By Bryan E. Leib
Over the years, antisemitism has evolved, but sadly, not for the better.
In many ways, antisemitism has been normalized and mainstreamed throughout all parts of American society. While Jews represent roughly 2% of the U.S. population, we are the targets of over 50% of all hate crimes.
In Florida, which I call home, we’ve seen swastikas carved on to playground sets in Weston, swastika-painted bricks thrown through a Chabad house in Pensacola just two weeks ago, the growth of the antisemitic “Goyim Defense League” throughout the state and, most recently, the death threats from neo-Nazis against Mayor Shlomo Danzinger of Surfside, Florida, which have necessitated police protection.
On college campuses, there are “Zionist-free zones,” where many of you, including myself, would not be allowed to speak because of our love and support for Israel.
We also saw the recent disgusting CUNY School of Law commencement speech by Fatima Mohammed. Amongst other lies, she accused Israel of the “indiscriminate” murder of Palestinian children.
We shouldn’t have been surprised. In May 2021, Mohammed wrote on Twitter, “Every Zionist burn in the hottest pit of hell.” In many speeches, she has spewed her vitriol at the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
But probably the worst aspect of the entire speech was the fact that it was approved by the school leadership ahead of time.
Clearly, Jews are under attack and in the spotlight like never before.
What puts us in the spotlight? I think it has a lot to do with members of Congress who routinely traffic in antisemitism. In my role as Executive Director of the Combat Antisemitism Everywhere political action committee (CASEPAC), I am on the front lines every day combating all forms of antisemitism in federal politics.
CASEPAC supports congressional candidates and members of Congress of both parties who share our unwavering commitment to combating all forms of antisemitism. We call out antisemitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Israel bias in the halls of Congress, the media and around the country.
Antisemitic members of Congress have very powerful platforms. When they speak on an issue, all forms of media broadcast their statement. Just a few days ago, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) attended an art show that prominently featured an image of Leila Khaled, a convicted Palestinian terrorist who hijacked planes in 1969 and the early 1970s. The infamous image shows Khaled holding an AK-47.
CASEPAC sprang into action, exposing this artwork by creating a graphic and posting it everywhere on social media. Now people know that Tlaib supports a violent movement that calls for wiping out the world’s only Jewish state.
Tlaib is not alone. She routinely calls Israel an apartheid state, and this was echoed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who told a crowd, “Israel is a racist state.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has made too many antisemitic statements to count. In the best known, she accused Jews of buying control of Congress with their “benjamins,” i.e., hundred-dollar bills.
Every other community organizes and fundraises for candidates and elected officials. When Italian Americans, Irish Americans or Indian Americans do so, Omar doesn’t say a word about it. But when Jewish Americans do so, she accuses us of having dual loyalties and controlling politicians with our money.
Why does she do this? I think it’s rather simple: She hates Israel and any Jew who supports it.
Antisemitism is rightly referred to as the world’s oldest hatred. While I and many of you have experienced antisemitism throughout our lives, the Jewish people have been facing it for centuries. We’ve survived pogroms, expulsions and the Holocaust.
My grandfather, Edgar Leib, lost it all: Wife, children and businesses—all at the hands of the Nazis. Somehow, he survived the Holocaust. When he was liberated by the Russians, he weighed only 89 pounds. I am proud to be the first grandson of a Holocaust survivor, standing here today using my voice to speak out against hatred of our people and our homeland Israel.
I don’t profess to have all the answers to this problem, which has dogged our people for centuries. But I will suggest that we as Jews must have more Jewish pride and do more to support each other.
We must not allow politics to divide us. That might sound interesting coming from me, since I once ran for Congress and now lead a political action committee. But I have always championed the idea that Jews should work together to support our faith, Israel and Zionism regardless of our political inclinations.
So, while hatred of American Jews, Israel and Zionism is nothing new to us, it has now become mainstream. We must start playing offense and leading with Jewish pride at every turn. We can no longer play defense and sing “Kumbaya” with those who seek to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.
It’s imperative for us to unite as Jewish Americans in the fight against antisemitism, the BDS movement and antisemitic rhetoric from members of Congress.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, an observant Jew or a secular Jew. We must come together as one people because when those with hate in their heart spew lies about our community in the halls of Congress or on social media, or when they walk into a synagogue to murder us, they don’t care about our age or our political and religious beliefs. They are coming after us because we are Jews.
It should be “that simple” for us as Jewish Americans to condemn antisemitism with one voice. We must come together to fight for our people, our birthright and our future in America, Israel and throughout the world.
We must unite so that the memory of the six million Jews we lost in the Holocaust never fades from history.
We must condemn those who choose to question the loyalty of Israeli Americans and Jewish Americans but no other demographic in America.
We must loudly proclaim that antisemitism has no place in America.
In the “Hatikvah,” we find the words od lo abda tikvateinu—“Our hope is not yet lost.”
Here in America, we must not lose hope. I am not saying it will be easy to combat this historic rise in antisemitism, but once we lose hope, they win. We must never allow this to happen.