Paul Pillar

Anti-Semitism in the U.S.: Its Foundations and Recent Surge

So there should be no conflicting feelings in thinking about Donald Trump in connection with these issues.  His bromance with Netanyahu is one founded on a common approach to fear and prejudicial policies.  The parallels between their policies, along with the foundations of fear and prejudice, extend even to wall-building.  The shared political strategy of the two governments promotes the sort of bias and hatred that is bad for Jews, bad for Israel, and bad for the values of tolerance and fairness that the vast majority of American Jews embrace.

The false equations may have contributed to this problem from another angle.  The alacrity with which some defenders of the rightist government of Israel whip out the anti-Semitism card as a response to criticism of that government’s policies not only represents a grossly inaccurate characterization of much criticism that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and is offered in the best interests of Israel.  It also complicates efforts to counter real anti-Semitism.  For one thing, it means taking our eyes off the ball that is the real thing while holding debates about the false version.  For another, it cheapens the currency.  If observers in the United States perceive that anti-Semitism is something that involves policy wonks arguing over what is going on in the West Bank, most observers are not apt to conclude that it is something worth spending their time and attention worrying about.

They should worry about it.   It has been said, with good reason, that Jews are the canary in the coal mine as far as prejudice and sometimes lethal hatred are concerned, because they often have been the first to suffer from it.  But if the cause of the suffering remains, others will suffer as well.

Image: Donald Trump speaks with supporters at a 2016 campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Creative Commons / Flickr / Gage Skidmore