As Black Lives Matter (BLM) sweeps across media platforms and remains on the forefront of many people’s minds, we must remember that combating bigotry must also include other minority groups. In Philadelphia on Oct. 28, a group of BLM supporters were caught on video pushing three Jewish men who came to protest alongside them. The protestors claimed that the Jewish men belonged to a “synagogue of Satan” and told the men: “This ain’t your fight.”
However, fighting against bigotry IS their fight. We too easily forget that white supremacy is not just a matter of Black and white; its legacy and far-reaching history include violence and hatred towards the Jewish community and other minorities as well. It should be no surprise that Jewish men wish to show solidarity against institutions of white supremacy. Pushing these protestors out echoes the exclusion of new surrounding whatever antisemitic dialogue in our media.
There is minimal backlash against antisemitic rhetoric in our society, evidenced by this story and antisemitic tweets by certain celebrities. American politics and society are quick to defend minority rights in response to the deep-rooted systemic racism in our country. It is important to defend the oppressed. So, we must ask ourselves: why is antisemitism in politics and the media not met with outrage? Why is antisemitic rhetoric rarely addressed?
“Meh-rage” is a term coined by former NBA player Kareem Abdul Jabaar in his op-ed “Where is the Outrage Over Anti-Semitism in Sports and Hollywood?” Jabaar argued that, in light of the promotion of antisemitic tropes shared on social media by Ice Cube, Chelsea Handler, Stephen Jackson and Desean Jackson, it was to be expected that with “the New Woke-fulness in Hollywood and the sports world, [there would be more] passionate public outrage. What we got was a shrug of meh-rage.” These outspoken celebrities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement are hesitant to condemn antisemitism. In fact, in many cases, their rhetoric actively promotes it.
It is difficult to blame celebrities for their ignorance, when even Congress cannot unite to combat antisemitism. Democrats and Republicans are quick to demand resignation from members of the other party for spewing hateful speech. Most recently, Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar was under fire for her criticism of America’s involvement with Israel. Omar perpetuated the dual-loyalty trope in which Jews are seen as more loyal to Israel than America. Antisemites historically use this to paint Jews as untrustworthy American citizens. Criticism came from both sides, but polarization acted as an added layer of divisive rhetoric.
The House passed a bill condemning Omar’s statements, but left her name out of the resolutions that addressed Omar’s criticism and antisemitic language. This resolution, in comparison to the one created to condemn and censure Republican Representative Steven King of Iowa for his white nationalist statements, was weak. The resolution ended with 24 Republicans voting ‘No’ on an Anti-Hate Bill that should have been unanimous. If both sides had acknowledged their contributions to antisemitism and those acknowledgements were included in the bill, I believe the vote would have been uncontested.
The “meh-rage” towards antisemitism does not stop in Congress. Oct. 27 marked two years since the tragic Tree of Life shooting in which a white supremacist killed 11 Jews in the Tree of Life — or L’Simcha — Congregation, a Pittsburgh synagogue. One could assume that, on this anniversary, the presidential candidates would prioritize their condolences before engaging in demonizing one another, but again, the Jewish community was an afterthought. President-elect Joe Biden, did not express condolences until 6 p.m. President Trump’s Twitter did not acknowledge the event at all; instead President Trump’s War Room YouTube channel posted a sound bite of the Tree of Life Rabbi Myers saying that he saw a warm side of President Trump that the media has not shown following the tragedy.
This failed attempt at condolences further evidences how far we have to go in addressing antisemitic rhetoric and behavior. President Trump’s “condolences” succeeded in boosting perceptions of his character, which was prioritized over mourning. As for President-elect Biden, the late acknowledgement seems strange, especially because he has dedicated an entire section of his campaign page to his promise to combat antisemitism. Both President Trump and President-elect Biden have promised to combat bigotry. We must ensure that they prioritize it.