Donald Trump Antisemitic Facilitator – Part II: The Iranian Dimension

Donald Trump Antisemitic Facilitator – Part II: The Iranian Dimensionby

by

Howard Adelman

SUMMARY

Connecting a non-antisemite (Trump) to a charge that the same person contributes to the rise of antisemitism is very difficult in the best of worlds. However, given the toxic discourse of the American political scene, it is even more difficult. I bracket Donald Trump initially and begin with a detailed case study of two writers, both Iranian-Americans, who accuse four other American writers of aggregating Donald Trump’s anti-refugee and anti-Muslim rhetoric, thereby adding to and exacerbating an atmosphere of intolerance generally. That, in turn, foments antisemitism. I analyze the charge in detail to demonstrate that the accusers are, at a minimum, guilty of gross distortion and unsubstantiated allegations that open up the possibility that they may themselves be contributors to antisemitism even if that may not have been their intent, raising the question of whether, both because of those targeted, the manner of their argument and their substantive declared objective, they may be border-line antisemites or even unconsciously deeply antisemitic.

If Donald Trump is unequivocally not an antisemite of any type, does Donald Trump bear some responsibility for the increase in antisemitic incidents? He has often expressed antisemitic tropes, targeting other groups. He also refused for the longest time to condemn the racists who supported him. Moreover, he is also prone to Jewish stereotyping, once referring to Jews at a Jewish event as a people focused on making money and, like himself, dealmakers. He called the people in the room, “negotiators” and said, “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money.”

However, among the political right, antisemitism is a dying creed, especially since the antisemitism targeting the billionaires who “control” the economy of the world as well as the media outlets has now become a major component in the ultra-left wing of the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, there is still more than enough coming from the right. A TV ad aired in Trump’s campaign for the presidency pointed a finger at “a global power structure that that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class and stripped our country of its wealth.” And who were the villains? All Jews – billionaire currency speculator George Soros, Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve and Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Unleashing xenophobic furies possibly creates an atmosphere which makes hatred of minorities more acceptable. But the connection to antisemitism can be more indirect where actions in the name of criticizing hate stir reactions. I am not referring to the extremists on the right, such as David Duke, who greets every attack by Donald Trump on Muslims with loud cheers.  I want to raise the subtler case of border-line antisemitism which may contain a strong strain of prejudice and distortion that could readily be interpreted as antisemitism.

In a Kansas bar in February, Adam Puriton shot and killed one Indian engineer and wounded another thinking they were Iranians. In response, Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, (NIAC) and Tyler Cullis, a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (a different NIAC) legal fellow at the National Iranian American Council, wrote a piece in The Huffington Post called, “Trump Didn’t Start The Anti-Iranian Fire.” The article began by connecting the Puriton incident to Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric. However, the article went on, insisting that the problem predated and went deeper than Donald Trump and declared Trump “nothing but the most outward symptom of an affliction that has long plagued our country.” In other words, there was a “deep state,” or, at the very least, a “deep society” behind the Trump anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The article then named the culprits at the deeper level. “For more than a decade, there has been an organized effort on the part of groups like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), The Israel Project (TIP), Secure America Now, and United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and propagandists like Michael Rubin, Eli Lake, Adam Kredo and Josh Block to push war with Iran in the most hyperbolic terms, all the while defaming those – most particularly, those in the Iranian-American community – who urge a peaceful resolution to the historical tensions between the two countries.” Their thesis was that these culprits had demonized the Iranian regime and were thereby responsible for provoking Puriton’s murderous intent and actions.

I was puzzled by the attack. What do the well-known anti-Iranian positions of the above institutions and, more specifically, Michael Rubin, Eli Lake, Adam Kredo and Josh Block, have to do with arousing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric? Michael Rubin wrote a comment in Refugees Deeply (https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2016/11/04/expert-discussion-president-donald-trump-and-the-refugee-crisis). The comment appeared right after those of my pro-refugee colleagues’ strong criticisms of Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric. The three preceding criticisms of an anti-refugee bias were written by Michelle Mittelstadt from the Migration Policy Institute, Lavinia Limon, president and CRE of the U.S. Committee for Refugees who coined the phrase “warehousing” to depict the refugee camps (holding pens is a more accurate phrase) funded by the international community, and Jessica Brandt, a fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Rubin then wrote: “Trump’s deference to dictators – be they in Syria, Turkey or Russia – may convince them that they can commit atrocities without consequence. This might have the net effect of increasing refugee problems. And, because stemming immigration has been such a central part of his populist appeal, the willingness of a Trump White House to address refugees beyond basic provision of aid seems unlikely.” Though not in the same league as the three other denunciations of Trump’s anti-refugee policy, it is almost impossible to read this comment as an endorsement of Trump on refugees.

In Eli Lake’s 2015 article, “Crisis Looms for Refugees Taken in by Iraq’s Kurds,” (Bloomberg), he wrote, “The current refugee crisis created by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars has received significant attention in recent weeks as hundreds of thousands of refugees have sought new lives in Europe. But it’s the countries in the Middle East that are suffering the most as a result of the ongoing war.” Again, this is virtually impossible to interpret as an anti-refugee screed.

Adam Kredo, on the other hand, did write a number of pieces about vetting refugees and expressed a concern, similar to Trump’s, that the Obama vetting procedures were not known and could be inadequate. He also wrote about a Texas decision to withdraw from the refugee program because of concerns over terrorism, criticized claimed plans under the Obama administration to cut screening times, and, most seriously, claimed in an 8 January 2016 piece that a member of a terrorist cell captured in Texas allegedly entered as a refugee without providing a piece of evidence to substantiate the allegation. The piece supposedly implied that the 113 individuals thus far implicated in terrorism were evidence of a flawed immigration and vetting policy.

Josh Block, as far as I know, has not written on refugee policy. He has written about the connection between Islamicism and, more specifically, ISIS and terrorists attacks in the U.S. particularly the San Bernardino killings. That earned this response by the Iranian-American writers in an article, “Top Israel advocate uses San Bernardino killings to attack Islam” (http://mondoweiss.net/2015/12/advocate-bernardino-killings)

“Josh Block, who is paid to be an advocate for Israel, spends much of his Twitter feed attacking Muslims wherever they are. The more time he spends attacking Muslims, the less his audience can reflect on occupation/dispossession.” But all the quotes were about extreme Islamicists and terrorists, not Muslims. Further, the terrorists who killed 14 and wounded 22 others were Muslim extremists. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were, according to the FBI, “homegrown violent extremists” inspired by jihadism. There was nothing said in the article about refugees, about immigrants or about Muslims in general.

Adam Kredo wrote an article for the Washington Free Beacon in January (http://freebeacon.com/national-security/muslim-brotherhood-ally-falsely-smears-senator-block-terror-designation-bill/) allegedly criticizing CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations billed as a Muslim advocacy group, for its intervention with Congress to prevent lawmakers from designating the Islamic Brotherhood as a supporter of terrorism. However, even the most superficial reader of the article soon learns that the criticism was of CAIR’s claim, quoting CAIR directly, that the author of the Cruz legislation was a disgraced former FBI agent “who made a career out of bashing Muslims and Islam.” Based on the evidence cited, the article concluded that there was absolutely no connection between the legislation and the former FBI agent. It was not an anti-Muslim article. The article was not an anti-Muslim screed.

Eli Lake did write an article in the National Post (10 February 2017) that criticized the link between Trump’s “ban” and abetting radical Islam. However, the argument made by the Iranian-Americans was against the straw man claim that Trump’s ban directly enhanced Islamicist terrorism. The charge was that Trump’s proposed ban (stayed last night by a Hawaii judge who reiterated that it was anti-Muslim based on Trump’s own words) contributed to the Islamicist ability to attract more adherents.

Michael Rubin also has been attacked as an Islamophobe in pieces in ThinkProgress and identified with a “fringe undercurrent of right-wing anti-Muslim bigotry.” (https://thinkprogress.org/the-american-enterprise-institutes-islamophobia-problem-690f500df285#.rin0xyq7c) “Rubin has long maintained relationships with Islamophobes.” The charge was guilt by association. No evidence was offered for Rubin being anti-Muslim.

