told me that, for standing up for Israel on her campus, she was subjected to intimidation, pressure and “mental torture.” She chose to solve the problem by changing her Jewish-sounding first name and withdrawing from any Jewish life until after graduation.
These are the threats to Israel and the Jewish people that tear me up.
As the late professor Robert Wistrich stated in my film, “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus“: “This is THE antisemitism of our time. The way antisemites oppose Jews in any given era is different. Now we live in the time of the Jewish state, so the attack of antisemites is focused on that.”
Let us put things in perspective.
One person associated with the “white-hood” variety of antisemites murdered a young woman in Charlottesville and injured 19 others. It was heinous, disgusting, racist and evil. We should speak out against what happened in Charlottesville, and similar, isolated incidents that have occurred across America and the world.
Yet those associated with the “black-hood” variety of antisemites (radical Islamists) have murdered 5,444 people so far this year, globally. But when you speak out against this hate group, you could be labeled a racist or extremist.
Human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in the New York Times last week that “Islamic extremism…is as toxic as white supremacy. In the past two decades, it has certainly been responsible for many more deaths.”
For observing truths like this, Ms. Ali has been branded as someone who “hates.”
To my cousin and all who are “torn up” about the recent expressions of antisemitism, and “don’t know what’s worse” — here are some suggested guidelines:
Extremists who murder innocent people are worse than the word choices of any president, and speaking such self-evident truths should never be called “hate speech.”
It is time for us to have an open conversation about antisemitism, to assess threats to Israel and the Jewish people objectively, and to speak out against antisemites — no matter where they are, or what color hoods they wear.
Raphael Shore is the founder and CEO of Jerusalem U. He has produced several award-winning documentaries, including “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus,” “Hummus: The Movie,” “Honor Diaries,” “Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference,” “Iranium,” “Beneath the Helmet,” and “Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew.” He and his work have appeared on HBO, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, as well as at the United Nations, Amnesty International, on Capitol Hill and in the British and Canadian Parliaments.