Jewish Student: It’s Dangerous to Deny Anti-Semitism
TTN colleagues were impressed by a passionate and well-reasoned response from a Swarthmore College student named William Meyer to swastika graffiti drawn on a campus building. What follows is most of what he wrote for the school’s student newspaper, The College Gazette:
. . . The greatest barrier to confronting anti-Semitism in 2016 seems to be proving that it exists. As a liberal Jew, it is immensely disappointing to see so many people with whom I ideologically align on so many issues completely dismiss the reality of a rising tide of anti-Semitism.
The apathy and, at times, antipathy of many on the left when it comes to anti-Semitism is a deep betrayal of the Jewish people. We see it when Stanford students argue that propagating the Nazi conspiracy theory of “Jews controlling the media, economy, government, and other societal institutions” is not anti-Semitic. We see it when the Vice-President of the UC Santa Cruz Jewish Student Union, a member of student government, is asked to abstain on a vote relating to Israel because of his “Jewish agenda.” And we see it most virulently on anonymous forums, when students on our own campus’s Yik-Yak assert that Jews should view their ethnic heritage as akin to being “descended from a Confederate officer” and that anti-Semitism itself is a conspiracy invented by the Rothschild banking family to let Jews oppress people of color.
Then, of course, there is the relentless and overwhelming victim-blaming of Jewish students for anti-Semitic acts committed against them. The rejection of victim-blaming is a key component of the left, and for good reason. Those that justify their disgusting Islamophobia based on the actions of ISIS or the Saudi government are neither justified nor excused. And yet, I cannot count the number of times I have been told that it is Israel, and the diaspora Jews who support it, who are truly at fault for rising anti-Semitism! Anti-Semitism seems to be the exception to how we confront stigma and discrimination on the left.
We see it when some illegitimate claims of anti-Semitism are used to delegitimize claims of anti-Semitism writ large, when the same standard is never applied on the left to other forms of discrimination. Just as some claims of anti-Semitism are incorrect and invoked to avoid important debates, so too are some claims of sexism or racism or Islamophobia. Yet, complaints of anti-Semitism are constantly singled out as uniquely suspect in many left-wing circles.
When it comes to most claims of discrimination on the left, the claim is true unless proven false. When it comes to claims of anti-Semitism, the claim is false unless proven true. This double standard is in itself anti-Semitic.
We Jews, so often described as ‘whiny,’ ‘paranoid,’ and ‘manipulative’ are assumed to be liars. The left is all too ready to use excuses that would never fly in most discussions of bigotry. Even at Swarthmore it’s somehow acceptable to say “I didn’t mean to be anti-Semitic, you’re just too sensitive and/or paranoid.”
As a Jew, it is clear to me what all this second-guessing and hypocrisy from many on the left means: they simply do not believe anti-Semitism is a problem. For them, bringing up anti-Semitism is merely a nuisance tactic employed by Jews to derail discussions about “real issues.” For some leftists, trafficking in common anti-Semitic stereotypes is a price they are willing to pay to achieve their political goals.
Make no mistake, this price is not small. It’s dangerous to condition people to tune out claims of anti-Semitism and to assume those who make accusations are, as reportedly described by the new CEO of the Trump campaign, “whiny brat Jews.”
We Jews are just a small part of this country, no matter how large our presence on this campus may seem. We are under 2% of the national population and a tiny fraction of a percent of the global population. A century ago, Jews lived relatively prosperous lives in Germany. We were disproportionately represented in fields of law, finance, and medicine. We even held some high level political offices. So naturally, when German Jews complained of anti-Semitism, they too were accused of “whining.”
This is not the early 20th century and we are presumably not on the verge of another Holocaust, but we are clearly seeing a rising tide of anti-Semitism accompanied by an overwhelming denial of that fact from both the left and the right. As the influence of the alt-right grows in the Republican Party, Jews in this country are more fearful than they have been in decades, yet many on the left remain in denial of this reality and even help perpetuate it. . . .
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The Third Narrative engages with people on the left who suspect that it is wrong to lay all blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict at the feet of Israeli Jews but feel that too many Israel supporters reflexively support –or passively accept—the Israeli occupation. When it comes to this conflict, the truth is rarely black or white; it resides in a gray area where advocates on either side typically don’t like to venture.. » read more