The confusing and dangerous politics of anti-Semitism

11 killed and multiple people injured during Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

11 people were killed and multiple people were injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27. Police said the suspect is in custody.
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11 people were killed and multiple people were injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27. Police said the suspect is in custody.

Anti-Semitism is going to get a lot worse. While crimes against Jews have increased more than those against any other religious group, Washington is playing politics with the issue in ways that are often confusing and subtle. It’s likely this messaging will affect us in North Carolina, where the number of anti-Semitic incidents has doubled in the last year.

In case you were fortunate enough to miss it, President Trump reopened some wounds in April when he again insisted there were some “fine people” at the Charlottesville rally of white supremacists. You may remember a woman was murdered by a neo-Nazi who drove his car into the crowd, but the president said there was “blame on both sides.”

Only two weeks after he defended his Charlottesville comments, the president had a controversial White House meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, Europe’s most virulently anti-Semitic leader. Orban is the architect of a confusing but deadly political strategy: he stirs up vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories at home while allying himself with Israel’s right-wing government.

It seems that Trump may have taken a page from Orban’s political playbook by branding Democrats as anti-Jewish. The Hungarian leader was still at the White House when the President twisted the words of a Muslim Democrat, then accused her of harboring “hatred of Israel and Jewish people.”

That plays into the GOP strategy to politicize anti-Semitism. It’s an issue on which Republicans think Democrats are vulnerable since some balked at voting for a measure condemning anti-Semitic rhetoric by a different Muslim Democrat, Ilhan Omar.

You probably didn’t miss the controversy created by Representative Omar earlier this year when she questioned the patriotism of American Jews. That followed her comment that U.S. support for Israel is “all about” Jewish money. The statement was remarkable because Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was apparently unaware of the significant benefits the U.S. reaps from its alliance with Israel, including intelligence sharing.

Let’s be clear. There is a lot to criticize about Israel’s current government, including its occupation of Palestinian territories. But the Palestinian human rights movement, which calls for the boycott of companies that do business with Israel, also fosters considerable anti-Semitism on the left, including on many U.S. college campuses.

This boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has gained converts in the U.S. and in North Carolina by pitching its solidarity with all oppressed people, including U.S. minorities. But In order to portray Israel as the great white oppressor, it conveniently ignores very real Palestinian terrorists who indiscriminately launch missiles into the Jewish state and have started three wars in the name of freedom fighting.

The anti-Semitism fostered by this movement rarely comes to light as clearly as it did this year in North Carolina, when video of a conference on Gaza co-sponsored by Duke and UNC caught dozens of people singing and clapping to an “anti-Semitic song” after the rapper implored, “I can not be anti-Semitic alone.”

It’s clear that if North Carolinians want to do anything about the anti-Semitism at home, they can’t look to Washington. Fortunately, there’s a holocaust education bill pending before the N.C. General Assembly that I’m hopeful will be enacted. Our kids need to understand and recognize confusing and subtle messages of anti-Semitism. Left unaddressed, those beliefs will culminate in crime.