As I do each year in December, here is my review of the most important moments I documented in the area of antisemitism in 2021.
January 2021: International Holocaust Remembrance Day!
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is different from Yom HaShoah (Day of the Catastrophe) which falls annually, a week after Passover in Israel (started in 1953). Each year, on January 27, the international community remembers the Holocaust in various ways from synagogue services to vigils to educational events that include Holocaust survivors or scholars. Survivors have dwindled down to a few thousand globally. Considering that anybody born at the onset of the war in 1939 would be eighty-three years old today, most survivors of the Holocaust are in their late early nineties or older. Soon, they will all be in our memories. Here are a few things we can do:
Listen to a Holocaust survivor: The powerful work of the staff at The Holocaust and Antisemitism Foundation brings many testimonies from survivors on video, and by virtue of that medium, renders their unique stories eternal. Additionally, the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation has over 54,000 video testimonies of survivors that are there to stay. Every single one of them is poignant and memorable in its own way.
Visit a Death Camp: Walking alongside the one-way train tracks, through the eerily empty barracks and on the death-camp grounds will leave an indelible mark in your memory. The Death Camps are gruesome monuments from one of the darkest periods of mankind’s history. If at all possible, everybody, and most definitely every Christian should walk through one of them once in their lifetime.
Visit a Holocaust Memorial Museum: There are several Holocaust Memorials in the United States. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. or the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles are just two of the most impactful and fruitful in their respective communities and nationally. The list is much longer and warrants several different visits if possible.
Read an account of the Holocaust: From survivors’ accounts to biographies, historical accounts and even poems, the choices are many. Every human being should read the short but life-altering account of Elie Wiesel’s time at Auschwitz-Birkenau retold in Night, his story of resilience and survival against all odds. A detailed and accurate account of the Holocaust can be found in Lucy Dawidowicz The War Against the Jews or in The destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg. If you are not a reader, you can always watch Schindler’s List.
It is our duty as human beings to remember the Holocaust, retell its history to the current and future generations and resist antisemitism by speaking up against those who deny that it ever happened. Don’t rely on others to remember the uniqueness of the Holocaust! Don’t wait for someone else to come alongside or speak up in your place. speak up and remember because it is the right thing to do, and not only on January 27.
February 2021: Covid 19 and the Jews!
• 20% of all English people believe that Jews created Covid-19: As people were surveyed, according to The Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey (OCEANS), “Presented with the statement “Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain,” 5.3% of the interviewees “agreed a little,” 6.8% “agreed moderately,” 4.6% “agreed a lot,” and 2.4% “agreed completely,” while some 80.8% did not agree with it at all.”
• People accuse the Jews of using the vaccine to control the world population: The CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, is a Greek man of Jewish ancestry. This is enough for crazy conspiracy theorists to claim that the Jews created the vaccine and will use it to streamline the world population and control the world. This is in line with the same theories advanced in the 1904 hoax “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.
• Ohio men accuse Jews of being the real plague: During a street protest in Columbus, Ohio against Covid-19 restrictions, two men displayed a sign of a rat looking like a Jew with an Israeli flag. The sign also said: “the real plague”. This is strongly reminiscent of the accusations against the Jewish community during the Black Plague of 1348-51 when Jews were accused of poisoning the wells of Europe simply because of the smaller number of Jewish casualties due to kosher laws and liturgical hygiene.
• Social networks abound with antisemitic memes about the Jews either being or controlling the virus: Vicious attacks on Jewish people and on Israel are everywhere on social networks and most of them are not being censored because of the First Amendment. I am all for claiming Freedom of Speech as long as we are consistent and do not allow for double standards. Unfortunately, this is far from being the case.
• Rashida Tlaib claims that Israel doesn’t vaccinate Palestinians: She tweeted, “It’s really important to understand that Israel is a racist state, in that they would deny Palestinians like my grandmother access to a vaccine, that they don’t believe she’s an equal human being who deserves to live.” The opposite is true. Israel has offered vaccines to Palestinians and many have accepted them. The Palestinian Authority also refused a recent planeload of vaccines from the United Arab Emirates, simply because it was coordinated with Israel for distribution.
• Saturday Night Live comedian claims Israel only vaccinates Jews: On February 20, SNL host Michael Che said: “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half.” It really looks like using the blood libel to demonize the Jewish people is still in fashion. Incidentally, Michael Che has repeatedly insulted Jewish people before, but he is very careful not to denigrate other minorities. Entertainers have been fired for less than this. SNL used to be a funny satirical comedy show, but that ship sailed a long time ago.
