Sam Litvin

If antisemitism at a Holocaust Memorial is OK, then everything is Ok

When I write an article, I do it because an idea has been in my brain for some time. It sits there like a yarn ball that spins and spins, collecting evidence and other thoughts until it is ready to be put into print. I’ve wanted to write on the conflict many times, but there were so many things to write about that every time I wanted to write, a new yarn ball would be in my brain beginning to spin, and before it was ready, a new one would be there.

There was the New Yorker article about Sheikh Jerrah. Then there was the Russell Brand video with Gabor Mate, where Brand didn’t want to speak on a conflict he didn’t understand, so he brought an anti-zionist Jew with no expertise in history or the conflict to speak in defense of Palestinians by defaming Israel. There were blood-libel stories in news organizations like NPR and NY Times who published child death numbers like Olympic gold medals, a practice that is not seen in any other conflict without an ounce of thought as to why those children died.  But then today, I saw something that made me realize it was time to write.

Today I saw a mass of one to two hundred people, at the Los Angeles Holocaust Memorial, with Palestinian flags, describing all the “crimes” Israel commits.

To do so in the place, commemorating six million people and one million children who were killed by Nazis for the crime of being Jewish, was low. The fact that this story was nowhere in the news told me that this isn’t a low point, it is a drop off the antisemitic cliff.

To have anti-Israel protesters have so little consideration or care for Jewish people to do so and to know that the rest of the country will not condemn this low, cowardly, disrespectful act says everything that American Jews need to know: you are nothing.

While some politicians might have stern words. These are but a teacher shaking a finger at a bully, while the bully pummels a child.

We should not be surprised. The past four years have been a string of one despicable act after another. From Trump’s words on the treatment of women and his words on immigrants to actions of ICE in immigration to the actions of the government during the Pandemic and the shootings of Jews across America. Yet none of that screamed impunity to me. None of those actions said to me that Americans do not care. This, this said everything. It was not on any radar. It was not on the LA Times. It was not on any LA station. It means that this hate towards the Jewish people has been normalized.

The normalization means Jewish people, attacks on them, attacks on their places of worship, on their children and businesses, are not a problem. Normalization means that Jewish Americans, are not equal citizens. The fact that there is zero outrage is proof of an ethos around the country, and apathy around the country, a mindset that “we don’t care.”

This mindset is not a low point, it is an abyss. This mindset that anything can happen and nothing will be done. This should be a sign, a flag, a bat call to Jews in the entire country to let them know to expect nothing, to ask for nothing to be prepared to deal with much worse, and to be ready to go.

There comes a time in every country, where a safe harbor becomes a nightmare. Where a safe haven is about to become hell. I never knew how one knew, but I think I do now, it happens when the crimes against Jews no longer generate a reaction from people. It happens when there have been so many attacks, that the bystanders and the neighbors have run out of ways to pretend to care, giving a green light to the antisemites who not just think hate, but desire to exact hate.

The world today is an easy comparison to 1920ies Germany. The wealth gap is massive, the working poor are struggling. On top of that, we witnessed the modern-day Spanish flu and the havoc it wrought, we witnessed the modern-day end of colonialism shift in population movement due to Climate Change and wars in the Middle East. We witnessed the instability created through hate and division facilitated by social media that brought about January 6th. We witnessed all these things and they are messages.

They are messages that just as things in Europe did not get better with time, there is no sign right now that things will get better. And that means optimism will do us no good. It is time that we prepare, or face the consequences of our inaction, of our fear, of our hopeful and willful ignorance. But whatever we chose, we will not have the excuse of Jews of 1941, we will have had our warnings and our lessons of history. We will not have the excuse “we didn’t know”.

About the Author
Sam Livin was born in Soviet Union and grew up in San Diego. In 2012, he travelled the world photographing Jewish communities publishing a book called "Your Story Our Sipur." Today he continues to write about Israel and Judaism as he lives and studies business and ecology in Tel Aviv.
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