Speaking in somber, contemplative tones, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently delivered a 40-minute floor speech on the current rise of antisemitism in the United States. “Not long ago, many of us marched together for black and brown lives,” Schumer said nostalgically, “out of the recognition that injustice against one oppressed group is injustice against all. But apparently, in the eyes of some, that principle does not extend to the Jewish people.”
Schumer’s invocation of the Black-Jewish solidarity that characterized both the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the post-George Floyd racial upheaval of 2020 hearkened back to the American tradition of coalition-building around shared civic values.
It also summoned the doctrine of intersectionality, which holds that minority categories are interconnected and that systems of oppression overlap. This feeling of empathy for African-Americans was on full display in the Jewish community when more than 600 Jewish organizations hastened to sign a letter contained in an August 2020 New York Times ad in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM).
“The Black Lives Matter movement is the current day Civil Rights movement in this country, and it is our best chance at equity and justice,” the letter read. “By supporting this movement, we can build a country that fulfills the promise of freedom, unity, and safety for all of us, no exceptions.”
But despite the rosy optimism of the Jewish organizational letter, there have indeed been exceptions to the promise of safety for all groups — namely, the American Jewish community, represented by the more than 600 organizations that signed the ad.
Antisemitism is exploding on university campuses and in urban centers in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli defensive military operation. And the response from BLM chapters? Support for the terrorists.
The BLM D.C. chapter accused Israel of apartheid, while casting doubt on the veracity of Hamas atrocities. The Chicago chapter posted an image of a terrorist paragliding into Israel to attack civilians, along with the caption, “I stand with Palestine.” And the BLM Grassroots division justified the Hamas attack as a response to “75 years of settler colonialism and apartheid.”
A BLM Phoenix social media account declared that Hamas terrorists were “freedom fighters.” A BLM Detroit account bizarrely demeaned Israeli hostages by asserting, “The few Israeli ‘hostages’ are in fact Israeli soldiers and Israeli army generals who are responsible for keeping Palestinians hostage in the world’s largest open air prison.”
American Jews often have actively worked to support the plight of an African-American community that suffered centuries of slavery and segregation and still struggles for equality today. The awareness of this history may have caused Jews to sometimes temper their responses to antisemitism, out of a deferential sense that there may be worse injustices that merit greater attention and outrage.
But the current explosion of antisemitism in the United States begs the question of why the world’s oldest and most persistent social illness merits less opprobrium than offenses against other marginalized groups. Moreover, it prompts one to ask why other communities that have felt the sting of bigotry themselves resist the obligation to defend Jews against the greatest of all hatreds.
Some of this undoubtedly is due to the lingering conception of Jews as a white, privileged group undeserving of victim status, even following the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which white supremacists carried tiki torches and chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”
Another contributor is the revisionist history of Israel as a white, colonial settler project whose central aim is to displace an indigenous people, notwithstanding the fact that the Jews originated in the Land of Israel and that many of them subsequently lived in Arab and Muslim countries from which they were forced out in the 20th century. Furthermore, more than 50% of Israeli Jews would be considered BIPOC in America today.
But the eagerness of Jews to find common cause with other oppressed minorities, and to gain acceptance from such groups, has led to costly mistakes. Jewish organizations that signed the 2020 pro-BLM New York Times ad prioritized racial justice in the wake of the George Floyd killing. But it is possible to commit oneself to racial justice and the principle that Black lives matter without issuing a full-throated endorsement of a movement that never has confronted the antisemitism in its own ranks.
The experience of the 2020 BLM endorsement and the disappointment that followed it suggest that Jewish groups should cultivate allies that will reciprocate the respect Jews have shown for the civil rights of others. The Jewish community should demand that activists and organizations that profess to support civil and human rights reject not only terrorist groups such as Hamas, but the extreme ideologies that paint Jews as colonial occupiers deserving to be extirpated from their homeland.
Black lives will always matter, and the cause of racial equality must always be a priority for Jews and other Americans. But combating antisemitism and acknowledging Israel’s obligation to defend itself must never again take a back seat in the search for democratic allies.
