Opinion | Susan Knopf: Light up the sky
For The Record
Thursday night at sundown, we light the first candle of Hanukkah. Jewish holidays begin like Christmas Eve, at sundown the night before. The first day of Hanukkah is the 25th day of Kislev. This is the Jewish year 5781.
Hanukkah is supposed to be a joyous holiday. These days, when I light the Hanukkah candles, I’m reminded of tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, where hateful white nationalists chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”
For the record, the FBI reports a Jew was more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than all other religions combined in 2018. A Jew was four times more likely than a Muslim to be a hate crime victim. Jews are just 2% of the U.S. population and suffer more than 60% of religious hate crime attacks. The Anti-Defamation League records more than twice as many anti-Semitic attacks as the FBI due to under reporting by local law enforcement.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, more than a billion people globally harbor anti-Semitic beliefs, about 25% of those surveyed. The biggest groups are Middle Eastern and North African Muslims. Make no mistake, when people speak against Israel, they are talking about Jews. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told a student in 1968, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
People conflate Jews with imperialism. Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam leader since 1977, is perhaps the most egregious perpetrator of this false narrative. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Farrakhan tweeted in 2018, “I’m not anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” The quote took me back to college, when a classmate claimed there were far more Jews registered in our college than reported, and said, “They don’t want you to know how many … are crawling in and out of here.”
A Columbia University professor told me Jews dominated the slave trade. This false scholarship, debunked by famed Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., comes directly from Farrakhan and is also embraced by David Duke and other white nationalists.
These odd bedfellows, black nationalists and white nationalists, agree about wanting to have separate nations and on their disparagement of Jews and other people. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports 87-year-old Farrakhan is anti-Semitic and anti-gay. He also condemns Christian churches that support Israel.
Why do so many hate groups target Jews? That question has almost as many answers as there are haters.
“It is appropriate to say that anti-Semitism is as old as the hills,” Rabbi Joel Schwartzman said. “It waxes and wanes over time. … The tragedy of our day is that anti-Semitism seems to have gained some respectability and is not rejected out of hand as it has traditionally been for the past decades. This does not bode well for the future. … Throughout the centuries, Jews have found themselves convenient scapegoats for rulers, governments, social sectors and haters in general.”
Harvard Professor Emeritus Ruth Wisse believes anti-Semitic expression is a convenient political device, rather than a repertoire of random hate speech. We have seen that demonstrated locally with swastikas drawn on Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons’ campaign signs and on Lord of the Mountain Lutheran Church tagged in 2016. Throughout time, it was a convenient common ground hatred to politically unify the masses.
“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a fictional anti-Semitic text purporting to be a Jewish plan for world domination. It was first published in Russia in 1903, leading to pogroms that killed thousands of Jews. In the 1920s, Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Co., funded the distribution of 500,000 copies in the U.S. Today, this fictional work is still in global distribution and translated into numerous languages. The QAnon conspiracy theory, which alleges Democrats drink the blood of children, has roots in “The Protocols.”
“Jews in the United States have responded to blood libels and hate propaganda by establishing programs to counter hate, engaging in coalition efforts and by promoting a definition of anti-Semitism that will enable people to more easily identify anti-Semitism when they encounter it,” Schwartzman said.
The distribution of false information is toxic to our society. We must all be soldiers in the battle to fight lies and hate.
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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