The devastating attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7 will be remembered as a historic turning point in Jewish history not only for the citizens of Israel as well as their elected and military leaders, but also for American Jews, because it also unleashed the hidden forces of antisemitism that have been largely dormant in this country for more than half a century.
The continuing wave of progressive-led street protests against Israel’s right to exist and protect its Jewish citizens against genocidal attacks by Hamas and other Iran-backed Islamic terrorist groups, has also served as a surprising and deeply disturbing wake-up call for secular liberal Jews who have long felt comfortable in their traditional support for Democrat party candidates and their mainstream liberal domestic and foreign policy agenda.
For those liberal Jews, the most important item on that agenda has been an unshakeable commitment to the security of Israel, because Israel continues to serve as a safe haven and refuge of last resort for Jews suffering from antisemitic persecution anywhere around the world. Other than for religious reasons, non-Jewish Americans typically support Israel because it has long been America’s strongest and most reliable ally in the Middle East, and because it has a shared commitment to the same enlightened democratic and human rights values on which the United States was founded.
THE SUCCESSFUL JEWISH PURSUIT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
Ever since large numbers of mostly European Jews began fleeing persecution by coming to the United States, once they arrived, most of them aggressively pursued the dream of material success and broad acceptance in American society by dint of their hard work, academic excellence, ingenuity and competitive entrepreneurial creativity. Gradually, the Americanized descendants of the first generation of Jewish immigrants were able to overcome the heritage of religion-based antisemitism that pervaded American society during that era to achieve prominence in almost every major field of endeavor. These included the legal and medical professions, scientific research, the worlds of academia, the fine arts, journalism, entertainment, civil service, banking and finance, and eventually, the corporate world and elective politics.
The cost of success for many of these Americanized Jews included the voluntary abandonment of mitzvah observance as part of a conscious effort to de-emphasize their Jewish identities to more effectively assimilate themselves into American society. As a substitute for Jewish observance and beliefs, many Jewish immigrants to America and their descendants embraced secular liberal values and initiatives affording equal opportunity to members of traditionally disadvantaged minority groups. They also understood that widespread adoption of these policies would disproportionately benefit members of the American Jewish community and other minorities, such as Asian-Americans, who are culturally motivated by a strong work ethic and a drive to achieve superior achievements in their chosen fields of endeavor.
A LIBERAL SUBSTITUTE FOR TORAH BELIEFS
Many of these Americanized Jews also embraced, as a substitute for Torah values, a dedication to secular liberal American causes such as the 1960s era civil rights and anti-war movements, as well as the expansion of government social welfare programs to alleviate poverty. In more recent decades, assimilated, Democrat-voting American Jews supported liberal initiatives intended to protect the environment and combat climate change, the creation of new welfare entitlements for the poor, such as Obamacare, and last, but not least, continued American support for the security of the secular Zionist-dominated State of Israel.
The Reform movement and other non-Orthodox Jewish denominations sought to give these liberal substitutes for belief in the Torah and mitzvah observance an aura of theological legitimacy by redefining the essence of Jewish living to be dedicated to a totally-secularized vision for Tikkun Olam, combined with support for Israel based upon its original mission to serve as a homeland and safe haven for Jews threatened by antisemitism anywhere in the world, and its Western-style dedication to human rights and democracy.
In much the same way that converted pagan Roman Emperor Constantine I convened a gathering of bishops from a variety of early Christian sects to create a consensus of support for the universal adoption of the so-called “New Testament” as an authorized, updated replacement for the Torah at the First Council of Nicea in the year 325 C.E., many assimilated liberal American Jews have reduced the substance of their Jewish identities to support for their secular conceptions of Tikkun Olam and Zionism.
MARKING THE ZENITH OF AMERICAN-JEWISH INFLUENCE
The strength of the political influence and power of the organized secular American Jewish community reached its zenith in 1974, with congressional passage of the bipartisan Jackson-Vanik amendment, requiring that the Soviet Union drop its restrictions that had been preventing millions of Russian Jews from emigrating to Israel or the United States.
