Columns

Ingber ’15: The oldest hatred in new and old forms

By
Opinions Columnist

Anti-Semitism is not something we talk about on college campuses. While we may discuss anti-Semitism abstractly in academic conversations, it is something we believe we are beyond, something reminiscent of backward 20th century totalitarian regimes. But this ancient hatred of Jews persists around the world. From the depths of Saudi madrassas to the halls of the United Nations in Geneva, anti-Semitic tropes continue.

This past May, a gunman of Algerian descent murdered four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. A few years earlier, Mohammed Merah, a French national, murdered many people — including an 8-year-old girl — at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

But this summer, following the Israeli operation in the Gaza strip, anti-Semitism was not isolated to rogue actors perpetrating violence. While many protests expressed clear messages objecting to the actions of the Israeli government, others contained thousands of protesters  — many in Germany, alarmingly — chanting “gas the Jews.”  And most striking was an incident in Sarcelles, France, a suburb of Paris. Jewish businesses were looted and ransacked by mobs in an incident resembling something from 1930s Germany. Synagogues were attacked and Jewish sites were vandalized in the suburb of what many consider to be the cultural capital of Europe.

While it is important to note that European governments have been exceptionally swift in condemning this anti-Semitism and mobilizing broad political support to stop its spread, the populist nature of these events signifies the extant nature of European anti-Semitism.

But it is no surprise that there has been virtually no discussion on this topic of campus. Perhaps it is academically passe to examine anti-Semitism in most circles. But I think most students at Brown, and in the United States more broadly, do not believe they are exposed to anti-Semitism. I write this column not to suggest that Brown’s campus is brimming with anti-Semitism — not in the slightest. But I would like to highlight certain things that have appeared across institutions of higher education that give cause for concern.

It is first crucial to remember that Jews still constitute a minority with a long history of persecution prior to a recent history of safety and security. It was not long ago that Henry Ford regularly distributed “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State Department routinely rejected requests to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. While the triumph of the Jewish people vis-a-vis thousands of years of historical threats is nothing short of astonishing, we must remember that persecution weighs heavily on the Jewish historical memory.

And so, it is alarming that somebody drew swastikas on the facade of Emory University’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the school’s oldest historically Jewish fraternity. While some might say that Emory is in Atlanta, and the South has more anti-Semitism than other parts of the country, a similar expression of prejudice occurred recently at Yale. Swastikas were chalked on the sidewalk outside a freshman dorm just a short time after they were found on a whiteboard inside an academic building. Scary.

But never at Brown, right? That could not possibly happen here. But it did. Last year, surrounding the now infamous Ray Kelly affair, a number of posters with Ray Kelly’s face were adorned with swastikas. Should I have to enter my dorm and look at a swastika on the door? Do we have such a short memory of 20th century events that we forget how traumatizing these symbols are for Jews, many of whom had family live through or perish in the Holocaust?

But it is easy to condemn a swastika. The more nefarious instances of anti-Semitism manifest in language, not images. They appear in language speciously germane to a conversation but actually coded in historical anti-Semitism tropes. And it is in conversations regarding Israel that these tropes come to life.

Let me be nothing short of absolutely clear: It is perfectly acceptable and appropriate to criticize the actions of Israel without venturing into anti-Semitic territory. But when criticism of Israel uses language historically associated with anti-Semitic canards, we have to be careful. Calling Israelis or the Israeli government “bloodthirsty” for Palestinian children is simply a new variation on historic uses of blood libel — the untrue and offensive notion that Jews seek the blood of non-Jewish children for religious ritual.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a student panel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When asked about the United States-Israel relationship, one panelist remarked that congress gives so much foreign aid to Israel because Jewish donors control elections. I could not believe his comments were real.

More common, however, are comments equating Israeli actions with those of the Nazis. Gaza is often described as a modern-day concentration camp, and political cartoons frequently depict Israeli soldiers as Gestapo agents. The conditions in Gaza are admittedly awful, but in no way does that legitimize the appropriation of language from the Holocaust.

Why, when discussing other minority groups, — whether they be ethnic, religious or based on some other characteristic — are we hypersensitive to language, but people freely use Holocaust imagery to describe the actions of Jews? Why do articles discussing certain communities begin with trigger warnings,  something I ardently oppose due to the chilling effect they have on speech, but articles about Israel freely compare the state to Nazi Germany? This is not necessarily to suggest that campus discourse is rife with anti-Semitism, but we have to be aware of the effect some of this language has on Jewish students.

Despite my frustration, we are undoubtedly lucky that Brown, and most American campuses, are safe places for Jews in 2014. We have come a long way from Jewish quotas and mainstream anti-Semitism, but that success often clouds the still lingering presence of what is often understood as the oldest hatred.

