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DANIEL VAUGHAN: Anti-Semitism unmasked in America
The anti-Semitic massacre in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh last weekend was shocking, especially as an American. A man going into a Synagogue and yelling out his intent to “kill Jews” is entirely antithetical to American values.
George Washington’s remarkable 18th-century letter to a Hebrew congregation in Newport, New Jersey made the rounds in the aftermath of the recent events in Pennsylvania, and for a good reason.
A Jewish group had sent a congratulatory note to the first President of the United States upon his inauguration. Washington responded with a warm letter in return, wherein he promised those of the “stock of Abraham” peace and comfort in the new land, and referenced the Old Testament, saying, “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
And though you can point to anti-Semitic attacks throughout the years since Washington, especially after the immigration flows of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American Jews have mostly been allowed to settle freely in the United States.
Jewish people have nestled into American culture so thoroughly that most Americans don’t consider them any different than Irish, Italians, or any other immigrant group in the country. Overwhelmingly, Jewish Americans hold this same attitude.
That’s why it’s so shocking to see a subset of American culture singled out on account of their ancestry for murder. Anti-Semitism, especially for a country that prides itself in defeating the scourge of Nazism, is remarkably unsettling to find within America’s borders.
But across our borders and around the world, anti-Semitism is resoundingly the norm. Jews aren’t accepted as another part of society, but are instead seen as “other.” Writing in the New York Post, John Podhoretz noted that being apart from the broader community is a norm for historical Judaism:
From the time of the Jewish expulsion from the Holy Land in the first century after the death of Christ, Jews lived all over the world, but none of those places constituted a home. Even when we were treated relatively well, we were other. We were apart.
But America accepts Jews with open arms and offers them a home, a stark contrast to the modern-day view of Jews in places like Europe, where Jews are spat upon and reviled.
The only places Jews can find a true home today are in the United States and in Israel. It’s noteworthy that the two sites Jews consider home are friendly with one another. That relationship, along with the long history the U.S. has with the Jewish people, is why it was important for President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The press, in its endless quest to blame every negative story in the world on Trump, misses the point entirely when it wrongly blames the president for the deaths at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania.
You can criticize Trump for a lot of things (and I certainly have), but calling him an anti-Semite when his daughter converted to Judaism, his grandchildren are Jewish, and he’s in complete agreement with conservatives on supporting a secure Jewish state in the form of Israel is utterly ridiculous.
The media misses the real issue: America is seeing a rise in anti-Semitism on the right and left. This isn’t about both-sides-ism; it’s about diagnosing a real illness in this country.
On the right, you have lone wolf types, like the perpetrator in Pennsylvania. People like that suspect are cheered on by racists on the alt-right and amplified further on social media. The Jewish writers at the conservative Commentary magazine have said multiple times that they have been attacked relentlessly by these types over the last few years.
On the left, anti-Semitism has taken on multiple faces. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is clearly anti-Semitic on the progressive left. They try to hide it behind attacking Israel, but their myopic focus on Jews gives them away.
Every time a Palestinian terrorist is killed, they tend to side with the terrorist.
And just like the media likes to trot out Richard Spencer and David Duke to accuse the right of racism, the left has Louis Farrakhan and Linda Sarsour. Farrakhan was recently caught on video comparing Jews to termites that needed removal from society. Sarsour spends her time defending Saudia Arabia’s treatment of women and blasting Israel and any support of it, calling it a racist state. She’s also supported a few terrorists.
The point is that in America, from George Washington through Donald Trump, you can point to the consistent support of Jews. But bubbling under the surface of this country is a dark form of anti-Semitism that seeks to eliminate Jews individually and collectively by destroying the Jewish state.
On the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel forming, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik wrote, “It is a miracle that after so many civilizations have disappeared, Jewish children continue to be born.”
And he’s right: Jews are one of the few civilizations to have survived from all other ancient cultures, despite being targeted for extermination by all others around them.
And now we witness the same evils rising among people holding to their old-world beliefs instead of the ideas of American founders like Washington. We must make America a safe place for Jews to thrive, for each to live under his vine and tree, and have no fear.
That means confronting and expelling the evil we see in our midst.
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