By that time, overtly antisemitic policies, such as quotas on the admission of Jewish students to prestigious Ivy League colleges, like Harvard and Yale, formal and informal limitations, often referred to as “Gentlemen’s Agreements,” on Jewish membership in many social clubs, and the ability of Jews to purchase homes in exclusive neighborhoods or check-in at so-called “restricted” hotels, were no longer considered to be acceptable in American society. That forced the many millions of Americans who still harbored antisemitic opinions and beliefs to keep them to themselves in public or polite company.
TRANSMITTING THE VIRUS OF ANTISEMITISM
The virus of American antisemitism reached its previous zenith during the period between World War I and World War II, thanks to the popularity and influence of such personalities as Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest whose weekly radio program, regularly featuring vicious invective against Jews, drew a nationwide audience of up to 12 million listeners. The celebrated aviator, Charles Lindbergh, who became a spokesman for the isolationist, pro-Nazi America First organization, said in a speech delivered to a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941, that American Jews were conspiring with the British and the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to bring America into the war in Europe against Germany.
Antisemitic feelings were running high in the years leading up to the U.S. entry into World War II in response to the December 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. That was why President Roosevelt denied permission for the S.S. St. Louis, which sailed from Hamburg, Germany, in May 1939, carrying 936 mainly German Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution, to offload them in Florida. That forced the St. Louis and its Jewish passengers to return to Europe in June 1939, less than two months before Hitler started the War in Europe by invading Poland, and ultimately led to the death of 254 of the ship’s Jewish passengers at the hands of the Nazis.
After the U.S. entered World War II, the Roosevelt administration continued to refuse entry to most European Jews seeking asylum in the United States, with the most notable exception being the 892 refugees who were permitted to enter and live at a refugee camp at Fort Ontario near the small town of Oswego in upstate New York.
AMERICAN GOVERNMENT AMBIVALENCE TOWARDS THE ZIONIST CAUSE
American government policy remained ambivalent on Jewish issues during the years immediately following World War II, particularly regarding the aspirations for independence by the Zionist Jews living under the British mandate in Palestine. Before and during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, American Zionists were forced to resort to the wholesale smuggling of weapons to circumvent a federal embargo on the shipment of weapons to the Haganah (the forerunner of the IDF), which was battling the invading armies of five Arab countries which were determined, in their own words, to drive the Jews of Palestine into the sea. That is why today’s popular slogan at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, “From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free,” is widely regarded to be a thinly veiled genocidal threat by Hamas and their fellow terrorists to the life of every Jew in Israel.
Harry S. Truman was the first American president to come out in clear support of the Zionist cause by becoming the first head of state in the world to formally recognize Israel on May 14, 1948, over the vehement objections of his secretary of state, former General George C. Marshall. But continued American government support for Israel in subsequent years was to be ambivalent due to fears of alienating the Arab oil exporting states which had never made peace with Israel.
President Eisenhower demanded that Israel return to Egypt the Sinai Peninsula that it had conquered during the 1956 Suez Crisis. The U.S. government continued in its refusal to sell arms to Israel until 1967, following the Six Day War, when the French government, headed by former General Charles De Gaulle, cut off the delivery of fighter jets and other advanced weaponry that Israel had purchased for its self defense.
The United States, under the leadership of President Richard Nixon, provided vital replacement fighter planes and other weapons when Israel was caught by surprise by the coordinated attacks by Egypt and Syria at the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
ISRAEL RECOGNIZED AS AMERICA’S BEST COLD WAR ALLY
During the latter portion of the Cold War era, Israel was considered to be America’s most powerful and reliable ally in the Middle East, but Israel’s Jewish settlement policies in East Yerushalayim, the West Bank and Gaza were to remain points of serious disagreement between the two countries to this day.
President Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and President Bill Clinton hosted the signing of the Oslo Accords by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993, but the peace process then came to a halt due to the outbreak of deadly Palestinian terrorist attacks.
