The Gaza War of 2023 has been raging for about three weeks now and one of the most striking facets of the conflict is how anti-Semites have crawled out of the woodwork. The weeks since Hamas’s October 7 surprise attack have been filled with people around the world celebrating Hamas’s glider attacks, ripping down posters of missing Israelis, and ranting about colonization.
The interesting thing (to me anyway) is that there was little evidence of this sort of anti-Semitism in the weeks, months, and years leading up to the attack. Anti-Semitism seemed to be one of those attitudes that was no longer welcome in polite society. It was relegated to radicals like fundamentalist Islamists, neo-Nazis, and tinfoil-hat nutjobs.
Of course, maybe that is a result of anti-Semitism being off the front page rather than anti-Semites becoming enlightened. Back in March, the Anti-Defamation League reported significant increases in anti-Jewish harassment, vandalism, and violence.
Since the beginning of the war, it has only gotten worse. For October, the ADL reported that anti-Jewish incidents were about five times the level from last year in the United States. In the UK, the number of incidents quadrupled.
There’s obviously still quite a lot of anti-Semitism out there. If we are honest, it has been there all along, lurking beneath the surface. Now, suddenly, it is once again acceptable (at least in some circles) to express hatred for Jews and Israel and rationalize savage murders.
It’s true that you can oppose Israeli policy without being anti-Semitic. After all, a lot of liberal Jews oppose how Israel handles the occupied territories.
It’s also true that I don’t see much of this. For most opponents of Israel, it seems that Zionism and Judaism are one and the same. It’s a racial thing.
The same was true for the Nazis. No amount of assimilation was enough to make a Jew German. Jewishness was in the blood, not in the culture.
It’s also worth pointing out that Israeli possession of the occupied territories isn’t colonization. To understand why, we need to look back to the Six-Day War of 1967. This war started when a coalition of Arab countries attacked Israel. The war did not go as planned for the Arabs and Israel ended up wresting control of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
Over the years, Israel has offered to return much of this territory in exchange for peace with its neighbors in aptly named “land for peace” proposals. For the most part, these proposals have been rejected because the Arabs may want the land, but their leaders don’t want peace.
There have been exceptions. Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1979 as a result of the Camp David Accords brokered by President Carter. While the treaty with Egypt did usher in an era of peace between the two countries, it was also a death warrant for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic extremists angry that he had the temerity to make peace with Israel. Is it any wonder that so few Arab leaders are willing to work for peace?
The story doesn’t end there, however. In 2005, in the absence of a land for peace deal with the Palestinians, Israel decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. The Israeli government forcibly removed Jewish residents and left the Gazans to their own devices. Since then, rather than building up their own country for Palestinian Arabs, Hamas has been periodically lobbing missiles and launching other attacks into Israel. October 7 was only an abnormally large and bloody attack. It was not unique.
Truth be known, the Arabs aren’t an anomaly. Hate and anger are a part of our DNA. It’s who we are.
And that hate and anger often comes out when we see groups that are different from us. That can include people of different skin colors, religions, nationalities, ethnicities, or even political tribes. It sometimes seems that we look for excuses to hate.
This made me wonder how much other latent hate is lurking underneath the surface in our own country. It’s very possible that at least some of the antipathy to immigration is race-based, whipped up by demagogues who instill fear of violently criminal aliens and paint pictures of lazy foreigners who want to come to America to sponge government aid.
I also suspect that there is a lot of white-black antipathy that is hiding just out of sight. At times, you can see hints of these attitudes bubble to the surface when there are police killings and race riots. I’ve noticed that black victims of police brutality are often presumed guilty in the internet’s court of public opinion. Moreover, there is a frequent tendency to assume that blacks are more likely to be violent and unwilling to work. From the opposite perspective, whites are often assumed to be closet racists who are scheming to protect their privilege.
And what about peaceful Muslims? Norm MacDonald posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter, “What terrifies me is if ISIS were to detonate a nuclear device and kill 50 million Americans. Imagine the backlash against peaceful Muslims? [sic]”
This made me wonder if MacDonald was more concerned about the possibility of nuclear terrorism (which is more of an eventual certainty in my view) or the potential backlash. There is good reason to dread both.
In the aftermath of September 11 and a decade or two of Islamic terror attacks, America largely resisted the urge to persecute our Muslim minority. We can be proud of that, but it’s also true that there are undercurrents of resentment and prejudice against Muslims. It has only been a couple of weeks since an Illinois man fatally stabbed a six-year-old boy because the boy was from a Palestinian family.
There’s a tagline for an old radio show that asks, “Who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men?”
We all know. But most of us strive to hide it and keep our evil hearts under control. As a society, we try to make it unacceptable to act out our evil desires.
The danger comes when we reach a point where we lose control and cast our inhibitions aside. Or worse, when our evil desires and actions become things to be celebrated. Hatred, anger, violence, and retribution can spread like a wildfire in a field of dry grass.
I worry that is what Hamas is doing.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT: I’m going to do something that I don’t usually do. A couple of years ago, I bought a jacket from Apricoat, a company that I didn’t even know was Israeli. Since then, I’ve taken advantage of some generous special offers to get some other clothing items that I really like from the company.
Today, I got an email from them. Here’s what it said:
This is a call for some support from our strong loving community.
You have probably heard about the horrible massacre that took place in Israel on the 7th of October, and the war since.
90% Of Apricoat.com team members were called up for reserves, and we are praying for all of them to return home safely.
We will be honest, it's pretty hard to keep up with 10% of our team, but we are doing our best and will pass all that soon.
To keep Apricoat's work on the go, so we could keep designing new and more functional, eco-friendly, game-changing traveling gear, we would definitely be happy to use your support.
How can you support us?
We have set up an Apricoat Gift card, which you can load any amount of credit inside - Then you will decide when is the best time for you the renew your gear/ get new product drops/or maybe even wait for the best sale.
I don’t get anything out of this, but I wanted to pass along their request. Apricoat gear is high quality and a pocket-lover’s dream. I reviewed my Apricoat jacket on my Instagram a few months ago. Don’t just shop Apricoat because it’s Israeli, it’s also a very good product.
I’ll hint that if you get a gift card now, they usually have some really good Black Friday sales.
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S VIEW FOR THE FUTURE: Saturday Night Live is still funny, at least occasionally. This skit of George Washington discussing weights and measures is an example of a homerun.