Rabbi Eric Fusfield is B’nai B’rith International’s Director of Legislative Affairs and Deputy Director of its International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.
The post American Jews and BLM: Antisemitism Must Sharpen Focus on Jewish Alliances first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
DeSantis exits presidential race, potentially boosting Nikki Haley’s support among anti-Trump Jewish Republicans
(JTA) — Ron DeSantis’ decision to end his presidential campaign leaves Nikki Haley as the only serious challenger to Donald Trump, potentially consolidating her support among Jewish voters and donors who seek an alternative to the former president.
DeSantis announced his exit on Sunday after he came in a distant second last week in Iowa, the first nominating contest in the Republican primaries. The announcement capped a campaign in which the Florida governor was initially seen as the most serious threat to Trump but saw his support steadily decline as the primaries neared.
He had long staked out positions popular among pro-Israel conservatives and repeatedly traveled to Israel to demonstrate his support. He has also aggressively taken on culture-war positions, including about abortion, LGBTQ rights and book bans, that have traditionally not resonated as much with Jewish voters. At one point, his campaign fired an aide who made a video promoting him that featured a Nazi symbol.
He has thrown his support behind Trump.
Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, who has close ties to the pro-Israel establishment, has been a favorite among Jewish and pro-Israel donors who want to avoid a second Trump-Biden matchup in November. She garnered more support than any other candidate from the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition, according to a Haaretz report last summer, and multiple prominent Jewish Republicans have organized fundraisers on her behalf.
Whether those fundraisers take place will likely depend on the outcome in New Hampshire. Trump currently has a double-digit lead in polls. After his decisive win in Iowa, he said during his victory speech that he would end the current conflict in Israel “very fast” if he becomes president, without elaborating on how he would do so.
Time to Huddle: Antisemitism on the Field
JNS.org – As unsettling and painful as the current wave of global antisemitism that followed the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel is, it’s still important to remember that those bestial atrocities were an episode in, and not the fundamental cause of, the renewal and remodeling of this ancient superstition.
Where it all began remains a matter of debate. Many analysts nod to the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, where several of the memes visible in today’s pro-Hamas protests were rudely on display, as the point of origin. Others go back further, into the Cold War, when the Soviet Union ran a vicious campaign of anti-Zionist propaganda centered on the claim that Zionism is a form of Nazism. And one can go back even further, to the antisemitic riots and revolts targeting Jewish communities in British Mandate Palestine in 1929 and 1936. The point is that the basic message—Jews as colonial interlopers who must be destroyed—hasn’t really changed.
The other consideration is that certain sectors are more amenable than are others to anti-Zionist antisemitism, or antizionism, as I prefer to call it. Over the last two decades, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement seeking to quarantine Israel alone among the world’s nations has been the most tangible and energetic expression of contemporary opposition to Zionism. In the worlds of culture and academia, especially, boycotts of Israel and shrill rhetoric denouncing Zionism (or more precisely, a caricature of Zionism) have been the order of the day.
Regardless, then, of where and when we believe the current wave began, that discussion is less important than an assessment of where we are headed—and specifically, which spheres of human activity alongside art and education will start to echo the growing antisemitic chorus, both in their words and in their deeds.
The world of sport is emerging as the next battleground. It is a much more fearsome prospect; a row over an art exhibition featuring antisemitic caricatures or a lecture at a provincial campus promoting antisemitic tropes is, let’s be honest, a picnic compared to a row involving an athlete with instant, global name recognition.
Someone like the French soccer icon Karim Benzema, a former Real Madrid striker and winner of the coveted Ballon d’Or football (soccer) award who now plays in Saudi Arabia, and who this week announced that he would be suing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. A devout Muslim, at least outwardly, Benzema fired off an angry social-media post denouncing Israel’s “unjust bombardments” in the Gaza Strip. When Darmanin was asked about the post in an interview with a conservative broadcaster, he lambasted Benzema for his silence on the Oct. 7 atrocities in Israel and then charged that the player retained close links with the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamist network that includes Hamas.
