We live in an age when what was old is new again. For most American Jews this rise in antisemitism is a surprise. There are many reasons why. But this new reality is unnerving. We have seen shootings at Temples and supermarkets. People were assaulted in the streets of New York City. People have been spit on, and kicked, and called names. It matters little if this is in the real world, or social media. For Americans who grew up over the last forty years, this is extremely unnerving. This does not happen in the greatest country on earth. Or at least we like to tell ourselves this story.
First off, I was not surprised. There is a long history of antisemitism in the United States. We used to have quotas at colleges and universities. Jews were openly discriminated against in job places as well. Why many Jews started businesses and gave jobs to other members of the community. This is also the reason for many of the Jewish social services organizations. These days they have expanded their reach outside the community, but originally this is the reason for them. Jewish hospitals like Mt. Sinai came from the exact place. Jews had issues accessing medical care.
All this has mostly been forgotten by American Jews. The last forty years, or so, have been great. Wearing a Star of David, or a headcover was accepted. I did not grow up in this country, so my experience was very different. In Mexico City, we knew we were Jews. We also remembered history, all the time.
When I was a young child the Holocaust was central to my identity. Not only was my father a survivor, so were my uncle and my aunt. Some family members had numbers on their arms. It’s not like we made a point of it. There was no need. In fact, until recently, in Mexico, people did not think it was necessary. As that generation does, this is becoming a central theme. And yes, there is a museum of tolerance in Mexico City. It covers more than just the Holocaust. When I was growing up we held remembrances during Holocaust Day, and names were read. These were the names of some of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
We sang resistance songs, some in Hebrew, later on in another school in Yiddish. I attended Jewish schools, where we followed the national program, but also had a parallel program in Jewish education. We knew we were members of the Tribe. We grew insulated from outer society for the most part. And that was fine for the community. When we went to college, we were very sure if who we were. I also grew up in a nation where we knew a good number of people did not like Jews. One of the most important print houses for Latin American antisemitic material is in the city of Guadalajara. Jews were often accused of being Christ-killers, and of globalism, and controlling the media. The material was distributed at stoplights in many cases.
The most dangerous time of the year was Good Friday. Partly because we had Passion plays on television. There were also many of these real-life representations of the passion in large and small towns alike. To this day the one at Iztapalapa continues and is central to the national identity. There is seal a ration of Church and Stare, but the state provides security and EMS services. And while officially the Catholic Church moved away from Jews killed Christ, that little nugget remains.
We knew that the community was always at risk, and took precautions. There are internal security and police patrols around Jewish institutions. We were always taught to be aware of our surroundings, and that we needed to be careful. Metal detectors and property checks were common, not because we loved this invasion of privacy. The fact is that from time to time there were bombs found in schools, for example. We had evacuation drills before they became common. And like Jewish communities around the world, we knew we could come under attack at any minute. American Jews are waking up to this reality. Over the last generation, American Jews were blessed with peaceful relations, and after the Holocaust, none of this was openly tolerated. We are at a very different moment in American history. The age of Donald Trump is not exactly one marked by tolerance.
According to the Anti-defamation League, more attacks are happening. They told the Washington Post that:
Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise around the country, leaving members of the Jewish community feeling frightened and unsafe. In New York City, anti-Semitic crimes have jumped 21 percent in the past year. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 1,879 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2018, including more than 1,000 instances of harassment.
”This is a national phenomenon that we are seeing and it’s frightening and it’s disturbing,” Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday. “If anyone thinks that something poisonous is not going on in this country, then they’re in denial.”
Experts say anti-Semitic violence has been rising for years. In 2018, a gunman stormed Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 congregants and wounding six others. It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States.
Last April, during the observance of Passover, a gunman killed a Jewish worshiper at a Poway, Calif., house of worship and injured three others.