Look more closely at the culprits. Michael Rubin’s PhD thesis from Yale University was entitled The Making of Modern Iran, 1858–1909: Communications, Telegraph and Society. It won the John Addison Porter Prize in history. He has since published books on Islamic extremism in the Middle East. Rubin is a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, and instructs military officers scheduled for deployment there. Rubin is not a detached observer, not just in the ideological sense, but has drawn his conclusions on Iran not only from scholarship but from direct experience with the Iranian regime. He lived in post-revolution Iran (1996 and 1999) after six months in 1995 in Yemen, taught in pre- (2000-2001) and post-war Iraq, and even lived with the Taliban before 9/11. He knows a thing or two about Islamic extremism.

Rubin is certainly a neo-con and a hawk with respect to both Iraq and Iran. He is a hardline supporter of Netanyahu’s and Trump’s criticism of the Iran deal. So are Eli Lake, Adam Kredo and, to a much lesser extent, Josh Block who is neither a neo-con nor a hawk.

At least three of the four grew up in Pennsylvania. At least three of the four grew up in Jewish leftist households. Michael Rubin was even sent to a Quaker School for fourteen years. All appear to have started out left of centre. But the most common feature of all four is that they are all Jewish. There are a plethora of non-Jewish neo-cons. Why are the only four named critics of Iran and the nuclear deal Jewish? Why are they falsely identified with anti-refugee and anti-Muslim positions?

“A decade of messaging like this, though, has now had its payday: Adam Purinton walked into a bar and shot to kill what he believed to be Iranians,” wrote Parsi and Cullis. The implication of the article can easily be interpreted to mean that Jews were to blame for the killing the Indian engineer and wounding of another just as they were behind the movers and shakers of the economic order, especially since none of the myriad of non-Jewish neo-cons were mentioned, and that the criticisms were identified with a defence of Israel.

Anyone who has read my writings knows that I am far more sympathetic to the political positions of Parsi and Cullis. I have defended the Obama nuclear deal with Iran and criticized the neo-con opposition. I opposed the war in Iraq and am certainly opposed to any pre-emptive attack on Iran. But all my reading, in spite of all my criticisms of the positions of Rubin, Lake, Kredo and Block, would never suggest that anyone of them was anti-refugee or anti-Muslim even when I may criticize some points they may make on these issues.

The question is, are Parsi and Cullis guilty of fostering antisemitism when they falsely accuse the Jewish-four of being anti-refugee and anti-Muslim?

With the help of Alex Zisman

To be continued.

Donald Trump as a Philo-Semite – Part I: Trump and Antisemitism

Donald Trump as a Philo-Semite – Part I: Trump and Antisemitism

by

Howard Adelman

Last evening, Donald Trump may have been the one to have secretly released the first two pages of his 2005 tax returns to Rachel Maddow, host of a liberal political U.S. TV show, by mailing Trump chronicler and investigative journalist David Cay Johnston in the proverbial brown envelope with no return address his simplified Alternative Minimum Tax form. Why? Because it shows The Donald in a relatively favourable light – he evidently earned $150 million that year and paid 25% in taxes – $38 million. He had done nothing either illegal or improper. No wonder the White House quickly confirmed the accuracy of the figures while insisting that the “illegal” disclosure be investigated. “You know you are desperate for ratings when are you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.”

What a way for the master deflector and magician of all time to take the public’s eye off the scandal swirling around his head about his tweets accusing Barack Obama of taping him in the Trump Tower. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic1] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” All efforts to deflect from that insane accusation by his surrogates – he did not mean his personal phone but the campaign phones; he did not literally even mean wiretapping; he did not literally mean Barack Obama – have been laughed out of the ball park.

The release of the 2005 tax returns may be a substitute for his failed early Saturday morning tweets to distract from the investigations launched from a myriad of directions into the possibility of Trump campaigners’ collusion with Putin’s KGB government. What a chance to steer the inquiries away from the possibility that Trump is in the process of setting up the first Western kleptocracy to compete with Putin’s. What a way for the scandal of firing all the Democratic Party-appointed prosecuting attorneys in one fell swoop – that was what was unprecedented – this past Friday, including one, Preet Bharara, whom he promised could stay on in the Southern District of New York, but who turned out to be the prime investigator into white-collar criminality, including dirty money laundering, swirling around Wall Street. Of the 46 prosecuting attorneys asked to resign immediately and without notice, Bharara was the only one who refused and was fired Saturday, but that gave him an extra day. To do what? – is the question.

The two cover pages of Donald Trump’s tax returns show him earning a very large annual income, reminding Americans of what an astute businessman he is and that he may be as rich as he claims to be. He is seen to be paying a considerable tax bill, but without disclosing his charitable contributions and, more importantly, without disclosing his possible indebtedness to the Deutsche Bank which became a clearing house for laundering billions in Russian money. Unlike the mid-nineties tax return that was leaked during the campaign that showed him not only paying no taxes, but declaring a write off that could have him paying no taxes for 18 years, this so-called explosive revelation displayed Trump as having paid taxes after only ten years, not 18. But why not all the tax returns before 2008 that had already been audited? Why not the full return?

Such speculations may only be the efforts of a liberal observer trying disrespectfully to throw more mud at a president attempting to model himself on President Andrew Jackson, an authentic rather than penthouse populist as the analysis by the Republican-led Congressional Budget Office of the new Ryan health bill reveals – cover far fewer people and allegedly save the government billions. On the other hand, Jackson was the master media manipulator of his time. Jackson, like Trump, did clear the swamp, but only to replace the occupants with his own much more mendacious crew of loyalists. Jackson also was the supreme ethnic cleanser, removing millions of aboriginal people from east of the Mississippi just as Trump now aims to remove those “bad hombres” back to Mexico and to prevent the “lawless savages” who believe in Islam from entering the U.S.

So why discuss Donald Trump’s connection with antisemitism now? The issue seems so tangential. If, in fact, there has been an upsurge in antisemitic incidents since Donald Trump took the reins of power in America. All one hundred U.S. senators signed an open letter addressed to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James B. Comey demanding swift action against the upsurge in antisemitic activity. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”

Is Donald Trump in any way responsible for the upsurge or for the allegedly inadequate response? Any accusation that Donald Trump himself is antisemitic appears far-fetched. However, in the current maelstrom swirling around Trump from so many directions, a step back into what appears to be a peripheral issue re Donald Trump, though not for Jews, may be instructive.

The question of whether Donald Trump is antisemitic is easier to answer than the question of whether he bears any responsibility for the upsurge in antisemitism. First, he is clearly not guilty of antisemitism Type C, that is anti-Zionist antisemitism. He has a history of close connections with the Jewish people and Israel. In 1983, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) awarded Donald Trump the Tree of Life Award, a “humanitarian award presented to individuals for their outstanding community involvement [and] their dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship.” He was honoured in 2004 by serving as the Grand Marshall in the 2004 Israel Day Parade. He has received many other awards and acknowledgements from the Jewish community, such as the Liberty Award in 2015 from the publication, Algemeiner.

Though in the campaign for the nomination just over a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina, he insisted that he would be “a sort of neutral guy” vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has been anything but. He is unequivocally pro-Israel. Donald Trump does not know what it means to be impartial. In fact, he is the most pro-Israel president America has ever had, if pro-Israel is equated with support for the policies of the current coalition that John Kerry dubbed “the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme element.”

