Anti-Semitism in America Has Many Sources

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By Steve Feldman, Lee Bender and Kevin Ross

There seems to be a renewed interest in the timeless scourge of anti-Semitism and a new awareness in some quarters that Jew-hatred has not disappeared. Much of this comes in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August, and earlier vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and phoned threats to Jewish community centers and other institutions.

All of these drew broad media coverage followed by deserved condemnations — and alarm from a large swath of the Jewish community. But another source of Jew-hatred in America seldom makes news, is rarely rebuked and seems to be on the minds of few Jews even though it continues unabated.

It was widely assumed that white supremacists vandalized the cemeteries (including one in Philadelphia) and phoned in the threats — but it turned out not to be the case, as best as authorities know. Armed white supremacists did menace congregants inside a Charlottesville synagogue while many more marched with torches as they chanted “Jews will not replace us” and other anti-Jewish slogans. It was an example of the worst America has to offer. But no one who monitors Jew-hatred suspected that Klansmen and their ilk had moderated or died out.

Meanwhile, imams in California this year openly and directly appealed for Jews to be annihilated, all while contemptable Nation of Islam leaders have continued their outrageous anti-Jewish epithets. Today, calls for Israel to be destroyed are no stranger in streets throughout America.

Are Jew-hatred and threats from Muslims in America less vile, less threatening and less of a problem than that from white supremacists?

We do not know the level of Jew-hatred and anti-Israel attitudes among American Muslims. Each of us has seen examples of it for ourselves at anti-Israel events in Philadelphia in person and elsewhere in news accounts. Chilling chants of “From the river to the sea, ‘Palestine’ will be free” are nothing less than calls for the destruction of Israel and the more than 6 million Jews who live there.

We are curious if requests to “annihilate them [the Jews] down to the very last one,” or pronouncements that Jews are one with “Satan” or are “bloodsuckers” are aberrations or not, particularly as the Muslim population, and its political power, in the United States grows.

This summer the Pew Research Center announced the findings of a new survey conducted of American Muslims, but Pew neglected to ask respondents about their attitudes toward Jews and Israel. But Pew did ask other religious groups of Americans about their attitudes about Muslims in an earlier poll this year.

Why are we concerned? Some examples from this year:

  • “The Prophet Muhammad says that the time will come, the Last Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews. We don’t say if it is in Palestine or another place,” said Sheikh Ammar Shahin from the pulpit of the Islamic Center of Davis, Calif., in July, according to a video obtained by the Middle East Media and Research Institute. According to MEMRI’s translation, Shahin prayed: “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews. Oh Allah, destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Oh Allah, show us the black day that You inflict upon them, and the wonders of Your ability. Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them.”
  • That same day at the Islamic Center of Riverside, Calif., according to MEMRI, Sheikh Mahmoud Harmoush prayed: “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and the occupiers. Oh Allah, destroy them, they are no match for You. Oh Allah, disperse them, and rend them asunder. Turn them into booty in the hands of the Muslims.”
  • In February, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told a raucous throng in Detroit: “I want to disabuse the Jews today of the false claim that you are the chosen of God and that Israel or Palestine belongs to you. I want to disabuse you of that. I want to make it so clear. And I’m going to tell you about your future. You that think you have power to frighten and dominate the peoples of the world. I’m here to announce the end of your time.”
  • Asked sarcastically at an event in New Orleans in May why Farrakhan attacks Jews, the Nation of Islam’s Ava Muhammad’s replied: “The only time the Jews have ever been present among us is to open their outposts, their retail stores to sell us damaged, cheap goods, marked up against the price. … We will be free of this bloodsucking parasite so they will no longer be able to sell us alcohol, drugs, depraved sex, and every other type of low-life thing that is keeping us from a hereafter.”

A stark lesson of the Holocaust has been that every generation must expose and combat Jew-hatred because of what it can lead to if left unchecked. While we are not looking to stifle free-speech rights, American Jewry must become aware of the gamut of Jew-hatred on the scene today and be prepared to fight it regardless of the source. 

Steve Feldman is executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia Chapter. Lee Bender and Kevin Ross are its co-presidents.