Uncategorized · June 8, 2024 0

The “New” Antisemitism Can Be Found in the Strangest Place

Marty Levine

June 8, 2024

“In the effort to strengthen the flame of support for Israel, there is a huge effort to throw the gasoline of antisemitism on the fire…What was concerning two years ago has indeed gotten worse.  Organizations like the ADL, Jewish Federations, AIPAC, AJC, and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations have doubled down on their efforts to defend a less and less defensible Israel, weaponizing anti-Semitism and making it harder to combat anti-Semites. In making a challenge of Israel an attack on Jews they are making it harder to place the battle against anti-Semitism where it should be, alongside the effort to raise up others who have been marginalized. Letting Israel escape responsibility for its behaviors and the racism of its occupation does not benefit the Jewish people. “

When I wrote these words last December, I didn’t know how large an inferno Israel’s supporters were prepared to unleash.

The horror of Israel’s war on the people of Gaza has been so visible that it has become difficult for many of Israel’s supporters to defend. It has sparked a level of opposition that is now mirroring the 1960s when streets and campuses were filled with protests against the Vietnam War. Defending the horror of whole families being wiped out, of children left without limbs, of famine and displacement for millions as justifiable began to be too difficult a task for many American Jews who see themselves as politically progressive and as defenders of human rights.  

Day after day we all can see and bear witness to the story of Israel’s brutality.

Amos Harel, writing in Haaretz this week told his readers about an Israeli army (the IDF) that is out of control:

In Gaza, in the West Bank and in bases in Israel, soldiers record themselves destroying Palestinian property and civilian infrastructure, blowing up homes without permission and spreading political messages identified with the far right. What is photographed and distributed is only the tip of the iceberg: The vast majority of offenses are committed beyond the range of the cameras, and in the vast majority of these cases, the army responds weakly if at all. 

After Israel’s bombs ignited a fire in a refugee camp near Rafah in Gaza killing at least 45 and injuring many more the New York Times reported that the bombs used were American-made and Israel’s care to avoid civilian casualties seemed lacking:

Larry Lewis, a former Pentagon and State Department adviser who has written several federal reports on civilian harm, said…he was troubled that in surveillance footage released by the military, four people appeared to be outside the targeted buildings before the strike. Mr. Lewis said the decision to strike at that time raises questions about whether the Israeli military “knew and accepted a possible civilian toll” or failed to notice the people, suggesting potential problems in their precautionary measures.

Wes J. Bryant, a retired American Air Force master sergeant who served on a task force critical of Israel’s use of weapons in Gaza, told The Times that he had dropped many GBU-39 bombs during his military service and that this strike was problematic.

“It indicates continued targeting negligence — either an unwillingness or inability to effectively safeguard civilians,” Mr. Bryant said. “When you use a weapon that’s intended as precision and low collateral damage in an area where civilians are saturated, it really negates that intended use.”

And day by day Israel’s strongest defenders in the American Jewish Community turn their eyes away from these horrors and point to the “antisemitism” of those crying out for this horror to stop and calling for a new Israel-Palestine that respects the equality and humanity of all of its people not just its Jewish residents.

If you receive the ADL’s emailed Daily Crisis Alert, you learn that “these are tough times for students, parents, and any of us who care about our alma maters. We’re so glad this alert has been able to keep you informed — and keep you activated. Stay in the fight because never is now!“ but you will find no mention of the Rafah bombing. Nor will you find a reference to the actions of Israeli soldiers in Gaza. “Never is now” not because of the death and devastation being rained down upon Palestinians living in Gaza or because Palestinians living under Israeli occupation continue to be killed and displaced. No, never is now because the campus protests are in your face and are saying things that challenge you and tell another story about what modern Israel is.

On the website of the AJC (American Jewish Committee), you will find no mention of Israel’s brutality or of the pain of the Palestinian people. Its most recent press release condemns the International Court of Justice for its call for Israel to immediately “halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The same is true if you visit the website of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee.)  Drop in there and you are greeted by this call to action. “Tell Congress: Condemn the ICC’s Latest Anti-Israel Attack”

In my community, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was attacked because of his having the will to cast the tie-breaking vote when the City Council passed a cease-fire resolution. It was not just that Mayor Johnson disagreed with Israel’s organizational supporters, it was that he was fanning the flames of antisemitism. As reported by ABCTV Channel 7:

In its letter, the Jewish United Fund, or JUF, said it is not only “appalled” that Johnson helped pass what Jewish groups called a one-sided resolution, but they took aim at the way the mayor handled the meeting, which they said fanned the flames of antisemitism.

“We had antisemitic threats, we had people denying what happened on October 7th, a member of community got up to speak she was heckled, Ald. Silverstein was heckled, and no one came to their defense,” Goldwin said.

And those attacks have continued unabated. JUF and its allies even boycotted a meeting with the Mayor, that was called by him to discuss antisemitism in Chicago because of his stance on Israel/Palestine.

All of this, I think, tells us how indefensible Israel has become. Their appeals to peoplehood were falling flat. So, they have doubled down on fanning the flames of Jewish fear in the hope they can defend the indefensible.

And in this process, they are making the world less safe for Jews. Michael Brizon writing recently for Haaretz made this very clear. He indicates that by equating Israel with all Jews, Jewish leaders are endangering the people they claim to be protecting.

When Israel acts wildly, it doesn’t suffer all the consequences of its actions. Thanks to the “new antisemitism,” the entire Jewish people is seen as a party to its crimes and pays a price. But the “Jewish people” did not kill 35,000 people, did not starve masses of people, did not wipe out hospitals, demolish cities, and uproot millions from their homes. “The Jews” did not do all these things. The Israelis did. Just the Israelis…they defame the Jewish people as they’ve never been defamed before, pin on them responsibility for criminal actions they never committed, endanger their lives and routines…

Challenging the inhumanity that Modern Israel personifies is not antisemitic. It is VERY Jewish.  Arik Ascherman recently reminded me of how true this is when he cited a 1988 essay written by S. Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky).  He wrote that to be Jewish is to know that:

To exist, to survive, not to be destroyed – yes, of course. No question.

But in the struggle for existence, even in the struggle for existence – there are things that a Jew is forbidden to do and that a Jew cannot do. By virtue of being Jewish. Even when it’s hard.

Such as, to inherit what is not his/hers.

Such as, ignoring the tears of the oppressed.

Such as, to expel his/her neighbors.

Such as, oppressing others what is a way that s/he would hate to be oppressed.

For this reason, as a proud Jew, I invite you to join me in the work of building a different Israel//Palestine that, from the river to the sea, respects all its people.