American Jews: you are not morally superior to Israeli Jews. Quit acting like it.
The first time I ever saw anyone discuss antisemitism on social media was 2016, in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s election. “Don’t be antisemitic,” some American Jewish person said. “Not all Jews are Israeli.”
I was flabbergasted. No, not all Jews are Israeli. Only half of us are. And we are not deserving of antisemitism either.
What an absurd, privileged statement to make. It’s especially absurd coming from someone who lives in indisputably stolen land (i.e. the United States). I honestly couldn’t believe that they’d throw half their people under the bus like that, only to save themselves. For the past 3000 years, the Jewish People have been a collective people, regardless of our nationality, citizenship, or country of birth. And none of us deserve antisemitism, because antisemitism is not a valid punishment for bad behavior. What antisemitism actually is is an ancient form of bigotry that gets Jews killed. You better believe antisemitism on one side of the planet will impact Jews on the other side of the planet. Why else would it be, for example, that the very same terrorist group responsible for the slaughter of Israeli Jews also murdered 85 people at the largest Jewish community center in Argentina in 1994? To an antisemite, your nationality is utterly irrelevant. The only thing that matters to them is that you are a Jew. Throwing some of us under the bus is not only cruel; it’s counterproductive and self-sabotaging.
Every single person of Jewish ancestry today is the descendant of refugees. Pretend, for a moment, that it’s 1920, and your great grandparents are fleeing the antisemitic, genocidal violence of the Russian Civil War. Lucky for them, for lack of a better expression, they’ve now found themselves on a boat en route to Ellis Island. Three generations later, and now you are an American Jew.
Now pretend that, for whatever reason, your great grandparents were not able to get out in 1920. Perhaps they didn’t have the money or the means. It’s now 1924 and the United States has passed the Immigration Act of 1924, essentially closing the door on Jewish immigrants. So they head to Palestine instead. Three generations later, you are now an Israeli Jew.
Why in the world would that make you deserving of antisemitic violence? You’re not a different person. You just happened to be born in a different country, one that’s disproportionately demonized like no other (think of this: 0.1% of the world lives in Israel. Between the founding of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006 and 2013, Israel was condemned in 45.9% of resolutions. In 2021-2022, Israel was condemned in 14 resolutions, compared to 5 for the rest of the world combined. It’s absurd to think that a nation the size of New Jersey with 0.1% of the world population could account for 45.9% of the world’s injustices).
The world’s Jewish population is split nearly 50/50 between Israel and the United States (of course, there’s Jews in other countries, but those populations are much smaller). At some point, probably in the last century, fate flipped a coin, and the likelihood is that your ancestors ended up either in Israel or the United States.
If you are an American Jew, this happened completely by chance. It could’ve just as easily have gone the other way around. And in that case, people would be justifying violence against you, too.
After the Holocaust, some 250,000 Jews were held in refugee camps known as Displaced Persons camps, or DP camps for short. They were held there because no nation was willing to absorb these Jewish refugees. Some of these camps were just repurposed concentration camps. For example, the largest DP camp was Bergen-Belsen, which had previously been a Nazi concentration camp. In other words, many Holocaust survivors, having just survived the worst of humanity, were then held against their will in the place where they experienced this horrific trauma. The conditions were so abysmal that one representative for the US government stated: “As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.”
Two things ended the Holocaust refugee crisis: the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 (Israel absorbed about a million Jewish refugees, including nearly half a million Holocaust refugees by the early 1950s) and the passing of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 in the United States, which heavily discriminated against Jewish refugees, but resulted in the resettlement of 80,000 Holocaust survivors to the United States.
So your family could’ve ended up in Israel. Or in the United States. Purely by chance. If they ended up in the United States, absolutely nothing makes you inherently better than those who ended up in Israel. Again: this happened purely by chance.
Then comes the issue of Orientalism. If you are an American Jew, it’s likely that you are Ashkenazi, given that 90-95% of American Jews are Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi Jews are Jews whose ancestors, after being displaced from the Land of Israel, eventually settled in Central Europe, later making their way eastward as they were expelled from one country to the next.
Between the 1940s-1970s, 850,000 Jews were expelled from the Arab and Muslim-majority world. About 600,000 of these Jews found refuge in Israel. They, like your ancestors, were simply trying to save themselves and had nowhere else to go. What in the world makes you think that the United States, or any other country in the world, ever would’ve absorbed nearly a million brown Jewish refugees? We know how the United States treats refugees. We know how the United States treats brown refugees. And we know how the United States treats Jewish refugees. Please do not insult my intelligence. These refugees, like your great grandparents, quite literally had nowhere else to go.
