Connect with us


Antisemitism scholars like me study perpetrators. We should know more about their victims.

(JTA) — The ruthless Hamas attack on civilian communities inside Israel shocked not only Israelis but much of the world. Pictures and grisly videos — some broadcast live by the perpetrators — flooded the world. Many governments and elected officials in the West swiftly expressed solidarity with Israel and empathy for the countless innocent victims, condemning the slaughter.

At the same time, as news was still coming out about the scope of Hamas attack and days before Israel’s retaliation, in cities and on college campuses across the United States, pro-Palestinian rallies and demonstrations showed a shocking lack of empathy for the massacred and kidnapped Israelis, among them young people attending a music festival, elderly Holocaust survivors, women, and children.

As a scholar of antisemitism watching these rallies, I wondered why there was such a reflexive disregard, even contempt, for Jewish victims. Why weren’t Jewish and Israeli victims of violence seen as human victims of violence but were immediately pushed into the political discourse about the Israeli government’s policies and actions? Why was their humanity erased?

Some of this contempt surely stems from the polarization wrought by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some is rooted in centuries of theologically grounded habits of thinking about Jews as unworthy of the respect accorded to other kinds of human beings, and even unworthy of having their own land.

But some blame for this I think can also be laid on how those who study and write about antisemitism, including myself, have approached this subject.

For almost a century, most of us have focused on dissecting antisemitic ideas and ideologies. But — with the very important exception of those studying the Holocaust—we have not paid enough attention to the effect these ideas, images, and actions have on Jews as human beings.

Having taught a comparative course on antisemitism and racism at Fordham University, I have been thinking a lot about different scholarly approaches to the study of antisemitism and racism and their social impact.

Consider for example how scholars generally approach anti-Black racism. Many have focused on the impact of racism on Black communities and Black individuals — no matter how successful and accomplished they are. President Barack Obama spoke about being “mistaken for a waiter at a gala” and acknowledged the experience many Black Americans have had of being “mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse.” We all can picture Ruby Bridges trying to get to school. We can think of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson,and Carol Denise McNair, killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. We can all picture George Floyd and understand the significance of the words uttered by Eric Garner: “I can’t breathe.”

Yet, few Americans, or students on college campuses, would be hard-pressed to name a victim of antisemitism, or explain, beyond the deaths of millions of Jews in Europe, how indeed Jews have experienced antisemitism. Few would know that the college admissions process is the way it is in part because it was designed to exclude Jews from elite universities. Few would be able to articulate how Jews must feel when antisemitic memes circulate online, or when they hear slurs, see swastikas or Stars of David spray-painted on walls in workplaces, or see demonstrations near their neighborhoods, organized on Saturdays and coinciding with the Shabbat, in which people hold signs that say, “keep the world clean” — the obvious implication being, of Jews.

The focus on the Black experience of racism has a long history: It goes back at least to the publication of slave narratives and continues to the present day, as we read the works of James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison or George Yancy.  In contrast, scholars of antisemitism have long focused not on victims but on proponents and perpetrators.

One result is that most educated Americans have been trained to acknowledge the full range of anti-Black racism and its impact on individuals, from public lynchings to microaggressions. In contrast, Jews tend to be viewed as privileged, with the harm done to them downplayed or unseen.

There is a cost to both approaches. The works on racism have been subsumed under “Black history,” and the relatively recent effort to shift the gaze onto white supremacists and their ideologies, and to make them part of our understanding of American history, has led to a fierce backlash, including book bans.

In contrast, the focus on antisemitic ideas and their perpetrators has arguably resulted in a comparative lack of empathy for the Jews victimized by such ideas. Even worse: paradoxically, by studying and writing about the perpetrators, we spotlight and preserve their antisemitic ideas. Our readers then are exposed to toxic ideas without seeing their impact on real people.

The Biden-Harris’s U.S. National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism, released in May, advocated for “(1) increasing awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including its threat to America, and broaden appreciation of Jewish American heritage; (2) improving safety and security for Jewish communities; (3) reversing the normalization of antisemitism and countering antisemitic discrimination; and (4) building cross-community solidarity and collective action against hate.”

Coupling “increasing awareness and understanding of antisemitism” with “appreciation of Jewish American heritage” is helpful in diversifying the image of Jews and their role in society. Indeed, teaching about Jewish history and culture is one of the most powerful antidotes to antisemitism.

But, as the responses to the Hamas massacres in Israel suggest, we need to do more to build empathy and recognize the impact of antisemitism on Jewish individuals — from microaggressions to outright violence.

A version of this article first appeared in Public Seminar.

The post Antisemitism scholars like me study perpetrators. We should know more about their victims. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on

Continue Reading


IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

The post IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida first appeared on

Continue Reading


One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News