Fighting against antisemitism effectively: Non-Jews should engage too

Every citizen should repudiate those who abuse free speech by harassing, threatening, intimidating, and trying to make Jews feel uncomfortable for being Jewish and pro-Israel.

Every year, during the 49 days of Sefirat Ha’omer, the verbal counting of each of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, we recall the sheaves of wheat that our ancestors gleefully gathered in Israel, our homeland. This year, it felt like we were also unhappily harvesting hate.

Every day, horrible hypocrites assail Israel and the Jews. International organizations demonize Israeli democracy, while Western politicians criticize Israel and enable Iran. Academics try to make Zionism radioactive, as terrorists from Gaza to Lebanon target our civilians and torture our hostages. Yet they brazenly perfume their poison with human rights rhetoric, evoking Taylor Swift’s warning of “a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”

The historian Robert Wistrich called Jew-hatred the “longest hatred.” It’s the most plastic hatred, endlessly-pliable, always artificial, and occasionally toxic. And it’s the fullest hatred, totalizing and totalitarian. Our enemies try robbing Jews of our lives, our dignity, our story. They deny the Holocaust or October 7’s rapes and murders – unless they say we deserved it or staged it. Would anyone dare deny Black Americans’ enslavement or Yazidi women’s sexual abuse by Islamist terrorists?

Our enemies negate everything Jewish, from our traumas to our roots in our homeland. They call heroic hostage rescues “massacres.” No lie is too big or too small to be launched, justified, believed, and mass-produced.

This nightmarish year has many Jews fearing that their ‘Diaspora Dreams’ have ended. I recently met with 25 former McGill University students. Most were born in Toronto; some moved there after studying at McGill in Montreal. Their first question shocked me. My host asked: “Is it time to leave and/or how will we know?”

That this question even crossed their minds represents an inexcusable failure on the part of Justin Trudeau’s government, Toronto’s municipality, and Canadian society.

My former students are not hysterics. Well-educated, deeply-rooted in Toronto, they are proud Canadians. All have friends who moved to the US; they chose to stay. They’re an impressive and impressively stable lot: raising children, running businesses, teaching, investing, lawyering, and doctoring.

But the global hatefest since Hamas massacred 1,200 people has unnerved them. The statistics showing anti-Jewish hate crimes doubling – a community constituting 4% of Toronto’s population absorbed 37% of its hate crimes – are too sterile. Too many good citizens have children harassed at school – for being Jews. Pro-Palestinian protesters hound them as they walk to synagogue. Self-righteous academics bully them on campus. Their businesses and institutions have been vandalized and mobbed.

Most disappointing is the typical Joe and Jane’s deafening silence. If more non-Jews repudiated the goonish behavior, these unpatriotic, pro-Palestinian protests might come to an end. And if more non-Jews stood up, their Jewish fellow citizens wouldn’t feel so abandoned, so betrayed.

I asked five questions:

• First, has the street turned against you? Do you feel populist hostility?

• Second, are the elites corrupted by Jew-hatred?

• Third, do you feel the police and politicians have your backs?

• Fourth, do you ever feel afraid at home or outside?

• Finally, do you worry about your children’s identities and their souls?

Most shook their heads “yes” to every question, except for vigorously nodding “no” when I asked if they felt protected by the authorities.

I’M AN historian, not a prophet. I cannot predict the future. And North America is not Europe or the Arab world. Canada and the US are more stable, decent, and safer than the Weimar Republic was before the Nazis subverted Germany. So I resist sloppy analogies or hysterical warnings.

But there’s something fouling the West today. Protesting for or against Israel’s actions is legitimate, reflecting democratic robustness. But harassing individuals for being Jewish or Zionist is unacceptable, un-American, un-Canadian, and anti-democratic. A California billboard warns that “rat poison poisons wildlife too.” Beware, Jew-hatred poisons democracies too.

Scenes of the reinstated “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Columbia University on its fourth day. Photo: Wikimedia

This isn’t a fight about Israel and Palestinians; it’s about democratic values. Jews shouldn’t take on the burden of fighting antisemitism, nor should they pay for it. Jew hatred is the disease of Jew-haters, not Jews. Rather than another summit of Jewish organizations handwringing together, let each organization extend a hand to like-minded non-Jewish organizations, partnering with them against hate.

We must combat bigotry broadly, but this surge also should be targeted specifically because the bigots target the Jews.

Jewish organizations now speak about “hardening the target,” beefing up security at Jewish institutions. They’re hiring security guards, installing cameras, reinforcing doors. Some synagogues resemble walled compounds. These are warning signs of democratic decay.

Don’t harden targets – broaden them. If more citizens resisted this hatred, the haters would be intimidated, not the Jews. Every liberal-democrat should start wearing yellow hostage ribbons on their lapels, Jewish stars around their necks, or stickers denouncing Jew hatred. They should escort Jewish neighbors to synagogue or Zionist students to class. Everyone can join counter-demonstrations or sign petitions.

While remembering to “do unto others as you would want them to do unto you,” everyone should also do for others as you would want them to do for you – if hooligans threaten you.

Resisting constructively would revive the democratic spirit. Non-Jews should embrace their Jewish friends and neighbors. Even Israel’s critics should reassure Jews that the civilized world retains its commitment to peace, order, good government, and robust debate. We need righteous anger and effective police enforcement.

Every citizen should repudiate those who abuse free speech by harassing, threatening, intimidating, and trying to make Jews feel uncomfortable for being Jewish and pro-Israel.

Meanwhile, Jews should use this Shavuot holiday, celebrating the giving of the Torah, to remember that the Jew-hater doesn’t make the Jew. The Jew makes the Jew – and the Zionist too.

Published by Jerusalem Post