Where’s your empathy? Or is your empathy only reserved for non-Jewish, non-brown refugees? Because there’s a few names for that: antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia.
“But Palestine is stolen land!” you decry. That’s quite literally not true (see my posts JEWS & INDIGENEITY: A CONVERSATION WITH NATIVE JEWS and THE ISSUE OF PARTITION for a good place to start). But even if it were, what do you call America, then? Is America not stolen land? Yet I’ve never seen you advocate for the removal of (non-Native) American Jews from the United States. The cognitive dissonance is astounding.
There is nothing quite as disconcerting for me as to seeing American Jews enthusiastically support violence against Jewish Israeli civilians. A flip of the coin 100 years ago and you could’ve been an Israeli civilian yourself. You have the tremendous privilege of American citizenship. Most of us don’t.
How can you, in good faith, cry over the blood of your Jewish siblings spilled at the 2018 synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh, but cheer over the blood of your Jewish siblings spilled at the 2002 Passover Massacre in Netanya, Israel? How? In both cases, your Jewish siblings were brutally slaughtered, during their religious observance, because they were Jews. Your American nationality does not make you better or worse. But cheering over the deaths of half of your people, and glorifying the people responsible for those deaths, makes you despicable.
I’m sure you’ll make excuses for it, of course. “Resistance is valid.” Sure it is. But murdering civilians is not resistance. It’s a war crime, as per the 1945 Geneva Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Resolution 49/60 (1994) describes terrorism (“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes...”) as “in any circumstance unjustifiable.”
If the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust had gone around slaughtering German babies, I’d be horrified. How can you, in any way, justify the murder of your Jewish siblings in Israel, including infants, children, and the elderly? I just don’t get it.
One of many examples of the group “Jewish” Voice for Peace glorifying people who murdered Jewish civilians. Ghassan Kanafani claimed responsibility for the Lod Airport Massacre of 1972, a mass shooting that killed 26 people, including 17 Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims and nine Jews (8 Israeli citizens, one Canadian).
The latest slogan adopted by those in the xenophobic (i.e. anti-Israeli) American Jewish left is “globalize the Intifada.” This is, quite frankly, absolutely flabbergasting. The last Intifada was a five-year suicide bombing campaign that targeted civilians in shopping centers, movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, schools, markets, buses, train stations, bars, and more. Over 80 percent of the victims were civilians, because the suicide bombers explicitly targeted civilians, which is, to reiterate, a war crime. The youngest victim was an infant less than a day old. An infant that hadn’t been named yet. How can you decry gun violence in American schools in one breath but cheer for suicide bombings in Israeli schools the next? It’s despicable.
We’ve already established that you cheer for the deaths of your Jewish siblings in Israel. We get it. But now you’re asking to “globalize” this violence. Do you not understand what that means? You’re asking for suicide bombings in American Jewish day schools, American synagogues, American Jewish community centers, American Jewish institutions, and more. That’s what “globalize” means. Now you’re not merely asking for suicide bombings in Israel. You’re asking for suicide bombings targeting Jews worldwide. And flip of the coin or not, that includes you, too. Antisemitic violence is never contained. It always spreads. And what starts in Israel will get to you, too. You can be sure of it.
In asking to “globalize the Intifada,” you are legitimizing the violent and inhumane methods of internationally recognized terrorist groups that function as proxies for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the same Islamic Republic that has arrested some 15,000 protestors and has murdered over 300 protestors in the last couple of months.
In asking to “globalize the Intifada,” you are legitimizing terrorist organizations whose charters are rife with antisemitic tropes and call for the genocide of all Jews — Israeli or not. For example, Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant states: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.”
In another life, you, too, could’ve been an Israeli Jew. In another life, your great grandparents, fleeing unimaginable violence, would’ve boarded a ship to Palestine and not Ellis Island. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, because to an antisemite, a Jew is a Jew regardless of their nationality. A target on the backs of Israeli Jews is a target on your back as well. So before throwing the rest of us under the bus, check your privilege and Americentrism and realize that no matter what, our fates are inextricably linked, as we are both a part of the Jewish People.
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