The Second Intifada was started by Palestinian terror attacks in the wake of the failed 2000 Camp David summit meeting. It resulted in more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and soldiers being killed, as well as the death of all realistic hopes for the negotiation of a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based upon a two-state solution.
When subsequent U.S.-backed efforts to revive the peace process through initiatives such as Ariel Sharon’s 2005 Gaza Disengagement, failed, U.S. and Israeli officials often blamed each other.
THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL RAISES THE DIVIDED LOYALTY ISSUE
But the most serious rift in U.S.-Israeli relations to date broke out over the vehement Israeli objections to the deeply flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu publicly condemned in an address to Congress as an existential threat to Israel’s national security. It sparked a bitter confirmation battle in which its proponents, led by President Barack Obama, his Democrat supporters and a few extreme liberal Jewish lobbying groups, such as J Street, accused the deal’s critics, including the leadership of many pro-Israel Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish elected officials, such as New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, of dual loyalty by putting Israel’s best interests above those of the United States.
The four years of the Trump administration were marked by almost total agreement between U.S. and Israeli policies on a wide range of issues. These included the recognition of Israel’s rights to a united Yerushalayim as its capital, its territorial rights in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, the need to undo the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and restore the sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, the need to withdraw US support for corrupt, terrorist-supporting Palestinian Authority, and support for the Trump administration’s new regional approach to peacemaking which resulted in the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and several pro-American Sunni Muslim, anti-Iranian Arab states.
BIDEN REVERSES ISRAEL’S GAINS DUE TO TRUMP
Unfortunately, the Biden administration, from the outset, has been eager to reverse many of the advances in Israeli-U.S. relations achieved during the Trump years, by dropping the “maximum pressure” policies and oil sanctions on Iran, and by restoring generous U.S. aid payments and recognition for the Palestinian Authority. Biden has renewed the Obama-era criticism of expansionist Israeli settlement policies, as well as Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition partners who support them, and he is also trying to resurrect the failed two-state solution approach to Middle East peacemaking.
Fortunately, Biden reacted courageously by immediately coming out strongly in support of Israel’s right to respond to the October 7 attack by declaring its determination to destroy Hamas’ ability to make war and to commit atrocities on Israel’s civilian population, however long that might take. Nevertheless, there are signs of trouble ahead in U.S.-Israeli relations, starting on the “day after” the war on Hamas ends, when the U.S. expects Israel to turn Gaza over once again to the incompetent Palestinian Authority, and renew the peace talks that the PA’s leaders have undermined by their bad faith at every opportunity over the past twenty-five years.
WHY THE PA CAN’T BE ISRAEL’S PARTNER FOR PEACE
What Biden and his Obama-era foreign policy team do not seem to understand is that over the past 30 years, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, first Yasser Arafat, and subsequently his deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, have failed to prepare the Palestinian people to live in peace alongside Israel. Instead, they have not only refused to teach Palestinian children to accept the legitimacy of Israel, but also they have rewarded Palestinian terrorists and their families for murdering Israelis and turned them into heroes and martyrs for the Palestinian cause.
The result is that the PA has raised a generation and a half of Palestinian youth whom they have schooled to hate Israeli Jews as their oppressors, encouraged to murder Israelis for money and to sacrifice their lives in battle against Israel as shahids (Islamic martyrs). This has made it almost impossible for many Israelis and friends of Israel to believe that these radicalized children will someday be willing to create a future Palestinian state truly dedicated to living side by side in peace with Israel.
Biden has already paid a high political price for his outspoken public support for Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza among young progressive activists and American Muslim voters, and may become reluctant to continue standing squarely behind Israel as the war continues and Election Day 2024 approaches.
However, when the next Democrat after Biden to be elected president takes office, supporters of Israel will likely look back with nostalgia to these days, when an American president was still quick to help Israel in its hour of need, and had a secretary of state, Antony Blinken, willing to make a video in which he shared the story of how his Jewish stepfather, as a 12-year-old boy in Bialystok, Poland, escaped from a winter death march to become only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICAN ANTISEMITISM
The potent virus of American antisemitism was transplanted to these shores by the Europeans who first settled the 13 original colonies and then built America into the most rich and powerful nation in the Western hemisphere.
