Ever since German publicist Wilhelm Marr formulated the term “anti-Semitism” in 1870, the working definition of the term, though necessarily broad, was rather straightforward. The anti-Semitism of Marr’s day and of subsequent generations was loosely defined as a hatred of Jews based on their religion, race or place of origin, as with the famous pithy remark of early Hungarian Zionist leader and personal friend of Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, that, “…before we found a Jewish state, we have to make sure that all the Eastern European Jews clean the lice from their clothes and the dirt from their bodies.” His was a selective anti-Semitism.
All this notwithstanding, times appear to have changed. Were a casual passerby to be asked what the definition of “anti-Semitism” is, his response would in all likelihood have to do with a neurotic hatred of Jews for a slew of reasons, be they cultural, religious, racial, economic, etc. Today, though, we can consider ourselves “blessed” to add to the term’s meaning. In the wake of one of the stormiest elections in memory, media outlets on both sides of the aisle have, knowingly or unknowingly, joined the ranks of the New Anti-Semites. In an attempt to delegitimize or justify the current President, which is a perfectly normal and accepted part of American democracy, both groups have tread into dangerous territory. Those who wish to discredit the President have through their efforts taken Jews and used them as Exhibit A for an alleged eruption in bigotry throughout America. In the process Jews have been used as a sort of cream pie in a politicized vaudevillian slapstick to denigrate their opponents. For those who appreciate the time-honored American art of lampooning this party or that party it may evoke a good laugh, but the cream pie is much worse for wear. A good portion of news agencies have come to the conclusion that the current President simply winning the election is enough to unleash the forces of prejudice across the nation. According this line of thought, his accession to the highest office in the land gives tacit approval to racists and bigots everywhere.
Conversely, those more right leaning broadcasters, wanting to portray themselves as philo-Semites, have persistently pointed to their support of “Israel” as proof, thereby implicitly linking American Jews to “Israel” in a supposedly inextricable bond. This, of course, produces feelings of Jewish “otherness” in certain segments of the population, implying that Jews are somewhat less than loyal to their host countries. A classic libel.
Every American citizen is entitled to his or her opinion in the realm of politics. Still, when someone yells “bomb!” in a crowded theater and someone is injured in the proceeding stampede, the instigator is liable for whatever damage he incited through his comment. In their eagerness to prove their point, media outlets whose support of the President could be described as lukewarm at best have proceeded to latch on to any and every incident they could portray as indicating a supposed sudden increase in anti-Semitism following November’s election.
When one of True Torah Jews staff members received a phone call from his mother-in-law, who resides in Canada, asking how they were faring in the new and hostile environment of America, he was at a loss as to what she meant. His mother-in-law then proceeded to explain herself by citing several news items concerning swastikas being painted on subway cars in New York City. To this he replied with wonder, “A bunch of lowlifes painting swastikas on a subway car is news?” This sums up the present atmosphere where the most inconsequential incident can be used as proof of the President’s undesirable influence on the public.
Though muckraking is a familiar and more or less accepted part of the American political scene, using a particular group to corroborate one’s point can and often does have dire consequences. When the news and others constantly transmit a message of “Anti-Semitism has skyrocketed!” those who might be inclined to bigotry but not brave enough to act upon it will be given a new- found feeling of security. “Oh,” Mr. Racist could think, “there’s already so much of it. It must no longer be such a taboo. Maybe I can also get in on the action.” By continually broadcasting hyped up accounts of anti-Semitic outbreaks, those who see themselves as defending the rights of minority groups, including Jews, are in fact feeding the beast of prejudice and hate.
Hoping to refute claims of unspoken approval of bigotry leveled against them, Conservatives have used support for “Israel” as their defense. The above mentioned “prejudice beast” can also survive on a healthy diet of support for “Israel”, just in a more roundabout way.
True Torah Jews is a nonpolitical group aimed at promulgating the Torah view to which traditional Jews have held fast for their almost 2000 years of exile. We respect the right of all US citizens to hold their own views and do not wish to impede anyone’s freedom of speech. However, one’s freedom to wave his picket sign ends where his neighbor’s nose begins. When someone’s activism creates a potentially dangerous situation for someone else, then an earnest reckoning is in order. True Torah Jews beseeches those who wish to champion the cause of freedom to rethink their approach. We support your right to express yourself but please, don’t use Jews as a political object lesson.