by Ellen Isaacs. January 2, 2020
There have been several egregious and widely publicized anti-Semitic attacks in the US in recent months, Although horrifying, it is not surprising given the general increase in hate crimes in this profoundly racist nation, which includes reported crimes against 2423 blacks, 670 Latinos, and 954 Jews in 2018 (https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/topic-pages/victims), with the largest percentage increases against Jews and Latinos. It must also be kept in mind that reporting of such incidents is entirely voluntary, even by law enforcement, and is thus a gross underestimate.
In addition to the “hate crime” statistics, incomplete as they are, there is the stable rate of over 1000 murders of unarmed people by the police each year of which a disproportionate 63% are people of color; the government’s legal harassment, imprisonment, and deportation of immigrants of color; mass incarceration of largely blacks and Latins; and surveillance and harassment of Muslims. The Police Reform Organizing Project documents that 91% of arrested youths in New York City (NYC) are black or Latin. The day to day racism experienced by these groups is largely of the legal or institutional variety, probably moreso than that experienced by Jews, a point raised even in a recent Haaretz editorial (https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-tempted-to-compare-anti-semitism-with-anti-black-racism-just-don-t-1.6896126)..
Anti-Semitism Must Not Justify Other Forms of Racism
Jews and others often treat anti-Semitism as if it were different than other forms of racism. One reason for this exceptionalism is the horror of the Holocaust, and many Jews feel that anti-Semitism is ineradicable, in the genes of non-Jews. The mass murder of Jews is not to be compared to the enslavement or death of 12 million Africans or the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians, or many other examples. Thus we see most Israelis are able to be won to the idea that all Jews must live in or uncritically support a Jewish state and Palestinians are inherently anti-Jewish, despite a much more benign history of cohabitation in the Arab world than in Europe. Israeli Jews are willing to tolerate, or even applaud, the mass murder of Gazans, an illegal military occupation of the West Bank, and gross inequality of Arab Israeli citizens. Moreover, any Jews or others who criticize such Israeli policies are labeled as anti-Semitic and may be banned from Israel and broadly attacked around the world.
Any who support the rights of Palestinians, whether in Israel or abroad, of whatever background, are also labeled as anti-Semitic. Thus we see Muslim activists for human rights, like Linda Sarsour, so designated and vilified, even as she has stood up against anti-Semitism. She and other Muslim leaders organized a rally in Brooklyn on New Years Day to express solidarity with Jews who had recently been attacked in New York. The most extreme Jewish hate group, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) was there to protest. With a long history or white supremacy, the JDL blames anti-Semitism on “Louis Farrakhan and Democratic Party’s black Nazi foot soldiers,” exonerates “imaginary white nationalists,” and calls on Jews to arm themselves (http://www.jdl.org/). In Israel, the JDL has been involved in numerous attacks on Palestinians, most notably the murder of 29 worshipers in a mosque by Baruch Goldstein in 1994. They were angered to see a larger group of mostly young Jews from various activist groups show up with signs and chants declaring multiracial unity and the need to defend all people who are subject to racist attacks.
The organization most quoted on the news about how to fight anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), is the same group that sponsors trips by American police, ICE, border patrol and FBI agents to Israel to study their methods of control and surveillance of civilian populations. It is because the Israelis have carte blanche in their treatment of Palestinians that they have been able to develop such “advanced” weapons and tactics of abuse, which have now been taught to thousands of US law enforcers.
The recent acts of anti-Semitism in and around New York City, are being used as an excuse to increase police presence and surveillance. The liberal NYC Mayor de Blasio is calling for increased police foot and car patrols in areas in proximity to Jewish concentrations and places of worship. These are often poor minority areas where police power is already abused, as we have seen.
Anti-Semitism is Part of White Power
The white nationalists of the US focus not just on black and brown workers, but are also staunchly anti-Semitic and anti-communist. Despite their long history of violence, law enforcement has long played down their importance, failed to investigate or prosecute most of their crimes, and even been participants (see https://multiracialunity.org/2019/06/02/a-book-review-on-the-matter-of-white-power-in-these-united-states/, among many other sources). From the attack on anti-KKK marches in Greensboro, NC in 1979 to Charlottesville to white supremacist marches in California in 2016, the racists have been almost all ignored or let go by the police and the anti-racists prosecuted. Usually only the relatively rare lone mass murderer like Dylan Roof or Timothy McVeigh ends up in prison, but the myth persists that they are lone wolves, independent of the national white supremacist movement.
What Must We Do
From the white nationalists to law enforcement to immigration policy to institutionalized racism in housing, education, and hiring, people of color suffer the overwhelming burden of racism in this country. The fact that it so widely tolerated and promoted creates the climate in which all forms of discrimination can grow, including anti-Semitism. Moreover, from the time of slavery, racism has been carefully created and nurtured by those of power and wealth in order to exploit and divide the rest of us, the same reason that Jews have been vilified in many nations. Our segregated selves are too weak to win the better wages, health care, housing, education, and environment we need so desperately. From slavery to Jim Crow to the profound institutional racism that persists today, we are victims together. It is imperative that we fight anti-Semitism along with the fight against all forms or racism, together as one.