Willfully ignoring antisemitism is antisemitism


Natalie Arbatman, Editor-In-Chief

I am done begging for solidarity. I am done waiting for non-Jews to see us, to hear us, to ache for us, to fight with us. On Jan. 17, a British extremist took hostage a Rabbi and three other members of the congregation in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. But, I won’t be explaining why a jihadist terrorist taking three Jews hostage in their place of worship on Shabbat, their holy day, to negotiate the release of an Al-Queda terrorist is Jew-hatred. 

The media, the government, and the public were quick to claim, like the FBI, that it wasn’t related to antisemitism because as Bari Weiss wrote in her article “Being Jewish in an Unraveling America,” “In an America captured by tribalism and dehumanization, in an America swept up by ideologies that pit us against one another in a zero-sum game…Not all Jews—and not all Jewish victims—are treated equally.”

But I won’t focus here on the lack of media attention or the responses from Jewish organizations, instead I would like to point your attention towards the quiet on social media. Because although I saw a few of my Jewish friends condemn the Texas incident, I have seen none of my non-Jewish friends post about the attack on social media. 

In the last several weeks, I’ve seen prominent Jews in the media begging for allyship. They criticize non-Jews for not calling the attack out for what it was; antisemitic. However, what’s missing from the discourse about the lack of media attention is that it’s not just a side effect of antisemitism; it is antisemitism. If people acknowledged antisemitism in the present day, there wouldn’t be antisemitism. 

Some Jewish activists claim that non-Jews just need to be educated. If only people understood the history of antisemitism, they could identify it in modern America. But, if the non-Jewish world can see the attacks that are occurring, and still believe antisemitism isn’t a pressing issue; they aren’t ignorant, they are antisemites. The reason no one sees antisemitism as an issue isn’t that there’s not enough evidence to prove it exists, it’s because they willfully ignore the evidence when it doesn’t align with their narratives. We need to stop absolving antisemites by claiming ignorance because making excuses for antisemitism does nothing but allow it to persist. 

I don’t believe posting in response to antisemitic attacks on social media is an appropriate response because I don’t trust the efficacy of social media to fix the problems it created. I do however believe that excluding the Jews from activism on social media is equivalent to ignoring us offline. What worries me most is that if you won’t defend us online, you won’t defend us when it counts. 

To all non-Jews, reflect on your activism and understand that if you are silent, you are culpable.

To my fellow Jews, I leave you with this: the Jewish nation has only survived for so long because it has never depended on other people for protection. Ze’ev Maghen eloquently diagnosed the problem diaspora Jews face in his 1990 essay “How to Fight Anti-Semitism”, writing “Instead of growing, learning, living, enjoying and furthering Jewish individual and national life, our raison d’etre and collective consciousness these days might be formulated: “Keep them at bay!” When it comes to concerted action, we are fewer Jews than we are anti-anti-Semites.”

So, to reverse this, I urge you, flaunt your Magen David necklace, learn Hebrew if you can, read the Torah even if you don’t believe in God. Study Jewish luminaries and historical figures, learn from them, and learn about your family’s history. Atheist or not, American or Russian or Mexican, you are a Jew, so embrace it.

Learn equally about the Holocaust and Soviet pogroms and expulsions from the Arab world, but understand that despite these tragedies, Jews have thrived. Everything that has ever happened in the history of the Jewish people is a sign that you come from a resilient, proud, immortal nation, and that it is an honor, not a burden to partake in the continuation of that nation. 

So, the next time someone asks, you aren’t Jewish, you are a Jew. The Jew in your blood deserves more than to be tacked on as an adjective in front of your ‘real’ identity. 

It’s time to be proud because we can’t expect the non-Jewish world to care about us if we don’t care about ourselves. 

*For more information I urge you to read Bari Weiss’s How to Fight Anti-Semitism, Daniel Gordis’s We Stand Divided, and Ze’ev Maghen’s essay How To Fight Anti-Semitism.