Avi Lewis

Antisemitism is a non-Jewish problem

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself exactly but it does rhyme.

Hamas’ barbaric attack against Israel on Oct 7th unleashed a global wave of antisemitism unprecedented since the Holocaust. History teaches us that although antisemitism starts with Jews, it never ends with Jews. Every society poisoned by antisemitism eventually turns in on itself or unleashes it’s hatred outward, looking for new victims.

Millions of non-Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, millions of non-Jews faced misery at the antisemitic and intolerant hands of the Soviet Union. Ultimately antisemitic societies become paralyzed by sickness and plagued by internal violence and chaos.

Today millions of citizens across the Muslim world live trapped in corrupt regimes that use hatred of Jews and Israel to distract from their own internal problems. This is despite the fact that local Jews are long gone: they were forcibly expelled and ethnically cleansed from the Middle East in the “Jewish Nakba” of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

The cornerstone of America’s success has always been it’s tolerance and vision of hope. Although not a perfect society, it was built on the idea of covenant:

The idea that we are made in the image of God and therefore equal; where diversity of thought is strength, not weakness; where the bedrock of freedom and ultimately maximal prosperity for all is can only exist when we accept the Other. America in some sense became that beacon of progress and innovation because it created a strong society where individuals felt secure to dream and innovate. It offered this vision to it’s minorities – including the world’s oldest minority, the Jews.

Now as illness of antisemitism starts to infect American society – that hate may tear away at these grand institutions and ideals – making all Americans poorer for it – not just the Jews.

History teaches us that at this juncture Jews normally face a number of choices:

Some may decide to go underground and hide their Jewish identity by quietly assimilating in the hopes of being left alone. Unfortunately the historical track record has not been sympathetic to those that make this choice. As much as they try to escape their Jewish identity, they are ultimately hounded, persecuted and never fully accepted. Jews that forcibly converted to Christianity in Spain during the 15th centuries continued living in perpetual fear of the Inquisition for generations to come.

A second group – a tiny minority – joins the haters in the hopes of ingratiating themselves. They turn against their people in order to prove that they are the “good Jews” and therefore should be saved. History shows us that they aren’t saved – and in the process they cause great damage.

Finally members of a third group rediscover their roots and heritage and decide to stand up for their identity. At the turn of the 20th century, energized Jewish youth across Europe refused to accept a life beset by antisemitism and they set off an journey back to their homeland. They dreamed of creating a society where they could defend themselves from attacks and finally take their fate into their own hands. The creation of Israel was the fruit of their labor.

Unlike in the past, Jews that choose to stand in pride in their identity now find that they have a strong, sovereign Jewish state holding their backs:

Either as a place of refuge or a source of inspiration. Jews will ultimately survive and outlive this bout of antisemitism – they have 2,000 years of experience in doing so. The real question is whether wider society will take note of the canary in the coal mine and realize that by marginalizing the Jews they are essentially marginalizing themselves.

Antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem. It’s first and foremost a non-Jewish problem. It’s symptomatic of something deeper

By not fighting antisemitism head on, all of society – Jews and non-Jews alike – are ultimately dragged down as the slow process of decay tears away at the foundations of everything we hold dear.

About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Israel's thriving Hi Tech sector in Tel Aviv. He lives near Modi'in with wife and 3 kids
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