What’s the Event?
On December 15th a panel of known anti-Semitists and/or Israel one-state promoters, including a Jewish reporter, will tackle the challenge of how to dismantle anti-Semitism. This virtual event is hosted by a cohort of organizations that are at odds with Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Many of the organizations are Jewish. If you have been following the Jewish press and social media, this is a major topic evoking strong opinions.
Why is this Interesting?
It’s a counter-intuitive approach to fighting hate. Can people who fan the flames of indirect anti-Semitism and have themselves experienced racism, come up with unique or creative approaches to dismantle this particular kind of hate? Or will it be an excuse to blame the victims?
This brings up more questions than answers. As Jews and as Americans or Canadians who believe in free speech, are we obligated to give them a chance? Can we really hope that they are trying eliminate hate?
A Watcher’s Guide for the Hopeful
At Take Action, we welcome all voices in the fight against hate. We’re both skeptical of and hopeful for good intentions. You may be considering attending or following this unusual panel. If so, the following is a watcher’s guide to help decode and set expectations for what you may see. Consider watching this panel with a neighbor of another faith and opening a dialogue about your interpretation.
Scrambling for Soundbites. The panelists are reporters, politicians and other emerging media voices. All are well spoken with large personal followings. With the attention paid to this panel, many of them will have speeches ready for memes and soundbites for the press and social media. Some may even have some pre-prepared social media ready to release right after the panel.
Watch for: Outrageous/over-the top statements designed to trend on social media and get press from this event.
Unbalanced Politics. This panel is not balanced politically – a common approach to communicating a specific message. This is a far-left panel. It would be natural for this group to target right-wing extremism for all anti-Semitism. In reality, both sides of the aisle have extremists (or not so extremists) to blame. Having a balanced view is rarely in style.
Watch for: Blaming right-wing extremists and militia only for all forms of anti-Semitism in North America.
Questioning if anti-Semitism exists. Many haters deny that a problem exists. This “not me” attitude applies to racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia and many more forms of hate that are too numerous to mention here. One of the reasons that Take Action and so many organizations support the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. A common definition of anti-Semitism is critical to identifying and effectively confronting hate speech against Jews anywhere, any when.
Watch for: Denial that any of the members of the panel are anti-Semitic since this particular hatred only comes from white supremists or unbalanced individuals.
Israel as the cause for modern anti-Semitism. Each panelist has a dislike or deep hatred of Israel as a Jewish state. Even the moderator, a Jewish Rabbi, is a public supporter of the BDS movement. Unfortunately, blaming the Israeli policies in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for the existence of modern anti-Semitism has become an insidious a modern trope, especially on college campus. The trope implicates and directly blames very American or Canadian Jew for Israeli policy.
Watch for: The elimination of Israel as a Jewish state as a recommendation to the problem of today’s anti-Semitism in America as a main topic of discussion.
Innovation. Experts in innovation and change will tell you that big innovations come from outsiders. If you take it at face value, this panel is designed to try and sincerely stop the hate against Jews. Each panelist has personally experienced the pain of prejudice in other contexts and some are Jewish. This sympathy over rising anti-Semitism is the potential space where something positive can form.
Watch for: Small good ideas that could build bridges of understanding in unexpected places. How can we build on these?
Can Anti-Semites Help Solve Anti-Semitism?
When Jews only talk to Jews or friendly folks of other faiths and backgrounds about solving anti-Semitism, we are “preaching to the choir.” Take Action encourages us all to get out of our comfort zones and talk to folks in our neighborhoods, at work and at school about being Jewish while respectfully learning about their heritage. This opens us to potentially uncomfortable questions and even once in a while to a confrontation. It’s worth the risk to make a difference.
Take Action encourages you to either attend the event OR read about the event from multiple sources to hear different perspectives. We’ll post some of these on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
If you prefer, there is a “Jewish Response” panel to this event created by our friends and partners at Combatting Anti-Semitism: Dismantling Anti-Semitism: Jews Talk Justice
If you attend either panel, send us your comments! We want to hear YOUR thoughts on what you heard.