In the wake of the Pittsburgh massacre of 11 Jews by a White nationalist-fascist, there has been a very strange response emerging in certain quarters. Some, in the Jewish establishment, are suggesting that the demonstrable rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish assaults in the USA is the result of a combination of White nationalists and anti-Zionists. What makes such a statement baffling is that no evidence is cited for such an inflammatory allegation and those who offer this disparagement of pro-Palestinian activists blur the actual situation.
There is a long history of anti-Jewish hatred in Europe and North America. Jews, well before the Holocaust, were scapegoats picked by opportunist and racist Christians as a target of resentment. Frequently anti-Jewish assaults were used by wealthy Christians as a means of distracting the Christian poor from who and what was actually oppressing them. Sound familiar?
Within the USA there has been a tradition of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish assaults rooted within various streams of the political Right. It has especially been the case that right-wing populist movements focus in on Jews any time there is a financial crisis and include Jews in their long list of populations that are allegedly polluting the country.
Despite the economic progress of Jews in the USA, they remain the target of these forces on the Right. Even conservatives who one would not include in the pack of right-wing populists—such as the late President Richard Nixon—had demonstrable anti-Semitism. Ironically, many of these anti-Semites regularly and openly supported Israel, a tendency that has continued to this day.
With the increased world-wide attention on the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and against the illegal occupation of their territory, the cry of anti-Semitism has been used against those who defend Palestinian rights. Such actions confuse what is anti-Semitism with what is not. The suggestion that criticisms of Israel; of the Occupation; of the apartheid system are equivalent to hatred of Jews would be like saying that opposition to the illegal Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara represented hatred of Moroccans, be they Arab or Berber. No one would make such a claim, yet when it comes to Palestinian rights, claims of anti-Semitism are used as a means of suppressing debate, let alone dissent.
The atrocity that was perpetrated in Pittsburgh was the result of an increase in anti-Semitism that has been promoted in the context of the rise of right-wing populism generally and Donald Trump in particular. When neo-fascists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and chanted “Jews will not replace us!” Trump was silent. His later comments that there were allegedly good people on “both sides” excused away the actions of these fascists. Therefore, no surprise when former President Obama and others said that Trump’s words of condolence in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre rang hollow.
It is critical that we understand that the rise of anti-Semitism has NOTHING to do with the rise in pro-Palestinian sentiment. It has to do with nefarious forces that, once again, want to make Jews the target of their conspiracy theory-based wrath. While many Jews thought that they were white, they are now discovering, once again, that this remains a debatable question in 21stcentury USA. In fact, they have been placed in the camp of “the Other” along with many other populations.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com. And look for his new novel The Man Who Fell From the Sky.