American Jews are waking up to a new reality that is very familiar to Jews around the world. There are people out there who want Jews dead. They blame Jews for a series of problems in their countries, or globally. Some of this goes all the way back to Classical Greece and Egypt. This is a reality that many American Jews have not been educated on. The modern period started in the 19th century. The modern form of the virus has elements of white nationalism that are familiar to students of the phenomena.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which emerged from the Secret Police under the Tsars, has morphed into a globalist conspiracy headed by George Soros. It was part of Nazi ideology as well, which said that Jews were attempting to take over the world. However, when Jews repeat these conspiracies, they rarely know the etymology and origin of them. In many cases, they heard it on the internet and believe them, without questioning the origin.
In a few cases, such as that of Stephen Miller, they fully embrace the ideology of white supremacy, never mind that by definition they cannot be white. It makes my head hurt, but it is what it is.
We live in a world where increasingly Jewish people fear for their lives. Attacks, whether in the street, a temple, or at home, have increased. Symbols of faith become less visible, not because of pride, or lack of. It is just common sense. Yes, I have done this myself, not wearing a piece of jewelry that was my mother’s as a personal safety measure. I am sure both my mother and my father would understand. They grew up in that world, which is now intruding into the United States. Nor is this just. For Jews, Muslim Americans are finding themselves in the same place, and to a lesser extent immigrants from Latin America, or even native-born Hispanics.
Security at temples and situational awareness are important. Guards are popping up, as well as internal security organizations. Soon, perhaps, people will be again careful who knows what they are, or where they meet for prayer. This is already happening in places around the world. When I was in High School, I even checked classrooms before the school day started looking for things that did not belong. We may see that in the United States.
We have been very bad about transmitting a sense of history to our youth. American exceptionalism has clouded our minds, even if there were Jewish quotas at colleges at one point. In the past, we also saw more open antisemitism, including the wide distribution of publications like Henry Ford’s The International Jew. We even had people marching under the Swastika banner in the 1930s, and Maddison Square Garden saw a rally in 1939 that was indistinguishable from Nuremberg Rallies. Some of the rhetoric used by President Trump at his rallies is openly Hitlerian. What is old is new. You just need to replace Facebook for the local paper.
I went to the exhibit for the Violins of the Holocaust in Cleveland Ohio with my mother. And I remember Jewish teens saying that something like the Holocaust could never happen in America because we live in the greatest country on Earth. I remember telling these young people that once German Jews thought that as well. I remember those lessons of history. I grew in the shadow of the Holocaust and knew the meaning. At twenty-four…I could not handle the rigor of doing historical work in the field of Holocaust studies. Increasingly, I find myself writing these pieces, as we go down into that darkness once again.
Here is a link to a two-part series on far-right-wing radicalization. Consider this piece part of that. Yes, some themes will be repeated in this piece.
The far-Right and White Supremacy
Whenever we have a hate crime these days, the usual suspects are white supremacists. In the Trump era, they have become central to the story. Their toxic ideology has gone mainstream in America. Whether this is with members of Congress, or even in the administration. We know this because many of the policies emerging from this White House are white supremacy wet dreams. Some are driven by Miller who considers Camp of the Saints a worthy book. It’s not, but it is a bible of sorts within the movement and it also serves as a warning. It was one of the earliest to speak to the fear of white genocide and replacement by others, usually people of black and brown complexions.
The border wall is central to white supremacy mythology since it will keep these people out. The problem with them, from a white supremacy perspective, is that they are lesser humans. They will pollute the culture and they will transform the United States away from a white Christian nation. This is at the heart of white nationalism, to keep white nations white. And to keep them within the true fold of Christianity.
They do believe that there are differences among the races. Oh never mind that research into human biology shows that the differences between people are cosmetic, and nothing more. This belief goes back to the nineteenth century and is at the heart of Eugenics, which some in the movement still believe is possible.
White nationalism philosophy is not limited to the United States. This is why Jews know this and take precautions globally. Then there are some aspects to this that are puzzling since if there is one genocide that is extremely well documented, it is the Holocaust. A core belief from the white supremacy movement is that the Holocaust never happened, or when they are being kind, to the extent it did. Why? Logistics.
The first person to argue this was Salvador Borrego, a Mexican journalist who came with this in a book called Derrota Mundial, Global Defeat. He was on the extreme far right of Mexico and his book came with all the core ideas about modern Holocaust denial. It was first printed in Spain after the war. (Yes, I do have the first edition of this at home. My father bought a copy partly out of disbelief that somebody could write this so close to the end of the war.)
The first is that there was no way that the gas chambers could have handled that many people. If you visit any Holocaust denial group this is a core belief. The chambers were not sufficient to kill all six million. And in fact, they were not. But they were not the only way to kill a population. Before they were implemented, for mass murder with fewer side effects for the troops, special units of the German police and SS were formed into Einsatzgruppen, they made victims dig mass graves, and shot them in the back. For some odd reason, the Germans found that troops were damaged by this, so new and improved, more industrial means, where needed.
The Germans tried things like vehicles where the method of choice was Carbon Monoxide poisoning. It was slow and inefficient. The gas chambers were the most efficient method of mass murder, and it is extremely well documented. In the end, fourteen million people were killed. It was not just Jews. However, it was one-third of Europe’s Jewish population. My family alone lost over three hundred of our kin.
These people go so far as to call the Wannsee Conference a fantasy, never mind it was also well documented. However, while they deny the Holocaust happened, they are willing to implement one today. Why? They see Jews as the enemy within, or worst.
Why? According to White Supremacists Jews have implemented a replacement theory of whites across white countries, why? Well, the reasons are many. How? By mass immigration from lesser and darker countries. Why? This way they can fully take over white countries and practice the mass genocide of white people. This mass replacement is at the heart of the Camp of the Saints.
Then there is the last piece to the puzzle. Jews have already taken over the government. In certain places, it is called the Zionist Occupation Government, ZOG for short. If you were wondering where the talk of a Jewish coup standing for impeachment is coming from, now you know. This is where the other nugget, we fight wars for Israel, comes from. If our government serves them, then our army will fight for them.
This one is old but has been a constant since at least the 1950s. The John Birchers dabbled in that, and it was part of the other part of it, globalism. A global government will, of course, be run by Jews and it will include a Christian (white) genocide. And if you have been on Facebook or Twitter, you have likely come across some, if not all of these themes. This goes all the way back to the Protocols.
Recently we have also seen another nugget emerge from the swamp. This is the idea that Jews are not loyal to the United States because their first loyalty is to Israel. This one is quite old and did not need a physical state to exist.
This group contains many white Evangelical Christians. I make the distinction since there is a black Evangelical tradition. They are separate in some of their understanding of Biblical exegesis, and in particular end times.
For white evangelicals, the foundation of the State of Israel was a fateful event. It predisposes the ground for the end of days, which requires a Jewish state. According to the Jewish- Christian relationship:
Although statehood has raised some theological problems for Christian thinkers, we do well to consider the significance of the State of Israel, particularly in the heart of the Middle East. What role has Israel played thus far in religious and cultural history? All agree that the Holocaust was the prime catalyst for the recent change in Christian theology regarding Jews and Judaism. Yet few historical changes are mono-causal and the undeniable reality of the State of Israel has also influenced Christian thinking about Jews. It has allowed the Jewish people to be taken seriously in the family of nations and helped to equalize relations between Christians and Jews. It has helped level the playing field between Jews and the Vatican, and given the Jewish people a corporate political dimension parallel to the Catholic Church. Evidently both the Catholic Church and Judaism see political facticity as necessary for their religious missions.
Secondly, the old Augustinian doctrine of Jewish negative witness to Christianity insisted that God decreed Jews to remain homeless and abased, as punishment for their rejection of Jesus. But this humiliating doctrine of the Wandering Jew could not be maintained after 1948 when Jews returned to their biblical homeland. The permanence of the State of Israel constitutes a powerful empirical refutation of this thesis that has caused so much Christian contempt and Jewish suffering throughout the ages. Ultimately, after much soul-searching, Christian churches acknowledged the Jewish State’s right to exist and thereby implicitly rejected the old doctrine. Christian recognition of Israel — even when officially restricted to a political level — cannot totally avoid theological consequences. Surely the theologian John Pawlikowski is logically correct when he forthrightly claims that “the intertwining of faith and land for Judaism inevitably gives the act of recognition of Israel a theological dimension,” and that “the Jewish sense of land as part of the covenant makes some claims on my faith as well.” Willy-nilly, such recognition strengthens the idea that the Jewish covenant can no longer be seen as an “old” covenant, but a living one. It implies that Judaism remains a valid path to God for Jews.
Of note, this is not an evangelical site. However, it explains the point of departure for Evangelicals. They have taken this to a point where the end of days is near and will happen in our lifetime. We are living in prophetic times, and the foundation of the State in 1947 was the beginning of that era. This is why they will defend Israel no matter what happens. They need it, to exist for the final battle to occur.
When President Donald Trump announced the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it was not just about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli politics. It was very much about White Evangelicals. According to Diana Butler Bass writing for CNN:
Jerusalem was our prophetic bellwether. God’s plan hung on its fate. Whenever Israel gained more political territory, whenever Israel extended its boundaries, it was God’s will, the end-times unfolding on the evening news. Jerusalem, as the spiritual heart of Israel, mattered. Jerusalem was God’s holy city, of the ancient past, in its conflicted present, and for the biblical future.
For many conservative evangelicals, Jerusalem is not about politics. It is not about peace plans or Palestinians or two-state solutions. It is about prophecy. About the Bible. And, most certainly, it is about the end-times.
She was partially speaking of her time in a prophetic Church. This is no joke. Biblical texts are prophetic texts. They include the concept that when Jews return en masse to the Holy Land, it heralds the end of times. This is why many Evangelicals believe Trump was raised to office, in order to carry this vision. This is why they have not wavered from him, no matter what he has done. It is not about morality, but about a vision of the future written in the past.
Incidentally, in the end, 50,000 Jews will convert and the rest will die. This is another Holocaust. The fact that the Israeli government takes advantage of this American constituency is beside the point. This toxic religious ideology is very dangerous. Once the president said he was the chosen one, well, that took us further into this craziness. These people believe it and are willing to sacrifice both Israel and American democracy in the name of the lord. In fact, they do not believe in democracy. Their vision of the United States is that of a theocracy, not unlike Iran, in case you wonder.
The Progressive Left
Antisemitism goes back, in one form or another, to classical Greece and Egypt. So it should come as zero surprises that it is part of the progressive left. In this form, it criticizes Israel for everything wrong in the Middle East. Like it’s counterparts on the far right, some in the left argue that all we the United States do in the Middle East is to serve Israeli interests. They may not use the same exact language, but it is the exact same ideology in that respect.
Now think about this one for a second. A country of almost nine million is telling a super-power what to do. Take all the time you need to mull this one over.
This argument is the same exact, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews behind all government plots. They are so powerful that a world power will blindly follow the mandates of Tel Aviv. Granted, the Israeli-American Political Action Committee does not help to reduce this impression, but strangely Americans fixate on AIPAC as if other nations did not have lobbyists in DC. Every nation with an embassy in DC has lobbyists. Many are citizens with interests in both nations or heads of business organizations. In some cases, it is American organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce.
Then there is foreign aid. Americans on the left are quick to single out American foreign aid to Israel. As if stopping all foreign aid would solve our spending priorities. These priorities are out of whack, but all foreign aid we give to all countries combined will not rebalance that. Why? As of 2017, the amount is $50.1 billion dollars or just a smidgen of one percent of the budget. And that was cut sharply in 2018 to 14.7 billion dollars.
You want to rebalance the budget and start spending domestically in social services? Instead of pointing at Israel, you should be asking why we always have money for war…but not for education, health care, etcetera. Tel Aviv is not behind these policy choices we have undertaken over the last fifty years.
Then there is the use of the word Zionist. It has become a slur and in many cases a quick stand-in for Jew. This way people can go, I am not an antisemite, I am anti-zionist. Those of us familiar with the origin of this linguistic shift no longer believe people who say they are only anti-zionists. We know exactly what that means. Well except for the very small minority of ultra-orthodox Jews who also do not believe in a Secular Israel, because the Messiah has not come. Until he does, and the temple is rebuilt, Israel has no reason to exist.
Israel is criticized for everything, while others are given a pass. Mind you, none should defend all Israeli actions reflexively like all nation-states it's done some things quite wrong. However, reflexively attacking Israel because Israel is also a form of antisemitism. It’s just coded in form. Should Israel receive criticism for the policies in the West Bank? Yes. Ironically some Israelis on the right have adopted the same nationalist ideology of White Supremacy, and if you want your head to really hurt, white supremacists admires them. However. When one looks at the Middle East conflict, there are no saints on any side.
This particular group is as fringe as they come. However, they are active within the black community. They have also been part of recent antisemitic attacks. Where they enter into antisemitic thinking is in their core belief. This is that Jews are not the true heirs of Israel. For some groups, it gets worst. Jews are demons. They tend to break apart often.
Some believe Jews were behind the slave trade. All groups believe that they are descendants of Jacob. And there is nuance in the movement. Some go to the 19th century. Some are more recent.
According to the Religious News Service:
Jacob Dorman, professor at University of Nevada, Reno, and author of “Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions,” argues for even further nuance, insisting this wing of the movement can be delineated into two separate “waves.” But both he and Weisenfeld agree that a new iteration emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
“(These groups) rejected the term ‘Jew’ and emphasized the illegitimacy of white Jews as part of a style that was militant, black nationalist, macho, and patriarchal, frequently focused (on) emigration, whether to rural communities in the South, or, in one case, to Liberia and then Dimona, Israel,” Dorman told RNS in an email.
He added that these groups are often characterized by a preference for “confrontational” street preaching and have produced “messianic leaders and, on occasion, criminal conspiracies.”
The beliefs and practices have caused divisions within the broader Black Hebrew Israelite community.
It is important to understand this, as we have seen recent attacks by at least one group. It is critical to be nuanced, however, the core belief that they are the true people of Israel can be seen as the cultural appropriation to a point. Some groups are militant and turned white supremacy on its head. Yes, the theories around genocide and race superiority are similar, just applying to Black Israelites.
Some are resistant in the context of a country where we have yet to deal with the original sin of slavery and genocide. However, this idea that somebody is more Jewish than Jews is a form of antisemitism.
Incidentally, there are members of the African American community who are Jewish. They are part of the people of the book by either conversion or birth.
Where do we Go From Here
After the Holocaust, the world said “never again.” Israel was partly a consequence of the Holocaust. There is an argument that guilt led to the end of the process that started in 1919. Whether we like it, or not, Israel is a reality. However, the reason the United States and Israel are allies in some things, it’s purely out of convenience. Their strategic goals are ours as well.
Over the course of her history, the state has allied itself with France. The US believed it was a Russian pawn for a while, in fact. That started to change after 1957. This is when the US realized Israel was a front line of the Cold War. Either become an ally, or Moscow would.
Our alliance since has been one of convenience. And Israel is always looking for new allies. In recent past India and China look like part of the future.
However, for Jews in the Diaspora, and particularly in the US, the rejection of progressive policies is a problem. Israel’s left, like the left everywhere else, collapsed over the last two generations. The government has been in the hands of the majority or coalition governments dominated by the Likud, which is a nationalist right-wing party that goes all the way to before independence. Most American Jews are on the progressive left. And let’s be clear, whatever passes for a progressive left in the United States.
This has left many Jews exposed to antisemitism from allies. Why? The progressive left does not understand or care to, the nuances of Israeli politics. The right hates Jews on principle and would love to either expel Jews or kill them. While we have Jews in Government service, whether it is the courts, elected office or the government, they are seen as enemies within. Jews in the US are waking up to a reality that was a fact before the 1960s. Perhaps property covenants that kept Blacks, Irish, and Jews out of certain areas of multiple towns, will come back. Jews, as always, are resilient. I know, my dad left Poland after the war and made a life in another country. I do not think we are to that point in the United States, but Jews must hope this present soon becomes a warning from history. And this time, it must be taught.