Let’s Commit To Stop the Politicization of Anti-Semitism

holding hands

The revelation that the person responsible for the bomb threats against multiple Jewish institutions in multiple countries is a Jewish Israeli-American, left Jews around the work sick to the bone. The embarrassment, confusion, shock, and horror, were tangible and present on the faces of anyone that had found out about this. While there is much to be determined about who this individual was and what caused him to do this, particularly considering the fact that he has a brain tumor since the age of 14, this is a moment of profound shame and astonishment—for American Jews in particular.

When life gives you lemons, make them into lemonade. This is a horrible story. It still carries a strong and powerful lesson with it.

Over the past few months, we have seen Jews of both political orientations blaming their fellow Jews for being part of a camp that fosters anti-Semitism. Jews were accusing Jews of different political opinions, of using anti-Semitism, of not speaking out against it, and even of being complicit and implicated in it. We have blamed non-Jews who had nothing to do with the threats of being responsible for them, spoiling good relationships with our fellow citizens. We wasted political and human capital, as well as precious resources, following preconceptions which were completely political and subjective.

Of course, the seemingly anti-Semitic incidents that took place needed to be addressed and tackled in the most forceful way, but they did not need to be politicized. They did not need to involve an assessment of the integrity of our fellow citizens or our fellow Jews. Sadly, it did.

Today is a day Jews are embarrassed and ashamed of the non-Jews looking at them and associating us with the ill perpetrator. There is no logical reason for this embarrassment; there is no way we could have known what a sick or cruel psychopath was doing at the time. There is however, a logical and compelling reason for us to be embarrassed from one; another there is reason for us to be ashamed of those whom we suspected of being complicit for preconceived reasons.

President of Brandeis University, Prof. Jehuda Reinharz, once wrote:

“The most striking example of the failure of the Jewish political reaction to anti-Semitism involves the utter inability to overcome Jewish fragmentation. Even in the 1930s, when anti-Semitism grew apace, Jewish unity remained a slogan on the lips of politicians rather than a fact of life.”

It’s time we agree that antisemitism is bad and that the people around us are good. It is time large Jewish organizations take to fighting rising levels of antisemitism– not each other. It is time we agree that it is most likely that our fellow Jews are not complicit with anti-Semitism just because of their political affiliation—to the right or to the left. It’s time Jews can agree that when something seems to be anti-Semitic, we will never blame each other.

We must also resolve not to categorically accuse a population that has shown historical and unprecedentedly low levels of anti-Semitism, of exactly that, with no evidence whatsoever.

Today will be remembered as one of the sorriest days for Jewish pride. Let us take the power of this day to remind ourselves to  come clean of what Social Scientist Arthur Brooks referred to in his 2016 TED talk as “Political Motive Asymmetry”. A phenomenon in which “A majority of people in our country today … believe that they are motivated by love, but the other side is motivated by hate.”

While the criminal who had perpetrated this crime will be locked up, anti-Semitic incidents will not stop here. Let us resolve that should anything anti-Semitic happen again we will never turn a false finger on anyone who did not earn it; we must focus on the perpetrators and finding a solution to the general problem of hate of antisemitism. Let us make sure we never again cast blame or doubt on those who have never wished us ill, and that we keep the friendships we have alive and well so that we can begin to repair the Biblical imperative (Tzefania 3:13) “The remnant of Israel shall neither commit injustice nor speak lies; neither shall deceitful speech be found in their mouth” words followed by the vision of “they shall graze and lie down, with no one to cause them to shudder”

About the Author
The writer is a rabbi, writer, teacher, and blogger (www.rabbipoupko.com). He is the president of EITAN-The American Israeli Jewish Network and lives with his wife in New York City.
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