Major General Ulysses S. Grant was influenced by these sentiments to issue General Order No. 11 during the Civil War expelling Jews from areas under his control in western Tennessee: This order was quickly rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln but not until it had been enforced in a number of towns.
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF LEO FRANK
In 1913, an angry lynch mob killed Leo Frank, a 29-year-old Jewish superintendent of an Atlanta pencil factory, who was falsely accused of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old Christian girl whom he employed. Frank was the last person to admit seeing her alive when he paid her weekly wages. After detectives thoroughly questioned him, they came to the conclusion that he was probably not the murderer. Nevertheless, because of the public outrage over the sensational crime and the suspicion of Frank because he was a Jew from the north, Frank was tried and convicted of the crime, even though investigators had found ample evidence suggesting that a black sweeper at the factory named Jim Conley, who was the prosecution’s star witness against Frank at the trial, was the real murderer.
After several court appeals failed to get Frank a new trial, John Slater, the governor of Georgia, commuted Frank’s death sentence to life in prison, because of new evidence indicating that Conley had murdered the girl. But two months later, on August 16, 1915, a mob of 25 men from Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, including a clergyman, two former judges, and an ex-sheriff, invaded the prison farm where Frank was being held, overpowered the guards on duty, and drove for several hours to a grove of trees near Marietta, where they hung him.
BLOOD LIBEL IN UPSTATE NEW YORK
Two days before Yom Kippur, 1928, when a four-year old girl Christian girl named Barbara Griffiths disappeared into the woods near her home in Massena, NY, the blood libel myth prompted local and New York State police officials to suspect the roughly 100 Jews living in the village near the Canadian border. They called in the rov of Massena’s Adath Israel Orthodox shul, Rabbi Berel Brennglass, for interrogation. Fortunately, while they were asking the rabbi whether “your people in the old country offer human sacrifices,” young Barbara emerged unharmed from the woods and explained that after having become lost, she decided to spend the night in the tall grass.
However, that was not the end of the incident. Some townspeople suggested that the Jews had only released the girl when their plot to murder her for ritual purposes was discovered, prompting the mayor of Massena, W. Gilbert Hawes, to organize a boycott of local Jewish-owned businesses. The situation was finally resolved a few weeks later when the New York Times publicized the story as an egregious example of modern day American antisemitism, embarrassing Mayor Hawes, who was running for re-election, into issuing a public apology to “my Jewish neighbors.
THE LIE THAT NEVER DIES
The antisemitic narrative in Massena was a variation on the classic blood libel story which originated in 1144, when an apostate Jewish monk named Theobald falsely accused the Jews of Norwich, England of kidnapping a Christian child to be tortured and killed on Easter so that its blood could be baked into matzos for Pesach. The same false accusation would be repeated against Jewish communities across Europe as an excuse to launch deadly pogroms in Gloucester, England (1168); Blois, France (1171); Saragossa, Spain (1182); Bristol, England (1183); Fulda, Germany (1235); Lincoln, England (1255); and Munich, Germany (1286).
In 1475, the entire Jewish community of Trent, Italy was tortured and burned to death, after the father of a 2-year-old boy named Simon, who disappeared around Easter, falsely accused the Jews of kidnapping and murdering him to use his blood for making matzos.
By the 17th century, the blood libels and the deadly pogroms they triggered migrated with the Jews who had been expelled to Eastern Europe and later, to the Pale of Settlement in Russia.
In the 19th century, the blood libels reached the Middle East, triggering the Damascus Affair in 1840, and the pogrom in Shiraz, Iran in 1910, in which the Jews were falsely accused of the murder of a Muslim girl.
In 1903, the Kishinev (in Moldova) pogrom was triggered by the murder of a Christian boy in the nearby town of Dubossary. After the blood libel accusation was publicized by a local Russian-language antisemitic newspaper, rioting broke out on Easter Sunday, April 19 and continued for three days, killing almost 50 Jews, wounding hundreds more, and resulting in the looting and destruction of hundreds of Jewish homes and business.
