By Jonathan Feldstein
Anti-Semitism thrives and is unleashed, among other things, when hate is fostered and allowed to go unchecked. But anti-Semites rarely need an “excuse” to do so.
Following the attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue this week, many blame the current president and his rhetoric for that. Perhaps.
However no less significant is when former president Clinton shared the stage with and gives credibility to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, one of the most rabid anti-Semites in the US, as if that’s normal and OK. Just by being in his presence, Clinton gives credence to Farrakhan and his vile hatred.
Hate and anti-Semitism are fostered when former president Obama refers to victims of a different anti-Semitic attack in Paris as “random…folks” as if they were not targeted because they were Jewish. Such dumbing down of overt anti-Semitic murder emboldens haters.
Anti-Semitism flourishes when the head of a major British political party honors terrorists who have murdered Jews, and fights over nuances in adopting a universal definition of anti-Semitism. That the Queen much less the majority of the party doesn’t speak out and condemn his positions, or throw him out altogether, gives his views and those of other haters legitimacy, as if it’s just one of many political ideologies. It’s not. Its hatred plain and simple and must not be tolerated.
These are just a few examples from modern western (civilized) countries. Many others abound, all over the world.
But let’s be clear, anti-Semitism is not new, and is not the “fault” of any one political leader. Political and religious leaders can allow anti-Semitism to grow like a disease in a petri dish, by doing nothing to stop it or by fanning flames from the left or the right.
Indeed, anyone who doesn’t confront it head on is partly to blame.
Allowing the fostering of hate unchecked enables those with a particularly twisted anti-Semitic agenda to let their views become public. In that case, all are responsible for not uprooting it altogether much less fostering it.
As much as anti-Semitism is not new, it is unique. Attempts to universalize it are naïve and specious at best. And yet I see that far too often and its very troubling. Anti-Semitism is probably the oldest form of hate. It is not universal.
Please, do not compare it to, or allow others to explain it by or in contrast to, other forms of hate. It goes back thousands of years since the Jewish people became the first monotheists, to believe in, worship and revere one God, the One True God.
Unique in our liturgy, Jews pray for God to strike down our enemies. What other religion does that, much less has to do that, or can even think that way. Is there another people of faith who live under this dark cloud of fear of hate and violence other than the Jewish people? Conversely, some faiths “revere” their god by preaching violence against others.
Fortunately, because of my many Christian friends, and meaningful interaction with them, I get to witness, experience, and be strengthened by love and support expressed to me, but really through me and meant for the Jewish people as a whole. I do everything I can to be sure that Jewish friends and others understand that Christian support for Israel is sincere, and different from not too distant past when “the church” fomented anti-Semitism.
But Jews carry lots of baggage of thousands of years of persecution. As a result, not without good reason, we often feel very alone.
In recent years, it’s become a slippery slope between someone being anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic. Too often, and more so in recent years, lines are blurred and anti-Israel positions are used as a thin whitewash for anti-Semitism. In many cases, this is a catalyst for anti-Semites to blur the line.
As much as Pittsburgh was a wakeup call, too many people have hit the snooze button for too long. I am guilty of that if only by allowing the internalization of the fact that there will always be anti-Semitism, accepting that in a “boys will be boys” fashion, and living with it.
Recently I have been exposed to anti-Semitism personally, not for the first time but in a new way: on line. This has taken place in the context of Run for Zion, bringing Christians to participate in a race throughout Jerusalem, and offering a free trip to Israel contest as a promotion and to create awareness. Initially, I was surprised that such a contest would attract anti-Semitic trolls on line who felt the need, and right, to post their hateful messages.
Then I became shocked by the hubris and regularity of such posts. Not a day goes by that I don’t have to take down someone’s post and block the writer, though I debate between leaving the posts for others to see but which I fear might attract more hate, and deleting them altogether.
In the wake of Pittsburgh where the terrorist murderer was found to post his anti-Semitic views on social media freely, I wonder how many of the dozens of the people whose posts I have deleted are in fact latent murderers.
It’s safe to say one would not experience this form of online hatred by offering a free trip to anywhere else. Israel is a lightning rod for such hate which, strangely, the haters have no shame in posting their screed for others to see.
Some of posts are overt anti-Semitism (using phrases and libels that would make Hitler and Farrakhan blush) such as calling Jews “the synagogue of Satan.” Some are just vulgar and, in another era when profanity mattered, could even warrant police investigation. Some are more veiled by advocating boycotting Israel through an abhorrent BDS “movement” that uses anti-Israel rhetoric to feed and foster overt anti-Semitism. And some focus on the delegitimization of Israel with the fake history and theology of Israel being Palestine, Palestinian Arabs being the indigenous people in the Land that God gave to Abraham and his descendants, and/or that God in fact ended his covenant with the Jewish people.
Fortunately, many Christian friends repel this underlying hate that’s often rooted in a replacement theology strain of Christianity. Refreshingly, some friends are shocked because they’ve never heard of replacement theology or BDS, and horrified that people actually could think this way.
Many Christian friends are shocked by the prevalence of anti-Semitism because they cannot imagine thinking that way much less acting on it.
So, what’s a good person to do? Try to understand anti-Semitism. Call it out in every forum possible. (Please feel free to be in touch and I can send you a copy of my article “50 Shades of Anti-Semitism.”)
Adding temporary Facebook profile pictures may feel good but doesn’t change much.
Rather, when you come across anti-Semitism in any form or forum, flag it. Call it out.
Unfortunately, reporting people’s anti-Semitic posts, the best Facebook offers is for me to report it as “inappropriate” and block the user. If social media platforms won’t let a reader to prevent posting something that’s overt hatred much less anti-Semitic, at least they must govern it themselves and close the accounts of those who make these posts. Otherwise they are complicit. Free speech does have its limits.
Prosecution is important but more than that, hold your elected leaders, law enforcement, and social media accountable to prevent it. Lets not wait until the next incident, lets work to prevent it altogether.
And yes, embrace the Jewish people unconditionally. Stand with us. Try to understand us and why we might resist and not trust your overtures given the history of “the church” that’s persecuted us, for centuries.
And, as Christians, embrace what we have in common starting with the Creator of the Universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I was invited to speak about anti-Semitism at a Christian prayer event in Orlando on November 15. While I am no expert I know enough, and have experienced anti-Semitism more than enough, but didn’t know what to stay.
Now, I can’t think of what not to say. If you’ll be in or near Orlando then, please join to pray, and show your support. If not, please feel free to send me your prayers and I will be sure my Jewish friends know and understand that there are indeed hundreds of millions who do love us. Perhaps that is a start at routing out this evil once and for all.
About Jonathan Feldstein
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. He has a three decade career in nonprofit fundraising and marketing and throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians. He writes regularly on major Christian web sites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at FirstPersonIsrael@gmail.com.