Trump supports a united Jerusalem. He promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in his presentation to the AIPAC conference when he was a candidate for the leadership of the Republican Party. “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” He has not rejected the building of settlements across the Green Line. He was critical of Barack Obama for not using the veto to kill the UNSC Resolution this past 28 December 2016 condemning Israeli settlement activity, including the suburbs throughout Jerusalem, as illegal, the first successful UNSC resolution critical of settlements in forty years and one which declares the settlements not simply an obstacle to peace. The resolution even implied support for BDS. Donald Trump had intervened to try to sideline the vote by getting the mover of the resolution, Egypt, to withdraw as its mover one day earlier after Trump phoned Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, only to see the resolution reintroduced the next day by the other four non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Trump and Israel are linked in other ways. Instead of being critical of the “separation” wall dividing parts of the West Bank from Israel, Trump has lauded it and cited the “separation barrier” as an example of his planned wall along the border with Mexico. It would secure America against both drug smugglers and terrorists just as the separation barrier in Israel has been an effective tool for reducing terrorist attacks. He has favoured “defensible borders” rather than the green line as a reference point in peace negotiations. And he has insisted that the U.S. would support any deal arrived at between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, but “advised” the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He is an old and chummy friend of Bibi’s and once said in a video made for the 2013 Israeli elections, “You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.” In fact, he has said that he would go further than Bibi and not just demolish the homes of the families of terrorists, but “take out the families.”

He joined Bibi in denouncing the deal with Iran as the “worst deal ever.” Since achieving office, Trump has appointed two of his lawyers, one his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman and a financial supporter of West Bank settlement activity, as ambassador to Israel, and another real estate lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as his special envoy to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump appointed Nikki Haley (née Randhawa), in spite of her call for him to release his tax returns, as the American ambassador to the UN. Haley, when she was Governor of South Carolina for six years, initiated legislation in 2016 to prevent boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) efforts in South Carolina, the first state-wide effort to do so.

No sooner was Nikki Haley appointed UN Ambassador than she excoriated the UN, justly, for its bias “in favour of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of Israel.” She moved to block the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who had an excellent reputation as an honest technocrat, from serving to lead the UN mission to Libya to stop the use of Libya as a launching pad for refugee claimants to reach Europe. Haley did not want the appointment of Fayyad to signal a willingness to recognize Palestine as a state.

Nor does Trump seem guilty of racist antisemitism Type B, since he has an observant Orthodox Jewish daughter and two gorgeous Jewish grandchildren and his son-in-law, David Kushner, is a chief political adviser. Tomorrow, I will inquire into the question of Trump‘s possible anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican and anti-Black American racism and its connection with antisemitism, but it seems absolutely clear that Trump is not a racist antisemite even though he occasionally engages in antisemitic Jewish stereotyping. The latter seems to be a problem that results from his sloppy thinking processes and terrible articulation rather than from any antisemitism.

Trump is also very clearly not an anti-Jewish antisemite, first because he does not seem to be imbued with any Christian values, including its negative history of Christian persecution of Jews. Nor is he an Enlightenment antisemite like Voltaire since he possesses even fewer traces of Enlightenment values, especially of tolerance, than of Christian values. Besides he is reason-challenged. Is he an antisemite in the original Type A along the lines depicted in the Book of Esther charging Jews with  suffering from dual loyalty and adhering to a set of rules at odds with the American government? Since no one in my memory or studies has been more at odds with the rules of political discourse in the U.S., that would certainly be like the pot calling the kettle black. Further, there seems virtually nothing in common between him and Haman. Donald Trump would never play second fiddle to King Ahasuerus.

But perhaps there are some similarities between himself and King Ahasuerus. For the latter allowed antisemitism to flourish under his watch and seemed oblivious. I will wait until tomorrow’s blog to explore this question when I try to discern the connection between Donald Trump and the upsurge of antisemitic incidents.

Antisemitism in America

Antisemitism in America

by

Howard Adelman

Has there been a significant increase in acts of antisemitism in America? If so, were they Type A, B or C? As a separate question, what has been the corresponding reaction to those incidents by the politicians in Washington, especially by Donald Trump? Whatever the pattern, what is its significance?

To recall, Type A antisemitism is divisible into subtypes. It stands for various forms of anti-Jewish antisemitic speeches and actions that took place before the nineteenth century, including the antisemitism of the Enlightenment itself that declared Judaism anti-reason. Enlightenment antisemitism was not based on Jewish dual loyalty charges, as in the antisemitism of Haman (Type A1). It was not based on Christian theological antisemitism (Type A2) that defined Jews as Christ-killers, condemned to be eternal sojourners with no loyalty to place or polity, purveyors of usury as partners of the devil and guilty of blood libel. In this version, Jews allegedly murdered Christian children to use the blood of innocents in grotesque rituals. Jews were not allowed to own land or to engage directly in commerce. Jews were “unnatural.”

Enlightenment antisemitism was a visceral hatred of Jews purportedly founded on the antisemitism of rationality (Type A3) as taught by Voltaire or Diderot. In an age of Enlightenment, in an age of tolerance, in an age where Jews could gain citizenship and theoretically pursue any profession, Voltaire condemned both Christianity and its predecessor, Judaism, for spreading intolerance, for failing to follow the laws of reason, and for failing to derive the laws of man from the laws of nature.

Though Gotthold Lessing and Christian Wilhelm von Dohm advocated equal rights for Jews, Voltaire, in contrast to Montesquieu as well, in the name of reason, accused Judaism of being the root source of Christian anti-reason and of general intolerance. Jews were purveyors of superstition born of a slavish mentalité that could be traced back to being nurtured in the bosom of Egypt. Jews, in fact, were the most irrational of all backward peoples.

Like Martin Luther, Voltaire viewed Jews as “unnatural,” but not because they rejected Jesus and allegedly had him killed, but because the Jewish belief system in its very foundation was irrational. The ritual laws Jews followed had to be banned or, at the very least, exorcised from the public sphere. Jews were a vile people and Diderot said of them that they confused reason and revelation, gave preference to obscurity and based their beliefs on an irrational foundation that led to zealotry and fanaticism. The charges are very similar to those brought against Muslims in Europe in the present.

Type B antisemitism emerged in the nineteenth century and defined Jews as a race that itself was rooted in the virulent undercurrent of antisemitism pervasive in Christendom. Unlike the plague of theological antisemitism of the mediaeval world and the Inquisition, or the Enlightenment antisemitism described above, racial antisemitism insisted that the behaviour of Jews was written in their genes. Jews could not escape the charges through conversion to either the religion of Christianity or the religion of rationality, but was rooted in their biological make-up, itself traced to charges of unnaturalism among Jews made by both Martin Luther and Voltaire.

Following the end of WWII, a new form of antisemitism began to emerge. Instead of arguing that Jews were not worthy of full participation as members of a state for “rational” or theological reasons, it argued that Jews, among all peoples, were not entitled to exercise self-determination or to have a state of their own. When Zionists insisted on having one, the charges motivating Type B antisemitism were directed against the Jews. They were the racists. They were the ones that practiced apartheid. They were the ones guilty of discrimination. Currently, it is the fundamental driving force behind the BDS movement, though I hasten to add, most supporters of BDS seem to be fellow travellers rather than ardent believers in Type C antisemitism.

Hasia Diner, to whom I referred to in an earlier blog, is a Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History and a specialist in American Jewish history. In the special Moment issue on antisemitism, she railed against labelling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as antisemitic since it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the Israeli government and its policies. As she correctly argued, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a political and ethical stance that criticizes policies of the Israeli government and concludes that they are reprehensible. Further, these BDS supporters insist, again correctly, that economic boycotts are a legitimate way of expressing dissent. There is no question that some have tried to paint all or any criticism of Israel with the broad strokes of antisemitism or insisted that dissent is disloyal when Israel and Jews in North America are secure and strong enough to listen to and hear many voices about the policies and the status of democracy in Israel.

Criticism of Israel does not constitute antisemitism. But running such a campaign under the label of the BDS movement means associating with antisemites who would deny Jews the right to self-determination in their homeland, would deny Jews the right to have their own state. This a movement with a huge disproportionate focus on Israel, on its faults and, ultimately, its right to exist.  What makes it difficult to have a critical conversation about Israel under the BDS banner is not simply that one is immediately, and in most cases, falsely accused of antisemitism, but that one has chosen to forge one’s critique under a label rooted in the denial of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people.