Even in July, 1946, when the widespread horror generated by the organized mass murder by the Nazis of six million Jews was still fresh, yet another blood libel accusation prompted a deadly pogrom in Kielce, Poland. When Henryk Blaszczyk, a nine-year-old boy, left his home in Kielce, without informing his parents, the rumor quickly spread that he had been kidnapped by Jews and hidden in the basement of a local Jewish community building. Although Hentyk returned home unharmed just two days later, the incident still triggered a pogrom that resulted in the deaths of 42 Jews and persuaded many other displaced Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust that they would never be able to return to their former hometowns in Poland safely.
The Massena blood libel, which was based upon a vicious lie first invented almost 900 years ago, and which has been exposed time and again, as well as the tragic fate of Leo Frank, demonstrate the stubborn persistence of antisemitism even in 20th century America, a free country which was founded upon the principles of freedom of religion, and every individual’s right to due process of law. They also illustrate how, once it has taken hold, the potentially deadly virus of antisemitism can be passed down through the generations by endlessly repeating its big lies, making its false claims highly resistant to the most convincing evidence to the contrary.
IT CAN HAPPEN HERE
The lesson to be learned was perhaps best expressed by Rabbi Brennglass in his 1928 Kol Nidre message to the Jews of Massena: “We must forever remind ourselves that this happened in America, not tsarist Russia, among people we have come to regard as our friends. We must show our neighbors that their hatred originates in fear, and that this fear has its roots in ignorance. We must show them they have nothing to fear from us. We must tell the world this story so it will never happen again.”
Similarly, the pogrom in Kielce provides an insight into the mentality of the anti-Semites who were quick to rationalize and even cheer the mass murders and unspeakable atrocities committed by Hamas against hundreds of innocent Israeli women, children and the elderly on October 7, and who now condemn Israel for doing whatever it must in Gaza to protect its citizens by making sure that such an attack could never happen again.
THE U.N. HOME FOR ANTISEMITISM
It should not come as a surprise that antisemitism, thinly disguised as anti-Zionism, also has along history at the United Nations, as well as its agencies and commissions. It goes all the way back to 1975, when the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The introduction of that infamous declaration prompted the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to warn that “The United Nations is about to make antisemitism international law.”
Since then, the bulk of the international diplomatic community has routinely passed many more resolutions at the U.N., unfairly condemning only Israel for fictitious human rights violations such as running an “apartheid state,” for colonizing allegedly stolen Arab lands in the West Bank and Yerushalayim, and, most recently, the Israeli response to the October 7 attack, purportedly launching attacks deliberately targeting the “innocent” Palestinian civilians of Gaza who voted to elect Hamas candidates the last time a free election was held there in 2006.
BEHIND THE PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTS
Meanwhile, weekly street protests against Israel’s war in Gaza erupted on more than 200 college campuses and in cities across the country populated by thousands of brainwashed youth, some of them Jewish, The protesters are making the implausible demand that Israel simply ignore the heinous war crimes that Hamas fighters committed on October 7, in the process of killing 1200 Israeli soldiers and civilians, including the cold-blooded torture and murder of defenseless women and babies, and the abduction of more than 240 hostages. They say that Israel must stop fighting in Gaza immediately, enabling Hamas to remain in control there so that it can fulfill the public promise of its leaders to repeat its October 7 attack again and again until Israel is destroyed.
The pro-Palestinian protesters are also spouting foul lies and false accusations which are a 21st century update of the ancient blood libels that have been used for almost a thousand years as an excuse by antisemites for the mass murder of Jews.
A NEW GENERATION OF SELF-HATING JEWS
As for the members of the group that calls itself the Jewish Voice for Peace which has been leading the pro-Palestinian protests, they should be seen as pawns duped by progressive antisemites into playing the same role as the apostate Norwich monk named Theodore who, in 1144, invented the original blood libel designed to instigate hatred and pogroms against his former Jewish brethren and their descendants for the next millennium.