Benzema angrily denied any links with the Brotherhood, accusing Darmanin of exploiting his fame—and notoriety—to push an Islamophobic smear. Now Darmanin may have to answer in court for his impulsive statement (it would have been more prudent to describe Benzema as an “echo chamber” for the Brotherhood) in a spectacle that will draw the French and international media like bees to honey. Benzema will present himself as the victim and will enclose the Palestinian population of Gaza in his victimhood in a circus that will only compound the fear prevailing among French Jews and bolster the view among hundreds of millions of soccer fans that the State of Israel is a criminal enterprise—whether or not he wins or loses any eventual court case.
The demonizing discourse about Israel now percolating in the world of sports is, alarmingly, being matched with acts of discrimination against Israeli and Jewish athletes—just as Jewish and Israeli academics, artists and musicians have suffered discrimination as a result of antisemitic agitation in their spaces.
Last week, Sagiv Jehezkel, an Israeli winger playing for the Turkish soccer club Antalyaspor, was arrested by security forces before being booted out of both his contract and the country. Jehezkel’s offense was to score an equalizing goal in a match against Trabzonspor and then celebrate by displaying his bandaged wrist to the cameras. On the bandage, Jehezkel had scrawled a Star of David and the words “100 days” (a reference to the continuing plight of Israeli hostages in Gaza) and “7/10” (the date of the Hamas pogrom.)
The reaction in Turkey was furious. Jehezkel was abused as a “Zionist dog” and accused of violating Turkish sensibilities. Should he ever return to Turkey, he will likely face arrest and prosecution. But it is unlikely that he will go back, just as it is unlikely that any Israeli soccer talent will find its way to Turkey for the foreseeable future. Sports in Turkey are effectively Judenrein.
There are good grounds to fear that a similar situation is emerging in South Africa, too, where the U-19 Cricket World Cup is currently being hosted. One week before the tournament commenced, Cricket South Africa (CSA), the sport’s domestic governing body, announced that it was removing David Teeger, the South African team’s sole Jewish player, from his role as captain, citing “security fears” about angry protests by Hamas supporters targeting Teeger as the official reason.
This was—in a word summed up by MLB Hall-of-Famer Kevin Youkilis, who declared his solidarity with Teeger—“bullsh*t.” Shortly after the Hamas pogrom, Teeger was the subject of a complaint submitted to CSA by pro-Hamas campaigners who objected to his remarks at a Jewish communal award ceremony, where he lauded “the State of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora.” They argued that Teeger had brought the game into disrepute, though an independent commission reporting to CSA duly found that Teeger had not violated CSA’s code of conduct with his speech, clearing the way for the talented young batsman to be appointed as captain the following month.
Even so, the political pressure from the ruling ANC was unrelenting. It is no accident that Teeger was humiliated in the same week that South Africa launched a legal case against Israel at the International Court of Justice on the trumped-up charge of “genocide”—elegantly, if inadvertently, illustrating the inevitable domestic impact of an antisemitic foreign policy.
Here in the United States, Jewish professional athletes are unlikely, for the moment, to experience this kind of discrimination. Yet as the recent antisemitism scandal involving the NBA’s Kyrie Irving (and others in different athletic arenas before him) demonstrated, our sporting scene is as vulnerable as anywhere else to antisemitic propaganda, often of the crudest sort. It’s definitely time to huddle.
JNS.org – “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” — Euripides
“Two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.” — attributed to Albert Einstein
As the fighting in the Gaza Strip drags on into its third month, it appears that the Israeli leadership is determined to jettison common sense, past experience and logical reasoning. Indeed, Israel’s leaders seem to have set their sights on adopting the failed, fatally flawed formulae of the past for “the day after” the fighting finally subsides.
A collection of collaborators and traitors
For example, one of the most prominently cited “plans”—for want of a better word—involves transferring the post-war civilian administration of Gaza to various heads of clans not affiliated with Hamas, who would be responsible for different parts of the Strip.
Those with a longer historical perspective will be struck by the remarkable resemblance between this proposal and the past attempt by Israeli authorities in the late 1970s and early ‘80s to install an Israel-sanctioned Palestinian administration, known as the Village Leagues, as an alternative to the PLO. The initiative, which initially had support from both the Israeli and Jordanian governments, eventually petered out in 1983.
