Geography Shouldn’t Matter When it Comes to Killing Jews

Six months after the horrific shooting in Pittsburgh, Jews in America were once again targeted and murdered. While Jews celebrated the holiday of Passover at a San Diego Chabad, a  gunman opened fire on them, killing one woman and injuring 3 others. After Pittsburgh, Americans of all faiths and races condemned the attacks, and reached out to their Jewish brothers and sisters who were killed because of their religion. People literally gave their blood (and money) to help the victims. Vigils were held, editors from both right and left leaning papers crafted op-eds decrying the tragedy, and politicians denounced the deplorable actions taken by someone acting in opposition to American values.

There was a similar response to the San Diego attack; even politicians, who themselves have been accused of anti-Semitism, roundly condemned this act of terrorism. Americans are a feeling people- xenophobic at times, but when it comes to murder of others simply because of their faith, Americans are almost universally appalled; they express grief and despair over these attacks of terror. Other than the far fringes of the left and the right, public figures and private citizens condemn the violence targeting Jews in America and around the world, and will continue to do so, should these acts occur in the future.

Unless they happen in Israel.

When someone murders Jewish babies in their beds in Itamar, or opens fire in a Jerusalem study hall, the motivation is the same as when someone attacks Jews in Pittsburgh or California. The agenda is to wipe out as many Jews as possible and “teach” them that they will never be safe- until they leave America, or Israel or France, or Germany, or are simply wiped off the face of the earth. And yet, if one looks up “anti-Semitic attacks around the world” on Wikipedia, there is a note upfront that states that this category should not be used to include attacks in Israel or on Israeli officials, as those fall under “terrorism” or “Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” THAT is exactly the problem. By allowing the perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence against Israelis to claim that it is categorically different from anti-Semitic acts against non-Israeli Jews, it continues the charade that one is more egregious than the other; that one is an attack that should be condemned by everyone who is concerned with human rights, while the other needs to be understood in a political context that perhaps justifies the violence.

It also allows countless individuals and groups to spew anti-Semitic vitriol in the guise of political debate. I do not believe that everyone who disagrees with the choices of the Israeli government is an anti-Semite (I would have to define myself as one if that were the case), or even that all those who support the BDS movement are anti-Semites. They may be misguided and unhelpful, but that doesn’t mean they hate Jews. However, when a pro-BDS demonstration includes glorification of suicide bombers, images of swastikas or calls for the end of the Jewish state, that is anti-Semitism. When a known terrorist, responsible for the murder of Jews is invited to speak publicly, and Jews who express support for Israel are disinvited from social justice rallies, that is anti-Semitism.

Israelis understand that there is no difference between vilifying, targeting or murdering Jews whether it is in San Diego or Sderot. As Almog Peretz, an Israeli who moved to California a few months ago and was wounded in the San Diego attack, said: “It doesn’t matter where we go, we have to look out for ourselves. In Sderot, where I used to live, didn’t they also fire rockets at us?” The shame is that the rest of the world, including too many wonderful Americans who support their Jewish neighbors, continue to draw false distinctions.

Geography shouldn’t matter when it comes to the murder of Jews.

About the Author
Dr Sharon Goldman is Vice President and Director of the Israel-America Studies Program at Shalem College in Jerusalem, where she teaches and writes on Zionism, Jewish leadership and the US-Israel relationship. Prior to making Aliyah in 2018, Sharon worked for AIPAC for 12 years as the Northeast Political Director and Northeast Deputy Director.
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