Yes, folks, today I will be broaching the subject that you have likely pondered, discussed, and debated so much that it seems like reading this article will finally do your brain in like a mallet to a cantaloupe. “Why, then,” you ask with a tortured expression akin to that of The Scream’s, “are you making me read this?!” While the truth of the matter is that Jews have been confronted with the issue of anti-Semitism ad nauseam, the fact is that it remains a global issue all the same- —an issue that is on the rise.
Let me throw some facts your way: the Anti-Defamation League reports that from 2013 to 2014 there has been a 21 percent increase in anti-Semitic activity. Such activity includes harassment, threats, rallies and events, vandalism and assaults. Just in California, we’ve gone up from 143 incidents in 2013 to 184 incidents in 2014.
With the rise of anti-Semitism, bigots denounce Jews with accusations. Suddenly, the Jews are responsible for the catastrophic events of 9/11. The insanity continues as people publicize and attempt to spread their denial of the Holocaust, their denial of history, through the fabrication of movies and museums.
In regard to my concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism, I’ve been on the receiving end of remarks like, “there’s no point in saying anything” or “people don’t really care.” Well, I guess that last remark is true — depending on who we are considering “people.”
In an article entitled “Why Does the Left Care More about Islamophobia than Anti-Semitism?” the author proposes an idea which I believe may have some truth; he says, “… many very respectable people now view assaults on Jews almost as a form of protest, as political rather than hateful.”
However, if the “people who don’t really care” are Jews, then “people” ought to care. Whether you are a religious Jew or not, whether you are Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanistic or Karaite, anti-Semites don’t care. The Nazis didn’t make that distinction when mass-murdering the Jews. My point being, as Jews it’s our responsibility to put a stop to anti-Semitism. Yes, I am aware of the near impossibility of that — yet, we must be proactive in order to halt this increase of anti-Semitic activity.
Let me throw a story your way: it was just another afternoon at UCLA. I stopped by Kerckhoff Coffee House to get my daily fix of caffeine. There was some event happening — UCLA tech guys sank into the corners of the coffeehouse, having already set up for the show that was about to begin. I had some time to kill before my club meeting so I decided to sit back, chill, and see what the commotion was about.
I’m a Persian Jew, and I really enjoy Persian music, and consequently Arabic music. For several moments, I rocked my head to the rhythmic beats of the Arabian tune that circled through the packed coffeehouse. The music stopped abruptly, and a young man came onto the stage. He declared he was from one of the pro-Palestinian clubs on campus and then briefly enlightened the audience about Palestine’s history in Israel, claiming that the Israelis persecuted and drove Palestinians out of their homes, implying that the Israelis were entirely responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He then kindly invited us to enjoy the night’s talent.
Now, I’m not an expert in the matter, but what I do know is that it takes two to tango: neither Israel nor Palestine is completely absolved of responsibility in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is clearly why it is named as such. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, however ignorant and biased such an opinion may be, yet I cannot condone the spreading of this ignorance.
Some of you may ask, “What does anti-Zionist sentiment and propaganda have to do with anti-Semitism?” Almost unequivocally, it seems that at some point the two sentiments intermingle. People naturally associate Jews and Judaism with the Jewish State, Israel, and assume that every Jew is in cahoots with the Israeli government. This is supported by the misguided opinion that Jews care more about Israel than their home countries.
So, when people broadcast their ignorance about Israel, they naturally pollute minds against Jews and incite anti-Semitism.
That is ultimately the problem: ignorance. It’s spreading like wildfire.
These opinions — to call them half-truths would be generous given how much of the truth is being neglected — have incited various acts of anti-Semitism across university campuses, UCLA’s campus included. Considered to be number nine on the list of the worst anti-Semitic college campuses across the United States (Truth Revolt), UCLA students have accused Israel of being responsible for the repression of Palestinian rights to the point of mirroring South Africa’s oppression of non-whites during its apartheid era. There is no doubt that there are laws in place to monitor, and perhaps even limit, Palestinians in Israel. However, in consideration of the numerous bombings, stabbings, and shootings which have been instigated by Palestinian civilians, one can hardly condemn Israel for wanting to protect its citizens in the face of violence against those whose mission is to decimate the Jewish nation off the face of the earth. And yet, people still manage.
A friend of mine who was offended by “the walls” put up on Bruinwalk during Palestine Awareness Week which didn’t relay the truth regarding the attacks against the terrorism wreaking havoc in Israel, but instead only stated how Palestinians were limited by Israeli law, questioned one of the Palestinian club members, “Why didn’t you write about the attacks in Israel? The stabbings? The bombings and the shootings? In buses and out on the street?”
But this approach, however justified the indignation may be, is counterproductive and only incites more anger and hate.
Another friend of mine who had accompanied us, a Christian who claims impartiality because of her lack of knowledge regarding the subject, spoke to me about the incident with shock coloring her tone: “Did you notice that people who didn’t even know what we were talking about sided against us? They just backed up the Palestinians without even knowing what was going on!” I nodded my head in concession. I noticed. But I wasn’t surprised.
The question remains: What is the best way to combat anti-Semitism? I believe an essential way to peacefully combat anti-Semitism is raising awareness, but not awareness among Jews. No, clearly we already know about the wrongs being done against us. We have to rid the public—friends, club members, classmates—of the ignorance that the media, filled with partial and slanted half-truths, is spoon-feeding the public. By keeping ourselves informed on the happenings in the Middle East, we can discuss the matter in an educated way rather than a way that is simply filled with aggression and fervid language.
People think that Israel is the problem in the Middle East because that is what they’re told. They don’t know that most of the strife in the Middle East is a result of an intra-Muslim civil war mainly between the opposing forces of the Sunni and Shia Muslims. My Christian friend wasn’t aware of such anti-Semitism because she had never seen proof, never been confronted with the harsh reality, the hate that Jews deal with every day.
It’s clear that anti-Semitism can’t be bet merely through raising awareness, but halting the growing ignorance of the public will enable us to stop polluted mindsets from spreading further. With media as our tool, we can spread the reality of the state of Israel, of the attacks that the Israelis are enduring, and we can raise acknowledgment of the anti-Semitic incidents that occur all over the world. Only by raising our voices can we make the injustices Jews endure known to the world: speak up, speak out, and be strong while you defend.