Meirav Solomon

The Hypocrisy of Antisemites ‘Fighting’ Antisemitism

I am not one to give credence to the culture wars of Republican politicians. Frankly, I find that they distract from real problems that our country faces, and serve as convenient vehicles for veiled forms of xenophobia and bigotry. As a 21-year-old, I have endured the “War on Christmas,” Tucker Carlson’s bizarre fascination with the green M&M’s footwear and the manufactured outrage towards drag queen story hours.

But never did I imagine that the newest target of the right wing’s culture war would be pro-Palestinian activism wrapped under the guise of opposing antisemitism. Even more surprising is that Republicans who have been silent during times of grief and pain for the Jewish community – or have themselves perpetuated antisemitism – are now scrambling to be on the front lines.

While I don’t doubt that there are Republican politicians who care for their Jewish constituents and truly deplore antisemitism, it has become evident since Hamas’ heinous Oct. 7 attack just how many right-wing leaders have joined the fight against anti-Jewish hatred under false pretenses, using its vocabulary to demonize and censor legitimate pro-Palestinian voices and to advance their own political agendas.

Once you become aware of this false allyship, it’s easy to find examples of it between primary debates and town hall stages, in press releases from Members of Congress and even in the sermons of religious leaders.

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Republican presidential primary candidate, threatened to deport Palestinian, Arab and even Jewish students for their pro-Palestinian activism on campus, he set an incredibly dangerous precedent. In simple terms, he equated a political opinion with criminal behavior deserving punishment. The governor’s rhetoric not only threatened free speech but launched a chilling effect on legitimate criticism of Israel. Unfortunately, DeSantis does not stand alone.

While I do not agree with – and feel threatened by – many of the sentiments and actions of pro-Palestinian organizations that have veered dangerously into antisemitism, I have to ask, why is DeSantis so ready to penalize this speech and not the speech of antisemites on his own turf?

Since DeSantis became governor, Florida has seen numerous antisemitic displays, including masked men marching and chanting “Jews get the rope” and banners with swastikas hung from highway overpasses. Did DeSantis threaten deportation or criminal punishment as a congressional representative when they yelled “white power” and threw up Nazi salutes? No, because at the end of the day, for Ron DeSantis, the fight against antisemitism is not about ending antisemitism but rather, silencing dissent. His very own press secretary responded to the neo-Nazi marches positing, “Do we even know they’re Nazis?”, deflecting blame and shifting responsibility to a political ploy by “Democratic staffers.”

But this isn’t just about Ron DeSantis. As more right-wing extremists come out to fight against antisemitism, it seems like no one has questioned their motivations. It is curious that Pastor John Hagee and his organization Christians United for Israel claim to have joined the fight against antisemitism because Hagee is an antisemite in his own right. He has claimed that Jews deserved the Holocaust and centuries of persecution because of our “disobedience” to God. So, what was he doing speaking against antisemitism at the March for Israel?

In Congress, extremist voices like Rep. Elise Stefanik have alleged widespread antisemitism on college campuses tied to pro-Palestinian activism. Her remarks went viral in December for attacking collegiate administrations that allowed antisemitism to fester and thrive on campus, but in a recent article, Rep. Jamie Raskin – a Jewish member of the House – pointed out that Stefanik is often rubbing shoulders with antisemites and conspiracy theorists.

“She didn’t utter a peep of protest when [Trump] had Kanye West and Nick Fuentes over for dinner,” Raskin said. “Nick Fuentes, who doubts whether Oct. 7 even took place because he thinks it was some kind of suspicious propaganda move by the Israelis.” Rep. Raskin is right. Stefanik’s zero-tolerance policy for pro-Palestinian speech and a laissez-faire approach to anti-Jewish hate is self-serving and dangerous.

As a Jewish American who cares deeply about the future of both Israelis and Palestinians, I know that the fight to end antisemitism is intertwined with the fight to end all forms of hate, to end the occupation and to create a lasting and just peace in Israel/Palestine for both peoples. But this can only be achieved if we are grounded in the ideals of protecting and defending the civil and human rights of all peoples, not just those with whom we agree.

We should have an honest conversation on what we define as free speech and what steps over the line into hate speech, and colleges should encourage us to interrogate our own preconceived notions. However, in their endeavor to protect student speech and discourage hate speech, they have fallen short in ensuring their students feel safe being themselves on campus. The past months have made all too clear that schools have allowed racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic hatred to fester as well as the censorship of legitimate political speech.

There is no doubt that the line between hate speech and free speech needs to be reexamined and redrawn. But, this line cannot be drawn by extremist and self-interested politicians who only wish to censor dissenting voices and uplift bigoted ones.

It is clear to me, that while people like Ron DeSantis, Pastor John Hagee and Elise Stefanik may claim to be fighting antisemitism as they censor pro-Palestinian voices, they will inevitably end up hurting not only those students who have committed the crime of exercising their right to free speech but also those voices who they say to want to protect most: the voices of Jewish Americans like me.

If you don’t guarantee political and social rights to one group, you inevitably endanger the political and social rights of all of us, especially those who are destined to live next to and depend on each other – Israelis and Palestinians, Jewish and Muslim students, and beyond. A crackdown on legitimate dissent by one group will only provide precedent for leaders to continue this behavior with any other group whom they deem as a threat to their grasp on power.

About the Author
Meirav Solomon is an International Relations major with a concentration in the Middle East at Tufts University. She is a Conservative Jew from North Carolina and has spent considerable time in both Israel and Palestinian areas. Meirav is a proud Seeds of Peace alum, an alum of the Kivunim Gap Year program and an alum of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership.
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