Rising Anti-Semitism in the US: Why Intersectionality is its Latest Expression
I was seventeen years old, huddling in the corner of a classroom with other kids from my grade, cowering in darkness. Approximately ten seconds earlier, my principal’s voice had come over the loudspeaker: “We are now in lockdown.” Shortly thereafter: “This is not a drill. There is an active shooter at a nearby school.”
So there we were, grouped together in darkness except for the glow emitted from my classmates’ phone screens, silent except for the rapid tapping as they texted their parents, There’s an active shooter and I’m okay and Mom, I’m scared.
It was a mistake. There was no active shooter at a nearby school. The reason we went into lockdown, however, was because the school people thought had an active shooter was a Jewish institution.
The school’s code is that, if another Jewish school in the area has an active shooter, it also goes into lockdown. Why? Because the shooter might hit multiple schools, to kill as many Jewish kids as possible.
The reality of living as a Jew in America, or living as a Jew anywhere, is that people are going to try to kill you and they will sometimes succeed. Anti-Semitism is rising in America, in Europe, everywhere. Even in Israel, our homeland, we aren’t safe, because everyone in our vicinity wants to kill us. There are lots of random terrorist attacks—stabbings, shootings, bombings, car rammings—resulting in thousands of civilians dead. My own cousin, Ezra, who was taking a gap year in Israel before college, was shot in the face and killed on a random day in November, 2015. He was napping on a bus and a 21-year-old Palestinian shot him through the window. He’d celebrated his eighteenth birthday the month before.
In America, and in essentially every country, Jews are a minority. We are targeted, harassed, attacked, assaulted, sometimes murdered, for our identity.
In America, this sometimes takes the form of anti-Zionism. Israel is blamed for every problem in the Middle East and is even used as a scapegoat around the world for various issues, turning minority groups against us by hijacking their movements: black people, LGBTQ+ people, feminists, and Native Americans tend to be anti-Israel. They’ll say it’s not connected to Jews, but how come, if you go to an SJP meeting, they’ll talk about the oppression of the Palestinians in relation to Israel and not the hundreds of thousands being persecuted in other countries in the Middle East? How come they talk about how evil Israel is but never talk about helping Palestinians? How come BDS actually is financially worse for the Palestinians than the Israelis—the boycotts hit them way harder because they’re much more financially vulnerable—and yet BDS doesn’t say a peep about it, or even seem to care? These organizations are not about helping Palestinians; they are about harming Israel.
[Palestinians] also appear fed up with the international media’s obsession with Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The only Palestinians the international media reports about are those whose “problems” are directly linked to Israel.
For the past year, dozens of international journalists based in the Middle East have been covering the weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border. These journalists, however, seem to care precious little about the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon, who, for several decades now, have been protesting the apartheid and discrimination practiced by an Arab country.
What’s so unique about Israel? Its rights for minorities—LGBTQ+ people, women, and in other words, the very people who fight against its existence—is notably better than anywhere else in the Middle East and often better than other first-world countries. Israel’s army is filled with female soldiers; Tel Aviv is known as “the gayest city on Earth”; it seems like a normal first-world country. In its neighbouring countries, people are executed for being gay; women aren’t allowed to do things like leave the house without permission from a male, drive a car, or even do yoga. Why do people focus so heavily on Israel when there are clearly much more pressing human rights abuses going on in the region?
The obvious answer is anti-Semitism. It’s poorly-disguised, vicious anti-Semitism that is being deliberately ignored by many people because they actively partake in it.
Take The New York Times, for example. They are extremely critical of Israel, sometimes to the point where they print outright falsehoods or gross misrepresentations of events going on in the region. This summer they printed two anti-Semitic cartoons. Two. On separate occasions. How come they only talked about the oppression of the Palestinians in the context of Israel? How come they write articles like the one about two young girls involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, trying to humanize and compare them to one another, when one murdered the other?
Anti-Semitism. It’s all anti-Semitism.
In America, on college campuses, Jews aren’t allowed into minority events anymore. If you go to an LGBTQ+ pride parade, people might kick you out for being Jewish. If you try attending a feminist march, Linda Sarsour and others like her will get up and start spewing thinly veiled anti-Semitic nonsense. Want to advocate for black people? Native Americans? Want to close the pay gap? Better not be Jewish. Because if you’re Jewish, you’re in league with Trump and Netanyahu (and for your information, I don’t like either of them); you’re against Palestinians (who said you’re anti-Palestinian when you’re pro-Israel?); and you approve of Israel’s existence, of the Jews’ right to have a homeland, and therefore you are a terrible person and you could not possibly be a feminist, an advocate for racial equality, or an LGBTQ+ ally.
Intersectionality was created for minority groups to band together and stand up for themselves and one another, yet somehow Jews are excluded from this, despite being a targeted minority. In fact, not only are we excluded, but we are oppressed by the other minority groups. We’re attacked by the extreme left along with the extreme right, and the abuse is starting to slide down into the center.
What a surprise.
I think that’s something that now only the oldest Jews, the ones who experienced the Holocaust, realize: we are not safe.
The twenty-first century is not the last. It is simply one of many. It is a point of history, and history will continue beyond this point. One day every person on Earth, all 7.7 billion of us, will not just be dead but completely forgotten, a point in history, perhaps ancient history.
We are not the last generation. We are victims to the patterns of history, the cyclical nature that is human psychology.
Part of this cyclical nature is anti-Semitism.
Are we really naïve enough to believe that it’s over? That the Holocaust was the last time? There’s a reason the term “never forget” exists: it’s because there will most likely be a time, perhaps many times, when this will all happen again. Anti-Semitism will die down and then people will start to forget and it will rise again. It’s already happening. Anti-Semitism is rising in the US, in Europe, everywhere. We are not safe, as we knew, as we’ve always known but we keep forgetting because that’s history, to forget.
The reason we so desperately need Israel is because, the last time we didn’t have a place to flee when things started going terribly wrong, we were almost wiped out. 5–8 million Jews died, and if that doesn’t sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, it was ⅓ of the Jews in the world. We were almost wiped out, because when people started killing us we were sitting ducks. We had no place to run. It’s taken us till now to rebuild our population to what it was then, and that’s when Israel’s average birthrate stands at 3.1 per woman, which is the most of any developed country.
We have seen the rise and fall of the Greek, Roman, and Macedonian empires; perhaps we will see the rise and fall of the American one, as well. Perhaps, a thousand years from now, the world will be completely different and the Jews will still be there, maybe in Israel and maybe not, but still reliably present, like we have been for the past few millennia, battling anti-Semitism and fighting for our rights and never, ever giving up.
You ask why we are afraid?
It’s because we should be.