Salt Dragon

So I’ve been looking at the 2009 hate crime statistics for the US. I’ve gotten myself into a little internet snit regarding antisemitism (an issue rather important to me as a Jew) and how it pops up regularly in criticism of Israel in the form of demonization of Israelis, delegitimazation of Israeli nationhood, and the use of a double standard when focusing on Israel’s abuses (basically what’s outlined here). Anyway, my sparring partners (not Jews, mind you) insist that antisemitism is rare in criticism of Israel, and the majority of the commentary and rhetoric surrounding Israel is a-okay. Never mind that comments insinuating (sometimes outright declaring) Israelis are genocidal Nazis undeserving of any Jewish homeland are par for the course in any comment thread pertaining to Israel. Never mind that discussing the bare concept of a Jewish homeland is taboo in many liberal circles.

America has an unacknowledged antisemitism problem. In 2009, 1,132 Jews were victimized for being Jewish. There are just over 5 million Jews in America. 1 Jew for every 4,660 was a victim of a hate crime in 2009. In 2009, 1,482 individuals were victimized for their sexual-orientation. By the most conservative estimate, queer individuals (such as myself) account for ~3% of the human population, meaning ~9,500,000 Americans are queer, and 1 of every ~13,415 queer americans was the victim of a hate crime in 2009. There are almost twice as many queer americans as there are Jewish americans, yet Jews are victims of hate crimes at a far higher rate per capita. Jews and queer individuals are victimized along completely different axes of oppression in our society, and I would argue that people who are queer face far greater challenges day to day than (white) Jews (certainly I’ve gotten a lot more shit over the course of my life for being “too” effeminate than for being Jewish), but the point I’m trying to make is that there is an undertow of unacknowledged antisemitism flowing in American culture. It’s insidious. So many of us look like and enjoy the power of America’s white majority that it is very easy to deny antisemitism’s existence. Poof, it’s gone. America is post-antisemitism. Never mind that antisemitism is cyclical, and has always worked by letting Jews get ahead and then violently setting us back in our place when the real ruling class says we have too much power to distract from their own excessive power.

This, of course, does not relate in any direct way to how we talk about Israel. But I think it is expressive of a blind spot Americans have when it comes to antisemitism. It isn’t immediately obvious in America today, so it must not exist. It enables so many otherwise liberal, tolerant individuals to call Israelis, representatives of the only Jewish state in a world that still overwhelmingly persecutes Jews, genocidal Nazis without flinching. I don’t think most people who make such comments are active antisemites, but such comments certainly make me feel ill and unsafe. Their commonness and the denial of their antisemitism make me worry about the future for Jews in America. It wasn’t long ago that white-supremacists tried to kill my grandfather for being a prominent Jew, and it wasn’t long before that that his family was forced to flee pogroms in Poland. It wasn’t so long ago that my father was asked how he hid his horns. Things are relatively good today for White Jews in America, and we get more than our share for being White - I worry about tomorrow, though (and maybe a bit about my safety today, should I find myself in a city without a large Jewish community, having looked at those hate crime stats).