There is a rise in anti-Semitism across the West. Shamefully, it is being exploited with great cynicism by the pro-Israel lobby to target Palestinian support groups and individuals instead of the far-right groups which really do push a real agenda of hatred against the Jews.
In Donald Trump's America, for instance, torch-bearing white nationalists led by racist "alt-right" figure Richard Spencer feel emboldened enough to march through towns and cities. As recently as last year, some of them chanted, among other things, "Jews will not replace us." Astonishingly — or not — there was silence from the Trump administration on this blatant anti-Semitism.
Both America and Europe seem reluctant to tackle this nationalist brand of anti-Semitism head-on. Instead, various countries have passed or are considering passing legislation which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, specifically to silence those who advocate for Palestinian human rights. This not only serves as a green light to bigots and racists to carry on hating but also exposes rather than protects ordinary Jews.
In Washington, for example, a bill has been reintroduced in Congress which is roundly condemned by Jewish community organisations, including Jewish Voices for Peace, as well as individual Jews. "This bill is a shameless attempt to cynically exploit a rise in real anti-Semitism to target advocates of Palestinian human rights on college campuses," insists Josh Ruebner, policy director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).
Ruebner says that the bill would require the Department of Education to "take into consideration" a discredited State Department definition of anti-Semitism used abroad, which even its author admits would constitute a violation of the First Amendment if applied domestically. "According to this definition," he adds, "extremely vague categories of criticism of Israel such as demonising, delegitimising or holding it to a double standard would be considered anti-Semitism. As a Jewish person who supports Palestinian rights, I'm incensed that Congress would consider this bill."
Should the bill become law, university campus groups like Students for Justice in Palestine could be targeted for holding a rally in which a speaker accuses Israel of practising apartheid against Palestinians; holding a teach-in on the one-state solution, or organising a boycott campaign targeting only Israeli companies. The repercussions for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are obvious. It puts a huge question mark over the student groups who've successfully persuaded nearly 50 US universities to support BDS.
Meanwhile, it looks like "business as usual" for the real purveyors of hate in America and Europe as the far right continues to peddle hatred of Jews as well as migrant communities. According to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the US leapt by nearly 60 per cent in 2017 compared with the previous year. It's the largest one-year jump in the 40 years that the ADL has been tracking such information, and coincides with the arrival of Trump in the White House.
What's more, Trump's presidency has also seen a 250 per cent increase in white-supremacist activity on US college campuses. According to ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt, the numbers on anti-Semitic incidents "had been trending in the right direction for a long time… And then something changed."
Greenblatt appears to be reluctant to explain what that "something" was, so let me do it for him. Donald Trump has virtually normalised anti-Semitic rhetoric because he will not slap down the extreme voices on America's far right. Some of the advisers he brought in to his administration are known for their anti-Semitic views and have previously made racist and bigoted comments, but Trump's reaction has been one of complicity, rather than condemnation.
While Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn continues to incur the wrath of some leading Jewish groups in Britain which accuse him of being complicit in anti-Semitism because of his alleged refusal to confront it, Trump appears to be beyond criticism. This is easy to explain. Some of the pro-Israel lobby groups are more than happy to turn a blind eye to anti-Semitism when it comes from a US President who gives unconditional support to the Zionist State; a man who delivers Jerusalem to them on a plate.
Even the Trump's failure to mention the destruction of European Jewry on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, or his attack on a Jewish reporter at a press conference who asked about the spike in anti-Semitic incidents, has not drawn criticism from pro-Israel groups. Imagine the reaction if Corbyn failed to mention the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, or berated a reporter from the Jewish Chronicle or Jewish News for daring to raise the issue of the rise of anti-Semitism. It is becoming increasingly obvious that anti-Semitism and those responsible for it can be, and are, exploited by the lobby groups when it suits their agenda to do so.
Furthermore, a quick look at Trump's core support base across America reveals that the US Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was almost certainly not done out of his love for Israel; it is no coincidence that it has endeared him to the most ardent of Christian Zionists. By recognising Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital he has made America's 50 million evangelical Christian voters ecstatic, because they believe that the Day of Judgement can only happen once the Jewish Temple has been rebuilt in the Holy City. According to the Bible's Book of Revelation, only then will the righteous be saved and the wicked — including the world's Jews and other non-Christians — will be cast into the fire of hell. US recognition of Jerusalem thus brings that cataclysmic event one step closer in Trump's new world order. Remember that the next time that accusations of anti-Semitism are hurled at pro-Palestine activists.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.