Swastikas might appear ever so often, but we have to be aware of language’s power in conveying anti-Semitism. Comparing Israel’s actions to that of Nazi Germany not only conflates starkly disparate conflicts but also disparages the memory of those who suffered through the Holocaust. Natan Sharansky, an Israeli political activist who was jailed in the Soviet Union as a political dissident, warns that the comparison of the Jewish state to Nazi Germany is the ultimate form of demonization. Let us be aware that this sort of language and distortion of history is nothing short of anti-Semitism.

 

Zach Ingber ’15 can be reached at zachary_ingber@brown.edu.

  • mxm123

    It’s Ingber again. He missed the entire ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Jewish Israelis that goes on and on for the past four decades. He missed the openly racist demonstrations against Arabs in Israel during the Gaza war. He misses every racist statement made by Israeli leaders against Palestinian.

    And then he quotes Natan Sharansky, a hypocrite like his Israeli counterpart Ellie Wiesel who never once called for a free Palestinian people. Rather they both make racist justifications and excuses.

    Hypocrisy much Mr Ingber ?

    • Arafat

      mxm the Jew hater.
      No group practices ethnic cleansing quite like Muslims do. Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Somalia, Afghanistan are all 100% Muslim.
      Many other countries are 97+% Muslim including Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, Pakistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Mali, Libya among others.
      Meanwhile Muslims are ethnically cleansing the last remaining Chaldeans from Iraq, the last remaining Copts from Egypt, the last remaining Assyrians of Syria, the few Zoroastrians left in Iran, the few Animists left in Sudan, the few Hindus left in Pakistan.
      Meanwhile the Muslim population in Israel has multiplied several-fold since 1948.
      Why do you lie? Is it because the facts are your enemy?

      • mxm123

        Ari, a fine example of Israeli racism.

        • David Bengurion

          This is an example of Brown University having admitted one too many camel jockeys who bring nothing intellectual, thoughtful, effective, correct, truthful, ethical or enjoyable to our learning community. It is a mistake to think that they can be educated. If Brown stopped admitting them and discerned how the world might change…..Brown would see that the world changed not at all. Those camel jockeys – the lot of them – will remain the crass, dumb, incestuous, perverted, prejudiced, violent, psychopathic, and murderous fools that they are already. This is not Israeli racism. It is a fact.

          • mxm123

            More of the same. And Ingber complains of Anti-semitism !!!

    • Guest Alum

      Wow mxm123. Now you are saying Israel = Jews? You quote Israelis and infer this is a Jewish view.

      If so, then your consistent anti-Israel rants effectively equal to anti-Jewish ones. Yes, you are anti-Jewish… a straight out bigot. Shame on you.

      (I would type anti-semitic but no doubt you might argue that Arabs are semites too, knowing full well that the term was invented to mean anti-Jewish but be used in polite circles).

      And what ethnic cleansing? The Arab population within Israel and the territories has increased multi-fold over the past forty years. Math is not your strong subject, is it? The only people who have completely been removed from specific countries in that mini-region actually are Jews, who were removed in full from Jordan and Lebanon before 1967, before the occupation began.

      How did you get admitted to Brown? How can you claim to be a real thinker? Unless you are not a Brown student at all. Your trolling is shocking.

      • mxm123

        “Israel = Jews? ” – Me saying it ? Or Netenyahu and every right wing politician in Israel saying it. Don’t pretend as if you never heard Netenyahu claiming he wants the world to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Did you miss every statement by the right wing cockatoos in this country who equate anyone who questions Israel as being anti-Jewish or anti-semitic. You seem to miss a lot of things in your hyperbolic nonsense.

        Ethnic cleansing doesn’t have to mean a declining population. The black population in Apartheid South Africa did not decline while the regime was trying to ethnically cleanse the country and shove blacks into Bantustan. Did you miss that ? Or was that too inconvenient for your self serving morality spiel.

        Did you miss the part where millions of Palestinians are shoved in to the West Bank with no rights ? Was it inconvenient for your made up universe for me to point out racist demonstrations in Israel ?

        As an alum i hope you don’t pass on your self serving bigotry to your offspring.

        • simentov

          mxm is actually unemployed, living in his mother’s basement, eating cheetos and playing video games in between trolling the bdh.

          • mxm123

            The same “holier than thou against “anti-semitism”” crowd has no problem throwing smears and making the most racist statements. No more fine examples than this thread.

          • Nupchev

            His mother is also his sister.

        • Guest Alum

          I typed a full reply to your post, the deleted it because it is a waste to argue with you. “Fisking” your points above with facts is too easy. Go look up the definition of ethnic cleansing for example… and by definition it means population removal and reduction which is not happening in Israel or the territories. Go to a class on debate and recognize that one’s not bringing up one of your previously unstated points in a position does not equal a “sin of omission”, particularly if that point is not in the original scope of the debate.

          As for calling me a bigot, what do you know about me? Did I post above any views on Arabs? Their rights? My experience with them? Or any statements on Jews one way or another? I bet it would surprise you that I am a gentile businessman who has worked in both the West Bank and Israel off and on for nearly two decades. Who has relationships on both side of the green line. Who has Muslims in my family. Who has no personal association with Israel other than some occasional business there – with Christians, Jews and Muslims – as I said above. Who does not like either the PA or Israeli leadership,. But who recognizes when political anger has drifted into prejudicial hatred.

          I reckon I am far more experienced than you are directly on these topics and facts. Call me names if you want. But maybe, just maybe, you may think about what I typed and wonder if you may have been offensive or bigoted in your post and others. This was maybe my third post ever on BDH so you definitely do not know anything about my views. But I have read yours for a fair bit now.

          Trust me, you have an issue. Hate Israel all you want, but pay more attention to what you are typing. Unless you really mean all you have typed. In which case, I hope you do not pass any of your bigoted views to your offspring if you have any or ever will. I have seen bigots in Israel and the WB in person, and in the USA too, in action. Trust me, you are one of them.

          • mxm123

            “Fisking” my post would require you to be factual. That, i guess would be a problem for you. From pretending that racist demonstrations in Israel were not Jewish demonstrators to pretending that ethnic cleansing does not happen in Israel you have a serious credibility problem.

            Didn’t post any views on Arabs. Really ? By pretending that only Jews were kicked out of their homes, your views on Arabs are pretty evident. And no its not a sin of omission , its the blatant hypocrisy practiced by Ingber and now you.

            You regurgitate the same old talking points and then go on to pretend that you’re some kind of moderate. Yeah we call those, “I have a black friend so i’m not a racist” bigot. Or as in case of Israel, Progressive Except for Palestinians”

            Pointing out hypocrisy is now hate ? Great. Join the queue.of self serving bigots in the Israeli – Palestinian debate pretending that they’re all neutral. Pretending , like the Hillel and its minions, that the settlement pogrom is some kind of sniff sniff “complex” and “difficult” issue.

            Your issue, as with many other self serving moralists, is today you’re being confronted with people who questions Israel’s racist conduct and don’t buy into the motherhood and apple pie spiel and you think your the center of some kind moral universe who knows it all and the rest of us are imagining things.. Finally your true colors show themselves when you don’t question the other truly racist pro-Israeli posters on this thread but then become all bunched up when i point out hypocrisy.

            Post once, twice of thrice, I’ve run into many a bigot like you. Trust me.

      • trun

        Luckily there is a huge number of reasonable and intelligent jews who understand the reality of Israel’s racist crimes and will not stand for injustices to be committed in the name of jews. They share mxm123’s views and are speaking out more and more. You see many of them at Brown. So how does go about leveling the anti-semite charge against them?

  • trun

    not to downplay anti-semitism, which is a real thing , but I suspect that it is not being discussed as much as racism against blacks, latino’s, middle easterners, (basically all non-whites), muslims, homosexuals etc…because thankfully it is not as much of an issue in the US these days compared to other forms of racism. Jews as an ethnic group have no doubt done very well since the horrific events of the first half of the last century (a long-ass time ago). Also certain forces have a habit of conflating being anti-israel with anti-semitism, which goes a long way to reducing the validity of real anti-semitism.

    • PeacefulHeart

      The first thing to note about anti-Semitism is that when it exploded in Germany, Jews had at last become full citizens; and as now, were quite integrated and successful (indeed being “too powerful” was the ‘problem”). So Jews can enjoy the distinction of perhaps being the only genocide victims who did not even know they had enemies.

      And as for all this being “a long-ass time ago,” I’m quite sure this is how it feels to a college student. But it is less than 4% of the 2,000 plus years of Christian-Jewish co-existence; the other 96% being peppered with other outrages. Would you bet on the death of anti-Semitism if it were a stock?

      I also hope you recognize the irony of making a point against anti-Semitism with terms like “certain forces have a habit of conflating being anti-Israel with anti-semitism.” Might these unnamed “forces” be hidden in the shadows and their “habits” nasty? This, even though the author takes pains to be “absolutely clear” that he disapproves any such conflation.

      For those who might like to know what English-language world newspapers from the 1800s on had to say not only about the origins of the Israel-Arab conflict, but its “conflation” with anti-Semitism (hint: not from Zionists), here’s a video that presents some fascinating news clippings (it’s long but rewarding): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXjK8kgYKbc