Who Came First: Jews or anti-Semites?
It is likely that anyone who has ever seriously studied the history of Judaism and the Jewish people has, at one time or another, facetiously wondered aloud "Who came first: Jews or anti-Semites?" Or, to clothe the query in tacky thread-bare garments: "If God, in co's* (that's my divine pronoun, meaning "his/her") infinite wisdom had not created the Jewish people so that they could become a "light unto the nations," would the evil impulse have created anti-Semites in order for humanity's worst to have a universal, eternal source of blame and obloquy?" It's a tough question, for despite the fact that the term Antisemitism is of relatively recent vintage (first coined by a German political agitator named Wilhelm Marr not quite 145 years) the fear, phobia and fable about Jews and Judaism go back to the dawn of time. And, as long as it has existed, anti-Semitism has consisted of two coterminous ideological strains:
- That which claims that because they are spawns of Satan, Jews are inherently weak and utterly immoral . . . or
- Jews are all active participants in an eternal international conspiracy whose end goal is total world domination.
As I write these words I am reminded of the classic Blondie song One Way Or Another, whose lyric begins:
One way or another I'm gonna find ya/I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha . . .
Historically, Anti-Semitism has, generally speaking, be kind of like the Dow Jones average, where there are times when its strong and roars like a lion and others when its weak and rather quiescent. Ever since the end of World War II, Anti-Semitism has, for the most part, been more rhetorical than real. With the creation of the Internet, there are today, tons of sites which permit bigoted troglodytes to introduce new generations to conspiracies involving Zionist bankers, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Federal Reserve and the spread of AIDS - not to mention the "sins" of Israel. To be sure, this does represent an upward spike in Antisemitism. And, since ;45's election and inauguration, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. (which had surged more than one-third in 2016) jumped more than 86% in the first quarter of 2017. Many in the press point a finger at '45 for making this latest spike possible. "Not so!" proclaim a significant minority of American Jews and Christian Zionists. They defend the president, pointing to his having a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren, a Jewish Treasury Secretary, a Jewish Secretary of Veteran's affairs and innumerable Jewish lawyers . . . all of which drives hardcore anti-Semites crazy. "He's the best friend the Jewish State ever had" others insist, without offering much proof. "If there is any rise in anti-Semitism, it's got nothing to do with him!" they conclude.
There are, to put is diplomatically, chilling indicators that '45, his administration and advisers, are inconsistent. Consider that:
- The President's senior in-house political strategist, Steve Bannon is, in the words of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect's Executive Director Steven Goldstein " . . . the most dangerous anti-Semitic threat to American Jewry of our time, with only Patrick Buchanan coming close." In his struggle for supremacy with Jared Kusher, Bannon has repeatedly referred to the president's Jewish son-in-law as a "globalist" . . . a term which has been used as an anti-Semitic dog whistle and echoes pernicious anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, a statement from '45 failed to mention the millions of Jews who were murdered at the hand of the Nazis. Earlier in April, [now former] White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mistakenly said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler didn't use chemical weapons while referencing chemical weapons attacks by Syria's leader, before apologizing and backtracking.
In May, when '45 visited Yad Vashem, Israel's national holocaust memorial, he wrote what the Washington Post termed "a strangely upbeat, self-referential" note all in caps: "IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS — SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET!” The same article compared '45's entry with that of his predecessor who, on his first visit in 2008 wrote: “I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again'." And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”
Earlier this month, while visiting Poland on his way to the G-20 summit in Berlin, '45 became the first POTUS in nearly 30 years to go to Warsaw without visiting the Ghetto uprising monument.
Perhaps most importantly, just the other day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered the closure of the State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice, the agency which for more than two decades has monitored and sought to bring to justice war crimes and those participants in crimes against humanity and genocide. According to a State Department press release, the decision is a product of an “employee redesign initiative.” To my way of thinking, this is a gross obfuscation of truth.
At the same time, '45 and Secretary Tillerson have left vacant the post of "Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism," (SEAS) most recently held by Ira Forman, who was my direct superior in the 2012 Obama reelection campaign. In a Washington Post op-ed piece which Ira published less than two weeks ago, he wrote: When testifying before Congress in June, Tillerson said that, even as he has considered making the appointment, he has been vexed by the concern that anti-Semitism could actually get less attention if the special envoy position continued to function. The secretary stated: “One of the things we are considering — and we understand why (the envoys) were created and the good intentions behind why they were created — but one of the things we want to understand is, by doing that, did we weaken our attention to those issues? Because the expertise in a lot of these areas lies within the bureaus, and now we’ve stripped it out of the bureaus.” Ambassador Forman began the next paragraph by saying that he and his colleagues "couldn't disagree more."
This last matter is of great importance. To leave this post vacant - along with thinning out much of our diplomatic corps - is to send a message that Jews and other minorities really do not count; that our current administration is far more concerned with keeping the political support of narrow-minded, conspiracy-loving bigots, than protecting the rights and freedoms of a community which has done so much to make this country great.
I urge - nay, implore - you to take a minute or two and sign this petition demanding that the White House allocate the resources to reinstate the nation's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Let your voice be heard!
As the POTUS and his administration continue tooting dog-whistles called variously "America First," "Make America Great Again" and "Globalists versus "Nationalists," our country - our world - is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. By making this country safe for millionaires and billionaires and shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world - except when it comes to steroidal capitalism - they are creating a new Gilded Age - a time when disparity between haves and have-nots was staggering, rugged individualism trumped community, and conspiracy theories were given free reign.
184 days down, 1,273 to go.
Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone