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Today's antisemitism could be more dangerous than ever

Despite the grim times, there is room for hesitant optimism.

By: Jordan Cope | The Jerusalem Post | May 16, 2024

Every year during the Passover Seder, Jews recite “Vehi Sheamda,” a verse that warns of antisemites who will arise in every generation and seek to destroy them.

This April, it hit close to home more than ever before. Passover not only coincided with the continuing Hamas-Israel war, but we are witnessing a new wave of antisemitism on American college campuses. Horrifying scenes of Jews being assaulted by mobs and blocked from campus evoke memories of Nazi-era persecution.   

The Seder encourages Jewish youth to ask questions. These can include: How is it possible that antisemitism appears to be gaining significant traction in America – the leader of the free world – and how is this new strain of antisemitism different from all others?

Today’s antisemitism, if left unaddressed, could be more dangerous than ever, demonstrating a new ability to spread globally and instantaneously. Unlike in centuries past, contemporary antisemitism now seeks to promote a world in which Jews are not welcome anywhere – neither in Diaspora nor Israel. Jews who wish to remain in the Diaspora must prepare to fight back and redeem rotting institutions that seek their exclusion and downfall. Time is of the essence.

On October 07, 2023, Hamas invaded Israel and massacred 1,200 innocent people, raping, torturing, and kidnapping many victims. The attack amounted to the largest massacre of Jews since the end of the Holocaust.

Misinformation, often purposeful, surrounding Israel’s ensuing self-defense campaign against the regional proxies of Iran – which also seek Israel’s destruction – has inspired antisemites and the uninformed to collaborate.

Antisemites have long depended on the uninformed to spread their agenda en masse. Conspiracies, which while clearly baseless today, appeared plausible to the masses historically. Whereas antisemites once accused Jews of killing Christian children, spreading the Black Plague, or controlling society through banking, nowadays they similarly accuse the Jewish state of targeting Palestinian children, and American Jews of influencing US foreign policy. 

Without doubt, however, the anti-Israel cause is where the most dangerous strain of antisemitism and its conspiracies have found a home. This strain seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state’s right to exist by all means necessary, and deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination as enshrined under international law by denying the legitimacy of Zionism – the belief that the Jewish state should be located in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.

As naive students across campuses nowadays join rallying calls to “Free Palestine” from “the river to the sea” while demonstrating their ignorance by accusing Jews both in America and Israel of colonialism and complicity in genocide, they legitimize a new vision for antisemitism.

In centuries and millennia past, antisemites often simply just did not want Jews in their backyard. Antisemitism was largely contained geographically to certain villages, kingdoms, countries, or even continents. Bigotry would spread, massacres would occur, and Jews would often flee to a nearby location. 

Given the current popularity of social media, and the instantaneous speed with which misinformation and antisemitism can now easily spread, the ability of Jews to flee to other places in the Diaspora will become less of a possibility over time. 

False stories in news media

NOWADAYS, HOSTILE foreign media outlets and human rights agencies – such as Islamist Qatar’s Al Jazeera and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose very employees have reportedly double-dipped as Hamas operatives and commanders – continue to push false stories that are then cited and certified by media giants and government bodies. Such reporting bodies have literally scapegoated the Jewish state for hundreds of deaths it did not cause. 

In this recent war alone, these reporting bodies wrongly accused Israel of bombing the Al Ahli Hospital (killing 500 civilians) and the Bread Massacre (a stampede that killed 100+ civilians), and wrongly reported that more children died in this Gaza war than in all wars worldwide over the last four years (an estimated 200,000 children died in the Tigray War alone).

The misinformation surrounding the conflict fuels antisemitism, as it inflames anger against Jews. Whereas America has since experienced a 400% spike in antisemitic incidents since October 7, the UK and France have experienced near 600% and 400% spikes. The beacons of Western tolerance are disappearing rapidly.  

What also makes today’s antisemitism more dangerous is its ability to penetrate ideological differences and forge the most unholy and unlikely of alliances – bringing together secularists and religious fanatics, anarchic socialists, and jihadis – as they rally millions to their cause.

Many might argue that America and the West are exceptional and that its institutions are sufficiently prepared to resist the current rise of antisemitism. However, recent displays of campus antisemitism clearly indicate that if university leadership – America’s most educated – cannot protect its Jewish students, surely other institutions will soon expose their vulnerability to the newest form of antisemitism. 

As antisemitic students receive degrees en masse from America’s most prestigious institutions, they too will assume leadership positions in all facets of American civil society and contribute to the compounding problem. As Jews face mounting antisemitism in the West, Iran continues its proxy wars bent on destroying Israel and displacing the Jewish population into the cauldron of the Diaspora.

The Seder compels Jews to invoke their historical consciousness and reflect from the Exodus onward. In the past century alone, Jewish communities that thrived for millennia in Egypt, Iraq, Persia, and Europe were effectively extinguished overnight. Jews in America, the West, and the greater Diaspora must heed the course of history and realize that their experiences in the Diaspora might too be fleeting.

Despite the grim times, there is room for hesitant optimism. The Jewish people have allies who understand the moment that we are in. With their support, together we can fight hatred and build a better, more promising future. 

The writer is an attorney and the director of policy education at StandWithUs, an international nonpartisan organization that combats antisemitism and misinformation about Israel.


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