Antisemitism and the Ten Commandments Now We Fight

Michael A. Sirover

Michael A. Sirover                                                                  

An Old Fable

Once upon a time, the Jewish people decided to send a representative to G-d to ask Him a question. The individual ascended to Heaven and approached the throne. The following is said to be the conversation which ensued:

Jewish representative: Is it true that we Jews are the Chosen People?

G-d: Yes, you are the Chosen People.

Jewish representative: Then, I, on behalf of the Jewish People would like to ask You a favor.

G-d: What’s the favor?

Jewish representative: Would You mind choosing someone else for a change?

“Chosen” can be considered a “two-edged sword.” Antisemitism is no joke. Antisemitism is not funny. For thousands of years, Jews have been the victims of persecution, hatred, beatings, and murder. We have been expelled from country to country, forced to flee to whatever land would have us. And we paid the price.

The expulsion of Jews from England following the Expulsion Order signed by King Edward on July 18, 1290; Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition, forced conversions, and the Marranos followed by the expulsion of Jews from Spain after the issuance of the Alhambra Decree on March 31, 1492 (ironic — just as Columbus began his mission resulting in the discovery of the New World, and, ultimately in the rebirth of freedom, other ships were sailing to foreign shores with Jewish refugees); and the exodus of Jews from Russia following the pogrom of 1905 are testaments to the continued persecution of Jews throughout history.

Similarly, Jewish life in 19thcentury France may have been thought of as “pleasant” until the Dreyfus Affair unleashed a wave of antisemitism. That carried forward into the 20th century when the French collaborated with the Germans to send their Jewish citizens to the concentration camps (see the 1969 movie, “The Sorrow and the Pity”). As funny as it sounds, life in pre-Nazi Germany may have also been considered “pleasant.” It may have led many German Jews to a false sense of security which was destroyed in the Death Camps.

Persecution of the Jews became so routine and widespread that new definitions of that persecution were added to the dictionary. The word “pogrom” was used by Oxford Languages to denote, “an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jews in Russia or Eastern Europe.” Although the word, “holocaust” was not new, its use as a proper noun, i.e., the Holocaust, is utilized now to denote the extermination of some 6 million European Jews by the Germans in the 1930s and the 1940s.

Note: the most recent demonstrations against Jews and the persecution of Jews worldwide following the Oct. 7, 2023, massacre of Jews in Israel has been called many things but no specific name to describe those events has yet been “coined.”

To this was added the concept of the “Wandering Jew.” It was used to refer to a cursed people destined to roam the world with no home of their own. It’s been used many times in literature ranging from Shakespeare (Shylock in the “Merchant of Venice”) to Sir Walter Scott (Issac of York in “Ivanhoe”). “900 Wandering Jews at Sea” was the headline of  a newspaper article by the Hoosier State Chronicles when reporting the plight of a ship, the MS St. Louis, carrying Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. No country would allow the ship to land with the result that it was forced to return to Hamburg, Germany, to the “tender mercies” of the Germans (See the 1976 movie, “the Voyage of the Damned.”)

Now We Fight: What We Used to be and What We Are Now

It’s difficult to put into words the trauma of the Holocaust. Sadness, fear, trepidation and uncertainty gripped Jews worldwide. Even considering the carnage of World War II, the murder of 6 million Jews stands by itself in savagery.

That being said, as it turns out, the Holocaust may represent the demarcation, the event, the red line which changed Jewish thinking, philosophy and the way we lived. For hundreds of years, since the defeat of the Bar Kokhba rebellion against Rome, the fall of Masada and the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., Jews were “passive.” We were scholars, farmers, businessmen, bankers and doctors. Jews were the “People of the Book,” and, as cities developed, lived in ghettos. We depended on others to protect us. We were at their mercy.

A recent example of that “passivity” could be our conduct in the 1930s, a time of virulent antisemitism. Although one may recall the rise of Nazism in Germany, the passage of the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht, antisemitism was expressed freely in America as well. The German American Bund held marches in support of Germany. They were attired in uniforms with swastika arm bands and saluted with the “Sig Heil” chant. Its leaders met with Adolph Hitler in Germany in 1936. Their 1939 meeting at Madison Square Garden in New York City attracted 20,000 individuals.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., father of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., bullied the Russian Jewish emigres who headed the Hollywood studios of that time. Due to his threats (and those of others) in the 1930s, no movies were made on the subject of Hitler and Nazism. That changed in 1940 as World War II intensified, France fell and England was in peril (see the movie, “Foreign Correspondent”).

