On the eve of Yom Kippur, I wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail, in which I argued that in our polarized age, “Judaism’s contradictions offer fertile ground for extremists on either side to agree on at least one thing – hatred of Jews. As patriotic citizens and proud Zionists espousing democratic ideals, Jews are too universal for ultra-nationalists but too tribal for postmodern universalists.”
I resisted claiming that our bizarre-looking rituals or counter-cultural values – in short, our “otherness” – explains why sworn enemies keep uniting in Jew-hatred. I insisted that, “As with all prejudice, focus on the accuser not the accused: the fault and the moral failing lies not with the Jew, but the Jew-hater.”
Shortly after Honest Reporting Canada posted my article on Facebook, someone responded: “Antisemeite (sic) card is getting old.” Let’s not draw any sweeping conclusions from this boorish person’s spelling issues. After all, too many anti-Semites in university spell very well. They’re no less evil – and far more dangerous because they dress up their petty Jew-hatred in highfalutin, fancy language about human rights and exaggerated Israeli wrongs.
However, I must confess: I agree, the anti-Semite card is getting old. I call it the most plastic hatred – durable, artificial, yet eminently adaptable. The historian Robert Wistrich called it “the longest hatred.”
So, yes, anti-Semitism is getting old. It’s high time people stop hating us, stop attacking us in our synagogues – or outside of them, as happened in Halle, Germany, just hours after this person criticized me. It’s time to stop beating us on the streets of New York, harassing us in schoolyards in Melbourne, spraying swastikas in Vaughan, Ont., drawing them outside Hamilton, Ont., synagogues and beating kippah-wearers in Toronto and Montreal.
It’s time to stop denying the Holocaust – or, as the Iranians do, denying the Holocaust while accusing Israelis of perpetuating one against the Palestinians. It’s time to stop attacking halakhah (Jewish law) by outlawing kosher rituals or circumcision. It’s time to stop spreading false rumours about a Jewish desire for hegemony (power over others) and to retire all the historic lies and libels about Jews being greedy or wealthy or cheap or cowardly or big-nosed.
It’s also time to stop the three Ds of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism that Natan Sharansky identified years ago: demonizing Israel, delegitimizing Israel and holding Israel to double standards.
It’s time to stop obsessing about Israel, to stop pretending you’re “only anti-Zionist,” when the only country you bash is the Jewish state. Time to stop spreading lies about the Middle East, such as the one a letter-writer responding to my last CJN column wrote, claiming the Palestinian Authority (PA) “recognizes Israel’s right to exist in its ’67 borders.” It’s hard to believe such statements when the PA spouts anti-Semitism in its official media, produces maps for school kids without Israel and spent the so-called “peace process” years dodging former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s demands for explicit recognition, while preparing for the terror war that then-PA leader Yasser Arafat and his henchmen launched in 2000.
So, yes, the anti-Semite card is getting old. So are all the bigotry cards. As master jugglers, we need to fight anti-Semitism in a way that emphasizes just how unique a phenomenon it is – while also contextualizing it as part of a broader wave of unacceptable prejudices that are menacing modern democracies – from the right and the left.
And Jews need to fight anti-Semitism passionately – without making it the defining passion of Jewish life. We give anti-Semites a victory they don’t deserve when we make being Jewish all about them. In this new Jewish year, let’s make it all about us and our values and traditions and pride, which includes defeating our enemies, partially by ignoring them.