JCRC Statement on Antisemitism in Public Discourse

Mar 8, 2019 | antisemitism, Blog, Statements

On December 23, 2018 the Indianapolis Star published our letter to the editor regarding the alarming rise of antisemitic acts and expressions in central Indiana, elsewhere in the United States, and in Europe.   

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly (407-23) passed House Resolution 183 that thoroughly describes and explicitly condemns antisemitism as anathema  to American democracy, and also repudiates other expressions of bigotry and hate, including Islamophobia, racism, and white supremacy. 

What happened in between our December letter and the March 7th Resolution demands attention. 

In early February, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made antisemitic remarks on Twitter; she was swiftly criticized by leaders from both political parties and several national organizations.  She then met with her Jewish constituents to apologize and ostensibly learn why her words were so hurtful and dangerous.  While not saying the words “Jewish” or “Jews,” Congresswoman Omar doubled down (after her apology) and continued to publicly sound the anti-Jewish dog whistles of dual loyalty and using wealth to subvert public officials.  Whether intentional or not, the words Congresswoman Omar used were antisemitic, and deserve repudiation and condemnation.   

What’s more, we are deeply concerned by attempts to deflect the legitimate accusations of antisemitism as a knee-jerk response to supposed criticism of Israel.  This is false.  It is antisemitism, not criticism of Israel or Israeli policy, to suggest that Jewish money, as opposed to shared values, is the reason Israel enjoys support in Congress.  It is antisemitism, not criticism of Israel or Israeli policy, to accuse American Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government when they speak out in favor of a strong bilateral relationship between the United States and a valuable strategic ally.  Israel, like all other nations, is neither perfect nor immune to criticism.  Anyone seeking a robust discussion around U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel, or the actions of the democratically elected Israeli government, must do so without using the language of antisemitism.   

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is charged with identifying and responding to antisemitism whether it emanates from the right or the left.  When a Nazi flag defaced the side of Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, Indiana the condemnations were swift and broad.  When antisemitic stereotypes are cloaked in the language of the progressive left, or falsely deflected as legitimate criticism of Israel, the condemnations must be swift and broad as well.   

Antisemitism has persisted for more than 2,000 years, taking on different forms, employing language palatable for the day, with tragic consequences for Jews and non-Jews alike.  Unlike other forms of hate, antisemitism is used in ways that often go unnoticed or appear innocuous, leaving the Jewish community feeling vulnerable and unheard.  In recent years, the Jewish community has experienced a resurgence in the use of age-old antisemitic accusations, including  dual loyalties and characterizing Jews as the puppet-masters pulling the strings that cause and perpetuate any number of society’s problems. 

The Jewish community calls on our elected officials, interfaith and intergroup partners, and all our Hoosier neighbors and friends to: 

· Join us in demanding that those who speak in the language of antisemitism be held accountable, just as those who espouse racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, or other bigoted views be held accountable; antisemitism in word or deed must not be  normalized in our nation’s capital or in our local communities.

· Hear and honor us when we identify language or actions as antisemitic or anti-Jewish;

· Be thoughtful about the words you use, because history teaches us that words leads to action; and 

· Learn more about antisemitism by: visiting the Anti-Defamation League’s background piece on the historical charges of dual loyalty, reading  this article  about antisemitism in America, or by reaching out to our JCRC for further information.