Jews and Antisemitism- why do we get it so wrong?


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I’ve spent years arguing with anti-Semites online. I’ve argued with them since before it was called “online”, back in the days of BBS services, dial up modems; green and black monitors. They haven’t changed much, just like Jews haven’t changed much. I almost see them as a dim, monstrous reflection. A true anti-Semite is every bit the internationalist as a Jewish banker. They may cloak themselves in any number of guises, but their anti-Jewish identity is always primary. Countless times I’ve seen self-described White Nationalists and Muslim Extremists speak with ease about “the Jews”, all differences forgotten. Jewish words and ideas are extremely powerful to Anti-Semites. They believe one Jewish woman can influence the thoughts of an entire nation. If an organization contains thousands of people, and five of them are Jewish, an anti-Semite will believe the Jews are in control, regardless of their position. Jewish people saying things drive them nuts, no matter the topic. Anti-Semites will leave nasty comments under an online recipe… “That’s not REALLY a Cherry Pie, JEW!” Always we are the focus, always we are the problem. So why, after so long dealing with this, do we not respond more effectively? Why does it always seem that antisemitism, once rooted, continues to spread?

There are a lot of reasons for this, but some are under our control. As a community, we simply don’t do well when confronted with this issue.

One great example is the saga of Mel Gibson. It’s a simple story. Mel Gibson makes a movie about Jesus. Jews complain. The complaining accomplishes nothing. Jews double down. Some of the behavior was beyond cringeworthy. Wearing concentration camp outfits (Jesus was a Nazi?) to protest the premier. Going on and on. Mel, drunk one night, had something of a response. Jews were overjoyed! We’re right! He’s a real Jew hater!!!

Was he?

It seems to me one might make the argument that “the Jews” struck first, and an inebriated Mel finally responded. Not to condone his words… but is there not something to this? Would Mel Gibson EVER have become an anti-Semitic icon had Jews not protested his work, calling him an anti-Semite before he had spoken on the subject? Is it hateful towards Jews to simply make a film about Jesus? I saw “The Passion of the Christ” with a Christian girlfriend, and I can’t fathom what the issue was. Jews, quite frankly, jumped the gun.

Fast forward to the Donald Trump campaign. Against a field of mostly establishment Neo-Cons, Trump didn’t get the support of established Jewish journalists and commentators. This was quickly noted.

Trump, as I have said before, has lived in NYC for decades, surrounded by Jewish people. There has never been an accusation of antisemitism against him. This fact didn’t seem to matter, though, as the same Jewish journalists and commentators who criticized him before began using his anti-Semitic support as an excuse for more criticism. A man who has lived and worked around Jews his whole life, accused of both outright anti-Semitism and covert support of it, for no action of his own. I have questions: Why should Trump condemn people he has no connection to? Why should Trump give those people any attention by mentioning them? Many in the Jewish community were shrill in their condemnation of Trump, but few seemed to think this through. What is accomplished when someone who doesn’t hate Jews is accused of antisemitism? The Jewish community squares off, in this case, against Republican voters who have shown strong support for Israel and the Jewish community. The antisemities laugh, watching us lose genuine support. And for what? Trump won anyway, and the Jewish community finds itself with a President we openly opposed, and a DNC that’s moving away from us. What a situation!

It’s true that those on the political Right who hate Jewish people have more of a voice than they did before. It’s true that they are emboldened. Before we blame Trump for this, we need to look in the mirror, stop overreacting to internet trolls, and absolutely stop using the term “antisemitism” when what we really mean is “I don’t agree with you.” It’s that simple. The days of crying wolf must end.

2 thoughts on “Jews and Antisemitism- why do we get it so wrong?”

  1. Well, what is a “Jew” ? As a Christian I look at it as there are believing Jews and there are secular Jews. God chose a people, but not all of them have a relationship with Him. I think they are radically different in how they think and act. I once had a conversation with a woman who was studying for a masters in Judaic Studies and I had high hopes about learning something from her and she didn’t even believe in God. Why study Judaism, then? Jews without God can get pretty wacky.

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