Jewish Lives Matter

Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with a group of Israel supporters and police in a violent clash in Times Square on May 20, 2021 in New York City.
Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with a group of Israel supporters and police in a violent clash in Times Square on May 20, 2021 in New York City. SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES

Religious-based hate crimes in the United States are overwhelmingly anti-Jewish. In fact, anti-Jewish hate crimes are more than hate crimes against all other religious groups combined. This is not a feature of the most recent weeks but rather a consistent trend reflected in the FBI’s hate crimes statistics year after year. In fact, over the past ten years, the rate of all hate crimes motivated by religious bias that were directed at Jews hovered around 60%.

Jews do not fare better in the countries comprising the European Union. Thus, for example, between 2007-2017, German authorities recorded 15,996 antisemitic hate crimes. At the same period, 6,741 hate crimes were committed against all other religions combined. In France, between 2010-2017 French law enforcement agencies recorded 4,197 actions and threats with an antisemitic character and 1,566 such actions and threats with an anti-Muslim character.

Recent weeks and days have witnessed a further explosion in antisemitic hate crimes across the globe with antisemitic attacks on Jews in the United States increasing by 80% and in the United Kingdom by a whopping 438%. What Eve Barlow called a social media pogrom accompanied, instigated, and facilitated actual mini pogroms on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto, and other cities targeting both Jews and synagogues. In London, calls were made to rape the daughters of Jews while “Hitler was Right” became a popular hashtag and numerous incidents have been recorded of calls to gas the Jews.

In the past, much of the antisemitic incidents have been perpetrated by neo-Nazis and other extreme Right groups. As such, they were, relatively speaking, easy to condemn. However, it is evident that an increasing number of anti-Jewish attacks, actions, and threats are perpetrated not by people wearing red MAGA hats but rather keffiyehs and shirts with the Palestinian colors on them. While that trend has been evident in Europe for some time now, especially in countries with a growing Muslim community, it has been easy to castigate antisemitic attacks in the United States as exploits coming from the Right. Not anymore.

Despite these alarming figures and trends, for the most part, progressives have remained silent in the face of growing attacks on Jews across the globe and in the United States. Those who have been quick to denounce (correctly) racism against blacks and Asian hatred, remained muzzled when hate, both in speech and in deed, was directed against Jews. Many who have been first to decry (correctly) the identification of all Muslims with terrorism, have been quite comfortable to consider all Jews as fair game for their virulent and vicious attacks.

Black lives matter. There can be no ‘but’ and no condition inserted here. Asian lives matter. There is no place for any reservation or qualification. But, when Jews are concerned, one is hard-pressed to find people who will state, unequivocally, that Jewish lives matter. No but, no condition, no reservation. That this is the case with neo-Nazis need not even be stated. For them the very basic premise is wrong. Rather, that this is the case for all too many progressives is morally indefensible.

The qualification that is usually inserted here by progressives is “…but Zionists.” While blacks, Asians, Muslims, and others are presumed to be worthy of protection as such, Jews are not. They must pass a further loyalty test to the cause, disavowing the only Jewish state, renouncing in the process a significant part of their inherent Jewish identity. No other group is required to shed parts of its own identity in order to have the lives of its members valued. Jews do.

But regardless of where one stands on the Arab-Israeli conflict (the careful reader may have noticed that I have not mentioned Israel until the last paragraph) the qualification of “but Zionists” is a dangerous canard. In fact, the requirements made of Jews by progressives are such that only a few select groveling Jews would pass muster while also remain truly Jewish. The rest are bound to fail, no matter how hard they try to placate others. For, fundamentally, what Jews are asked to give up is not merely Zionism but also their ability to call out antisemitism. The golden entry ticket to the club is for Jews to cede the determination of what is, and significantly, what is not, antisemitic, to non-Jews. No other group is faced with such a choice. Blacks can call out racism. LGBTQ+ individuals can call out homophobia and transphobia. Women can call out misogyny and sexual harassment. But Jews, and only Jews, cannot call out antisemitism. And unless they accept that, their lives, put simply, do not matter.

Black lives matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. Muslim lives matter. Asian lives matter. It is high time that Jewish lives matter too. No buts, no reservations, no qualifications.

About the Author
Professor Oren Gross is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Irving Younger Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School and a Senior Research Affiliate at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany. He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of international law and national security law.
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