The recent huge anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations in several U.S. cities and on college campuses, as well as harassment and threats against Jewish Americans, surprised many Americans and the mainstream media.
But the truth is, if you were unaware of the rise in anti-Semitism and hostility toward the State of Israel from some segments of American society in recent years – especially on the Left – you either have not been paying attention or have been looking the other way.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently testified to Congress that Jews make up 2.4% of the U.S. population but have been the targets of 60% of religiously based hate crimes. But this figure was from before the outbreak of anti-Semitism in the U.S. after the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel during which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed, many of them women and children who had been tortured and raped. Hamas also took more than 200 hostages from Israel back to Gaza. In the aftermath of this horrific attack, Jews in this country are facing threats to their personal security that can only be described as an emergency.
One of the worst of these instances happened on October 25 when a group of Jewish students at the Cooper Union college in New York City sought refuge in a library conference room while a mob of pro-Hamas demonstrators tried to break down the door to get them.
Jews in New York City are all too aware of such threats. There were 263 attacks against Jews in the city in 2022. There has been a sharp increase in harassment and violence against Jewish New Yorkers on the streets of the city as well as vandalism of Jewish schools and synagogues. Two New York City synagogues I visited last year looked like fortresses with armed security guards.
Sadly, these hate crimes get very little press coverage, especially in the national media. This probably is because, in the American Left’s worldview of “intersectionality,” diversity, equity, and inclusion, they refuse to include Jewish Americans as a protected group because of open anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel, and their alliance with radical Islamists, including radical Palestinian activists.
The recent pro-Hamas and anti-Israel protests in American cities and on college campuses are the result of this leftist-Islamist alliance and their years of work to promote a false narrative of Palestinians as the victims of Israeli oppression. Many of the college students who recently signed letters blaming Israel for the atrocities committed by Hamas are mindless ignoramuses who don’t know where Gaza is and can’t spell the word “Israel.”
Another example of this problem that received little press was the Women’s March – the organization that sponsored the huge 2017 women’s protest march in Washington, DC after President Trump’s inauguration – and how it became consumed by infighting among its leadership between anti-Semites and liberal Jewish women. Some of the Women’s March leaders equated Judaism with white supremacy and were supporters of notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. One Women’s March leader said they could not feature Jewish women without risking support from groups like Black Lives Matter. The rift became so serious that it led to the resignations of Jewish women leaders in the group and the march split into two marches in 2018, one officially run by the Women’s March organization and another by “March On,” a group that stressed its denunciation of anti-Semitism.
There also have been signs of growing anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel within the Democratic Party in recent years.
For example, during a Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012, Democratic delegates booed during a platform vote to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This language was only included because Barack Obama intervened. Mr. Obama, of course, had no intention of acting on this idea if he won the 2012 election.
In 2019, all of the Democratic presidential candidates, in response to demands by far-left groups like MoveOn.org, boycotted the bi-partisan America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference in Washington, DC. In a March 2019 article, MoveOn.Org claimed that 74% of its members did not want Democratic presidential candidates to attend the AIPAC conference and faulted AIPAC for being “known to peddle anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while giving platforms to Islamophobes.”
Vice President Mike Pence condemned this boycott in his remarks at the 2019 AIPAC conference:
“As I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference. So let me be clear on this point, anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in America. It is wrong to boycott Israel, and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”
Also in 2019, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state. Omar’s resolution was co-sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga).
Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to pass a resolution in 2019 that condemned anti-Semitism in response to Omar’s resolution and statements. It eventually was watered down by progressive Democrats to also include a denunciation of other forms of bigotry, including anti-Muslim bias. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) angrily condemned the watered-down resolution as “spineless” and “disgusting.”
Omar also was forced by House leadership to issue an apology in 2019 for her anti-Semitic tweets. One of Kevin McCarthy’s first actions as House Speaker was to kick Rep. Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee in response to her anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.
On November 7, 2023, the House of Representatives censured Rep. Rashida Tlaib for her anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments after the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack. The censure resolution passed by a vote of 234-188, with 22 Democrats voting in favor. Four Republicans voted against the resolution on free speech grounds.
Tlaib was censored for her comments accusing President Biden of supporting what she claimed was Israel’s genocide of Palestinians and chanting the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is widely interpreted as a Palestinian call to eradicate Israel and kill its Jewish citizens.
The Tlaib censure resolution was a rare bit of good news in the aftermath of the horrible events of October 7. But the vast majority of Democrats voted against the resolution. Tlaib and her supporters in the House were defiant after the vote. And the mainstream media treated the censure as a partisan stunt by Republicans and ignored the 22 Democrats who voted for the measure.
Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has tried to downplay questions about the recent surge in anti-Semitism in the United States and has instead named a national commission on “Islamophobia” which Vice President Kamala Harris will chair.
If any new presidential commission should be named in the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist attack, it should be an emergency commission on the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.
The recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents in our country did not happen in a vacuum or without warning. This problem has been festering for years in plain view. The media has known about this problem and ignored it. Politicians knew about it too and looked the other way. Democratic Party leaders tolerated supporters who spouted hatred of Jewish people and Israel because they wanted the votes of far-left progressives and assumed that Jewish Americans were a loyal voting block that would never leave them.
The October 7, 2023 Hamas terrorist attack was the worst attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust and an act of genocide. To protect the freedom and security of all Americans, it is vital that our leaders adopt – on a bipartisan basis – a comprehensive, no-excuses response to the Hamas atrocities that addresses the growing problem of anti-Semitism in this country and ostracizes anyone who praises or justifies the Hamas attack. There should be no role in professional life for anyone who praises or excuses genocide.
This comprehensive response must address the deep roots of anti-Semitism in our country today and aggressively counter it on college campuses by enforcing anti-hate crime laws and regulations rules to cover anti-Semitic violence and harassment. There also should be an effort to promote diversity of thought on college campuses by hiring moderate and conservative professors and firing professors who are teaching extreme leftist ideology and anti-Semitic garbage.
Standing with Israel and against anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred is the American way. Israel is a democracy and a strong ally of the United States that deserves the support of all Americans. And anti-Semitism is an ancient and toxic prejudice that has no place in our great nation.
Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.