Last month, I sought to detail the multifront assault on American Jews that erupted almost instantaneously after the Hamas massacre of October 7 in an article called “They’re Coming After Us.” Jewish students were attacked on some of the country’s college campuses, both rhetorically and literally—as when a group in a building at Cooper Union in New York City’s East Village had to be locked inside the library to keep a large mob from assaulting them. Jews were attacked on the streets, as when 65-year-old Paul Kessler was murdered by an Arab computer-science professor in a suburb of Los Angeles. Jewish institutions were vandalized and threatened, as when a man showed up with a gun outside a synagogue in Albany. Jewish businesses were subjected to boycotts, as when the Philadelphia restaurant Goldie was beset by demonstrations. And all this happened as a response to an unprecedented rampage against Jews in Israel.
It is, as we go to press, four months since October 7. And the passage of time is not causing the forces arrayed against American Jews to relent or stand down. Supporters of Houthi terrorist attacks from Yemen against Israel (one Houthi drone was shot down just before it would have hit the Israeli city of Eilat) blockaded the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Every week, one or another American city finds its downtown, or midtown, or commuter routes blockaded by people shouting “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.”
On Mercer Island in Washington at the beginning of February, a synagogue was vandalized. “Stop Killing” was spray-painted in red on the synagogue’s glass wall, as if the people living on an Island in Puget Sound 7,000 miles away from Gaza were killing anyone. Thus, a lawyer commuting on a ferry from his job in Seattle to get home in time for Shabbat is indistinguishable from an Israeli soldier engaged in a war to defend his family against Hamas. And they are indistinguishable in this sense—neither is responsible for the death of a single person in Gaza. The moral and legal responsibility for every one of those deaths falls on Hamas.
In Washington, D.C., a Hasidic rabbi called a ride-share taxi and got into an argument with the driver about how loud the music was. The driver pulled over and demanded the rabbi exit, then jumped out of the cab and beat him up.
At Harvard, the commission to study anti-Semitism originally set up by the now-ousted Claudine Gay was superseded by a new commission on anti-Semitism. Its chair is a professor of Judaic studies named Derek Penslar who signed letters calling Israel an “apartheid state” before the war.
Penslar also told the New York Times’ Emily Bazelon in February—in an ideologically potted oral history of the conflict in Mandatory Palestine before the founding of Israel that could have easily appeared in al-Arabiya—that the argument supporting the Jewish homeland in Palestine was cleverly “retooled” by Zionists after the Holocaust to include not just survivors but Israelites in the Middle East who were feeling threatened. As if the Jews in Arab lands expelled themselves from Iraq, Yemen, and Iran. As if those expulsions weren’t the “retooling” of the argument for Zionism so much as the global reaffirmation of its absolute necessity.
As the Who put it, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” The forces that triggered my article are undeterred. And it therefore still behooves every American Jew to understand this tragic but undeniable fact: “Us” means all of us. No effort to separate yourself from the rising anti-Semitism will offer you a second’s protection when it’s you, or your children on campus, or your elderly parents who call the wrong Lyft driver. They’re still coming after us.
Photo: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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