In both the United States and Europe there has been an increase in the passage of laws that are intended to protect Jews. Indeed, one might say that one of the few growth industries in Donald Trump’s United States has been the protection of Jewish citizens and their property from a largely contrived wave of anti-Semitism that is allegedly sweeping the nation. Even while potentially catastrophic developments both in the Middle East and the United States continue to unfold, the threat of anti-Semitism continues to find its way into much of the news cycle in the mainstream media.
A survey conducted last month in all fifty states was released with the headline “First-Ever 50-State Survey On Holocaust Knowledge Of American Millennials And Gen Z Reveals Shocking Results. Disturbing Findings Reveal Significant Number Of Millennials And Gen Z Can’t Name A Single Concentration Camp Or Ghetto, Believe That Two Million Or Fewer Jews Were Killed And A Concerning Percentage Believe That Jews Caused The Holocaust.”
The survey is based on the premise that detailed knowledge of the so-called holocaust should be an essential part of everyone’s education. Currently, 12 states already require holocaust instruction in their public school curricula, though that includes five of the six biggest states, and recently passed federal legislation will eventually fund holocaust education everywhere in the U.S. But, of course, the real back story that one must not mention is that the standard holocaust narrative is at least as much fiction as fact and it is employed regularly to create special benefits and protections for both Jews in general and also for the State of Israel. That is why the usual sources in the media become outraged whenever it seems that the propaganda is not effective.
The ignorance of the holocaust story inevitably received wide play in the mainstream media but there are a number of things that all Americans should know about the anti-Semitism hysteria that drives the process. First of all, the extent to which there is actual anti-Semitism and the background to many of the incidents has been deliberately distorted or even ignored by the press and by the government at all levels. Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews for either their religion or their ethnicity, but many of the so-called anti-Semitic incidents are actually related to the policies advanced by the state of Israel. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which have a vested interest in keeping the number of anti-Semitic incidents high, deliberately conflate the two issues in their reports.
In its 2018 report, ADL reported “1,879 acts,” in the United States during the course of the year. It is not a particularly large number given the size and population of the U.S. and also with respect to what is included. There were certainly some physical attacks, including two shooting incidents at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, but most of the incidents were much less kinetic, including shouting and name calling on university campuses between groups supportive of and opposed to Israel’s repression of the Palestinians.
Europe is way ahead of the game when it comes to punishing so-called holocaust denial or anti-Semitism, which now includes any criticism of Jews and/or of Israel. As one critic put it, Europeans generally can exercise something like free speech, but the speech is limited by certain rules that must be observed. Three weeks ago, the French nationalist writer and critic of Jewish power Hervé Ryssen was jailed for the fifth time for the crime of “hate speech.” He faces up to 17 months in prison for having been found guilty of “…insult, provocation, and public defamation due to origin, ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion.” In 2016 he was imprisoned for 5 months, in 2017 for 6 months and in 2018 for one year on similar charges. He also had to pay a 2000 Euros fine to the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. In January 2020, Ryssen was found guilty of “contesting the existence of crimes against humanity,” i.e. questioning the so-called holocaust which labels him as a négationniste, a “holocaust denier.”
Ryssen has written numerous books on Jewish power in Europe and on Israel. His scholarship has rarely been questioned, but his willingness to speak out sometimes boldly on issues that are forbidden has put him in prison more often than not. Curiously, the French law against vilifying ethnic groups and religions has de facto only rarely been applied to protecting either Christians or Muslims. Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo continues to “blaspheme” against both religions without any intervention from the authorities, but it is careful not to make fun of Jews.
The United States is clearly moving in the direction of France, at least insofar as the Jewish community and Israel are concerned. But it is also refreshing to note that a revived progressive wing of the Democratic Party is engaging in a bit of pushback. Three weeks ago, 162 Democratic congressmen plus one Republican and one independent actually voted against an amendment intended to “Protect Jewish Students from Antisemitism at School.”
The vote took place on Sept. 16th, and was over a Republican proposed amendment to the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (H.R.2574). The amendment designated anti-Semitism to be a form of discrimination included in the bill and would allow private citizens to file lawsuits claiming damages under the Civil Rights Act’s Title VI, focusing particularly on education programs. In spite of the considerable level of opposition, unfortunately the amendment still passed by a vote of 255 to 164.
According to the Concerned Women for America (CWA), a group that lobbied for the added language, “The amendment ensures that recipients of federal education funding act against anti-Semitism in our communities. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) on college campuses is one of the ways such discrimination is being displayed.” The bill allows suits directed against any program receiving federal money if it can be claimed that one is the victim of discriminatory practices that negatively affect a protected class more than another class. Previously, the protected classes were identified as “race, color, or national origin,” but Jews and, by extension, Israel are now also protected. The specific additional language that was inserted was: “In carrying out the responsibilities of the recipient under this title, the employee or employees designated under this section shall consider antisemitism to be discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin as prohibited by this title.”
In practice, the new legislation will mean that Jewish students or their families or proxies can use Civil Rights legislation to sue educational institutions if they are made uncomfortable by the presence of critics of Israel. The real targets are groups like BDS, which have obtained some traction on university campuses and have been targeted by both the Israeli government and domestic Israel Lobby organizations. But, of course, the real danger is that once protected status is granted to one chosen group that promotes the interests of a foreign government there is no control over how “hate speech” will be defined and the consequences for American fundamental liberties will be catastrophic, moving far closer to the European model of freedom limited by “rules.”