There is another dimension to this anti-Zionist battle. Jewish students on campuses across the U.S. have been demonized and viciously, though almost always only verbally, attacked because they are supporters of Israel. Type C anti-Zionist antisemitism is particularly potent on some campuses while absent from most. Students who defend Israel, who have strong religious and cultural connections with Israel, are accused of being racists and are identified as supporting an illegitimate racist, and sometimes even Nazi apartheid regime. These deeply politicized attacks go well beyond simply debates and criticisms of Israeli government policies. It is not as if these parties attacking Israel also attack the human rights records of Iran, of Hezbollah or even of the Palestinian Authority. The attacks are both single-minded and go well beyond critique.

The absence of historic racist or Christian theological antisemitism does not mean an absence of antisemitism per se. Nor does the enormous success and achievements of Jews in North America. According to the Pew Foundation study on 9-13 January 2017, non-Jewish Americans feel “more warmly” toward Jews than toward any other religious group in our society, outside of their own. However, within the last few months, there has been a noticeable increase in antisemitic incidents with tombstones toppled in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Rochester. There have been well over 100 bombing threats against Jewish community centers. They have become almost a daily occurrence.

Is there any sense that these virulent strains of antisemitism are prevalent in the U.S.? Certainly, since the American election in November of 2016 and even before, there has been a significant increase in hate crimes in the U.S. targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. They have run the gamut from toppling tombstones in Jewish cemeteries to bomb threats mentioned above, largely against Jewish community centres rather than synagogues, forcing their evacuation. Part of the difficulty of analysis is a situation where many strains of antisemitism may be active at the same time.

In the U.S., there is currently a remarkable decrease of Christian theological antisemitism and even its almost total disappearance from public view. However, theological antisemitism has shifted to Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. It is difficult to separate this current strain of theological antisemitism from anti-Zionist antisemitism since Louis Farrakhan has said, “I want to disabuse the Jews today of the false claim that you are the chosen of God — that Israel or Palestine belongs to you.” A critique of chosenness is equated with the Zionist claim of the right to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East. In the National Conference of The Nation of Islam held last month in Detroit, Farrakhan’s critique adopted some of the most prominent elements of racial antisemitism, such as the charge of seeking world domination. “You that think you have power to frighten and dominate the peoples of the world. I’m here to announce the end of your time.” After all, as Farrakhan has claimed many times, Jewish “bloodsuckers” already dominate both the U.S. government and its banking system.

The United States also has a small movement of racist antisemites, such as those in the resurrected KKK and White Power movements once led by David Duke. Much more significant are the Enlightenment antisemites often linked with the BDS movement and anti-Zionism. When do, usually Jewish Enlightenment academics, cross the line between a critique of the irrationality of the Jewish religion and/or a critique of Zionism to become guilty of antisemitism? Alan Dershowitz in a 2011 article in the New Republic (“Why are John Mearsheimer and Richard Falk Endorsing a Blatantly Anti-Semitic Book?” – 4 November), claimed that they clearly crossed the line when they endorsed a blatantly antisemitic book by that proud self-hating Jew (his own words), Gilad Atzmon, called The Wandering Who?

Like Voltaire and Diderot, Atzmon is a strong critic of “Jewish-ness.” Atzmon, like the Nazi racial antisemites, tries to convey the message that Jews are out to control the world. Not some Jews. Not a Jewish elite, but the Jewish people. “American Jews do try to control the world by proxy.” The American media controlled by Jews failed to warn the rest of America in 2007 and 2008 about the impending economic disaster which Jews played such a leading role in bringing about. In thoughts going back to Haman, Jews were the enemy within.

Jews are accused to leading the trade in body parts, echoing the charges of barbarism leveled at Jews in the Middle Ages. But Atzmon’s critique, however much it overlaps with anti-Zionist expressions of antisemitism, however much it picks up themes from racist antisemitism, focuses on Jews as “an obscure, dangerous and unethical fellowship.” For Atzmon, “The history of [Jewish] persecution is a myth, and, if there was any persecution, the Jews brought in on themselves.” Jews are the goy-haters and purveyors of a racist ideology. The Jewish God is an evil deity.  Atzmon even reaches back to the antisemitism of Haman and insists, “The moral of the Book of Esther is that Jews ‘had better infiltrate the corridors of power.’”

The significant increase in antisemitic incidents has come about at the same time Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States. What type of antisemitism did these acts of vandalism represent? Is there a correlation with the ascension of Donald Trump? Is there a connection?

Tomorrow: Donald Trump and Antisemitism in America

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Megillah Esther Part I – The Tale

Megillah Esther Part I – The Tale

by

Howard Adelman

I should have written this as the first essay in my series on antisemitism. For this is the first tale about antisemitism. It is set in Babylon between the period of the first and second Jerusalem temples. However, tonight is Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the Book of Esther and the escape of the Jews from the evil Prime Minister of the Persian Empire, Haman, who was determined to exterminate Jews throughout all the lands of Persia that extended over 127 provinces from India westward to Ethiopia. He was the world’s first antisemite. This is the appropriate time to tell the tale.

I will write about that antisemitism, but I must first build the foundation by recapping the tale itself to set in place the parts and then explicate the genre of fiction known as romance in which Esther fits.

However, as Jane Austen taught us, everything is not always what it seems. Everyone wears masks and, to understand what is going on, the royal court must be unmasked. We begin with a depiction of the romance of the court itself when King Ahasuerus in Shushan, the capital of the Persian Empire, in the third year of his reign, had a great feast inviting all the members of his royal household, all of his military officers, all the princes and princesses throughout the provinces for a week-long feast after 180 days of celebration throughout the empire. Talk about the excesses of royal conspicuous consumption! It is difficult to find anything that competed before or since as the guests drank out of vessels of gold in a room where:

“there were hangings of white, fine cotton, and blue, bordered with cords of fine linen and purple, upon silver rods and pillars of marble; the couches were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of green, and white, and shell, and onyx marble.” (1:6)

The first sub-plot begins with the introduction of Queen Vashti that will adumbrate the whole story about costuming and revelation. On the final day of the big bash, before the officers and princes of the court, the king summoned Queen Vashti “before the king with the crown royal, to show the peoples and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on.” (1:11) She was required to appear nude with only the crown on her head to be put on display as a trophy wife. With this initial act of vulgarity, it should be no surprise why many rabbis speculated that Ahasuerus was originally a commoner who had usurped the throne in a coup.

To the king’s complete embarrassment, Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s bidding lest she be humiliated before the whole court. Did she know the risks she was taking? Did she understand what it meant to publicly defy the will of the king? She stood on principle no matter what the risks. It is very difficult to know or understand why the rabbinical commentators needed to portray her as a wicked queen. There is not even a hint of that in the story. Sure enough, Ahasuerus was boiling mad; “the king was very wroth, and his anger burned in him.” He was not thinking about what an ass he had been to issue such a stupid order when he was drunk.

Seething, King Ahasuerus turned to his wise men and advisers and asked what he should do. How should he respond to this act of willful disobedience?

Yesterday was International Women’s Day protesting against the remaining remnants of a patriarchal society. In a patriarchal society, such disobedience of women to their male overlords might set a precedent. The advisers advised. “For this deed of the queen will come abroad unto all women, to make their husbands contemptible in their eyes, when it will be said: The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.” (1:17) Man is owed honour and respect from his women, the very principle romantic tales subvert. To set an example, Queen Vashti, because she would not appear naked in her crown before the whole court, was stripped of all her properties, all her magnificent gowns, all her jewelry and cast out of the court.

The whole point of this prolegomena was to set the stage of what Esther would be risking when she chose to disobey the king’s edict much later in the tale. With the dismissal of Vashti, there came an opening for a new queen. Like the tale of the golden slipper, a search was begun for the prettiest maiden in the land.

