Readers Write: Editorial on antisemitism is a poor start

The Island Now

The editorial, “Definition of antisemitism should just be a start,” is a disservice to the fight against antisemitism and bigotry and hatred in all forms.

It is important for governments to respond effectively to the “alarming rise in antisemitism.”   But the ability to “effectively respond” is greatly undermined when governments are encouraged to focus on antisemitism only if they focus at the same time on a “response to racism and bigotry directed at other groups.”

That the government should only fight antisemitism if it simultaneously fights all forms of hatred and bigotry is absurd. This is like saying that one cannot cure a cancer unless they simultaneously cure diabetes.  Both are important to fight, but to fight effectively it is essential that we understand that they have different pathologies requiring different solutions. You would not advocate to any oppressed group that they need to include all other oppressions in their fight.  Why for the Jews then, especially knowing that Jews and Israel are often portrayed as the oppressor and excluded from the modern-day fight against oppression?

The starting point to fighting any disease, be it physiological or societal, is identifying and defining it.  This is the purpose of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, which does not quell legitimate criticism of Israel.  Critics of the IHRA definition have yet to propose an alternative that would be both effective and widely adopted. This makes one wonder whether the critics are really interested in fighting antisemitism or just asking Jews to get in line behind other oppressed groups before getting the necessary governmental resources.  Sadly, this is what the editorial suggests, and, in doing so, includes inaccuracies.

“The danger posed by those on the left is dwarfed by the opponents on the right” is simply not factually true. When you cite only examples of the right-wing extremism and avoid any mention of left or religious-based violence against Jews, it makes it seem that the issue is predominantly from the right.

We need to be swivel-headed and call out the antisemitism firmly on the left, right and religious extremists.  Those who call it out only when on the other side of the aisle are not fighting antisemitism but rather weaponizing antisemitism against the other party.  This needs to stop.  If you just want to bash the Jews or use the Jews to bash the other party, then know that you are just making it much harder to effectively fight antisemitism.  If that is the case, then just be honest about it.  Don’t pretend you care about antisemitism when your words and actions evince a disinterest or disdain for this fight.

Lastly, the dangerous trope accusing Jewish people (today via Israel) of committing “ethnic cleansing” is antisemitism.  The answer is not, as  the editorial  suggests, incarcerating for three years those who display a swastika.  Rather the answer for fighting non-violent antisemitism should be education and dialogue.

Arnie Herz
American Jewish Committee
Long Island Region

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