Jews Need Trifocal Lenses to Confront Antisemitism
For close to two decades, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has been blowing the whistle on the rising tide of antisemitism. When asked about the source of this antisemitism, our answer has always been the same: Look in three directions — the far-left, the far-right and the jihadists.
Too many people in our hyper-politicized world, however, would prefer to shy away from this trifocal analysis. For them, it doesn’t necessarily sit well ideologically. But the AJC doesn’t have a particular ax to grind or a “preferred” enemy to confront. We’re a Jewish front-line agency that doesn’t get to pick and choose our threats.
When neo-Nazis came out by the hundreds in Charlottesville and chanted blood-curdling diatribes evoking the Third Reich, many Jews rushed to condemn them, and rightly so. We were most assuredly among them.
Whether appropriate or not, some celebrity Jews even chose to brandish the yellow Star of David, reminiscent of what Jews in the German concentration camps and ghettos had to wear.
While admiring this post-Charlottesville determination to stand up as Jews, I couldn’t help but wonder where some of these very same people had been in recent years, when the threats and attacks were coming from elsewhere.
To be absolutely an unmistakably clear, there is a real danger emanating from the far-right.
For some time, we had thought that this particular threat was more ominous in Europe, where, unlike here, extremists were also organizing under the banners of political parties, such as the Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary and the National Front in France.
In some cases, these political parties lionize 20th century fascists, call for registries of Jews, disparage or even deny the Holocaust and rant about Jewish power and influence.
It turns out that they have a fair number of kindred spirits in the US, who march in the streets declaring that “Jews will not replace us” and pining for “blood and soil,” the English translation of the Nazi belief in “Blut und Boden.”
But the antisemitic danger doesn’t begin and end here. Nor, therefore, should our concern and outrage.
For one thing, the far-left also poses daunting challenges.
Many in this camp seem to have a problem with one country on earth — and it just happens to be the only Jewish-majority nation around. And Israel’s Jewish population of six million people was often the very target of the far-right (as well as the far-left and jihadists) in the past century.
Still, no other nation awakens the-far left’s misguided passion in the way that Israel does. They don’t organize BDS campaigns, flotillas, flytillas, apartheid weeks or disruptive protests about the true human rights abusers, including regimes that are participating in mass murder.
Instead, many on the far-left only target Israel as it seeks to defend itself against those who openly proclaim their intent to destroy it. In the same vein, these activists champion self-determination for the Palestinians, but would deny it for the Jews.
Is this obsessive, relentless attempt to challenge the Jewish people’s national aspirations not a form of antisemitism? Of course it is, and it has been acknowledged as such by the UN secretary-general, the president of France and many other astute leaders.
And when was the last time, for example, that anyone saw a protest by these self-professed human rights campaigners about mass murder in Syria; the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidis; the Venezuelan government’s wholesale destruction of a country; the concentration camps housing hundreds of thousands of inmates in North Korea; the British Labour Party’s recurring examples of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, which begin at the very top of the party’s leadership; or Iran’s serial violations of the human rights of women, homosexuals and religious minorities?
The far-left’s blatant selectivity and hypocrisy speak volumes.
Yet bifocal lenses aren’t sufficient, either. Trifocals are needed — because in recent times, the greatest physical threat to Jews has come from jihadists.
Consider the fact that every fatal attack against Jews in Europe in recent years has been carried out by Islamic extremists. From the kosher supermarket in Paris to a Jewish school in Toulouse, from the Jewish Museum in Brussels to the synagogue in Copenhagen, from the murders of Ilan Halimi and Sarah Halimi in Paris to the Israelis (and Bulgarian) killed in Burgas — these attacks were all perpetrated by jihadists.
Add to that the genocidal ambitions of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, the incendiary Salafist teachings in many madrassas, and the ubiquitous antisemitism in important segments of the Arab media, and you see how serious this threat truly is.
So, by all means, let’s express our utter revulsion when Nazis march in Charlottesville, and let’s speak up when the occupant of the Oval Office stunningly fails to provide moral clarity in confronting such an unfolding drama.
But, equally, the same Jewish outrage needs to be manifested when the leader of Iran seeks a world without Israel, when Hezbollah’s top cleric calls for the mass murder of Jews, when Jewish children are shot to death in front of a Jewish school for the simple fact that they are Jews, and when groups on American campuses single out Israel alone for delegitimization and disappearance.
Finally — if things weren’t complicated enough — we also must not lose sight of the seemingly bizarre alliances that emerge. These include the alliance between the far-left and Islamic extremists regarding Israel and Zionism, and the alliance between the far-right and Islamic extremists on Holocaust denial and demonization of Jews.
In other words, it’s a time for those people who genuinely care about antisemitism to open their eyes wide — and not allow ideological or partisan thinking to narrow their field of vision.