But these self-hating young Jews should also be asked at some point whether they really believe what they are saying — that hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews are willingly sending their fighting-age sons and daughters into mortal danger simply to satisfy a blood lust to murder Palestinian babies in Gaza. As British Jewish columnist Howard Jacobson has memorably put it, today’s progressive “woke” antisemites, who are accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, and calling American Jews white racists just because of their hard-earned success in overcoming decades of discrimination in virtually all fields of endeavor, are merely serving “old poisons decanted into new bottles.”
THE EVOLVING NARRATIVE OF ANTISEMITISM
During the Middle Ages, Jewish communities across Europe were falsely accused of blood libels and poisoning the wells to bring on the Black Death by Catholic clerics whose Christian bibles had taught them that all Jews were guilty of murder because their ancestors were ultimately responsible for the killing of the Jew whom Christianity claims was the Messiah and “the son of G-d.”
In the late 19th and early 20th century, when the dominating influence of religion in Western societies was being gradually replaced by the radical secular ideals of socialism promoting the Marxist theory of economic class warfare between greedy capitalists and the workers, Jews were being demonized in the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. First published in Czarist Russia in 1905, the totally fictitious book purports to describe the minutes of secret meetings of a cabal of Jewish “elders” hatching a plot to dominate the world by manipulating the economy, controlling the media, and fostering religious conflict. The Protocols has been translated into many different languages, and has been circulating for more than a century throughout Europe, the Arab world, South America, and Japan.
In the United States, a series of antisemitic articles based upon the Protocols were published in automaker Henry Ford’s newspaper, “The Dearborn Independent”, starting in 1920. The series was later republished by Ford as a book titled “The International Jew,” which was translated into 16 languages, and was publicly praised by Adolf Hitler, ym shm, and Joseph Goebbels, ym sh, the Nazi propaganda minister.
During the same period, Jews were frequently depicted by conservative and nationalist anti-Semites as dangerous communists and anarchists seeking to subvert and destroy successful capitalist economies and ultimately all of Western Civilization.
THE CREATIVE GENIUS OF JEW-HATRED
As Liel Leibovitz wrote in a 2021 essay for Commentary magazine: “The creative genius of Jew-hatred has always been its ability to imagine the Jew as the embodiment of whatever it is that polite society finds repulsive. That’s why Jews were condemned as both nefarious bankers controlling all the world’s money and shifty revolutionaries imperiling all capital.
Today, the Protocols and its antisemitic accusations are being widely circulated in the United States and Europe by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Holocaust deniers. A Google search will generate links to several hundred thousand websites across the internet which discuss the Protocols and its accusations in one way or another. Many school textbooks throughout the Arab and Islamic world teach the content of the Protocols as if it was a historic fact, and it has served as the primary source material for countless antisemitic speeches, editorials, and even children’s cartoons. More to the point, Hamas has long used the antisemitic accusations in the Protocols to justify its terrorist attacks aimed at killing Israeli civilians.
In 1990, as the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was coming to an end, far-right, openly antisemitic groups created alliances with left-wing anti-war coalitions, to accuse the “Jewish lobby” of encouraging the United States to invade Iraq, whose dictator, Saddam Hussein was seen as a threat to attack Israel. During the buildup to the first U.S.-Iraq war, on September 15, 1990, conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan said on a nationally broadcast TV program, that “there are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East – the Israeli defense ministry and its ‘amen corner’ in the United States.” These accusations evolved into a conspiracy theory about a “Zionist-occupied government” (ZOG), which was obviously inspired by the accusations in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In 2006, University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard University professor Stephen Walt began publicly criticizing the inordinately strong influence of the American Jewish lobby, consisting of AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, In 2010, five years after Israel voluntarily withdrew from Gaza, Mearsheimer argued that “the two-state solution is now a fantasy” because Israel wants to incorporate Gaza and the West Bank into a “Greater Israel,” which would then become an “apartheid state.”