A new character and the major plot is then introduced. Mordecai, a Jew who lived in Shushan, the capital, was “the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite.” (2:5) This is an important detail which almost no rabbinical commentator overlooked. For in saying that Mordecai was a Benjamite among the Jews captured when the first temple was destroyed in Jerusalem and transported to the capital of the Persian Empire, we are led to recall that Mordecai was himself a descendent of royalty, from the tribe of Kish, the name of King Saul’s father. And, going further back, the descendent of Benjamin the youngest and favoured son of Jacob. We also remember that Jacob tricked Esau into giving him the birthright and, according to lore, bequeathed eternal enmity between the descendants of Esau and of Jacob, between Amalek, the grandson of Esau, and any Jew, suggesting that antisemitism has very deep roots in familial rivalry. Yet it is the name Mordecai that means “bitter,” though Haman will be the source of the “tumult” (the meaning of Haman) between him and the Jews of the Persian Empire.

Hadassah (Esther or Ishtar, in Aramaic “bright star”) was Mordecai’s niece whom he adopted and raised. Thus, we have introduced the archetypal orphan so beloved of romance novels. Esther is itself a mask for her real, earthier, name. Hadassah means myrtle, the symbol of righteousness. Further, and of course, she was a natural beauty. She joined the contestants for queen by becoming a concubine under the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women in the royal court. Esther rose quickly to become the king’s favourite and “Esther had not made known her people nor her kindred; for Mordecai had charged her that she should not tell it.” (2:10) In other words, she hid her religious and ethnic identity. The masks were on. The situation was similar to the one where the Chancellor in the court of the Chinese Sung dynasty had his beautiful sister become his spy by having her planted among the women of Kublai Khan’s harem.

Unlike the Sung dynasty chancellor, Mordecai supposedly cared about Esther and her well-being and paced below the women’s house in the court to gain information, not on Ahasuerus, but on the well-being of Esther. Maybe he was himself a spy on the court? Perhaps his interest was not Esther’s welfare, but that was just an excuse for walking below the women’s house. Perhaps Esther was his planted inside secret agent. In any case, four years after the big bash and discarding Queen Vashti, “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.” (2:17) And it is repeated: “Esther had not yet made known her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.” (2:20)

The next step in the plot takes place. Mordecai overhears two chamberlains of the court plotting a coup. Mordecai told Esther. Esther told the king. And the two traitors were duly hung following an investigation.

The introduction of Haman, the Agagite, who became the Vizier or Prime Minister, followed. Like the Israelites, Haman was also a foreigner and a sojourner, but a descendent of Agag from the Negev, a people whom King Saul slew in a massive genocide. For the Agagites were descendants of Amalek. But a few must have escaped the slaughter. A deep desire obviously burned in Haman’s gut to avenge the destruction of his people.

When Haman was appointed by King Ahasuerus as Prime Minister, the king commanded that all bow before Haman, and, for Jews, before Amalek. But, “Mordecai bowed not down, nor prostrated himself before him.” For an analysis of why Mordecai refused to bow down, see my daughter Rachel’s article, “Why Did Mordecai not Bow Down to Haman?” (thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman) Was it because bowing was viewed as idolatry or because Haman was a descendent of Amalek? Or both?

Mordecai never offered a reason when the king’s servants asked him why he refused to bow before Haman. (3:2) Except he told them he was a Jew. Esther could not tell that she was a Jew, but Mordecai would use his being a Jew to excuse his refusal to bow before Haman.

Haman, on hearing the news, was full of rage. The text then continues: “it seemed contemptible in his eyes to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had made known to him the people of Mordecai; wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.” (3:6) Killing Mordecai alone would leave Haman open to revenge by his fellow Jews, especially if they learned he was an Agatite. Haman would have to kill all Jews. The mass murder was justified in the same way the exile of Vashti was justified – he needed to uphold the perception of absolute authority. But if he only had Mordecai’s slain, he would have left himself open to revenge from Mordecai’s fellow Jews. Haman bided his time.

About five years later he worked out a plan. Playing Bannon to Trump, he planted the seeds of a fifth column in the king’s mind, a very early version of a conspiracy theory. Further, the king would benefit financially from this solution to “the Jewish problem.”

8 And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus: ‘There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws; therefore it profiteth not the king to suffer them.
9 If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those that have the charge of the king’s business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.’

King Ahasuerus gave Haman his signet ring to show he had the authority to carry out the deed. The decree went forth. What did Mordecai do? He panicked. Bewailing his and his countrymen’s fate, he put on sackcloth and ashes and mourned their imminent fate.  And all Jews in the empire followed suit. But this was the beginning of Esther exhibiting her independence from her uncle Mordecai, to whom she had always been an obedient niece. She challenged his fatalist approach and urged him to don proper clothes and discard the sackcloth. Mordecai refused. He sent back the details of the orders to destroy the Jews to Esther through her servant or steward, Hathach, for the meaning of his name is that he was assigned as Queen Esther’s protector.

What could Esther do? The law was clear and unequivocal. She could not appear before the king unless she was summoned. She knew what had happened to Vashti when she disobeyed the king’s edicts. Mordecai replied to this message in an early version of JFK’s, “Think not what your nation can do for you. Think what you can do for your nation.” “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.” (4:13) Esther wrote a note back asking all Jews to fast for her for three days. And she vowed, “so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (4:16)

Remember she was a real beauty. After three days, she dressed for the part and appeared in the courtyard of the king and he raised his sceptre bewitched by her beauty and invited her in. He promised to grant any wish, even to give her half his kingdom. Her only wish she said was to hold a banquet in honour of both the king and Haman. The king once again promised to grant any petition she put before him. Haman on receiving the invitation burst with pride at his rise to the heights of the royal court.

At the same time, he prepared a gallows on which to hang Mordecai. But that same night, the king could not sleep and reviewed his Chronicles and came across the story of how Mordecai had discovered the plot to overthrow him as he learned he had never rewarded Mordecai for this deed. When Haman came before the court the next day without this background knowledge of what was in the king’s mind and the king asked, “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?” (6:6) it should be no surprise that, given the banquet that was being held and his invitation, that he believed the question was about himself. He answered, let the man be clothed in the king’s apparel and ride on the king’s horse through the streets so that he may be honoured.

Can you imagine the shock when the king agreed and ordered Haman to take the apparel for Mordecai to don and the horse for Mordecai to ride? It was now Haman’s turn to mourn for he had to know the fate that now awaited him, a fate reinforced by his wife and friends for Haman had challenged the edict of governing the Jewish treatment of the descendants of Amalek. But Haman still had to attend the Queen’s banquet for the king.

At the banquet the king once again promised to grant Esther any petition. She asked for the king to give both herself and her people’s lives and she told him about the plan to destroy her people.  She had heretofore kept quiet because revealing the name of the Jew’s adversary might damage the king. But the king asked who and where he was that would dare do such a deed. Esther said, “Haman.”

Haman, if he was terrified before, had to be trembling in his boots. When the king left the banquet in wrath to seek out Haman, Haman entered and fell pleading before Queen Esther. The king returned and interpreted what he saw as an effort of Haman to rape Esther. “Will he even force the queen before me in the house?” (7:8) And Haman was hung on the gallows originally built for Mordecai.

However, the king had a dilemma. The destruction of the Jews had been ordered under his seal. He could not retract the order. But what he could do and what he did was authorize the Jews to defend themselves against those who would kill them

Thus, were the Jews saved.

Tomorrow: The Analysis of Esther as a Romance

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Type B Antisemitism in America

Type B Antisemitism in America

by

Howard Adelman

“It is clear that antiSemitism, like all deeply ingrained prejudices, continually manifests itself in new forms.” Nadine Epstein, editor and publisher, Moment, and editor, Anti-Semitism: Where does it Come From & Why Does it Persist?

“Anti-Semitism is very serious and is getting worse. Anti-Semitism is like a retrovirus, morphing from pagan anti-Semitism to Christian anti-Semitism, to Enlightenment anti-Semitism, to racialized anti-Semitism, to now, an anti-Semitism that is associated with anti-Zionism.” Ira Forman in Moment.

 

In my first piece in the series introducing antisemitism, I depicted three types of antisemitism. Some writers, like Forman, make further divisions but, for my purposes, three are sufficient. Type A compressed ancient, mediaeval and Enlightenment antisemitism as anti-Jewish to distinguish it from the antisemitism that arose in the nineteenth century rooted in a concept of race rather than belief. In this essay, I deal with the manifestation of Type B antisemitism in the United States. In my next essay, I take up the question of American Type C antisemitism.

