As a general rule, I don’t ask English lit majors about the structural soundness of an interstate overpass.
I don’t rely on men to inform me as to whether or not rape culture is a thing.
I don’t trust the opinions of white folks about the reality of racism in America.
And I sure as shit am not going to listen to Christians (or self-proclaimed ones, at least) try and define for me what is and is not anti-Semitism.
Call me crazy, but I think in the four cases above, one would do best to check with engineers, women, people of color, and Jews, respectively. Some people are experts when it comes to certain topics. Other folks are spectating and pontificating about things they don’t understand.
Case in point: Donald Trump, who recently said that American Jews are either uninformed or “disloyal” if they vote for Democrats, given the party’s supposed anti-Semitism. It’s an anti-Semitism he insists Democrats are guilty of due to the presence of some in the party (like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar) who support the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement and question the prerogatives of the Israeli government.
Putting aside that critiquing Israel and even calling for BDS against it is not anti-Semitic (Israel is a nation-state and is not synonymous with Jews, as Jews), for someone the likes of Trump to proclaim what is and is not anti-Semitism is precious indeed. Especially because his suggestions of Jewish disloyalty are themselves a long-standing anti-Jewish trope.
No indeed, we do not need the uber-gentile real estate developer and former slumlord from Queens to tell us what anti-Semitism is. Nor do we need insights on the matter from the evangelical Christians who insist upon their love for us — or at least for Israel — even as they believe we are all doomed for a lake of fire unless we stop being Jews. There is nothing more anti-Semitic than that, after all: believing in one’s own spiritual supremacy and telling Jews that we are cut off from God because of our faith or the faith of our families?
Yeah, fuck you very much.
When people like this try and tell Jews what anti-Semitism is, and can’t seem to move past a definition that begins and ends with any criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu, you know you’re dealing with people who operate in bad faith.
My father’s father’s family was persecuted in Russia, along with tens of thousands of other Jews, in the late 1800s and into the early 20th century. It was this persecution that prompted their departure for the U.S.
The Jewish Community Center of my father’s youth was bombed in 1958, by racists opposed to what they viewed as Jewish leadership of the desegregation struggle.
In 1981, a group of Klansmen drove to the Temple of my childhood with a device they believed to be an explosive to blow it up. Fortunately, the device was a dud, part of a sting operation, and the would-be bombers were all arrested.
Repeatedly, while in school, teachers told me — not other kids, mind you, but authority figures — that because I was Jewish, I was going to hell. Only by accepting Jesus as my personal savior (in short by ceasing to be Jewish) could I hope to enter the kingdom of God.
In 1990 and 1991, I had the pleasure of opening the daily mail at the organization for which I worked — the primary anti-David Duke group in Louisiana during Duke’s runs for public office — only to be met with one after another hateful letter, filled with rants about Jews running the media, and how the Holocaust hadn’t happened, but how they sure wished it had.
And today, I regularly receive — as I no doubt will in reply to this essay — memes sent via email or Twitter, inviting me to “get in the oven,” or fantasizing about making me into a lampshade.
I should point out, as well: none of these acts were committed by the political left, by Hamas, or by members of the Nation of Islam. All were the acts of folks on the right, and mostly those who claimed to be Bible-believing Christians. So to conservatives, who would prefer to deflect the problem of Jew-hatred onto others, heal thyself.
I mention all this to say that what is and is not anti-Semitism is not for non-Jews to determine. We have a hard enough time agreeing amongst ourselves sometimes — indeed there are Jews who think criticism of Israel or Zionism are de facto examples of it — and surely we need no help from the likes of those who will not bear the brunt of it, in any event.
Fix your churches, and the inherently anti-Semitic theology so many of you preach — not all Christians, but surely the fundamentalists — which holds that Jews must stop being Jews to avoid an eternity in hell. Desiring an end to Judaism by conversion or damnation is no less hateful than desiring it by gas chamber; in either case, the result is the same: no more Jews.
Your claim to “love us” because the one you accept as the Messiah was a Jew will not cut it; neither will your professed love for Israel. Your actions, your votes, and your core beliefs hurt us every day, right here in the nation we share.
We are more than capable of discerning who our friends are.
So too, our enemies.