Consider also, the antisemitism of Charles Lindbergh, the American who, in 1927, flew the “Spirit of St. Louis” as the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean nonstop. At rallies, he stated:

Europe, and the entire world, is fortunate that a Nazi Germany lies, at present, between Communistic Russia and a demoralized France.” 

“the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration … war agitators who had used misinformation and propaganda …”

The Holocaust changed that, i.e., we were no longer “passive” but became “active.”  “Never Again” was adopted as our motto and the question, “What would have happened if every Nazi was met by a Jew with a gun?”, did not seem outrageous. The commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis, which started on Passover in 1944, took on special meaning. It marked the beginning of the next phase of Jewish history. Jews fought to defend themselves, bloodying the Nazis before eventually being defeated.

Subsequently, we fought to establish the state of Israel. Jews became soldiers and freedom fighters. We began the exodus of what remained of European Jewry to Palestine.  A “new Jew” emerged, resurrecting the military prowess of the heroes of the Bible. It was if Joshua, Samson, Gideon, Debra and Barak, Saul and David were reborn. Judah Maccabee once again strode the land. After some 2,000 years, the state of Israel was declared in May of 1948.

Four wars (1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973), were required to preserve its existence. Each was a fundamental threat to the Jewish state. In each, the Israelis displayed the “moxie” which Jews exhibited millenniums ago. Regrettably, terrorism by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and other Palestinian organizations remained/remains a constant threat.

Now, in 2024, it appears that we have entered a new stage of conflict which confronts Israel and Jews everywhere, i.e. recent events demonstrate that antisemitism is not simply a matter of historical interest nor is the hatred of Jews a distant memory. Each is alive and well.

Now we fight-2024-I: It’s better to be alive and despised than to be dead and respected.” (Attributed to Golda Meir)

As described previously (Sirover, 2020), forged on the anvil of the Holocaust, Israeli policy has been to respond aggressively to attacks on Jews not only in the Middle East but throughout the world. This included their response to the Munich massacre at the Olympics in 1972, as well as the rescue of the airline hostages in Entebbe on July 4, 1976. Predominantly, these involved attacks on a small number of individuals and/or an isolated target. Subsequently, the “Iron Dome” was constructed to protect Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah rockets. The destruction of the launching sites for those rockets were prime targets.

What occurred on Oct. 7, 2023, was different. Hamas, a Palestinian terror organization backed by Iran and dedicated to the destruction of Israel, invaded Israel in force, killing some 1,400 individuals and taking some 250 individuals hostage, including some 30 Americans. The brutality of the attack was documented with babies being beheaded and burnt, as well as the rape of a number of Israeli women before their murder. There is good evidence that the women hostages were raped and those still in captivity may still be subject to that brutality. Auschwitz had/has come to the Middle East (Note: The silence of feminist groups in America over the rape and brutality against Jewish women is deafening).

This attack was/is considered as Israel’s 9/11, its Pearl Harbor. It’s difficult to measure the shock of that event on the Jewish people worldwide. It will remain in the conscience of our people, taking its place alongside the Holocaust and the other tragedies which have befallen us. What is clear that it engendered/engenders a determination, a spirit of vengeance comparable to that of America after Pearl Harbor:

“I fear all we have done is to wake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941

In response, Israel launched a major invasion of the Gaza Strip with the aim of eradicating Hamas once and for all. As did America after Pearl Harbor, the full force of Israel was marshalled. It combined air power with ground attacks and naval bombardment. This was/is not a “limited war.” As America invaded North Africa and France in World War II, the Jewish effort was/is overwhelming.

Gaza represented/represents a heavily fortified military zone. Its infrastructure had been constructed over two decades consisting of underground cities complete with provisions, lights, air conditioning and tunnels. The latter was connected by a vast, sophisticated transportation system. This underground city was located below hospitals, schools, children’s quarters and other civilian targets, making their detection, attack and destruction problematical.

As of this writing, Israel is on its way to achieving its goal. Tunnels have been destroyed, Hamas soldiers have been killed or captured. Munitions have been seized or destroyed. The aim remains to reduce the Gaza strip to ruin as America did when we firebombed Tokyo and when we bombed Dresden to rubble (Note: It remains unclear how many women, children and the elderly were killed or wounded in each city during that campaign).

Now we fight-2024-II: Silent No More.

To say that the world stood by and calmly watched as Israel waged war against Hamas, is pure fantasy and is delusional. As with the antisemitism and Jewish persecution of the 1930s, once again, the world exploded in a frenzy of denunciation, rage and fury as the Jewish state avenged the attack of Oct. 7.