The U.S. never went through a phase of anti-Judaism or what I called antisemitism Type A. That may simply be because the U.S. usurped and adopted the tropes central to Judaism, Americans were the chosen people. They had entered history to become the body politic of God’s historical revelation. Like the ancient Israelites, they came from foreign lands to make America the Promised Land. And they achieved their independence by revolting against the British crown just as the Israelites had rebelled against their Egyptian overlords.

However, Type B antisemitism of the nineteenth century made its appearance in America during the Civil War. Though within a month Abraham Lincoln ordered the order be rescinded, General Ulysses S Grant, to stop the black market in cotton, issued General Order Number 11 on 17 December 1862 expelling all Jews (not just peddlars) from the parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi under Union Army control. Jewish unlicensed peddlars were viewed as the main culprits in this illicit trade.

The Jewish community was understandably outraged and protested “the grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as good citizens under it.” Captain Philip Trounstine, of the Ohio cavalry stationed in Tennessee, resigned in protest. The Senate rebuked Grant for issuing the order. Grant claimed that he had signed the order prepared by a subordinate without reading it.

In 1868, when Grant campaigned for and became president after the war, he tried to make up for his error, not simply with an apology, but by appointing more Jews than ever before to important positions in his administration. (See Jonathan Sarna (2012) When General Grant Expelled the Jews) Sarna dubbed Grant as “one of the greatest friends of Jews in American history.” In 1874, in an unprecedented move, he and his whole cabinet attended a dedication of the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington.

Generally, antisemitism is viewed as an alien element on American soil. Unlike polio, however, it remains virulent in large numbers of Americans. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, insisted in 2014 that antisemitism is “not a threat to he security and well-being of the Jews in America.” He clarified in a follow-up morning TV show (“Tell Me More”) that he was concerned about rising antisemitism in Europe and in the Arab world, but insisted that, “America is different.”

He, of course, meant to say that Jews in the U.S. are not under any extensive or existential threat at this time and need not adopt a siege mentality. Jews can go to any university of their choice. They are not discriminated against in the job market and they can live in any neighbourhood.

As Yoffie pointed out, in contrast to the present, this was not always the situation in America, including immediately after WWII but especially in the 1920s and 1930s when that threat reared its ugly head most ominously. Leonard Dinnerstein, author of Anti-Semitism in America, in Moment magazine discussing the topic, wrote, “I am optimistic about the United States where there are more than 300 million people and you can go through your entire life without ever encountering anti-Semitism. True, during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, anti-Semitism was a significant problem. There were established anti-Semitic organizations, and anti-Semitic discourse was quite open, even in polite society. But today, it is politically correct to be respectful of every group, and it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of race and religion. The Anti-Defamation League pounces on the slightest hint of anti-Semitism, and their reports on college campuses reveal that three percent of students are anti-Semitic and five percent of academics are.”

However, there has also been an effort to rewrite the history of even Type B antisemitism in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly by those associated with and apologetic of Type C antisemitism even when not necessarily infected themselves.

Hasia Diner is a Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History and specialist in American Jewish history. In the special Moment issue on antisemitism, she railed against labelling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as antisemitic since it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the Israeli government and its policies. (I will have more to say on this tomorrow.) However, she also disputed whether phone companies in America in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s discriminated against Jewish girls on the basis of antisemitism.

“When Jewish girls applied for these jobs, however, they would not get them. Most historians have called this anti-Semitic, but I am not sure if this is true. Was it anti-Semitism or anti-unionism—or did the phone companies simply have a vision of which group would make good workers? Instead of anti-Semitism, I would describe the situation with a more analytic statement: Jewish women could not get jobs with the phone companies because the companies recruited telephone operators among the Catholic high schools. To say it is anti-Semitism tells me nothing.”

I suggest that this incident tells her nothing because of her antipathy to using the label anti-Semitic, most likely in response to its overuse and abuse by leading members of the Jewish community. But this is not an example of overuse. It is a blatant example of antisemitism, similar to the one my mother experienced when she found she had to hide her Jewishness to get the job she held in the 1930s where she had to ignore the prolific anti-Semitic remarks she overheard. First, the reasons phone companies discriminated against Jews could also have been because they were anti-union and because they preferred the neatness and discipline of Catholic girls. That is called overdetermination. But it was also clearly and unequivocally a case of antisemitism Type B because the girls were discriminated against based on their belonging to an ethnic group and not based on a measure of their individual traits, behaviour and qualifications for the job. Because behaviour is polite rather than raucous does not mean the label antisemitism is inappropriate.

Everyone agrees, or almost everyone, that this type of antisemitism has declined enormously. However, has it recently increased again? Let us begin with the baldest recent data with respect to antisemitism Type B. Divide the expressions of antisemitism, not simply attitudes, into two groups – those that express government policies and those that arise in civil society behaviour. I begin with the latter since incidents in the former are very rare; that, in itself, is revealing. Further, it is in civil society where the latest concern has been aroused. Civil society threats are expressed generally in three ways: i) violence; ii) threats of violence; iii) vandalism.

Some cases of violence are interpreted as threats of violence – a bullet through a window of a Jewish school – and most threats of violence are not reported, possibly two-thirds. Further, under vandalism, only major acts of vandalism are generally reported in aggregating figures. Thus, turning over tombstones in a Jewish cemetery is considered a major act of vandalism; one incident of writing of a swastika on a blackboard in a university in not considered a major act of vandalism, even though it may be treated as such during periods of eruption of antisemitic incidents, thus making comparative statistics difficult.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, 751 incidents of antisemitism in civil society took place across the U.S. during 2013, the most serious being the killing in April of three people in a shooting outside Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas. In the first two months of 2017 alone, there were 101 incidents, but this was not even the pace of incidents in 2013. Excepting Israel, in what is considered the country most hospitable to Jews in the world, the U.S. may hit the same number of incidents of antisemitism Type A as occurred in 2013. There does not appear to be an increase.

However, there has been an apparent significant increase in the number of incidents of false threats. They have taken place in waves, suggesting a coordinated effort. There were 29 bomb threats against Jewish targets across U.S. in the fifth wave. 48 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January. On 20 February, another wave hit 11 JCCs across America. The total number of bomb threats in January and February 2017 targeting JCCs and ADL offices reached 89 in 72 locations, the large majority against JCCs. Just the day before yesterday, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto had to be evacuated to investigate a bomb threat.

The JCCs, schools and an ADL office were all located in 16 states along the West and East Coast states where the bulk of American Jews live. This is not antisemitism rooted in deep prejudice by people who have no contact with or knowledge of Jews. Why now? Why this specific pattern? Why are secular institutions rather than synagogues the major targets, though on 4 January, the initial target of the year was a Chabad Centre in Orlando?

In December 2916, Richard Spencer bought a house in the small Montana town of Whitefish, population 6,649. Whitefish has three Jewish families, but no synagogue or Jewish public building of any kind. Spencer’s mother lived in Whitefish, but she has no sympathy with these neo-Nazis and the views of her son, the self-proclaimed president of the National Policy Institute, a virulent neo-Nazi organization that last year held an antisemitic conference near the Holocaust Museum in Washington. On the anti-Semitic news site, The Daily Stormer, the names and addresses of the three Jewish families in Whitefish were published. At the same time as the three Jewish families have been targeted, so has Mrs. Spencer who owns a building in Whitefish. Misguided activists simply insist they are trying to protect the image of their small town.

In tomorrow’s blog, I will suggest that this publicity surge of Type B racist antisemitism is not a major threat, but it is a movement taking advantage of the Trump moment. The real danger comes from Type C antisemitism. In that analysis I will ask whether American antisemitism is a threat to all Jews AND, even more so, it is a threat to America. Any threat to American Jews, after all, is a threat to world Jewry. And any threat to American Jews is a threat to what is best and shines brightest in America.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Donald Trump’s New Ban

Donald Trump’s New Ban

by

Howard Adelman

I interrupt the series on antisemitism to discuss the new Executive Order of President Donald Trump. Since Israel/Palestine is a major producer of terrorists (almost all Palestinian, but some Jewish), imagine placing a travel ban on Israel/Palestine in the same way that one has been imposed on Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen. Ask why none was imposed on Turkey or Lebanon.

