Another anti-Semitic incident in Missouri raises the question: is anti-Semitism on the rise? Is President Trump to blame? Has he unleashed far-right extremism? Are Jews and Jewish communities in danger?
Not so fast.
Mainstream media would like nothing more than to pin all of the above on President Trump. That would fit their diatribe that President Trump is a bigot, racist, and anti-Semite. The latter being an inane attempt at discrediting a father of a daughter and son-in-law who are practicing Jews; but there is more to the story than what we are led to believe.
In February 2015, Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law jointly submitted a report on U.S. campus and university anti-Semitism: the researchers were Barry Kasmin and Ariela Keysar (February 23, 2015. National Survey of U.S. Jewish College Students Shows High Rate of Anti-Semitism on Campuses). Findings were disturbing to say the least, because “more than half of 1.157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide…reported having been subjected to or having witnessed anti-Semitism…”
The research covered the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year and combined demographics, social characteristics, and surveys. Nothing was conclusive because results were all over “the map” making it hard to determine what specifically sets off harassment, bias, and bigotry against Jews. Although inconclusive, sampling did somehow determine a possible pattern in demographic, culture, and social segmentation. For example; although Orthodox Jewish males are normally the most targeted for harassment; on campuses, it is the conservative and reformed Jews who report the most victimization. However, Orthodox Jewish women on campuses are more likely to be victims than their male counterparts. Is the targeting based more on social culture than religion? If so; why?
Various reports on anti-Semitism correlated ignorance on Jewish culture with Zionism. In most liberal circles, Zionism is regarded as bias and the exclusion of other races like the Arabs. Therefore, it seemed more likely that cultural and political groups were being targeted over religious groups. Students belonging to organizations like the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) had a higher rate of reporting on campus harassment than their religious Jewish counterparts. The AIPAC is politically motivated and pro-Israel, which on most university campuses is a red flag for anti-Palestinian bigotry. Linking pro-Israel with Zionism and anti-Palestinian sentiment, puts Jewish students in a “persona non grata” category and justifiable attacks. Jewish students and supporters of Israel by virtue of their political and ideological standing are quickly delegitimized as victims. They are presumed to be “occupiers”, war mongers, and privileged. What campuses are the worst offenders?
According to the Observer (Miller, P. 07/26/16. First Half 2016, Anti-Semitism Skyrockets on U.S. College Campuses), the three worst offenders are: Columbia University, Vassar College, and University of Chicago. Groups like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) hide under the “human rights” umbrella justifying their ideology on the premise that Israel is a “human rights” abuser and needs to be punished. Their propaganda includes boycotting Israeli goods and Israel as punishment for human rights violations in West Bank, and other areas these pinheads consider “occupied”. By going after Jewish Students they inadvertently think that they are taking on Israel. That’s their frame of mind. BDS is not the only organization that propagandizes anti-Israel sentiment. SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) is another insidious anti-Jewish organization based on narrative that obscures historical truth as justification for Israeli degradation. One would think that university and campus administrators would at least monitor these groups for inflammatory dialogue. Why aren’t campuses doing more to stifle anti-Jewish hatred speech? Unproven but suspected: a large number of faculty members are boycott sympathizers themselves and not only do they give a sympathetic nod, but quietly encourage the anti-Israel sentiment. If questioned they will undoubtedly say that they are anti-Israel not anti-Jewish. How convenient.
Mark Oppenheimer, in a Washington Post article (February 17, 2017) entitled: “Is anti-Semitism truly on the rise in the U.S? It’s not so clear”, made an interesting and provocative statement; “A journalist could stay very busy writing about anti-Semite graffiti in higher ed — and not at right-wing Christian schools but ostensibly liberal ones.” Mr. Oppenheimer is not in the least conservative, but even he does not wear blinders. Among several Ivy League schools, he mentioned Swarthmore, Brown, Oberlin, and UCLA as having incidents of swastika graffiti on campus. Any media coverage? To be fair: the media did not report on anti-Muslim graffiti on campuses either. According to Oppenheimer, Idaho State, Michigan, California-Riverside, Massachusetts, and Kansas Universities experienced numerous anti-Muslim graffiti. Why not report it?
Going back to the original question: is anti-Semitism on the rise and is President Trump responsible? Oppenheimer is of the opinion that research and reporting has not been conclusive. Too many variables. He did however report that 2016 was the worse year so far for anti-Semitism; topping 2015 and previous years. But if bias and bigotry is on the rise for Jews, it has also extended to include Muslims. Reporting relies on organizations like the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center. These organizations provide the statistics. Oppenheimer opines that although some media would love to pin any smidgen of bigotry on President Trump, the polls and the results from reputable organizations show “no reliable statistics”. However, some encouragement: in the February 2017, Pew Research Center statistics, out of the 4,000 American adults surveyed, the “warmest feeling” was toward Jews. That crossed all religions to include atheists. On the other hand, a 2014 FBI report on hate crimes, put Jews at the top of the list with 57%, followed by Muslims at 16%, then Catholics, Protestants, atheists and others. So, what to believe? Strangely enough, in 2017, the first groups to be targeted were Muslims and Mexicans. They were followed by Jews, blacks, gays, and others. So why does it seem that Jews make headlines? Because they improve ratings! As callous as it might seem; in a polarized country, anything that smacks of anti-Semitism can be elevated to a Holocaust and 1933 Germany in a blink of an eye. If sounds obscene and it certainly is. But it is also a clever attempt at raising anger and indignation to a level that eventually morphs into protests and unsubstantiated cries of bigotry and hatred. This is what currently is being hurled at President Trump and his Cabinet. Is it justified?
We must not lose sight of the fact that populist and nationalist sentiments are on the rise on both sides of the pond. This undercurrent of malcontent is not without merit. Economics and terrorist attacks in cities like Paris, Munich, and Berlin, have given rise to deep protectionist feelings. The U.S. had its share of “terrorist” incidents but not to the extent of Europe. Germany has seen a surge in anti-Jewish sentiment, and synagogues have been defaced. Is it possible that it is not so much a question of a rise in anti-Semitic activity as much as a rapid social media that brings it to our attention so much faster? Maybe the seemingly increase in incidents are the same incidents that used to be ignored or not reported in the past. On the other hand, Oppenheimer’s opinion that although current anti-Semitic incidents have not noticeably risen, Jews should always be aware of the “hatred we live with”: has its merits and gives us something to ponder. Oppenheimer also made an interesting analogy: “Jews have been the canary in the coal mine and when racist authoritarianism is on the rise, we the Jews are among the first to sniff the air.” Maybe a cheap cliché, but it is very relevant.
Why are Jews the first to experience bigotry, bias, and discrimination? Is it because they lead the world in everything from business to science and technology? Are we perhaps mistaking envy and jealousy for bigotry? Whatever the reason, and at this moment in time, they seem to have taken a step back to other groups for target practice. But for how long? Oppenheimer concluded with a thought-provoking “tongue ‘n’ cheek” statement: “…the cardinal rule of Jewish self-survival: It may not start with us, but it ends with us.” What will 2017 statistics reveal? Is President Trump and his populist and nationalist administration off the hook? The jury is still out; at least for now.