Anti-Semitism is spiraling out of control throughout the United States with a precipitous rise in anti-Semitic attacks on the streets, on campuses, on social media, Synagogues, JCC’s and other Jewish Institutions; wherever Jews are visible. The tsunami of Jew hatred comes from all corners of the political spectrum; the extreme Right, the progressive Left, radicalized Black and Muslim Americans, and the Muslim world. It has crept into the educational system, the corporate world, the political echelon and the celebrity sphere. Brazen anti-Semitic attacks are being carried out daily without inhibition or hesitancy on the streets of America as if attackers are granted immunity from punishment or accountability. A general sense of fear and intimidation has become the norm for American Jews. For many Jews in the United States, zero tolerance for anti-Semitism is further than ever from being a reality.
This past year, major Jewish organizations have announced that they have embarked on major campaigns aimed to fighting anti-Semitism. These organizations have infused hundreds of millions of dollars into these campaigns, with little if any noticeable reduction in anti-Semitic attacks, or empirically measurable efficacy. With the amplifying effect of social media, Jew hatred can now be spread and amplified with the double click of a finger to millions of people of all ages, of all ethnic groups throughout the United States, transforming Jew hatred to be viewed as acceptable and normal. Violent and physical anti-Semitic attacks have been shown to happen as a result of violent postings and incitement online.
As the world begins the New Year under a cloud of economic and political uncertainty, traumatized by years of the COVID pandemic, amid rising global populism and political disunity, history has shown us over the millennium that when economic, political and social crises erupt and disrupt life as we know it, the usual suspects have been Jews. History has taught us that Jews were always the first to be blamed, then scapegoated, and eventually attacked. The late Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and author, stressed that the Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers, it began with words. Leaders of American Jewry have a shared responsibility to work together in order to identify and combat the spiraling of anti-Semitic vitriol.
Applying the “Broken Windows” doctrine to combat anti-Semitism can provide an effective starting point. The broken windows theory, defined in 1982 by social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling, used broken windows as a metaphor for disorder within neighborhoods. Their theory links disorder within a community to subsequent occurrences of serious crime. They suggested that one broken window would soon lead to many more windows being broken: “One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”
The “Broken Windows” theory had an enormous impact on police policy throughout the 1990s and remained influential into the 21st century. Perhaps the most notable application of the theory was in New York City, where the aggressive order-maintenance practices of the New York City Police Department were responsible for the dramatic decrease in crime rates within the city during the 1990s.
Jewish community leaders and heads of Jewish organizations both on a national scale and local scale must demand that the judicial system, state and local district attorney’s, courts, police forces, and political leaders adopt a “broken windows” orientation towards combatting anti-Semitism.
Only by forcibly demanding that anti-Semitic incidents be investigated, prosecuted and perpetuators be held accountable, only then can we begin to turn the tide and bring spiraling anti-Semitic attacks under a semblance of control. In recent years the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has adopted the following working definition of antisemitism to empower local judicial and enforcement authorities to act;
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities
The IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism enables judicial and enforcement agencies the necessary conceptual pathway to combat the spiraling anti-Semitic attacks in the United States. Adopting the “Broken Windows” anti-crime doctrine will enable enforcement authorities an operational pathway to significantly decrease the level of violence currently targeting American Jews, and provide a long-term strategic effect that can be a deterrence by holding those responsible for anti-Semitic attacks accountable for their actions. Zero tolerance for anti-Semitism can indeed become a reality.
Hatred starts with the Jews, but never ends with the Jews. The first airplane hijacked by Jew haters and anti-Semites was an Israeli airplane, and today at every airport at every country in the world, everyone lines up for security checks, so all Americans should be concerned. The danger of dismissing the inherent threat of today’s anti-Semitism lies in its danger for all Americans.
Appendix: A working definition of antisemitism
In the spirit of the Stockholm Declaration that states: “With humanity still scarred by …antisemitism and xenophobia the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight those evils” the committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial called the IHRA Plenary in Budapest 2015 to adopt the following working definition of antisemitism.
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are anti-Semitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Anti-Semitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries