How not to fight Antisemitism

AuthorDaniel Greenfield
Published date10 November 2022
Publication titleIsrael National News (Israel)
And then we turned on our phones, we came back online to find out that the biggest Jewish story was that some illiterate gutter trash was ranting about the Jews

On Sukkot, several days later, we recalled the Torah's commandment to take the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your G-d seven days" (Leviticus 23:40). And then, with the first two days, done, we left behind the spiritual ecstasy of those days, with no television, no radio or internet, to discover that the news was full of one story and one story alone.

As the final day of Sukkot gave way to Simchat Torah, the celebration of the completion and its renewal, from Moshe's blessings of the Jewish people at the end of Deuteronomy to the creation of the world in Genesis, we danced in the streets with Torah scrolls. The children were gathered up under a great raised Tallit and a hush fell over the congregation as we began with the birth of a new world.

And again we left those days of spiritual elevation and returned to a world of ugliness and hate.

Such contrasts between the sublime and the tawdry are the defining element of our declining culture.

As human beings, we are meant to live in both worlds. And as Jews, we know that we are exiled and that exile is a metaphor for the world as it is and the world that should be.

The Torah Parsha that we read the previous week was Lech Lecha in which Abraham, our forefather, leaves the cradle of civilization and goes to the wilderness of what will become Israel, friendless and vulnerable.

And yet the Haftorah, the prophetic reading paired with it, includes the verse, "And you Israel my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham who loved me, whom I took from the ends of the earth, and from its nobles I called to you, and I said to you, 'You are my servant'". I chose you and did not reject you" and "For I, the Lord your G-d, take your right hand. It is I who say to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"

Antisemitism can seem overpowering. The world, with its Nazi death camps and Soviet gulags, Iranian nuclear bombs and thugs beating people coming home from synagogue can seem horrifying and evil.

And without a sense of connection to G-d, the knowledge that life has meaning and purpose, that evil will ultimately fail, despair is natural.

Without either G-d or a sense of inner dignity and strength, Jews fall into panicked reactions to antisemitism. They are baited into traps, underreactions and overreactions, and fall apart.

Vulnerability comes from insecurity. Internal and external. Externally the Jews are vulnerable, and external threats can be fought. But they are internally vulnerable.

The trouble is that antisemites respect Jews more than they often respect themselves.

As the old anecdote about the Jew who is asked why he insists on reading the Nazi paper, Der Sturmer over the Jewish newspapers, goes, "In our papers, they say I'm being killed everywhere. In here, they say I'm running the world."

To the antisemite, the Jews are incredibly powerful. They control everything. To the Jews, we control nothing. Not even our fate.

Antisemites often want to be Jews, directly or indirectly striving to replace Jews. But too many Jews don't want to be Jewish. They cringe at their Jewishness. They are ashamed of it. They would rather not be noticed.

To truly "fight" antisemitism, Jews would do well to love ourselves as much as we are hated, to be as proud of what we have accomplished and to believe that we have a history and a destiny worth fighting for.

No great men, great civilizations or great deeds have ever gone unhated.

Antisemitism is not a reason to despair, it is not a cause of panic, but a sign of greatness.

American Jews didn't invent "fighting antisemitism", but they refined it to a fine and often useless art.

Unlike the traditional fight against existential threats, "fighting antisemitism" involves attacks not against the lives, bodies and rights of Jews, but most often the social status of a strata of lay leaders.

The IDF fights attempts to kill Jews by shooting Islamic terrorists. Men comes to Sabbath prayers in the United States armed with guns in anticipation of another attack by the Muslims, white supremacists or black supremacists who have repeatedly attacked synagogues in this country.

That is fighting antisemitism. It's real in contrast to a booming genre of fighting antisemitic attitudes or comments of which there's no evidence that it has ever worked or accomplished much of anything.

The ADL was created to fight vaudeville stereotypes of Jews. B'nai Brith waged fierce battles against its set being excluded from country clubs and hotels...

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