Antisemitism Today

Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School, writing in Time, asserts that today’s antisemitism is more likely to come from the left:

Neither South Africa nor other states have brought a genocide case against China for its conduct in Tibet or Xinjiang, or against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. There is something specifically noteworthy about leveling the charge at the Jewish state—something intertwined with the new narrative of the Jews as archetypal oppressors rather than archetypal victims. Call it the genocide sleight of hand: if the Jews are depicted as genocidal—if Israel becomes the very archetype of a genocidal state—then Jews are much less likely to be conceived as a historically oppressed people engaged in self-defense.

The new narrative of Jews as oppressors is, in the end, far too close for comfort to the antisemitic tradition of singling out Jews as uniquely deserving of condemnation and punishment, whether in its old religious form or its Nazi iteration. Like those earlier forms of antisemitism, the new kind is not ultimately about the Jews, but about the human impulse to point the finger at someone who can be made to carry the weight of our social ills. Oppression is real. Power can be exercised without justice. Israel should not be immune from criticism when it acts wrongfully. Yet the horrific history and undefeated resilience of antisemitism mean that modes of rhetorical attack on Israel and on Jews should be subject to careful scrutiny.

Feldman’s book, To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People will be released on March 6, 2024.

If anything is new about post-Holocaust antisemitism, it’s the accusations that the only Jewish state in the world is committing another Holocaust. As Professor Feldman notes, “Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas, even if found to involve killing disproportionate number of civilians, do not turn Israel into a genocidal actor comparable to the Nazis or the Hutu regime in Rwanda.” Those who hurl this accusation at the State of Israel — and sometimes any random Jew in the world — expect that the statement will be hurtful. And a desire to hurt Jews is at the core of antisemitism.

Leave a Comment