Antisemitism In America, 2021

Nov 27th, 2021 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

In 2017, Yair Rosenberg, an American journalist and an authority on anti-Semitism, cogently summarized five myths about anti-Semitism.  Anti-Jewish bigotry is alive and well in 2021—and it must be dealt with frankly and conclusively.  A summary of Rosenberg’s “myths”:

  1. MYTH NO. 1:  Anti-Semitism largely subsided after the Holocaust.

“According to the FBI, Jews in the United States are annually subject to the most hate crimes of any religious group, despite constituting only 2 percent of the American population. The picture is considerably darker in Europe, where Jews were the target of 51 percent of racist attacks in France in 2014, even as they made up less than 1 percent of that country’s population. In recent years, synagogues and Jewish schools and museums have been subject to terrorist attacks in France, Denmark and Belgium. A 2013 E.U. survey found that nearly 40 percent of European Jews fear to publicly identify as Jewish, including 60 percent of Swedish Jews. Non-Western examples abound as well. Populations of Jews in Arab lands, which once numbered nearly 1 million, have been reduced to only a few thousand, having been persecuted to the point of expulsion or flight in the past century.”

  1. MYTH NO. 2:  Anti-Semitism comes predominantly from the right.

“This past election season, the ascendant alt-right, a band of reactionary white nationalists with a penchant for harassing Jewish journalists, filled Twitter with neo-Nazi memes, Photoshopped reporters into gas chambers and concentration camps, and chanted anti-Semitic slogans at political rallies . . . But anti-Semitic outbursts were taking place on the left at the same time. At liberal Oberlin College, a writing instructor named Joy Karega shared Facebook memes about Jewish control of the global economy and media, alongside posts asserting Israeli responsibility for the Islamic State and 9/11. Yet when school officials and others criticized her conduct, the student council dismissed it as a ‘witch-hunt.’ In New York, despite a local outcry, the hip leftist hub Brooklyn Commons hosted Christopher Bollyn, a conspiracy theorist who argued that ‘Zionist Jews’ were behind 9/11. During the Democratic primaries, Jewish candidate Bernie Sanders was confronted by a questioner who declared that ‘the Zionist Jews .?.?. run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.’  Surveying this scene, TBS comedian Samantha Bee aired footage of an anti-Semite ranting at a Trump rally, then cracked, ‘To find anti-Semitism that rabid, you’d have to go to, well, any left-leaning American college campus.’

This bipartisan bigotry shouldn’t surprise. Anti-Semitism could never have attained its impressive influence without forging coalitions across ideological and religious lines. Hatred of Jews has long thrived on its ability to ensnare utterly opposite worldviews.”

  1. MYTH NO. 3:  Criticism of Israel is generally anti-Semitic.

“The state of Israel often confounds the anti-Semitism conversation. Some assume that an attack on Israel and its policies must necessarily be an attack on Jews . . . Others justify their attacks on Jews around the world by pointing to Israel, claiming to be anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Much of this confusion stems from the conflation of all Jews with the state of Israel, its government and its policies.  Criticism of Israel, however, is not necessarily anti-Semitic . . .  Israel is a democracy — and can be held to account for its actions, just like any other country.”

  1. MYTH NO. 4:  Criticism of Israel cannot be anti-Semitic.

“At the same time, criticism of the Jewish state can mask malice toward Jews. Some cases are obvious, such as when the organizers of a 2010 flotilla that aimed to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza subsequently denied the Holocaust and claimed that Israel was behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Similarly, those who accuse Israel of committing ‘Palestinian genocide,’ when the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics records a four-fold population increase since Israel’s founding, are engaging in libel, not legitimate argument.

In other, less-blatant cases, Israel is subjected to criticism leveled at no non-Jewish country. Consider the United Nations, whose Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more often than all other countries combined, including Syria, North Korea, Iran and Russia. As President Barack Obama’s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, put it, ‘As long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations.’ In October [2017], one U.N. body even passed a resolution denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.”

  1. MYTH NO. 5:  Anti-Semitism mostly threatens Jews.

“Most bigotries debilitate their targets while empowering their disseminators, much like slavery and redlining enriched America’s white majority at the expense of its African American minority. Many successful societies have been built atop prejudices.  Anti-Semitism, however, is a unique case — and uniquely corrosive to those societies that embrace it. That’s because it often takes the form of a conspiracy theory about how the world works. By blaming real problems on imagined Jewish culprits, anti-Semitism prevents societies from rationally solving them . . . As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead has put it: ‘People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change. People who think ‘the Jews’ run the media and control the news lose the ability to grasp what is happening around them.’ For this reason, Mead has warned, ‘Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom.’ This is one case where the hatred ultimately destroys the hater.”


Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, reminds us how pervasive anti-Semitism is among some left-wing political groups in America.  Consider the Sunrise Movement, the self-described “youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” Earlier this fall, the Sunrise Movement inadvertently “alerted us all to another change in the climate: a slow but steady, unmistakable rise of antisemitism among progressive groups.”  It started when its Washington, D.C., chapter issued a statement that it would not speak at a rally in support of D.C. statehood because of the participation of three Jewish groups “that are all in alignment with and in support of Zionism and the State of Israel,” and asked the organizers of the rally to remove all three groups from the list of supporters.

Incredibly, as Eliot Kaufman observes, all three of these Jewish groups are politically liberal:  The National Council of Jewish Women gives “Israel grants” to Women Lawyers for Social Justice and a group helping Palestinian women.  The Jewish Council for Public Affairs wants to end “mass incarceration,” rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and secure a two-state solution in Israel.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism represents the most liberal major Jewish denomination.  It urges “immigration justice” and promises to “address our own behaviors and policies through the lens of racial equity, diversity and inclusion.”  Therefore, the only reasonable conclusion one can draw is that Sunrise DC’s rejection of these three groups manifests a blatant and vitriolic anti-Semitism.


Validating the truth of Rosenberg’s “myth #2,” Greenblatt argues, “When incidents like this happen, many wave it away, explaining that the real threat from antisemitism is from the far right and those who enable it. There is no denying that right-wing groups pose a material threat to Jewish life in America and to our democracy as a whole. Over the past 10 years, ADL has found that 75 percent of extremist-related murders were linked to right-wing ideology, including the 2018 Tree of Life massacre, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. Many of the perpetrators of the Jan. 6 insurrection had ties to the Proud Boys and other extremist groups. And [recently] the civil trial beg[an] against the white supremacists who led a violent mob in Charlottesville in 2017, chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ as they marched down the street . . . Antisemitism on the left, however, is more akin to climate change: Slowly but surely, the temperature is increasing. Often people don’t perceive the shift, or they choose to ignore it even in the face of once-uncommon storms. But the metaphorical temperature is rising, and the conditions threaten to upend life as we know it.”  He goes on, “There are things that the Israeli government has done that deserve rebuke. But criticizing the policies and actions of a government is categorically different than deeming the country itself illegitimate because it is instituting ‘apartheid’ or leading a ‘genocide’ when it is not. It is fundamentally different from calling for its eradication either implicitly or explicitly by supporting a ‘one-state solution’ or ‘Palestine from the river to the sea.’ Slandering Israel as ‘settler-colonial’ or ‘white supremacist’ is flat-out wrong on the facts and little more than a deliberate effort to degrade its support and condition the public for its demise. As is the inclusion of Zionism among a list of forms of ‘oppression,’ including antisemitism and anti-Palestinian racism — as Sunrise DC did in its ‘reflection’ on its original call against the Jewish organizations.”


What does it say about the state of the social justice movement that a push for diversity and inclusivity seeks to exclude Jews? What does it mean when the litmus test for inclusion in social justice spaces requires Jews to oppose the very existence of the only Jewish state in the world? What message does that send to the American Jewish community that has been at the forefront of so many civil rights struggles for generations? Cynthia Ozick exposes the brutal reality that sophisticated intellectuals are often behind this subtle anti-Semitism:  “Sophisticated terms such as boycott, divestment and sanctions, designed to weaken and dismantle the Jewish state, are touted by the superior pronouncements of university professors, members of Congress, aspiring politicians, respected journalists who have forsworn impartiality for advocacy, and other pinnacles of societal influence.”  She argues further that “Anti-Semitism dressed in the sheep’s clothing of social justice is the province of elevated pitchmen—cultivated elites, learned professors, scholarly theorists.  Intersectionality, a muddled and half-mystical credo that turns disparities into parties and distinctions into connections, is the coinage of Kimberle Crenshaw, a leading professor of law at UCLA and Columbia.  Its faithful adherents populate academic organizations such as the American Studies Association, the National Women’s Studies Association, and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association.  By surrendering to the doctrine of identity politics—the birth mother of intersectionality—these groups have allowed themselves to become venues of anti-Semitic incitement.”


The Bible is very clear:  The Jewish people are in an unconditional and unilateral covenantal relationship with God.  [See Genesis 12:1-7—and numerous references throughout the Bible to this Abrahamic covenant.]  God states categorically that He will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse the Jews (Genesis 12:3).  Anti-Semitism, whether from the right or  the left, is a perilous development within American civilization.  I believe strongly that God has blessed America because this nation has been a refuge and an advocate for the Jewish people.  If anti-Semitism continues to raise its ugly head in America, God will remove His hand of blessing from this nation and it will face His judgment.

See Jonathan A. Greenblatt, “Antisemitism on the left is subtler than on the right. But it’s getting worse” in the Washington Post (27 October 2021); Yair Rosenberg, “Five myths about anti-Semitism” in the Washington Post (3 February 2017); Eliot Kaufman in the Wall Street Journal (23-24 October 2021); and Cynthia Ozick in the Wall Street Journal (15 June 2021).

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