Charges of anti-Semitism continue to be thrown around as a tool of political rhetoric in America. We saw it all again in recent days when Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart, was appointed chief strategist for the coming administration.
Never mind that the article in question was written by a Jew and was a criticism of the attempts of another Jew to establish a third-party run which would have split the vote in the election.
Never mind Breitbart has about a dozen staff stationed in Israel; or that Anderson Cooper, on live TV, challenged Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Bannon being a white supremacist.
Never mind that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Trump after winning the election, calling him a “great friend of Israel,” thanking him for his consistent support of Israel, and saying he’s “confident that the two of us, working closely together, will bring the great alliance between our two countries to even greater heights.”
Never mind that Trump has called Israel “the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people;” and that he promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to “the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem” — something which previous presidents have refused to do — and to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, which Obama supported and Netanyahu vehemently opposed. All this reaffirms Israel of America’s commitment to its security and statehood, and echoes the sentiment of Netanyahu’s recent speech at the U.N., where he told the assembly to stop their diplomatic war against Israel, pointing out how country after country was recognizing Israel as an economic and development ally.
Never mind that Trump’s son-in-law is a Jew, that his daughter Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism, and that his three grandchildren are being raised in the same religion — which will make him the first U.S. president whose grandchildren are Jewish.
If the mainstream media say he and Steve Bannon are anti-Semitic, well, then none of this seems to matter.
Yet calling them anti-Semitic carries larger consequences than defamation. When a term as powerful as “anti-Semitism” is brandished so frivolously for political reasons, it’s disrobed of its gravity. Once the heralding call of the likes of Elie Wiesel, a late voice of humanity’s moral conscience, now the term has been shortchanged for ammunition for the liberal agenda.
What the liberal West does not realize is that condoning the use of “anti-Semitism” in the guise of politics is not a helpful thing to do when there are real threats against the Jewish people — threats that go beyond the realm of wild speculation on whether the next president and his chief strategist are anti-Semitic because of a graphic unbeknowingly posted on social media or because of a crazy white supremacist who says he supports them despite their constant condemnation of him.
True anti-Semitism is present in the recent proposal that the West Bank’s government join forces with Gaza Strip’s Hamas — a militant group birthed out of the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose founding charter calls for the extermination of the Jews — to form a single government.
It’s also present in the fact that, in recent years, more than 50 percent of racist attacks committed in France targeted Jews, a figure that was vividly captured when Siamak Morsadegh, Iran’s only Jewish MP, said, “Iran is much safer for Jews than France.”
When anti-Semitism is politicized, the term’s power dilutes, and, as a consequence, it becomes harder to combat anti-Semitism when it truly rises.
How are we supposed to respond to actual acts of violence when we have been desensitized by the barrage of media attacks scandalizing every nuance and hypothesis? The proper use of the term has in part made it a tantalizing political tool, but in every arbitrary use that very power — meant to protect people — diminishes.
As people charged with protecting the rights of the innocent and vulnerable, we must speak up when true anti-Semitism raises its head and we must stand guard against those who choose to use it to smear others in an attempt to advance their own political agenda.