Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Back to Opinion

While The Left And Right Point Fingers, No One Is Fighting Anti-Semitism

It’s not easy being hated. With every Jewish holiday, we tell our kids the stories — of these people or those — who have tried to kill us all.

But they lost! We’re still here! So we rejoice and eat but never, ever forget.

But we do forget. It’s easy to forget. We live here, in America; we are free people with good lives. We have things Jews of previous generations did not have. We have a feeling of security and stability that our ancestors couldn’t know. And yet, the result, the dead Jews on the synagogue floor, is the same.

Anti-Semitism isn’t “on the rise” in America anymore. It has fully arrived and Jews have to really face it.

But we aren’t. We’re allowing ourselves to be divided and weakened at a time when she should be standing together for strength.

We pretend to understand our current anti-Semitic moment, but we don’t. Instead, we continue to parse different kinds of anti-Semitism, each according to his or her own politics, as if it matters. This kind is “worse” than that kind. We can tolerate this one but not that. Oh, this is white supremacist anti-Semitism, while this is Islamist anti-Semitism. And this anti-Semitism is the fully mainstream kind, the New York Times running a cartoon featuring a blind Donald Trump led by a Benjamin Netanyahu dog.

The examples abound. Alluding to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the New York Times, Ted Cruz tweeted, “The anti-Semitic Left… is getting worse.” On the other side, in an absurd piece, Jonathan Chait found a way to tie the Chabad Poway attack to Republicans.

We spend the days after the slaughter of our people at each other’s throats, arguing about whose side is exacerbating the problem, when the truth is, the ideology behind Jew-hatred is irrelevant.

We do it because it’s comforting. If it’s just white supremacists who hate us, that’s easy. They’re marginalized in American culture already. They will find no open defenders. If the problem is contained, if it’s white nationalists attacking our houses of worship, we can post extra security; we can have armed members. The real threat of anti-Semitism is not only in random attacks against Jews but in how the rest of society reacts to those attacks. And so far, Americans are united in opposition to the white supremacist terrorists who seek to murder Jews.

But the rest is so much harder to challenge. This is why when Congresswoman Omar makes anti-Semitic comments, a group of Jews on the anti-Zionist fringe became her loudest defenders. To the rest of the left, criticizing her for Jew hatred is Islamophobic. Her identity protects her to be able to criticize yours.

This is why for months, while there were frequent attacks on Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, you never heard of them. What was the ideology of these attackers? We have no idea. Maybe the hatred doesn’t need an ideology at all. The attackers weren’t white supremacists, so the news was muted. There was violence but not death, so it went mostly ignored.

All of this is part of the same phenomenon. It’s all Jew-hatred, just under different banners.

So why do we care so much about the labels and the sides? Who does it help to differentiate the various political motives of this ancient virus? Criticizing it inconsistently will lead directly to its normalization.

And we allow talk of Israel to murky the water. The outsized attention paid to Israel, the intense scrutiny and out-of-whack criticism, that’s anti-Semitic too. The fact that Jews participate in that deluge doesn’t make it less anti-Semitic. It’s the singling out of Jews that makes it so.

As I write this, news is breaking that two days after publishing its original anti-Semitic cartoon, the New York Times ran yet another cartoon with Benjamin Netanyahu as its subject. This one, of Netanyahu carrying the Ten Commandments while brandishing a selfie stick, is less clear in message. But when the Prime Minister of a country with a population smaller than New Jersey is featured in cartoons at the “Paper of Record” this frequently, it’s a troubling obsession.

The hatred of Israel is so acceptable that Jews themselves take pains to separate themselves from that country. They may come for you last when you do that, but they will still come for you.

It’s a dangerous moment. It’s not just us being killed. In the last six weeks, Christians were killed in Sri Lanka, Muslims in New Zealand. We hope that everything can be tied into a grander point because then we can fight that. “They” hate religion or peaceful people at prayer. “They” hope to sow chaos. We want it to make sense but it doesn’t. It’s not one “they,” especially when it comes to anti-Semitism, and the sooner Jews accept that, the safer it will be for us all.

Karol Markowicz is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter: @karol.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.