It’s hard to analyze public questions with dispassion and wisdom in today’s brutal cacophony of social media driven public conversations. It’s hard to do that when you bring deeply felt and even personal commitments to the questions at hand, though I seldom write about things I don’t have strong beliefs about. I wanted to share a few thoughts about the current arguments about anti-Semitism and Zionism.
There are a lot of American Jews at this moment who feel like they are seeing a wave of unconcealed anti-Semitism that they haven’t seen in their lifetimes.
Is that really true?
As the Israel-Hamas war grinds forward an emanation of that conflict is playing out in the United States with protests and counter-protests, fights over symbolic public actions, manifestos and public letters. Each in turn spurs a public debate about just what was going on in this or that social media viral video. Social media amplifies and accelerates every cut and thrust. What is anti-Semitic, what is simply protests against a war with harrowing numbers of civilian casualties? We see the same well-worn public debates, or rather yelling matches, about what’s anti-Zionism and what’s anti-Semitism, whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
It may help to start with some definitions and history, their relevance and often irrelevance.