March 2021: How Christian is Christian Antisemitism?
There is a recurring accusation, especially within Jewish circles, that the New Testament is antisemitic. The justification for such an accusation is found in 2,000 years of Jewish history that have been punctuated by a myriad of antisemitic acts–many of them apparently rooted in Christianity and its teachings. So, the question bears asking, how Christian is Christian antisemitism? Furthermore, is the New Testament antisemitic?
• The New Testament is a very Jewish Book
From the very first words of the first book in the New Testament, everything is Jewish as it records the genealogy of the Jewish Messiah: ” The record of the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” (Matthew 1:1-2). The audience is Jewish, the writers are Jewish (Luke being the possible exception). The context is Jewish, the culture is Jewish and much of the geography is Jewish. As a matter of fact, it is nearly impossible to fully understand the richness of the New Testament without reading it in its Jewish context. Most believers spend their whole life reading the Bible in “Black and White” until they look at the Jewish perspective and all of a sudden, the same story appears in “color and HD”. Don’t quote me wrong, reading our Bible is vital, even when it is not done with an understanding of its Jewish backdrop, but it is greatly enhanced once we look at the Word through Jewish eyes.
• The New Testament Uses Strong Language
How do we reconcile words like “the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9 3:9) or “your father the devil” (John 8:44) or even “you brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7)? They are indeed very strong words directed at Jewish people. Those accusatory words were definitely used in the New Testament to describe the hypocrisy and sin of some of the Jewish leaders contemporary of Yeshua. They were accurate words to be sure, but what has been missed and has led to so much damage is the fact that they were used to denounce people who happened to be disobedient sinners first and Jewish second. Their ethnicity didn’t play a role in their guilt. This is what we could call the “Great Christian Departure”. The Church started to attach the sins of early (Jewish) believers to their non-related Jewishness, and before long, being Jewish became a crime.
• The Old Testament Also Uses Strong Language
Why is it that when similar language is used to describe the disobedience of Israel in the Jewish Law and the Prophets, nobody–especially in the Jewish community–has a problem with it? In Deuteronomy 9:7, Moses calls the Jewish people “rebellious.” Is he antisemitic? In Deuteronomy 9:13, God calls the Jewish people “stubborn” and wants to kill them all. Is God antisemitic? Nonsense! Ezekiel calls Israel “stubborn and obstinate” (Ezekiel 3:7). The descriptions are perfectly in line with the actions of the children of Israel described all throughout the Tenach, and they are no different than those of the New Testament, except that they come from the Jewish Scriptures, prior to Yeshua’s first coming, and somehow, that makes them acceptable. Is there a double standard here?
• The Jews Didn’t Kill the Messiah
The most common accusation against the Jewish people that continues to this day, is that of deicide (the killing of God). Jews the world over continue to be called “Christ Killers” by Christians and non-Christians alike. There are two problems with that accusation. First, even if some Jewish people were guilty of the crucifixion of Yeshua (and they are not), it would never make sense to paint with broad strokes and render all Jews of all time guilty of the same crime. By the same logic, all Germans would be Nazis and all Muslims would-be terrorists. This is ludicrous! However, and more importantly, Yeshua gave His own life in obedience to the Father as we read in John 10:17-18, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” So, in reality, we are all sharing the guilt without exception.
• Context is Everything
The very fact that many early Christians took the Scriptures out of context and allegorized much of them doesn’t make the New Testament antisemitic, it simply makes it misinterpreted and misapplied. Can Christians be antisemitic? I think that history speaks clearly on that matter, yes, they can! But are they antisemitic because they follow the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth? Absolutely not! 2,000 years of Scripture twisting to accommodate and justify human behavior against the Jews have left a bloody stain on mankind in general and the Church in particular. But it is not based on anything taught in the Bible.
So, it is fair to say that Christian antisemitism is not Christian at all. If one takes the Bible literally, all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). “All” means Jews and non-Jews alike with no exceptions. Christian antisemitism is simply antisemitism committed by Christians who read their Bible improperly and use it as an excuse to ostracize and demonize the Jewish people. The Christians who paint–with broad strokes– the Jewish people as a sub-human group are as guilty as the Jewish people who claim that all Christians are antisemitic and so is the New Testament. It is time to keep things in context and approach God’s word in context with humility and sincerity.
April 2021: A New US Assistant Secretary of State with Ties to Hamas…What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Even though the current US administration vows that they seek Israel’s safety, they have shown no interest in dealing with the Middle East as a priority and have made Hady Amr the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs. He is the highest US ranking official for Middle East affairs, but the question is, “Does he have the credentials for such a task?”
