The erasure of Jews is becoming an acceptable norm in the US and on university campuses in the wake terrorist atrocities perpetrated in Israel on October 7. While often practiced in vaunted halls of the United Nations and in the Arab world, in efforts ranging from laughable to utterly despicable, the normalization of such rhetoric in the public square today is a troubling (thought not an altogether unexpected) development that does not bode well for the future of the Jewish people.
The arc of history has certainly seen its share of both metaphorical and physical attempts to rid the world of Jews. In the aftermath of the Jewish-Roman wars of the first and second centuries, and, in particular, after the defeat of the Jewish forces of the Bar Kokhba revolts, the Roman Empire renamed Judea Syria-Palaestina to, as many scholars argue, sever the connection of the Jewish people to the land and de-Judaize the region. Just about two millenia later, building on that narrative, Mahmoud Abbas, called Jesus a “Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions.” Similarly, at the conclusion of the Arab-Israel War of 1948, when Jordan assumed control and formally annexed the West Bank in 1950, the Jordanian administration undertook a deliberate effort to destroy the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and further erase Jewish history through destruction of over fifty-eight synagogues and desecration of thousands of Jewish tombstones to build, roads, fences and latrines. Millennia of pogroms, blood libels, persecution, genocide, and dehumanization are just some of the other lowlights of the world’s treatment of the Jewish people.
The Arab leadership has consistently sought to cheapen and co-opt history and language for its cause. Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinians, has argued the antisemitic canard that the Jews were instrumental in the actual Holocaust against them and other minorities, and has, without a hint of irony, accused Israel of “judaizing” the Temple Mount, and so on. Playing along in this charade are the supporting characters, the United Nations and other international bodies, which have allowed themselves to be used as tools for Jewish erasure. As Soviet support for the Jewish State receded, the Soviet propaganda machine kicked into high gear, culminating with U.N. General Assembly Resolution No. 3379, in which the national aspirations of the Jewish people (and only the Jewish people) were deemed “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” At that time, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US ambassador to the United Nations, argued that “[t]he United Nations is about to make antisemitism international law.” If only he knew how prescient his statement actually was.
And today so many institutions who felt no need to restrain themselves in public to opine on what they perceived to be injustices of the day, are hypocritically silent – the erasure of Jews continues full steam ahead.
Just the other day, Dean Sophia Lee of the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law, after pressure from many alumni and students, alerted the Penn Law community for the first time that “[s]ince the October 7 attacks, I have worked closely with my colleagues to listen to members of our community, to ensure that everyone is safe and secure, and to tailor support to your priorities.” The italics are mine. Notably absent is any reference to Jewish victims of terror. Similarly, the many feminist organizations remain silent as women are raped and degraded by terrorists. Jews are erased again.
The victims of Hamas’s orgy of slaughter, rape and kidnappings have been quickly forgotten. Posters in public square are being torn down by Hamas apologists and supporters or covered by anti-Israel propaganda. These acts of erasure are often accompanied by powerfully eloquent slogans, such as “Fuck the Jews” and “Go back to Poland”.
Some of our elected leaders are quick to discount and even deny the assessments of U.S. intelligence agencies and the IDF in favor of terrorist (Hamas) sources. They whip up unfounded claims of genocide and calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Yet, there was a ceasefire in place on October 6. That ceasefire was breached by the erasure of over a thousand Jewish and non-Jewish lives by bloodthirsty terrorists. The same terrorists have since vowed to repeat the erasure until Israel is no more. And yet, there are widespread grotesque denials of the veracity of claims of the Jewish lives lost because these are inconvenient facts for the Narrative. So much for the world’s love affair with dead Jews.
The streets in many cities today are awash with calls for the elimination of the State of Israel. These calls, sometimes couched in euphemistic language such as, “from the River to the Sea” or “Free Palestine”, are singularly focused on the Jewish State to the exclusion of all others. The Jews are told that these calls are merely “aspirational” calls for freedom, yet both the actions of those who utter them and the historical origins of same belie the gaslighting.
If the call is merely aspirational then why are so many Jewish schools, institutions, neighborhoods, and synagogues on high alert for possible violence and hate, and not simply Israeli embassies and governmental representatives? Why is anything with a Star of David on it subject to possible attack, some of it (luckily) laughably absurd, e.g., the car ramming of a Black Hebrew Israelite building.
Second, the foundational documents of the Arab League’s Palestinian Liberation Organization (“PLO”), penned 3 years before the Six Day War, deny the Jews’ national aspirations. The PLO Charter helpfully “mansplains” to the Jews that “Judaism because it is a divine religion is not a nationality with independent existence.” Despite current self-serving protestations to the contrary, the charter also calls for the creation of “Palestine with its boundaries at the time of the British Mandate is a regional indivisible unit.” Importantly, the PLO recognized regional sovereignty of Jordan over the West Bank and Egypt over Gaza and limited its “activities” to the pre-1967 borders of Israel, focusing exclusively on the erasure of Jews within Israel’s then-borders.
Thus, today’s antisemites, fellow travelers and terrorist sympathizers are following the well trod footsteps of their predecessors in their attempts to erase the Jews from history. They are just enraged that the Jews are not backing down this time.