Iraq has been removed from the list and the ban on travelers from Syria is no longer indefinite. The 27 January Executive Order, that was stayed by the courts, has been rescinded making the current multiple court challenges now moot. The new Executive Order will almost certainly be challenged on the grounds of whether it follows the requirements of due process and whether it violates the First Amendment insofar as the new ban still seems to be in accord with Donald Trump’s campaign promise to implement a “Muslim ban.”

This analysis can be much briefer because, fortunately, my colleagues at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, have addressed  this topic, specifically Sarah Pierce, an associate policy analyst there, who has dissected the new Executive Order and has written a report entitled, “The Revised Trump Travel Ban: Who Might Be Affected from the Six Targeted Countries?” which can be found at: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/revised-trump-travel-ban-who-might-be-affected-six-targeted-countries.

There are two core issues concerning Donald Trump’s issuance of an Executive Order under section 212(f) giving the president the legal authority to suspend the entry of all or certain groups of foreign nationals if he finds that their entry would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”. The first, unchanged from the 27 January illegal Executive Order, is the unprecedented extent of such a ban, at least in this and the last centuries. One has to revert to the nineteenth century and the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (not rescinded until 1943) for a precedent of imposing anticipatory travel bans.

Jimmy Carter’s 1980 ban on Iranians was a specific response to the hostage crisis and was not at all “anticipatory.” On the other hand, there have been a number of nationality restricted bans, particularly in the 1920s, but all of these were eliminated when the U.S. moved to universal rather than country-specific migration limitations in the 1965 Immigration Act. These had not been so much anticipatory as explicitly discriminatory The second issue is that the U.S. has already by far the most thorough vetting procedure built into its immigration service in the world. Since the rationale for the original ban and for this revised ban remains the same – that the current practices and procedures are too porous – one looks for evidence or a rationale other than an assertion to justify the revised ban.

The second issue is that the U.S. has already by far the most thorough vetting procedure built into its immigration service in the world. Since the rationale for the original ban and for this revised ban remains the same – that the current practices and procedures are too porous – one looks for evidence or a rationale other than an assertion to justify the revised ban. 

It was not available in the 27 January Executive Order. It is also unavailable in the new 6 March Executive Order. This is part of a pattern of the new Donald Trump government administration by fiat. There is no evidence offered to justify even greater heightened vetting procedures just as there is no evidence for Trump’s assertions that Barack Obama tapped the phone lines in the Trump Tower.

There is certainly a precedent for applying vetting procedures based on country of origin rather than on “risks” re an individual.  After 9/11, George Bush under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, imposed unpalatable and heightened restrictions as conditions of entry on 24 Arab or Muslim-majority countries, but that was a response to a very specific and dramatic event and was not anticipatory. This is quite aside from the utility or erroneous rationale for imposing such a ban. The Bush era ban led to the deportation or refusal of entry to almost 14,000 individuals in the year after 9/11. I know of no study of the impact of those decisions on the lives of these people.

It is certainly true that this order is a vast improvement over the old order. It allows immigration officers to prepare since it does not go into effect until 16 March. It does not catch people up in transit. It is no longer applicable to green card holders or retroactively applied to those who already have a legal visa. But it still creates an enormous chill and a disincentive for meetings and educational conferences to be held in the U.S. given the uncertainty of who can get in. Border control personnel have been given wide interpretive and discretionary powers. When a Canadian born woman from Montreal, in spite of having crossed into the U.S. many times previously, was refused entry this past weekend because she lacked a visa, one begins to understand why tourism to the U.S. may have declined by as much as 20% following the 27 January aborted Executive Order. One seeks security and confidence when traveling to a foreign country.

When the criterion is not criminality or a terrorist link but the determination that the individual – not assessed individually but on mass – would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States,” one can expect another series of court challenges against the need for revised vetting procedure – one rationale – when no evidence is offered that one is needed. When the criterion is so loosey-goosey, there is a good possibility that this revised travel ban will be overturned in the courts as well, but certainly not as easily as the first totally embarrassing effort. Certainly, the condition, “detrimental to the interests of the United States,” is better than no criterion and makes reference to the actual law, and certainly the specification of a number of exceptions and allowances for discretionary moves is much better than an absolute ban with no criterion and no exceptions, but that does not make the Executive Order any better in its fundamentals.

The new executive order allows case-by-case waivers and makes room for the entry of minorities persecuted because of their religion without illegally designating that religion, those with significant contacts within the U.S. and those seeking to visit immediate family members. Since the application is so discretionary, one can expect a series of decisions that will be serious embarrassments  to the United States.

There is also the problem of creating two classes of American citizens – those from the six countries affected, about 656,000 Americans, and the rest. They would not have the same access to relatives as other Americans. Further, some of them have not yet obtained a green card, that is an identifying paper granting legal permanent residence in the United States. Would they be deported when their current visa runs out? What about students on international student visas – will their status be renewed? One can make a rough estimate that the insecurity sewn into the psyches of about 100,000 people on American soil will be serious and detrimental.

This, of course, does not include those who had been planning to study in the United States. Or those even from non-banned countries who were considering the U.S., but in light of the uncertainty, may be expected to change their plans. In addition to the effects on tourists, on refugees, on potential and actual students, there is the chill on people traveling to the U.S. on business. Certainly, in the new atmosphere of intolerance, signaled and partially unleashed by these series of Executive Orders and compounded by the actual fatal shooting of one engineer from India and wounding of another, the shooting and wounding of a Sikh in his own driveway, a very wet blanket has been thrown over the beacon of America for citizens in the rest of the world.

It took a century-and-a-half to build a reputation for tolerance. It took only 30 days to demolish that reputation, an accomplishment whether the new Executive Order passes legal muster or not. The dark side of America has once again been let loose.

Further, with respect to the greatest humanitarian refugee crisis since WWII, the American cut of the refugee intake from 110,000 to 50,000 is disastrous. Just over a third of that cut came from the countries on which a travel ban was imposed and one suspects that the Trump vision for America does not include refugees no matter what their country of origin is. Canada would have to triple our intake to make up for the difference. Whenthis initiative is conjoined with a drastic cut in the American overseas aid program just when famine is devastating Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria and is threatening Ethiopia, “America First” takes on a very sinister meaning, a definition of America going from the humanitarian leader of the Western world to a tight-fisted cold-hearted self-centred tightwad.

 With the help of Alex Zisman

An Introduction to Antisemitism

An Introduction to Antisemitism

by

Howard Adelman

Antisemitism or antisemitism? Years ago, Rabbi Gunther Plaut convinced me to spell this attitude and activity as an unhyphenated word in lower case letters because there was no doctrine of “Semitism” to which the modern hatred of Jews as a race (?), culture or ethnic group could be attached. Further, when the term was coined in 1879 to distinguish this hatred from anti-Jewish hatred, which referred to Jews as a religious group, Wilhelm Marr spelled the word without a hyphen. Another reason subsequently arose for writing the term as a single word. Semitic in linguistic studies referred to the Semitic group of languages, and antisemite would then be interpreted as prejudice against all who spoke any one of the languages in that group, including Arabs, which the term was not used to connote. Nor could the prejudice be against the Semitic race when there really was no such race and, in any case, Jews came from many racial strains.

Although modern antisemitism rose in conjunction with the new racism and antisemites defined Jews as a race, spelling the term anti-Semite buys into the possible validity of their claim, while antisemitism is a singular attitude and type of behaviour toward a specific people, Jews, whether religious or secular. Yet I sometimes spell the term anti-Semite, especially when it is not the central subject about which I am writing. The reason is simple. Antisemitic is accepted by Google spell check while antisemite is not. When I want to write the latter as one word, my automatic spell check program converts the word to anti-Semite. Using both words, antisemitic to refer to the attitude and anti-Semite to the people who hold that attitude, would be too bothersome. However, when writing about the subject, I choose to go against the general grain and spell the term “antisemitism” and call people who hold that attitude antisemites even though I must reverse the automatic correction in every instance that I type the word.

