Americans can lead the fight against antisemitism

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 By Lauri B. Regan

Antisemitism is a unique form of hatred.  It has existed for millennia and manifested itself in the form of slavery, pogroms, torture, banishment, exterminations, terrorism, boycotts, and discrimination of the Jewish people the world over.  Frighteningly, in the 21st century, antisemitism is on the rise in numbers that should be a wake-up call for all moral people, yet it is not.

FBI statistics indicate that at over 60%, hate crimes against Jews far outweigh attacks against any other religious group.  The Anti-Defamation League documents that antisemitism increased tremendously over the past year, including a 75% increase in May alone.

Antisemitism has reared its ugly head in our print and televised news outlets, K–12 classrooms, and college campuses.  It exists in the mainstream media and social media, the halls of Congress, and corporate boardrooms.  And in the age of cancel culture, the double standards today that permit antisemitism while prohibiting every other form of hate speech reveal that Jews are once again facing a dangerous onslaught reserved solely for us.  Never Again was a phrase born out of the Shoah.  Seventy-five years later, it has lost all meaning as antisemitic campus youth groups, boycott movements, and old-fashioned Jew-hatred are once again mainstreamed.

Jews cannot safely walk on the streets of our cities or college campuses, pray in our synagogues, or wear visibly Jewish symbols without fear of being physically assaulted or spat upon.  Phrases such as “go back to the ovens,” “Hitler was right,” and “Zionist Israel = Nazi Germany” can be heard on streets from Boca Raton and Miami to San Francisco and Seattle — and everywhere in between.

Since the founding of the State of Israel, traditional antisemitism — replete with swastikas, blood libels, and conspiracy theories of Jews controlling the world — has expanded.  Today’s antisemitism certainly includes the painting of swastikas on synagogues, gravestones, businesses, and homes.  It includes extremists perpetuating blood libels about Jews drinking the blood of Muslim children and withholding life-saving medications from Arabs.

Today’s antisemitism also manifests itself in anti-Zionism.  It is this new antisemitism that is becoming the most dangerous for Jews across the world who find themselves in the crosshairs of ignorant haters who know nothing about the history of the Jewish homeland or the magnificent culture of the Jewish people.  Anti-Zionism, an attempt at masking Jew-hatred, is flourishing, and it must be stopped lest we find ourselves repeating history once again.

In the face of Ben & Jerry’s recent announcement that it is pulling its ice cream from what it ignorantly labeled “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” we are reminded of the boycotts of Jewish businesses in Germany just prior to the owners of those businesses being hauled off in cattle cars to the concentration camps at which six million Jews were systematically murdered.  And while the outrage at the B&J announcement has been swift and loud from Jews across the world, like B&J’s Jewish progressive owners, the usual suspects of far-left, anti-Zionist organizations and individuals are unsurprisingly, yet abhorrently, defending the policy.

There are steps that federal, state, and local governments and other American institutions can take to help protect Jewish citizens and prevent the scourge of hate from expanding in even more dangerous and insidious ways.  And yet, our lawmakers, corporate executives, and college administrators continue to disregard their moral responsibilities.  That must change immediately.

Congress should pass the Antisemitism Awareness Act, held up by Democrats, which codifies the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism and which has been adopted by the State Department, thirty countries, and over 450 global entities.  Colleges, corporations, states, and municipalities should do the same.  In order to fight this scourge, we must understand what it is.

Democrats in Congress have also prevented the passage of anti-BDS legislation.  Thirty-five states have passed such laws and are currently being encouraged to begin their enforcement against B&J’s and its parent company, Unilever.  It is time for the federal government to do the same.

The Biden administration should restate the Trump administration’s declaration that the BDS movement is antisemitic and that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.  And it should enforce Trump’s Title VI Executive Order designed to protect Jewish students on college campuses.  Biden’s nominee to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights should not receive Senate confirmation unless she commits to enforcing this critically important order.

These measures are just a start, but they will send a message to all Jew-haters that antisemitism, and its modern manifestation, anti-Zionism, are not acceptable in civilized society, whether in corporate boardrooms, the academy and media, or the halls of Congress.  Humanity should never forget that what begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.  With the help of people of good conscience, we may finally begin to eradicate the ancient sickness of antisemitism.

Lauri B. Regan is the New York chapter president and board member of the Endowment for Middle East Truth and treasurer and board member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.  She currently serves as the chair of the American Zionist Movement’s Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, and Holocaust Denial Project.