• Hady Amr is a practicing Muslim: This isn’t an issue in and of itself, as freedom of religion is part of our constitution (rightfully so), but might not be the best choice for the person officially representing the US government in the Middle East.
• Hady Amr wrote that He was inspired by the Palestinian Intifada: The Intifada (meaning “uprising”), was organized unrest from Palestinians against Israel, based on the false premise that Israel is an occupier and colonizer and trying to push Palestinians out of their own ancestral land. There is no archeological, geographical or historical basis for such a claim.
• Hady Amr has repeatedly called for dealing with Hamas: Hamas is a terrorist organization with a charter calling for the complete destruction of Israel.
• Hady Amr has been instrumental in resuming US funding to the PA: One of the first items on his agenda has been to restore US funding to the Palestinian authority. US taxpayers are now forced to fund terrorism again.
• Hady Amr has strong ties to Qatar: He lived and worked there for years, establishing a branch of the Brookings Institute. Qatar is notorious for funding terrorism and supporting Hamas and having ties with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
• Hady Amr has accused Israel of murdering innocent children: He wrote: “Arabs will never, never forget what the Israeli people, the Israeli military and Israeli democracy have done to Palestinian children. And there will be thousands who will seek to avenge these brutal murders of innocents.”
• Hady Amr has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing: He continues to promote the false narrative that Israel has taken over Palestinian land and committed ethnic cleansing, when in fact, there are more Arabs in Israel today than there were prior to 1948.
May 2021: Do Jewish Lives Matter Only in Theory?
On April 4, 2017, 65-year-old Sarah Halimi, a retired doctor, was tortured by her neighbor Kobili Traoré, and then thrown to her death from the window of her third-floor apartment. Traoré committed this murder while reciting verses from the Qur’an and calling Sarah Halimi a “dirty Jew”. Upon throwing her through the window, Traoré shouted in Arabic that he had succeeded in killing an evil spirit or “killed the Satan”.
When questioned, Traoré declared that he felt “persecuted”, and after realizing that he was high on marijuana, the French justice system decided that he would not stand trial. That decision basically sent the message that anyone’s voluntary drug consumption exonerates them from any responsibility. Traoré was officially acquitted in April 2021 and is literally getting away with murder, while the global media – for the most part – completely ignored this story. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the Jewish community has his full support. What did he mean by that? Were these empty words to save face? It is not the first time that Jewish people have been killed in France in recent years. What about the multiple stabbing of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in 2018, left to die in her burning apartment? Of course, we all remember the kosher supermarket carnage of January 2015 when four Jewish shoppers were murdered. That was six years ago! The site of the tragedy–just a stone’s throw from the house I grew up in– continues to see flowers and photos brought in memory of the victims, that’s very thoughtful, but you cannot fight terrorism and antisemitism with flowers, photos and poems.
It would appear that the lives of Jewish people are not worth much. Incidentally, France is a country where people will get one year in prison if they throw their dog out the window. So, is the life of a dog worth more than the life of a Jewish person? It would appear so!
This can only encourage antisemites to perpetrate more crimes against Jews as they see that their actions if noticed AND if reported properly, might not even garner any punishment. Justice is usually served, but maybe not for Jews, after all. At least not for the foreseeable future in France. This is despicable and very scary for the Jewish community of France. That community already doesn’t report all antisemitic acts because very little if anything gets done when they do. Sometimes Jews even get accused of playing “the victim card” or calling any disagreement with the Jewish community “antisemitism.” There might have been some abuse in that area, but throwing a Jewish woman through her third-floor window screaming “Allahu Akbar” and “I have killed the Satan” is antisemitism without a doubt. So, do Jewish lives matter? Well, it certainly looks like they don’t in France.
In every situation, there are always going to be the perpetrators, the victims and the bystanders. In the case of Sarah Halimi (the victim) and Kolibi Traoré (the perpetrator), inevitably, there are some bystanders. People who are not Jewish, people who fear Islamic extremism’s repercussions and people guilty of “soft antisemitism” who wouldn’t kill Jewish people, but certainly don’t care if someone else does. If you don’t see the beginning wave of a repeat of history in Europe, you are not really paying attention. The last time a Jewish life was worth nothing, we let an evil man and his cohorts decimate six million Jews in the most horrific, systematic way possible.
Tune in next week for part 2 of my top ten list of Antisemitism 2021.