October 17, 2023 at 12:05 a.m.
Since When Is AntiSemitism OK?
On Jan. 8, 2011, I was in Maine on a writing residency, and had made plans to have dinner with three other writers. It so happened that my roommate and the others--all Jewish--were reeling over breaking news that Rep. Gabby Giffords had been shot during a rally in an Arizona parking lot. A gunman killed six and injured 19 that day, including Giffords.
While I considered the shooting to be the work of a deranged man, my friends insisted that Giffords had been targeted because she was a Jew. AntiSemitism simmers just below the surface, they insisted.
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what they were saying. Later I saw Facebook posts, and reports of anti-Jewish incidents with increased frequency including one of the most heinous: the murder of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.
Last year, antisemitic episodes in the US increased by more than 35 percent, according to the Anti-Defamation League. These include physical violence, verbal threats, swastika graffiti and more.
And then on Oct. 7, as we all know, Hamas terrorists killed some 1,300 Israelis in the name of a free Palestine. Another 3,400 were injured.
The savagery was nauseating. Children were slashed, women raped, grandparents were butchered. One soldier reported seeing a child beheaded by a shovel.
Statistics we haven’t heard much about: more than 2,215 Palestinians killed and 8,700 wounded. Clearly, there are no true winners here.
Shortly after Israel declared by Israel, I posted a photo taken seven years ago on a trip to Israel--an Israeli flag and a statement that I was praying for all affected by the violence.
One friend tried to educate me. The Zionists, he said, have been killing and stealing homes since 1947. The Palestinian Jews, Christians, Muslims and agnostics have had enough.
I understand that the conflict is as old as the creation of Israel, but exactly how does slaughtering infants even the score? How will butchering Holocaust survivors bring about a free Palestine?
U.S. college campuses, including UNC-Chapel Hill, have seen protests effectively condoning the killing and hostage-taking in Israel. A professor at the University of Virginia offered extra credit to students who attended events to “stand in solidarity with Palestinians resisting occupation.”
Given those parameters, I can assume that protests such as those in Australia would be worthy. There, demonstrators chanted, “Gas the Jews.”
When I saw that news report, I couldn’t believe my ears. When did it become acceptable to cheer mass murder? When did it become OK to use hate speech with impunity?
As American’s we’ve seen mass killings for years--from Columbine to Sandy Hook and beyond—but the killing spree in Israel felt different. Maybe it’s because the terrorists exploited social media to document their atrocities. Maybe it’s because the army of murderers wasn’t acting randomly. No, their sole purpose was to hunt down Jews and exterminate them.
In 2016 I had the privilege of visiting Israel. The people were friendly and welcoming, the landscape an amazing mix of remains of civilizations that extend back millennia. Whether Christian or Jew, Muslim or agnostic, Israel is our spiritual homeland, birthed in the wake of the Holocaust. On the itinerary was Bethlehem, now a Palestinian town on the West Bank. There, things were more tense because…well, that’s how it is.
In 1938, when the Nazis were bullying Germany with yellow stars, broken glass and sledgehammers, few stood up. Too few spoke out.
One takeaway from last week is realizing that my friends back in Maine were correct, except for one thing: AntiSemitism is no longer steaming beneath the surface. The pot has boiled over.
---Tammy Wilson lives near Newton. Contact her at [email protected]