Sometimes we speak of antisemitism as systemic, a wide-reaching “thing” or “concept” that affects a group as a whole, rather than a series of events that affects various people individually.
Sometimes the press or powers that be will dismiss what they think is an isolated display of poor judgement for what is a display of antisemitism. They may call it a misplaced power-reach, but it is really a demonstration of antisemitism that contributes to an overall atmosphere of antisemitism.
In the Ukraine this past February, a high ranking police official sent a letter to the head of the Jewish community in the city of Kolomyya (about 500 miles from Kiev) requesting, for no stated reason, the names, addresses, and contact information for all Jews in the area. This letter was sent to the head of the Jewish community in that city, who, of course, did not comply.
This Ukranian police official’s behavior may be dismissed by many as a crazy, one-time display of an over-zealous bureaucrat in a power grab, and that we should not be alarmed by it or infer any greater message or trend from it.
But is it just a single isolated incident?
Are the seemingly small events that transpire demonstrating such overt antisemitism really that dismissible? Or is the overall global uptick in antisemitism a collective of all these so-called one-time overreaches and failures in judgement by officials, politicians, activists, etc.?
How about the tweets of mayor DeBlasio of NYC. He chastises Jewish communities while empathizing with the Muslim NYC community.
April 23: DeBlasio’s tweet is sympathetic to the Muslim community in the pain they feel not being able to worship communally–noting other groups share that pain with them. A second tweet also made known the 400+ food distribution places for halal meals encouraging people to come out and get their meals.
April 23 tweet: “To those celebrating, I know it’s painful to not worship together at a mosque or be with your family or friends. But your sacrifice is playing a critical role in fighting this disease and saving lives.”
And later that day: “To the Muslim New Yorkers beginning their celebrations tonight who need halal meals, we have them across our 400+ grab and go meal sites, and are bringing hundreds of thousands more to the 32 sites most frequented by our Muslim communities. Go to http://nyc.gov/getfood for more information.”
Replies to this tweet included: “Did you hand out special meals to Jews over Passover or Christians during Lent?”
Moreover, I was unable to find in his twitter feed a mention of Jews’ and Christians’ holy days. This is not to say I think DeBlasio’s tweet to the Muslim community was wrong; but that the lack of encouraging communication to other communities, namely Christians and Jews, is telling.
But then on April 29, DeBlasio went after the Jewish community as a whole in response to a funeral procession that had about 300 Orthodox Jews, many of whom wore masks, in attendance. The tweet singles out the Jewish community as a whole and does not mention the many other gatherings of non-Jews throughout the city, including a run at a Trader Joe’s grocery store or the crowds at the port welcoming the USS Comfort—events among many gatherings that lacked social distancing compliance, and some of which were disbanded. Singling out specific social distancing violators is wrong in the sense that it didn’t call out other groups doing the same thing. Moreover, the tweet simply lumped all Jews together, so the tweet read as a specific targeting of a single religion, of which various forms exist. Not only that, and but only a few of whom were part of the event in question. The tweet pointed a finger at all Jews in the city.
The April 29 DeBlasio tweet reads: “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
He made no mention that he understands that they are in mourning or he is sympathizing with their pain, nor any offer for a free kosher meal pick up…no, just a chastising to all Jews and a side note to “all communities.”
DeBlasio apologized for singling out of Jews collectively, rather than to a particular group at hand, and also for NOT mentioning specific other groups who have violated city mandates, as an “unfortunate missed opportunity.”
NYC is home to the largest population of Jews in America—keep in mind, not all in the same sect or religious position.
The problem is that the damage is done and the readers saw the original context. Apologies are insincere; or if sincere, are dismissed by readers because those who believe the original intent likely feel he was forced to apologize for PR reasons.
The definition of antisemitism includes holding Jews to a different standard than for others. So while DeBlasio sends out sympathetic and empathetic tweets to one community and then alienates another—inside a single week—it is telling.
Continued, one-time evidence of antisemitism cannot be continually dismissed because all data is a compilation of single events.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, he attributes last year’s record high of antisemitic attacks in America to a “normalization of anti-Semitic tropes,” the “charged politics of the day” and social media. For 2020, he adds the COVID-19 crisis is fueling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
ADL 2019 numbers are in for the US:
2019: More American Jews were targets than in the last 40 years. Incidents included deadly attacks on a California synagogue, a Jewish grocery store in New Jersey and a rabbi’s New York home.
ADL’s 2019 Count: 2,107 antisemitic incidents: 61 physical assault cases (with 95 victims), 1,127 instances of harassment and 919 acts of vandalism.
The highest annual count in the history of the ADL’s counting (since 1979) Noted: 12 percent increase over the 1,879 incidents it counted in 2018.
The ADL’s count of anti-Semitic assaults, (61 assault cases) involved 95 victims. More than half of the assaults were in DeBlasio’s NYC –including 25 in Brooklyn.
Eight of those Brooklyn assaults happened during a span of eight days in December, primarily in neighborhoods where many Orthodox Jews live. (Orthodox Jews often feel the brunt because they are easily identified by their attire).
(Kunzelman, Michael, The Times of Israel, 12 May 2020)
So tell me again how De Blasio is a great friend to the Jews? Under his watch we see an increase in danger for those communities who have inhabited and contributed to NYC for hundreds of years. And we see no supportive tweets, only chastisement. This sends a message!
The data is clear. Antisemitism is on the rise. And those who in any way dismiss or apologize for it as but errors in interpretation, or better yet says that by calling out tweets and single incidents as antisemitism, it undermines any true fight against antisemitism as a whole. That dismissal is its own form of turning a blind eye. Mayors, congressional members, celebrities, and all public figures cannot be cavalier in their tweets. Hateful people in NYC are fueled by these tweets in their brazen attacks against Jews and use the tweets as an excuse for their violent behavior.
Let us not dismiss or underestimate the power of a specific derogatory comment or event against Jewish people or sweeping untruths about the state of Israel. These are fuel for those who want to continue to hate the Jewish people and the Jewish state. This is not fair and not just. And as Christians, we must not tolerate it.
Shavua Tov, have a great week.