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March 24, 2023 9:55 am
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Ken Roth & Peter Beinart Gaslight Jewish Community With Recent Tweets

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avatar by Chaim Lax

Opinion

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 12, 2021. Picture taken January 12, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

In two separate tweets, Ken Roth and Peter Beinart, both known for their animus toward the Jewish state, addressed the noticeable rise in antisemitic incidents in the United States and around the world.

Both public personalities, however, used their popular social media platforms to gaslight the Jewish community and belittle its concerns about the increase in anti-Jewish hate.

Ken Roth’s Narrow View of Antisemitism

In his March 18 tweet, Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch, linked to a recent Pew survey that found “anti-Jewish harassment” had occurred in 94 countries in 2020, an increase from past years.

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Rather than simply highlighting this fact, Roth tweeted that this is “all the more reason for partisan defenders of the Israeli government to stop using false charges of antisemitism to try to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli repression.”

In doing so, Roth accused pro-Israel advocates of calling out antisemitism in bad faith and effectively minimizing the role of antisemitism in certain critiques of Israeli policy and anti-Israel activities.

As is evidenced by the vibrant political atmosphere in Israel itself, it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the Israeli government’s policies.

However, as noted in the internationally recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, anti-Israel activity and rhetoric can devolve into base antisemitism. This includes (but is not limited to) the claim that the Jewish state’s entire existence is based on a racist ideology, the use of antisemitic imagery to criticize Israeli policies/actions, and holding Jews around the world collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.

This last point is especially relevant as the rise in violence and tensions between Israel and the Palestinians has been shown to provide an impetus for antisemitic assaults and harassment worldwide.

Thus, it is clear that the recent rise in international antisemitism is directly related (in part) to an increase in anti-Israel rhetoric and activities that go beyond the pale of acceptable criticism and into the morass of antisemitic hate, a phenomenon that Roth purposefully ignores.

While it is disturbing that Ken Roth seeks to condemn a rise in antisemitism while simultaneously exonerating antisemitism masquerading as criticism of Israel/anti-Zionism, it is not at all surprising.

As noted by both NGO Monitor and UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer, Roth’s own criticism of the Jewish state has on occasion devolved into antisemitic rhetoric and imagery, as well as justifying antisemitism.

This includes blaming Israel for the rise in European antisemitism (as opposed to blaming the antisemites themselves), comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and suggesting that Judaism is a “primitive” religion.

Peter Beinart Makes Light of Antisemitism Concerns

New York Times columnist and MSNBC talking head Peter Beinart also tweeted on antisemitism, this time concerning another recent Pew survey of how different American religious affiliations view other religious affiliations.

As the survey found that most American religious communities view the Jewish community positively, Beinart found it apt to tweet “with all the talk about antisemitism, this is a useful reminder that Americans — across religious groups — really like Jews.”

Beinart notably ignores the survey’s own acknowledgment that: “The positive public attitude toward Jews may not tell the whole story, however: A 2020 survey of Jewish Americans found perceptions of rising antisemitism in the United States, and other organizations have reported an increase in antisemitic incidents.”

Beinart effectively downplayed Jewish concerns over growing antisemitism, painting a rosy picture of the Jewish experience in the United States by citing one survey without contextualizing it within the larger observed phenomenon of increased antisemitic incidents over the past few years.

Through their tweets, Ken Roth and Peter Beinart diminish the Jewish community’s angst over the rise in antisemitism by either discounting the antisemitism that masquerades as anti-Zionism/criticism of Israel, or by promoting the idea that the Jewish community is worried over nothing. This, by definition, is gaslighting.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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