Simon Hardy Butler
Simon Hardy Butler

Settlers don’t cause anti-Semitism

I’m going to tell you something you’re not gonna like.

It’s about anti-Semitism, which isn’t caused by Israel’s activities in the West Bank. It’s not caused by settlers, who have both good and bad individuals among their ranks. It’s not caused by Bibi. And it’s not caused by Trump.

You know what causes anti-Semitism? I’ll give you a hint: It’s vividly personified as a haggard child in Charles Dickens’ tale A Christmas Carol. Indeed, once you read the description, you’ll never forget it, for the lines are more relevant today than ever.

Yes, you win the prize. Ignorance is the answer.

Sadly, this quality is omnipresent, on every side—even the right one, whichever that may be. Total blame cannot fall on any single person or population. This is a universal trait.

But why am I talking about it in these terms? Why even mention it? Surely, we all know that’s the foundation for all types of bigotry … right?

Bzzt! We’ll take away that prize now. Because it seems these days that a noxious trend has reared its ugly head: that of pointing to the behavior of some individuals as the root of hatred … which in turn leads to the misconception that all members of these groups are at fault—that the anger directed at them is justified because they cultivated it.

Israelis. Palestinians. No one has incited anything that warrants prejudice toward an entire culture. People who are anti-Semitic will find a way to hate Jews. People who are Islamophobic will find a way to hate Muslims. They might try to justify their bias by pointing to the news, but in the end, they’re just haters. They don’t need a good reason to be angry. They never need an excuse.

I’m not keen on Israel’s settlement policy; I consider it problematic in light of the political climate surrounding the Jewish state’s actions in the area, which I feel should be more geared toward the development of a regional peace than a divide. On the other hand, I refuse to condemn all settlers in a lumped-together manner outright, as we cannot generalize about the motivations of each person like we would the outreach of an amoeba; thinking in such absolutes is the kind of thing that perpetuates ignorance—and therefore engenders intolerance. We cannot afford to do that.

So what CAN we afford to do? Well, maybe getting folks together more and breaking bread would help; I alluded to this potential idea in a recent blog post for the Times of Israel. That can certainly help dissolve the grains of hatred in both camps. Another solution: education … for all parties. History. Culture. Teaching everyone each perspective. As well as listening to what the instructors have to say.

This can be done. I know it.

There are organizations in the world that help bring about such understanding. In addition, there are folks who go beyond the “if you stopped doing THIS, then we’ll stop doing THIS” mode of negotiation. We need them to build respect and tear down ignorance. We need them to stop the scolding and start the molding.

You agree? Good … you can have your prize back now. As long as you do me one favor: Help bring about this dream.

Do the world proud. It would be, to paraphrase Dickens, a far, far better thing that you will do, than you have ever done.

And it would be a far, far better peace that would be crafted, than was ever known.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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