We’ve all seen the photos and videos. Low-life antisemites tearing down the posters of abducted children. Really? How low can they go? I saw a video of three women in hijabs actually flipping off a digital billboard of an abducted infant. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be hilarious.
Unfortunately, it is tragic. And it is real. And as much as we might want to, the hatred is undeniable. What to do about it? Well, in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles, we responded by putting the posters behind glass so that the haters could not tear them down.
We defeated them, right?
Actually, I don’t think so. I think that we have been out-maneuvered. Is the goal really to keep the posters up? I care more about the people who rip down those posters. I want to see them. I want them to continue to do this so that all the world can recognize who they are. I will gladly pay to have the posters put back up again – a day, an hour, even a minute later. Let these virulent antisemites show themselves for who they are. AND… let’s watch them, let’s photograph them, let’s identify them.
I saw this coming. I was like a broken record, talking about the growing anger, divisiveness and latent antisemitism in the United States. I saw the reality of a civilization with three times more guns than people and I got increasingly uncomfortable. So, after a home invasion, a separate break-in, witnessing unhinged road rage and a growing amount of mass shootings (this year at a rate of nearly two a day), I moved to Central Europe. In fact, I started this article while traveling on a train across Poland. How ironic that today I feel safer in Warsaw than I do in Los Angeles.
Once upon a time, Poland was the most welcoming place to Jews in Europe. For nearly eight centuries, the Polish crown openly welcomed Jews, even protecting us with their army. More than 30 percent of Warsaw, the capital city, was Jewish. And yet seemingly overnight, everything changed.
The United States is in a similar situation. We have enjoyed protection, civil rights and an open economy. In places where Jews were not allowed, we created our own versions that in many cases were better and more successful. I am referring to country clubs, law firms, neighborhoods and everything in between. Regardless of the hurdles that were put in front of us, American Jews succeeded remarkably. We felt powerful, even untouchable. So, when I spoke about my fears and discomfort in the US, people said I was alarmist, even delusional.
Unfortunately, my delusion is proving to be prescient.
Our lives changed not on October 7th, but rather on October 8th. The 7th was of course the worst day in my life. But the fact that Amelek could behave like animals should not surprise anyone. We always knew the savagery endemic to Hamas. But what we did not know was the level of latent Jew-hatred that could be unleashed. On October 8th, the day after the massacre, “Pro-Palestinians” started showing up all over the world. This was before any Israeli response. People clamored in the streets to support the destruction of Israel, Israelis and Jews. And if there are any Jews left who think that being anti-Israel is different from being antisemitic, ask yourself, where were the protests when 600,000+ people died in the Syrian civil war (many of them Palestinian). Ask yourself, why people are only concerned about Palestinians in Israel and not in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt? If there are people who think this really is a human rights issue, ask yourself where are the protests about the 500,000 people murdered in Ukraine? Or about the death tolls in ongoing African wars? Or gay and women’s rights in Iran? Where is the outrage about Hamas and Islamic militants killing their own people or using civilians as military shields?
From “The River to The Sea” means annihilation of Jews – not Israelis, Jews. And if you think we’re safe in our American cocoon, think again. The last 45 days have seen an unprecedented rise in antisemitic acts everywhere, even in our sacred USA.
But you already know this. The question is what we can do about it. The good news is that we have a case study only 85 years ago. There is a LOT to learn from that time.
The Jews in Germany were extremely successful. They felt untouchable. They did not believe the racism would last. They told themselves that the current state of hatred was a temporary aberration. So often, I have asked myself, why didn’t they leave or do more? Watching the speed of the antisemitic turn, I now understand. Even with my prescience, I could have never imagined the tide turning so quickly.
What we can learn from 1930s Germany is this: If we have power and wealth now, we need to use it now. We cannot assume that we will always have this money and power. We need to work now as a singular voice, as a singular nation, and call out what is happening. And we need to use everything in our arsenal.
Obviously, if someone is attacked, press charges to the full effect of the law. And if we see injustice (like the killer of Paul Kessler being released on minimal bail) we need to speak out relentlessly. But this is not enough. We can and need to do more.
I propose taking away the glass. Let’s get those posters out there so that the haters can rip them down. Let’s create and maintain a Shame Network. If we witness any kind of antisemitic (or even anti-American) behavior, put it on film, do everything possible to identify the culprit and publish that name and face everywhere. Let’s build a database of antisemites and their acts – with names and photographs. Let’s make antisemitic acts have consequences. A person parades around screaming From River to the Sea? Get him or her on camera. Someone rips down a poster of an abducted child, get it on film. A student signs an anti-Israel petition, keep that name on the list. Let’s promote the shame this deserves. That way, before any of our businesses hire someone, they can check if a name is on that list and if the face matches. We should post photos and names in places where we own retail businesses, in medical waiting rooms, even on billboards. Imagine the shame quotient of an antisemite’s name and face posted everywhere we have influence. The power of shame is palpable.
But this has to be done now because we have power now. We have wealth now. We have a voice now. One thing that Europe 90 years ago proves is that it can all go away quickly. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to come together. Pre-war Germany teaches us that silence is death and time is not our friend.
Am Yisrael Chai