THE OBAMA-NETANYAHU CLASH
These statements, carried the tinge of an antisemitic accusation of divided loyalties against American Jewish supporters of Israel, It served as a background and prelude to a series of increasingly bitter clashes between the Obama administration and Netanyahu over Israel’s settlement policies, and another failed effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to reach an agreement on a two-state solution that were initiated by Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry. The frictiont finally culminated in an open clash between Netanyahu and Obama over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Fast forward to today’s “woke,” progressive liberals who have re-defined antisemitism yet again, by condemning all Jews and Israel (labels that are now used interchangeably) as guilty of the deadliest sins in the eyes of identity politics, which include racism, white supremacy, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and the most ironic and unlikely crime imaginable for the surviving targets of the Nazi Final Solution, The accusations are not new, but the immediate condemnation of the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians on October 7 inspired a response by this new breed of woke anti-Semites, who were given full rein and extensive media coverage to express their unbridled hatred of all Jews and Israel across the Western world.
TODAY’S WOKE DEFENDERS OF HAMAS
The woke defenders of Hamas argue that the unspeakable horrors inflicted on the 1200 Israelis murdered on October 7 were a legitimate act of Palestinian resistance that Israel is now using as a false pretext for taking revenge on the innocent civilian population of Gaza. They accuse Israel of fabricating the chilling video footage taken from the cellphones and body cameras found on the corpses of Hamas terrorists, which document in gruesome detail the atrocities they committed that day.
Many of the seasoned Western reporters, elected government officials and diplomats who were shown that October 7 footage emerged deeply shaken, and later compared them to the shocking movies taken by American troops when they liberated the Nazi concentration camps in 1945.
ATTACKING THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF THE AMERICAN HERITAGE
It also needs to be understood that the woke attack on liberal American Jews is also an attack on the underlying Torah-based values that Jews contributed to the basic moral and ethical principles and human rights concepts that are an essential part of the American heritage and Western civilization as a whole.
These attacks are also part of the progressive effort to discredit the traditional version of America’s democratic history, based upon inspirational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Progressives and the radical liberal black historians whose writings were published by the New York Times four years ago as the “1619 Project,” reject these foundational documents as a smokescreen to hide evidence that this country was built by “white racism” and the ruthless exploitation of slave labor, which, they claim, has imparted a permanent moral stain on the American heritage.
AWAKENING LATENT ANTISEMITIC BIASES
The eagerness with which “woke” progressive activists rush to condemn Israel reveals their latent antisemitic biases which makes them so willing to believe that Jews can be automatically found guilty of almost every crime imaginable without the submission of credible evidence against them or allowing them to defend their innocence.
The unexpectedly widespread and bitter criticism of Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza by the leaders of the progressive wing of the Democrat Party and on college campuses across the country has come as quite a shock to many older, traditionally Democrat-voting American Jewish supporters of Israel who had believed that their positions on Israel were largely in sync with the liberal progressive activists who have been dictating policy to the Biden administration for the last three years.
THE RAPID DECLINE OF AMERICAN JEWISH INFLUENCE
Many of those same liberal American Jews have been unaware of the extent to which Jewish influence over many aspects of American culture, media, the arts, academia, and the business world has been systematically reduced over the past decade by woke progressives. That trend was documented in an article by Jacob Savage published by the Tablet last February.
He begins by observing that, “In academia, Hollywood, Washington, even in New York City—anywhere American Jews once made their mark— our [Jewish] influence is in steep decline.
He then quotes a finding by Eric Kaufman, a Canadian professor of politics at Birkbeck, University of London, that based upon YouGov polling data, only 4% of elite American academics under the age of 30 are Jewish, compared to 21% of the academic elites who belong to the baby boomer generation which is now retiring.
JEWISH STUDENTS BEING SHUT OUT OF IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS
Another YouGov survey “found that self-identified Jews now number just 7% of Ivy League students.”
For example, “the Harvard student body has gone from being 25% Jewish in the 1990s and 2000s to under 10% today.”
The Jewish population at Yale went down from 19.9% in the 2000s to 16.4% in the 2010s, to about 11% today, according to the Chabad rabbi at Yale.
