Commentary: Antisemitism Is Back, but Experts Warn ‘Something is Different’

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

The rise of antisemitism coincides with the rise of Trumpism and its accompanying empowerment of far right extremist groups.

As I noted in an earlier column on this phenomenon, the data is a bit tricky.  Overall, antisemitism is down—way down—from the 1960s, but antisemitic incidents are up.

As a piece in the Washington Post by Michelle Boostein and Isaac Arnsdorft notes, “Longtime watchdogs of antisemitism say there is nothing new about the kinds of derogatory comments about Jews that the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, former president Donald Trump, sundry far-right political candidates and others have made in recent weeks.”

The piece noted, “What has struck some experts is how blatant the comments about Jews are at a time when incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence against them have been at their highest levels since at least the 1970s.”

“Empirically, something is different. The level of public animosity towards Jews is higher than it’s been in recent memory,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview with the Post.

What is heartening, however, is some are recognizing this for what it is.

Ibram Kendi for instance, in tweeting the Washington Post article, flagged the fact that combatting antisemitism has been hindered by “downplaying it as merely an interreligious issue instead of a dangerous form of racism; in the past majorities from Germany to America made clear they saw Jews as a distinct and inferior race.”

Kendi is a leading Black voice, leading anti-racist activist and scholar and among the top 100 most influential people.  For him to recognize antisemitism as a “dangerous form of racism” is crucial to starting to address the return of this long-time animus.

This is important because some have accused Kendi of ignoring antisemitism in his antiracist thesis—some have accused him of worse.

But that doesn’t seem to be a fair indictment.  When former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney last year posted the infamous “final piece of the puzzle” meme, Kendi quickly called her out: “This is grotesquely antisemitic at a time when antisemitic hate crimes are surging around the world.”

Connecting the wave of antisemitism to the broader empowerment of the far right and racism is crucial.

The Post reported last week, “An emboldened cast of anonymous trolls spewed racist slurs and Nazi memes onto Twitter in the hours after billionaire industrialist Elon Musk took over the social network, raising fears that his pledge of unrestricted free speech could fuel a new wave of online hate.  The flood of racist posts was among the most prominent signs of how Twitter had changed in the first hours of Musk’s ownership.”

This is another example of the empowerment of the forces of hate.

The Washington Post notes that “current attitudes toward Jews are complex and can seem to run in different directions.”

Overall they find “Americans overall espouse less antisemitic views than they did 60 years ago.”

According to ADL (Anti-Defamation League), in the 1960s, when people were asked if they agree with a series of negative stereotypes about Jews, about 29 percent of Americans were considered antisemitic.  On the other hand, in 2019, the most recent year of measure, it was 11 percent, the lowest ever.

The Post reports, “That same year, however, the ADL also tracked 2,107 incidents of vandalism, violence and harassment toward Jews in the United States, which at the time was the highest number since the group began gathering data in the 1970s. (That record was broken in 2021).”

As the Washington Post last week pointed out, Trump has a long history of trafficking in antisemitic tropes.

“Wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of [Trump’s record on Israel] than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S.,” Trump said on Truth Social.

Trump believes that he while he is so popular in Israel he could be elected prime minister, “U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel — Before it is too late!”

This plays on the misguided belief that American Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel.

This was not a one-off, as the article goes to great lengths to show.

“We have people that are Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough,” he said in 2019.  He added the same year, “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.

“Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough,” he said in an interview last summer, adding: “I believe we got 25 percent of the Jewish vote, and it doesn’t make sense. It just seems strange to me. But I did very well in Florida. I did great in Florida.”

This goes back instead to Charlottesville and before.

Trump was criticized for delaying calling out the white Supremacists at Charlottesville.  When he did, he mucked it up, stating, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

This is all linked together—the rise of racism, Nazi sympathy (holocaust denial) and antisemitism.  The point that antisemitism is a form of racism is critical to an effective combatting of the hate.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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2 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    The morphing of Evangelical Christians into a political force is probably a significant contributor to the rise of, and greater visibility of, these incidents, since many of the Evangelicals believe Jews killed Jesus.

  2. Dave Hart

    Also, note how Trump conflates being Jewish with the policies of Israel the nation state.  Zionism is a political doctrine that cloaks itself with being Jewish to protect its aims.  Zionism has morphed from its inception as a tool to protect British oil and strategic interests in Palestine into the modern state of Israel with its system of apartheid.  There are many Jews who see Zionism for what it is and they are not “self-hating” Jews as they are so often labeled and certainly not anti-semitic.  Anti-semitism is not anti-Zionist and anti-Zionism is not anti-semitic.  That’s the paradox of Trumpism.  He and his ilk are highly skilled in using trash talk and its unique dog-whistle language to fire up people who are dissatisfied about their economic situation and fearful of the future to latch on to any identity group as a cudgel against institutions like democracy, civility.  That’s why we get people like Kanye West who are anti-semitic Zionists (hates Jews but supports the state of Israel) and all the crazy violence that comes with it.  Anti-semetism is absolutely no different than anti-black, anti-asian, anti-gay or anti-anything.  Zionism is an invented doctrine.

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