With even Steven Spielberg saying this week that antisemitism is at its worst point since the 1930s, it’s a crisis our community better be taking seriously. Last week our teenage daughter had to take the subway to Crown Heights from Manhattan in the middle of the day. It was a time when tons of religious Jews are traveling to Brooklyn, scores of police, and is safe. Still, she refused. She told me that she had read about the National Day of Hate that neo-Nazis and white supremacists had proclaimed against the Jews, and she was terrified being on the train alone.
It struck me that even my own daughter — raised in a proud Jewish home in the capital of American Judaism — was beginning to really fear antisemitism.
I don’t want my children growing up afraid. I don’t want them taking off their yarmulkes on university campuses in what’s supposed to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” There is nothing free about fearing that you’re going to be beaten up in the streets of New York for wearing a magen Dovid.
This situation is intolerable and it’s time we fought back.
We have do things differently, because what we’ve tried to date has not worked. Although there are scores of organizations that fight antisemitism, it keeps on metastasizing. Here is the number one rule that will change the antisemitism narrative and put our attackers on the defensive.
It goes like this:
Attack, attack, always attack.
Never be on the defensive.
Never allow the Jew-haters to corner us into a place where we are forced to defend ourselves against their lies, which gives them a de facto victory.
What antisemites seek to do is always have Jews put into the “No, it’s not true that I’m beating my wife” category. If they can put us on the defensive, they’ve already won.
Take Kanye West. His purpose was to initiate a conversation wherein he could attack Jews as greedy parasites who feed off the success of others. His Jewish lawyers and his Jewish agents were all sponging off him, he declared. This is the way of the international Jew. He’s a bloodsucker who cannot create anything on his own. Kanye wanted our response to be, “Well, Kanye. That’s not true. We Jews are not bottom feeders. We’re good people.”
Is there anyone that thinks that he wouldn’t have achieved his objective of demonizing Jews by having us explain to the world why were not miscreants? Is that effective PR? No, we’re not scroungers and leeches?
Rather, as soon as he started talking about how much he loves Hitler and hates Jews, the conversation should have gone something like this:
“We won’t even dignify the putrid, disgusting comments of the racist antisemite Kanye West, a man who hates Blacks even more than he hates Jews. While decent Americans around the country were shocked to their core at the murder of George Floyd by the police and marched against such senseless brutality on the part of law enforcement, Kanye was out insinuating that George Floyd had died of a fentanyl overdose. It’s not surprising, then, that someone who hates his own community would hate Jews even more. Racists and antisemites are interchangeable. Kanye West is an inveterate antisemite, and for someone who claims to be a genius and an artist, not even an original one at that. His vile attacks against Jews come from the infamous czarist forgery, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ The Jewish community deplores, and indeed will boycott, any business that has this putrid Jew-hater as its spokesman.”
What antisemites wish to do is always put the Jewish community in the defense dock. We never should allow ourselves to be there.
Note how the Israel haters go about their attacks against the Jewish state, especially on campus. “You Jews are thieves and occupiers. You stole Palestinian land and you continue to brutalize and murder Palestinian children.” Rather than falling into this trap and responding with “No, we’re not child killers,” our response has to be to go on the attack against these brazen liars. They deny history and are ignorant even of the Christian Bible, no friend to the Jews, but which clearly states that 2,000 years ago, the Jews were the owners of the land and the Romans were the occupiers.
“The real terror for Palestinian rights is not Israel but Hamas and the Palestinian Authority,” we must declare. “Not only is Israel not a threat to the Palestinians, but rather, it is the great Arab hope, something that the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, and even Saudi Arabia are beginning to recognize. What Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas want the world to believe is that Palestinians are not ready for freedom or a market economy and must be brutally suppressed by their corrupt regimes. But what Israel represents is that even in the Middle East democracy and open economies — not to mention freedom of speech and worship — can flourish.
“Hamas is a brutal and bloodthirsty death cult that has stolen billions of dollars in international aid from the Palestinians and used it to murder Jewish children and deprive all hope for Palestinian children. Mahmoud Abbas is a dictator who is in the 16th year of his four-year elected term and runs a kleptocracy where he and his sons and cronies likewise steal billions of dollars from his people. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Arabs have equal rights to Jews and even greater rights because they are not compelled to serve in the military, as we Jews are. And if you think compulsive military service is not a big deal, just look at how it tore apart the United States during the Vietnam era.
“As for Palestinian clashes with Israeli soldiers, Israel gave autonomy to 90 percent of all Palestinians with the Oslo Accords and has tried countless times to implement a final status agreement. The result? Endless dead Jews murdered in terror attacks. Because peace cannot take place until Palestinians recognize both Israel’s permanence, as well as its unaltered status as a Jewish state, something they have steadfastly refused to do.
“And don’t lecture us Jews about violence when Hamas has a genocidal charter to exterminate every Jew on earth, and Mahmoud Abbas is a Holocaust denier who won’t even acknowledge the greatest genocide in the history of the world. He is like an American white supremacist who denies that America ever even practiced slavery or Jim Crow. If he were your negotiating partner, would you trust him?”
Why is that we in the Jewish community always rush to defend ourselves instead of attacking our enemies?
I’ll tell you why. Because when you’ve been hated for 2,000 years, you begin to internalize some of that hatred. You even begin to ask yourself, “Can they all be wrong? Are we Jews really not somewhat culpable? Maybe we are too into money. Maybe we did take Palestinian land.” And that’s when you lose the battle: When you allow the hatred aimed at you to pierce your skin and your sense of self.
Here, we Jews have to learn from our Black brothers and sisters. After hundreds of years of slavery and hatred, there were those in the African-American community who also became apologists. But the great Martin Luther King Jr. changed all that. He made it clear that although whites were his brothers, there were way too many of his brothers who had become sick with hatred and befouled by racism. Not only did he never apologize for being Black, he made it clear that America had to be healed of its sickness.
The same is true of antisemitism. We Jews are a community of unparalleled generosity, kindness, openness, and goodness. Israel is a country with 1.3 million Muslim citizens — as many as in all of the U.K. — and it is a country that is moral and democratic to the core.
It’s the United Nations that has become sick with Israel hatred, and it’s the world that has harbored a loathsome and deplorable violent streak against Jews for 2,000 years.
It’s time they finally healed. We can help them by going on the attack against antisemitism at all times and never apologizing, God forbid, for being Jewish.
Am Yisrael chai!
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood is the author of “Judaism for Everyone” and “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.