“Penn’s Jewish population declined from 26% in 2015 to 17% in 2021.” The school used to have enough Jewish students to support two daily minyans. Now there are only enough to support one.
A campus Hillel director told Savage that his “university has decided that DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) [policy] is the overarching principle of admissions. There’s a general consensus that it’s more difficult for Jewish students to get into top tier schools.” The bottom line is that it is no longer acceptable to progressive liberals that Jews who make up just 2.4% of America’s population represent 15-20% of the undergraduate student bodies at the best schools, even if their admissions are justified by their superior academic accomplishments.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in favor of a group representing Asian-American students who were “suing Harvard for using admissions criteria that discriminate against them [based on] their race.” Normally, you would expect the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the secular Jewish group which fought successfully during the 1940s to bring an end to the quotas limiting the number of qualified Jewish students to be admitted to Ivy League colleges to 10%, to support the Asian-American students. But instead, it filed a brief in favor of Harvard, apparently for fear that if it supported the students it would come under fire from progressive advocates of DEI.
THE DECLINE OF JEWISH INFLUENCE IN NEW YORK AND LA
Savage notes that “in New York—the seat of American Jewish political power—there are almost no Jews left in power. A decade ago the city had five Jewish congressmen, a Jewish mayor, two Jewish borough presidents, and 14 Jewish City Council members. Today just two congressmen and a single borough president remain. Only six Jews now sit on the 51-person City Council. Shelly Silver, the Orthodox former State Assembly leader, was replaced by Yuh- Line Niou, a pro-BDS (anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) progressive. . .
“In Los Angeles—America’s second most Jewish city—there are now just two Jewish City Council members, down from six in 2000.”
“Younger Jews are being excluded from the liberal organizations their parents and grandparents helped create. . . The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) got rid of Jewish leadership. . .
JEWISH POLITICIANS UNDER PRESSURE IN WASHINGTON
“There are still powerful Jews in Washington,” Savage writes, “but their influence [and numbers] are waning.”
Fewer than 10% of the federal judges appointed by President Biden are Jewish, while the historic average of Jewish appointees had been at least 20%.
While liberal Democrats revered the late Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, these days they would never dream of seeking to place another Jew on the Supreme Court bench.
Even Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, who is considered to be the most powerful Jew in Washington today, has felt the pressure from progressive Democrats to cut the number of Jewish staffers in his office by more than a third.
Savage writes, “As true believers in the postwar liberal project, American Jews spent decades advocating for tolerance and equality of opportunity, not least because we were the prime beneficiaries. . .
JEWS BEING PURGED FROM LIBERAL ORGANIZATIONS
“[But today] Jews are being disproportionately purged from liberal institutions because Jews disproportionately exist within those institutions. When activists and journalists and executives talk about how Broadway or NPR or publishing is “too white,” what they really mean is “too Jewish.” When the New York Times says it wants to make its internal demographics look more like New York City’s (excepting the Chassidim, of course), what this means is “fewer Jews.”
Savage concludes that, “From civil rights to Vietnam to the spectacular bounty of their cultural and political achievements, liberal Jewish [members of the baby boom generation] always managed to be on the right side of history. It is a supreme irony that they’ve helped empower a movement that now places their children and grandchildren on the wrong side.”
A DISTURBING HISTORICAL PARALLEL
There is another somewhat alarming historical parallel that can be derived from the rapid decline of Jewish influence and opportunities in today’s liberal-dominated American culture and society. It recalls the process that the Nazis used after Hitler came to power in 1933, to systematically strip the Jews of Germany of their influence, their opportunities to earn a decent living as businessmen, professionals or in civil service, to send their children to a good school, and even their right to a sense of personal safety under the protections of law.
On December 11, the ADL reported a rise of 337% in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. for the two months following the October 7 attack by Hamas, compared to the same period of 2022. In light of that statistic, American Jews need to be aware that the Israelis are not the only Jews who now find themselves at much greater risk due to the bold revival of worldwide antisemitism, Hashem yeracheim.