Devin Sper

The non-existent wave of anti-Semitism

There is no wave of anti Semitism.  As it turns out two malcontents made threatening calls to Jewish institutions, neither of whom was motivated by anti Semitism.  Most, at least 1000, were robo-calls made by a disturbed American-Israeli teenager rejected by the Israeli Army.  Eight more copy cat calls were made by a discredited reporter, Juan Thompson, to create trouble for a former girlfriend by making threats in her name.  Police suspect Thomason may have also been responsible for overturning Jewish gravestones in his home city of St Louis.

Yet even after Thompson’s arrest, the ADL’s Evan Bernstein claimed that we are experiencing an “unprecedented” wave of anti Semitism and that the arrest will not stop it.    Another ADL official declared: “We’ve never seen anything like this before.”

While neither perpetrator was motivated by anti Semitism both may have targeted Jewish institutions precisely because the predictable overreaction would garner media attention.  The panic within the American Jewish community was as predictable as it was uncalled for and unseemly.  Such needless Jewish panic is also a self-filling prophecy as it inevitably attracts copy-cat nut cases.

An even great danger in such overreaction, by the Jewish community and its institutions, is that it undermines our credibility when it comes to the very real threat posed by Jihadis.  Jihadis do not make bomb threats to JCCs, they place bomb in them, as they did in Buenos Aires.  In that case, they did not topple Jewish gravestones, but caused 85 new ones to be installed.   We need to focus more on the serious threat posed by active Jihadist cells and less on imaginary threats posed by a few malcontents.  Alienated losers pose no existential, threat to our community, whereas the Jihadis do.

There is also an important lesson to be learned from the incredible empathy and support for the Jewish Community demonstrated by  American society, media and government.  President Trump began his address to congress with a condemnation of anti Semitism and a vow of support for the Jewish community.  In heartwarming scenes Vice President Pence and hundreds of ordinary citizens including Muslim groups, rolled up their sleeves to restore and clean off Jewish gravestones.   It is this sort of public support for the Jewish community, and not a non-existent wave of anti Semitism, that is unprecedented in all Jewish History.

So, the next time there is an anti Semitic incident, real or imagined, let’s not overreact, jump to unfounded conclusions or panic.  Let’s keep things in their proper perspective and remember that we are not in Czarist Russia, or the medieval ghettos of Europe.  That here in 21st century America we have the law, media, society and state power squarely on our side and that it is the anti-Semites who are isolated, discredited, outside the Pale and without any support, or hope whatsoever.

About the Author
Devin Sper was born and raised in New York and lived in Israel for 10 years. He holds a degree in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served in the Israel Defense Forces. Devin Sper is the author of The Future of Israel, winner of a 2005 GLYPH award.
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