Ignorance is fueling widespread anti-Semitism across America. Maybe it is time to look eastward?
As we speak, anti-Semitism is on the rise across America. Jewish people are being verbally attacked, physically assaulted, stabbed and even murdered. From Pittsburgh to Poway to Jersey City to Monsey, the Jewish people in America are living in fear. Even the local schools in America have not been spared from this recent spike in anti-Semitism. As Meredith Wiesel of the ADL noted, there are “swastikas painted on the buildings, carved into desks, scratched into bathroom stalls. So, it’s not just our synagogues. It’s not just our JCCs. We’re also seeing it throughout the school system and some of this is coming on a regular basis.” In this present climate, one must ponder, does the American-Israeli relationship have much of a future?
It is already highly questionable whether Jews have much of a future in the United States of America. According to the Washington Post, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes have risen 21 percent over the past year. The Anti-Defamation League reported that there were more than 1,800 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2018 including more than 1,000 instances of harassment. And as the far left takes over the Democratic Party and the fringe right takes over the Republican Party, we can only expect more anti-Semitic attacks. After all, both the far left and the fringe right scapegoat the Jewish people for all of America’s ills.
Ignorance also fuels this recent wave of anti-Semitism. The Boston Globe reported that two-thirds of millennial Americans don’t know what Auschwitz was. Furthermore, only 12 US states bother to educate the next generation about the horrors of the Holocaust. As the Turkish saying goes, “If you don’t know your history, you cannot predict your future.” In other words, a nation ignorant of the past is bound to not learn the lessons that history can teach us.
By being ignorant regarding the horrors of the Holocaust, young leftist Americans can easily be convinced into thinking that American Jews possess “white privilege” due to their perceived skin color and thus their rights should not be incorporated into their political platforms. In fact, this general ignorance of Jewish history is what is fueling the rise of individuals like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omer, Natalia Cuandra-Saez and similar ilk within the Democratic Party.
Such far leftist individuals in the Democratic Party are most likely not aware that four percent of the American Jewish community is not Ashkenazi and the US Supreme Court declared that Sephardic Jews should be classified as Hispanics for all affirmative action cases since their ancestors were originally from Spain. Furthermore, they likely are also unaware how Jews assisted the US Civil Rights Movement and also faced prejudice historically in America, thus making them also a marginalized minority group.
It should be added that if the American people are ignorant of the lessons history can teach us, then the alt-right can also falsely spread anti-Semitism in the name of Neo-Nazism without the people being fully aware what these ideologies can lead to. After all, if you don’t know what Auschwitz is, then how can you be aware of the dangers of white supremacist nationalism and the America First Movement? How can you comprehend that granting Neo-Nazis the constitutional right to march through a Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Illinois in the name of freedom of speech can lead to making America an unsafe country for Jewish people?
Some may ponder, how does all of this affect Israeli-American relations? One could argue that despite the recent spike in anti-Semitic attacks in the US, American-Israeli relations remain strong. People can say that US President Donald Trump is a wonderful friend of the State of Israel. After all, he eliminated Soleimani and Al Baghdadi. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights. He also signed an executive order that strengthens the American Jewish community’s ability to fight against the BDS Movement and campus anti-Semitism. However, even though all of this is true, if the average Joe in the millennial generation in America doesn’t know what Auschwitz is and both major political parties are being overrun by extremists that disdain Jews, how can we trust that America’s next president will also be a good friend of the State of Israel?
In the wake of these developments, I ponder whether it would be prudent for Israel to start looking for other allies and to stop relying so heavily upon the United States of America. Historically, anti-Semitism is alien in both Indian and Chinese culture. Yizhak Shichor of Haifa University’s Department of Asian Studies asserted, “Whatever anti-Semitism there is in Asia, it is superficial and rootless.” In fact, the Chinese greatly value the Jewish people as an ancient civilization who has contributed greatly to humanity. One can argue that the Indians share similar sentiments. In fact, Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, claimed that Hindus and Jews both are peace-loving peoples fighting against the same radical Islamist ideology.
While the present status of American-Chinese relations do inhibit close Israeli military cooperation with China, no such restrictions exist for improving Indian-Israeli ties. In fact, India is the world’s largest arms purchaser and Israel’s biggest arms client. In addition, there is great potential for improved Indian-Israeli cooperation in the film industry, cyber technology, oil and gas, start-ups and the list goes on.
However, improved Indian-Israeli relations, although welcome, may not be a 100 percent substitute for fighting the recent spike in anti-Semitism and minimizing how it could adversely affect the future of the Israeli-American relationship. After all, as prominent anti-Semitism scholar Manfred Gerstenfeld stated, “India is not a world power player. It is a big country but as a priority, one has to look where the real international power is. Israel should indeed reach out to India. But first, we have to focus where much of the real power is due to their economic strength: the US and Western Europe.”
“For Israel the main solution is to put up an anti-propaganda agency that also fights antisemitism,” he declared. “When Israel was attacked by armies, we invested heavily in our own army. The same with intelligence agencies. When we were attacked in the cyber field, we invested in cyber defense and Israel is on its way to becoming a world leader.” Gerstenfeld believes that a similar approach is needed in order to fight against anti-Semitism effectively.
Nevertheless, even though America and not India is the world’s super power, at the same time, we should not put all of our eggs in one basket. We should reach eastwards, even as we seek to fight against anti-Semitism in America and how it adversely affects the future of American-Israeli relations. And for that reason, a strong Indian-Israeli relationship is of utmost importance. Thus, as the global struggle against anti-Semitism captures headlines, we should also remember that we have an ally in India and thus are not alone as we fight for the future of the American-Israeli relationship.