There are three very distinctive types of antisemitism: ancient anti-Judaism or theological antisemitism which I dub Type A; the classical version that arose in the nineteenth century and reached its apogee in the Holocaust, which I label antisemitism Type B; and antisemitism Type C which arose after WWII and has been its main expression in the last forty years. Type A antisemitism is rooted deep in history and it is the central theme of the Book of Esther which is read this week when Purim is celebrated. Type A antisemitism focuses on the Jews as chosen, on the Jews as the embodiment of the divine, with the Jews as trespassers and with the Jews as traitors, a fifth column in any polity.

One explanation for Type A antisemitism is jealousy. Jews historically claimed they were the chosen people by God. On Mt. Sinai, God commanded Moses to inform the Israelites that they would receive the Torah and, thereby, become to Him “a chosen people.” They may have been chosen to carry an extra burden of responsibility or to be a light unto the nations, but, as this explanation continues, others resented this claim for exceptionalism, even if it meant carrying an additional burden. In other words, in this explanation, the primary responsibility for antisemitism Type A must rest with Jews themselves and their beliefs.

But the claim goes further. In Jewish theology, Jews are the embodiment of the soul of God, the Shechinah, the feminine part of God that dwells on earth in the bodies of Jewish men and women and in the spirit of the people as a whole. This claim goes further than being chosen, for it suggests that Jews were chosen to embody God, to be the embodiment of God. Jews are the manifestation of God’s presence on earth. If you think chosenness was a grandiose claim, what do you make of embodiment of the divine?

The other two explanations for Type A antisemitism is that Jews are trespassers. In their own words, they are always sojourners. No land is naturally their land, even Israel. All lands belong to the indigenous people who lived there. But Abraham left his native land in Mesopotamia and came to a new land already occupied, but one promised by God to the Israelites. It could have been a positive sum game, but many if not most of the other tribes they encountered resisted this depiction of the Jewish mission. Further, if the sojourner is a stranger, if the sojourner is the Other, then when things go wrong, instead of embracing the stranger and treating him or her with respect and dignity, turn on them as scapegoats and insist they are illegal aliens and need to be expelled. Such a demand is enhanced when the goal is greater power as well as an opportunity to seize the property (or jobs) of the killed or expelled Jews.

This antisemitism goes back well before the refusal of Jews under Alexander the Great to accept and integrate Greek religious standards and norms, back at least to the Babylonian era when, according to the Book of Esther, leading Jews refused to bow down to the demand for unquestioning and total obedience to the king. Such action was treachery and worthy of being put to death, not because treachery had been charged and proven, but because the person was a Jew. A Jew was inherently treacherous. A Jew was inherently an alien in a nationalistic land because he or she had not become complete and total members of the polity.

Type B antisemitism arose with the Enlightenment, arose with the belief in the cosmopolitan assimilation of all into the religion of reason. In the pseudo-science of the time, there is an acceptance of Jewish chosenness, but Jews are chosen as prime targets for persecution and eventual destruction. Jews do not embody a divine spirit but an evil one which they inherit with their mother’s milk. Out of that alleged Jewish malevolence, Jews are engaged in a global conspiracy to a) control the economy of the world; b) instigate wars; c) exercise control over governments; d) control all media; or focus on e) alleged despicable patterns of Jewish personal behaviour. Jews are trespassers on the soul of the nation. This type of antisemitism is rooted in views of economics, military affairs, politics, sociology and psychology. Jews are an internal threat, a Fifth Column, that can eat away and destroy the national spirit.

In antisemitism Type C, Israel becomes the surrogate for Jews. Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism if, for only the simplest of reasons, that would make every single Jewish Israeli an antisemite. Antisemitism Type C is a grossly disproportionate focus on Israel as a target for criticism to provide grounds for the elimination of Israel as a state. For Zionism was an ideology chosen by a small percentage of Jews, but expanded to become a central tenet of belief for virtually all religious Jews and for the vast majority of secular Jews to unite the various strains of Jewry. The central goal of Zionism was “return,” return to once again become rooted in an ancient homeland promised to Jews by God. Therefore, by definition, Zionists were sojourners displacing the nationalism of the local population and eventually displacing a large portion of that population as well.

In A, B and C types, it is necessary to distinguish between expressions of antisemitism, between policies and actions versus antisemitic attitudes. In Type B antisemitism, many people are antisemitic. Only a very small proportion B-type antisemites express their antisemitism through violence, threats of violence or vandalism. As many as 10% of Americans and perhaps, a higher proportion of Canadians, may carry the B-type antisemitic virus. In the Anti-Defamation League 2014 poll, countries with populations of over 50% who hold B-type antisemitic attitudes include Turkey (71%) and Greece (67%), two otherwise erstwhile enemies. In Iran, following decades of anti-Israeli propaganda, antisemitic attitudes are, surprisingly, found in only 60% of the population. In Eastern Europe, the figures for Romania, Hungary and Poland are, respectively, 47%, 40% and 37%, and the latter has a large and very vibrant philosemitic movement as well. In the Ukraine, in spite of, or perhaps, in part because of the prominent role Jews played in its most recent revolution, the figure is 32%.

Countries like Italy, Spain and Latvia, where fascists and ex-Nazis played such a prominent part in their respective histories, the figure is almost 30%. In Argentina, for similar reasons, it is 24% with similar percentages for Central American countries with histories of right-wing dictatorships. And in the current Putin authoritarian Russia with its long and glorious history of both antisemitism and extraordinary Jewish achievements, the figure, even following the great Jewish exodus, is 23%. In Western Europe, one may be surprised to find Belgium with a figure of 21%, but not so surprised that it is 17% in France and 16% in Germany while only 12% in the UK and 11% in the Netherlands.

However, there is a huge difference between the percentage of a population that carries the virus and the number in whom that attitude expresses itself in vandalism and violence. In America, that expression manifests itself in only .01% of the population, 1 for every 3,500 who carries such an attitude. But the current situation suggests that it takes very little to shift the condition for many more to become activists. When exacerbated by international events or by a permissive political leadership, especially a leadership that expresses distrust of the Other, the opportunities and incentives to exhibit itself increases even more.

Further, there are six times as many Americans with antisemitic attitudes than there are Jews in America. In the world, there are an estimated one billion plus individuals who carry the anti-Semitic Type B virus, and in countries with a much less pronounced official government and societal antipathy to antisemitism Type B, the percentage of those who express their antisemitism may be much higher than in America. But even if the low American percentage is used, even if the widespread strain of Type C anti-Semitic virus in the Arab world who are also infected with the Type B virus is ignored, there are at the very least 300,000 activist Type B antisemites worldwide and, in reality, many more.

Nevertheless, there is a difference when antisemitism manifests itself in words and images and when it manifests itself in arson, bullet holes and beatings. However, while the latter gets the most attention and the former does when it is manifested in threats of violence, the most virulent strain of antisemitism is the C strain that is seen in a political activity, such as the BDS campaign, particularly the BDS campaign on campus that is rife with members who deny that they have the B strain. And most do not. However, many of them have the C strain, particularly among the founders and leaders, because their ultimate goal is not to force Israel to give up the West Bank, but to characterize Israel as an apartheid illegitimate state that should be eliminated from the map.

The most often asked question concerning antisemitism is not what it is but why it is. Since Purim is approaching, and since Haman as depicted in the Book of Esther was clearly an antisemite millennia before the term was invented, any explanation would have to transcend the particularities of a geographical region or a specific historical period. Jews have not been well liked by significant portions of populations. It is the persistence of antisemitism, it is its seeming immunity to education and prosperity, enlightenment and exposure, that makes antisemitism so puzzling.

After we examine antisemitism is specific regions, we will return to this question and see if we can come up with some answer to explain the existence and persistence of antisemitism.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman