BDS, leftist and Muslim anti-Semitism can’t be talked about.
In 2019, President Trump signed an executive order on combating antisemitism. The order used the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”, “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism to characterize Israel” and applying double standards to the Jewish State.
Biden’s hyped U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, released on the eve of the Shavuot holiday, backtracks from this gold standard by claiming that, “there are several definitions of antisemitism, which serve as valuable tools to raise awareness and increase understanding of antisemitism”, including the IHRA, but noting that the Biden administration “welcomes and appreciates the Nexus Document and notes other such efforts.”
The Nexus definition was authored by anti-Israel activists like Tema Smith, who had claimed that, “Hamas — and the Palestinians as a whole — have desperately real and legitimate grievances against Israel.”
“Jews *have* to be ok with Palestinians *explaining* why some turn to terrorism,” she argued.
The Nexus advisory committee included the likes of Hussein Ibish, who had described Hezbollah as a “disciplined and responsible liberation force” whose terrorists had “conducted themselves in an exemplary manner”, along with J Street leader Jeremy Ben Ami, Lila Corwin-Berman, who had defended BDS, and Chaim Seidler-Feller, whose hatred was so intense he had kicked and scratched a Jewish woman over her support for the Jewish State.
The Nexus definition of antisemitism was created to protect anti-Israel activists from charges of antisemitism. That definition, which the Biden administration chose to promote, claims that BDS, or “boycotting goods made in the West Bank and/or Israel is not antisemitic”, and argues that, “opposition to Zionism and/or Israel does not necessarily reflect specific anti-Jewish animus nor purposefully lead to antisemitic behaviors and conditions” and defends double standards by contending that “paying disproportionate attention to Israel and treating Israel differently than other countries is not prima facie proof of antisemitism.”
While the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism claims that the IHRA definition is the most prominent, that is not the same as an endorsement and the strategy carefully avoids any mention of BDS and beyond its opening has relatively few mentions of Israel. Despite being hyped by Jewish Democrats, it is undeniably a step back from the Trump executive order.
Even with the seemingly strong language cited by administration supporters, such as “when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism”, the ‘conditional’ in that sentence is clearly a lawyerly use of the Nexus, not the IHRA definition, defining hatred of Israel only as antisemitism when it can be proven to have originated because of antisemitism.
Incorporating the Nexus defense of BDS and hatred of Israel is a symptom of a larger problem.
The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism insists that the only kind of antisemitism is white supremacism or “right-wing” hatred. Its only references to leftist, black, or Muslim antisemitism are cautiously indirect because those forms of antisemitism cannot be condemned.
After multiple Muslim and black nationalist terrorist attacks on synagogues, Muslims and black nationalists are only mentioned as allies and fellow victims of white supremacist bigotry.
The strategy states that, “antisemitic conspiracy theories are often foundational to white supremacy as well as numerous other violent extremist ideologies. For example, in January 2022, an armed hostage-taker motivated by other violent notions terrorized the members of a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.” The “other violent notions” were Islamic ones.
Malik Faisal Akram, a Muslim Pakistani supporter of ‘Lady Al Qaeda’, broke into the synagogue and held the people inside hostage until he was shot and killed by the FBI. Al Qaeda later called Akram a “martyr” and declared that “there Is no greater enemy of Islam and inhabitants of Islam than the Jews”.
When a national antisemitism strategy can’t even name and describe an Al Qaeda attack on a synagogue because it would undermine its premise that Muslims can only be victims and that the only threat worth discussing is white supremacy then it’s the problem, not the solution.
If the Biden administration won’t even allow a mention of the most violent kind of Islamic antisemitism by a supporter of a terror group we are at war with, it’s collaborating with it.
The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.rollout press release boasts that “the Council on American-Islamic Relations will launch a tour to educate religious communities about steps they can take to protect their houses of worship from hate incidents.”
That’s the same CAIR which has defended Islamic terrorism against Jews, defended Muslim terrorists who plotted attacks on synagogues, whose official, Zahra Billoo, had urged, “we need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues”, and which was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial involving the funding of Hamas.
When Ahmed Ferhani was arrested for a plot to attack a synagogue, CAIR held a rally to support him. It still has materials on its site defending the antisemitic terrorist.
After promoting an antisemite’s definition of antisemitism, the Biden administration is promoting synagogue bombers to tour and educate houses of worship about security measures.
There are good things about the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. It does address campus antisemitism, acknowledging that, “on college campuses, Jewish students, educators, and administrators have been derided, ostracized, and sometimes discriminated against because of their actual or perceived views on Israel.” But it fails to note that the antisemitism is coming from Islamists and leftists, and its focus on “swastikas” and “Kristallnacht” implies the familiar white supremacist narrative even when, in one case, the Nazi reference was actually being employed by a Muslim woman.
The strategy does mention that beyond learning about the Holocaust, students should also learn the “histories of antisemitism experienced by Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews—who trace their ancestry to Spain, the Middle East, and North Africa—and their stories of exclusion, persecution, and expulsion.” And that is a good thing, American Jewish historiography has been dominated for too long by Ashkenazi or European Jewish history, but how will it be possible to teach about Muslim antisemitism without even mentioning Islam?
Even though Orthodox Jews have been the victims of the majority of violent physical assaults, there is only one brief mention of this phenomenon, “some traditionally observant Jews, especially traditional Orthodox Jews, are victimized while walking down the street.”
Inconveniently, the attackers tend to be black or other minorities, and so cannot be mentioned.
The black nationalist massacre at a Kosher grocery store in Jersey City and a machete attack at a synagogue in 2019 go completely unmentioned, even though they were among the deadliest recent attacks on Jews along with the white supremacist terrorist attack in Poway, California.
A better name for the new approach would be the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Those Kinds of Antisemitism We Are Willing to Discuss while leaving out the majority of violent antisemitic threats and avoiding the question of Israel as much as it possibly can.
The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism is crippled by the woke dependency on intersectionality, on the need to view antisemitism as interrelated with other prejudices and bigotries, and to position Jews as common victims and allies against white supremacy, and in the process it ignores what antisemitism actually is and what is unique about it. And that approach has actually ended up enabling leftist antisemitism over the 20th century.
Anitsemitism is not simply a racial or religious hatred. The attempts to narrowly define it run aground on its persistence across thousands of years, through different cultures, religions, and nations. Antisemitism morphs, adopting different shapes and forms, emerging in radically different political movements across both the Left and the Right, to form a common denominator. The Biden strategy seeks to compartmentalize antisemitism within a postmodern rainbow coalition of minority victims faced with the bigotry of a majority, even as the document is forced to awkwardly grapple with the fact that much of the hatred is coming from minorities.
At best that’s denial and at worst that’s complicity.
The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism isn’t a strategy to fight antisemitism, but to cover up the reality of it as a politically inconvenient reality with a politically convenient myth. And no one should have expected anything else from a radical administration with no shortage of antisemitic nominees, which continues to undermine Israel while supporting hate groups like CAIR. Whether it’s Nexus or the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, putting the enablers of antisemitism in charge of defining and fighting antisemitism can never end well.
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