Although the details might differ, the underlying principles of the Village League and clan leadership plans are very similar. Accordingly, there is little reason to believe that the overall outcome of the current plan will be any different. Just as the leaders of the Village Leagues were treated with suspicion and hostility by much of the Palestinian population, it is more than likely that this will be the case with any future Israeli-approved clan-based civil administration. According to one analyst: The Village Leagues consisted of “a coalition of rural thugs … who had no standing in the community.” The Palestinians saw the Leagues as a collection of collaborators and traitors.”
It is thus hardly surprising that some of the village leaders were assassinated by disgruntled kinfolk; a fate that could well await any compliant clan leader who chooses to collaborate with the “Zionist invader.”
90% of Hamas committed no war crime?
The likelihood of such hostility is greatly enhanced by the pervasive approval of Hamas—and the carnage it committed—among massive sectors of the Palestinian population. In a survey conducted on Dec. 13, 2023, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) found that 72% of the Palestinian public believes that Hamas’s decision to launch the Oct. 7 massacre was correct. In addition, while a staggering 95% of Palestinians think Israel committed war crimes during the current hostilities, only 10% think Hamas was guilty of such crimes. Conversely, only 4% think Israel has not committed such crimes, while 89% think Hamas did not commit any post-Oct. 7 war crimes.
Clearly, under such conditions, any artificially appointed administration, formed specifically to stymie a return to power by Hamas, is likely to face widespread enmity and distrust from the very population over which it rules.
But beyond the a priori implausibility of the clan-based proposal, there are grave questions as to its long-term sustainability. How long will the population in each clan-controlled section be confined to that section? What will regulate movement between sections? Clearly, an arrangement whereby a local population is subject to an externally imposed civilian administration and a foreign security regime is not a sustainable political arrangement and is hardly likely to foster any amicable sentiments towards Israel in the future.
No initiative approved by Israel will be acceptable
Significantly, the failure of the Village League experiment was not the only instance in which a move by Israel to appoint/anoint a pliant Arab ruler failed to attain its intended outcome.
After Israel’s 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon following the assassination of its ambassador Shlomo Argov in London by Palestinian radicals, Israel essentially endorsed the candidacy of Bachir Gemayel for president of Lebanon. It did so under the assumption that he would be a more cordial ruler towards Israel than any other. Significantly, one Lebanese deputy accused Gemayel of reaching the presidency “on the back of an Israeli tank,” while a pro-Palestinian academic compared him with Phillipe Petain, the French marshal who, as head of the Vichy government, collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
Shortly before Gemayal took office, he was assassinated in a bombing committed by a member of a pro-Syrian organization. Any notion of a Pax Israeliana (an Israeli-induced peace) was buried under the rubble.
As if anything further is required to consign the foolhardy clan-based scheme to well-deserved oblivion, the final nail in its coffin was hammered home by the prospective administrators themselves. The scheme was recently rebuffed with a caustic amalgam of utter rejection and universal ridicule.
According to sources in Gaza, “No initiative that Israel is behind will be acceptable.” In a gruff public statement, representatives of the Gaza clans rejected the Israeli plan, describing it as “ludicrous.” The statement went on to declare: “Talk by some of the leaders of the occupation that heads of clans will administer the civilian life in Gaza is utterly contemptible and totally unacceptable.”
Merely sound political science
Clearly, it is time for Israel to bite the bullet.
Israel must forego its illusions that somehow the Arabs will deign to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. Its leaders must finally realize that the political solution to the Gaza conflict is to be found by the inexorable logic of an almost mathematical algorithm hitherto studiously and tragically ignored by Israeli policy-makers: The only way Israel can ensure who governs Gaza is for Israel to govern Gaza.
Significantly, the only obstacle preventing this outcome and frustrating the overt desire of many Gazans is the hard-hearted callousness of Egypt. Cairo seems bent on compelling the hapless masses, huddled against its sealed border gates, to suffer the travails of war and hunger, pestilence and pollution, rather than let them seek their salvation elsewhere, outside the confines of the hapless enclave.
This is not radical right-wing extremism. It is merely sound political science.