The conspiracy of silence, selective outrage and blatant hypocrisy on antisemitism must end once and for all.
By Jeff Seidel, JNS
The year is 1939. Jewish businesses are looted, Stars of David are scrawled on the doors of Jewish homes, pogroms ensue, calls of “death to the Jews” are normalized, Jews are terrified. The year is also 2023.
The world has been watching as the new war in the Middle East unfolds. For many of us, the scenes are all too familiar. Growing up, our parents and grandparents told us the stories; we watched the movies; and we listened to the testimony of survivors. They always told us “never again.” But somewhere along the line, those words lost their meaning, because something like it is happening again right before our eyes.
In pre-World War II Europe, many Jews were stunned by the rapid transformation of society. The horrifying stories of concentration camps and mass exterminations seemed too terrible to believe. Back then, information traveled much slower; there were no smart phones and social media. Denial was easier. But today, in the age of instant news and on-demand documentation, it is unfathomable how the atrocities of Oct. 7, when shown, can be denied. Yet people are denying them.
The blatant disregard, denial and even justification of over 1,400 murders, rapes, beheadings and kidnappings of Jews are not just oversights. They are an erasure; an attempt to rewrite history and reality.
The rise of the Nazi Party was not an overnight occurrence. It was the culmination of systemic antisemitism interlaced with vicious propaganda. Fast-forward to today, and we see how the world reacts when Jews are targeted and terrorized. Like the Nazis did their own people, Hamas has successfully convinced so-called “progressives” that Hamas is the victim and its atrocious acts were justified.
It’s shocking just how swiftly the narrative has been altered. If you were to describe the devastation that occurred at one of the kibbutzim on Oct. 7 without revealing its location or the identity of the perpetrator, many would be appalled and disgusted. They would demand justice. But as soon as the tragedy is framed within the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the reaction is flipped. Terrorists become “freedom fighters.” Murder, rape and kidnapping are relabeled “resistance.” This bias is self-evidently racist, rooted in the darkest heart of antisemitism.
With its conspiracy of silence, selective outrage and blatant hypocrisy, this bias is particularly pronounced on college campuses—including Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, UPenn, UC Berkeley, Tulane and many more—which have become breeding grounds of antisemitism. While free speech and protest are fundamental rights, the line must be drawn at incitement and violence. These institutions appear unwilling to draw this line, which only indicts them further.
If we take a closer look at the demonstrations taking place across the country, there is a clear contrast between the pro- and anti-Israel sides.
The latter is aggressive, nasty, racist and often violent. It howls “death to the Jews” and “globalize the intifada.” It beats up innocent people carrying Israeli flags and threatens Jewish students outside their dorms.
Then there is the other side. This side sings songs of hope and peace. It mourns the loss of life and prays for the kidnapped. It doesn’t call for anyone’s destruction and doesn’t engage in violence.
We must ask how colleges and universities ostensibly devoted to discourse and progress can allow such violence to take place. Do the faculty and administration feel no responsibility to live up to their supposed values, let alone protect their own students?
Throughout this whole nightmare, however, one fact has become increasingly evident: This issue is not about land disputes. It’s about a hatred of Jews and the debased desire to destroy an entire country. It’s a battle of good vs. evil.
To the college students grappling with these issues: Combatting this hatred requires a nuanced approach. Engage in meaningful dialogue, even if it’s uncomfortable. Take time to understand the historical context. Don’t shy away from challenging biased or baseless claims. Remember, there is still a big difference between 1939 and today. The State of Israel exists, we now have an army to protect us and we are not afraid to speak out.
Furthermore, the faculties at these institutions must finally justify the esteem they demand for themselves. Unless they wish to go down in history as cowards and hypocrites, they cannot continue to turn a blind eye to discrimination and hatred on their campuses, even if they attempt to do so in the name of free speech. An academic institution’s role extends beyond education. It also involves nurturing responsible, empathetic human beings. Thus, the enabling of racist violence by those who should know better is not just damaging to students but to society as a whole.
History provides us with invaluable lessons. Ignoring them or, worse, denying them is a dangerous path. The world has witnessed the horrors that can arise from unchecked hate and prejudice. The Israel-Hamas war and the appalling reactions to it are a testament to the fact that this hatred must be eradicated once and for all.