There was a brief time, in the aftermath of World War II, when antisemitism receded into the darkest corners of society, drowned out by the overwhelming horror of the Holocaust.
Sadly, we appear to be nearing the end of an era.
No longer taboo, bigots are now literally parading their Jew hatred in colorful precision on the main roads of cities around the world. For example, earlier this month, a parade in the Belgian city of Aalst included floats featuring ugly caricatures of religious Jews with rats on their shoulders, leering while smoking cigars, and sitting atop bags of money. Note this is not the stuff of social media or private rendezvous; the parade was a public community celebration carried out with the support of elected officials. When questioned about the display, Aalst mayor Christoph D’Haese actually defended it, stating it wasn’t meant to be sinister.
Meanwhile in the United States, the sanction of antisemitism has breached the halls of Congress. A simple resolution last week to condemn antisemitism, motivated in large part by the offensive comments and tweets of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, was watered down to make a vague statement about bigotry. Rather than signal a victory against hate speech, however, the final text of the resolution foreshadowed a bitter future: If the hatred she projects cannot be universally and unequivocally condemned, it will likely increasingly join the realm of acceptable speech.
Rep. Omar remains unapologetic and has no reason to be. She faces no political sanction, suffers no condemnation, and seems to have lost no support at all. Even Jewish presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders cannot muster up the strength to hold her accountable. As Rep. Omar continues to be touted as the darling of the progressive movement, it provides further evidence that blatant antisemitism is no longer a barrier to political progress.
What should be even more disturbing to any individual who opposes hate speech is that even when antisemites like Rep. Omar are exposed, they appear defiant and genuinely proud. They are quite content to spout lies, accuse Jews of disloyalty and depict us – and Israel – in the most negative possible light. In an ironic twist, these same people invoke diversity and inclusion as necessities for fighting hatred.
Even supporters of Israel acknowledge that criticism of Israeli policies is completely acceptable. However, when these criticisms single out Jews and twist their way into antisemitic sentiments, those defenders abdicate their so-called “progressive values.” Those who peddle the line that their criticism is only against Israel and not against Jews need to be called out for their hypocrisy. For Israel’s faults, we know that it is a sovereign nation 650 times smaller than surrounding Arab countries that violate basic human rights virtually daily.
All decent people – Jews and non-Jews, progressives and conservatives – must stand up against antisemitism. For if it is deemed acceptable, then that hatred will pollute the rest of society as well, just as it did in Nazi Germany. We can no longer be silent during this rising tide of antisemitism. It must be countered in all its forms with loud voices and clear minds – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because the very future of the Jewish people and humanity as a whole depend on it.
Justin Amler is currently editor-at-large at the J’accuse Coalition for Justice, a nonprofit organization that combats antisemitism and anti-Israel bias.