Marches were held throughout the world condemning Israel and the Jewish people for the actions against Hamas. The marchers chanted the slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The only way that could happen is if Israel was destroyed. Genocide of the Jewish people was/is freely advocated. Calls for a cease-fire was/is a dominant theme. Lost in all of this were the events of Oct. 7.

In America, monuments were defaced. The gates to the White House were covered with red paint. Jewish businesses were/are being targeted and Chanukah displays being canceled for fear of violence. Mobs disrupted transportation centers, created traffic jams and interrupted the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in New York City. No one was arrested, the mobs were not dispersed. Those who defaced the White House remain free. The mobs roamed at will, with the police standing by, not interfering with the terrorizing of individual citizens.

Although public officials have denounced the marches in words, there have been no deeds to follow the rhetoric. This includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. There have been few arrests of any individuals. Those who may have been arrested were quickly released due to blue state bail reform policies. It’s as if the mobs of today are the 21stcentury version of the Brown Shirts of the 1930s. Note: The passivity of the FBI and the DOJ as compared to their activism in pursuing those who participated in the Jan. 6 demonstration is striking.

This time, the Jews and their supporters were/are not silent. On Nov. 14, 2023, approximately 200,000 individuals marched in Washington in support of Israel. It was estimated that an additional 250,000 persons participated online. Funds have been raised by social media and by television advertisements by the United Jewish Appeal and other organizations for the victims of the Oct. 7 massacre. The “Blue Square” campaign is ongoing to show support for the Jewish people. Its slogan is “#StandUpToJewishHate-Uniting to Combat Antisemitism.” Photographs of the Hamas hostages have been posted in public. Regrettably, many have been destroyed by the mob, again demonstrating their callousness, mendacity and barbarism.

In contrast to the apathy and indifference of governmental and public law enforcement officials, private individuals have held/are holding members of the mob responsible for their actions. For example, Ryna Workman was removed as president of the New York University bar association by a vote of the Bar Association members for her anti-Israel comments. In addition, she lost her job offer from the law firm of Winston and Strawn. The actress Susan Sarandon was dropped by the United Talent Agency. Melissa Barrera was fired from the cast of the upcoming thriller, “Scream VII.” Several journalists and an editorial cartoonist have been fired for their anti-Israel comments.

Perhaps the most innovative and creative means to fight the Mob was that devised by Accuracy in Media boss Adam Guillete. As described in Part III, he deployed “doxing trucks” to identify and publicize those individuals in the Mob guilty of antisemitic statements and advocating Jewish genocide (Note: Doxing may be defined as the dissemination of publicly available information identifying people of interest. Regrettably, it is usually a tactic used by the mob to harass individuals with whom they disagree.

Giullette’s effort did not go unnoticed by the mob. On Oct. 23, 2023, his home was searched by rifle-toting SWAT officers. The police had received a call reporting that  Guillette was holding a gun to his wife’s head. At the time, Guillette was away from home with his wife attending a wedding in Texas. The police, with guns drawn and at the ready, invaded his home.

Now we fight-2024-III: Eradicating the Cancer of Antisemitism from the College Campus

Since the adoption of the 1975 infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution by the United Nations, antisemitism has festered and grown on college campuses. The resolution provided it a “moral legitimacy”, i.e., it permitted antisemites the ability to cloak themselves in its mantle.

During that time, for the most part, antisemitism flew below the radar screen at various institutions (Sirover, 2020). It was abetted by faculty and administrators who saw “Jewish Privilege” as one more instance of western persecution of oppressed minorities (See Rod Steiger in the 1964 movie, “the Pawnbroker”).

The George Floyd riots, where all types of destruction was permitted under the “guise” of protest, provided a model for the antisemites of today which they could follow at the appropriate opportunity. That opportunity came on Oct. 7, 2023.

College campuses were/are a major site of such protests accompanied by the threatening, and, many times, the beating of Jewish students. Jewish students remain afraid to leave their rooms, attend class and, in the case of Cooper Union, were forced to barricade themselves in the library to protect themselves from the mob outside. Note: It appears that, in the case of Cooper Union, the police stood by, doing nothing to break up the mob and arrest those individuals. It does not appear that any of those protestors have been the subject of disciplinary procedures or expelled.

The acceptance of antisemitism on campus and the advocacy of Jewish genocide is exemplified by recent testimony before Congress by the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. Rep Elise Stefanik (R-NY) asked a simple question, Does calling for Jewish genocide violate their school’s student code of conduct? Each individual refused to directly answer the question. Instead of a simple yes or no, they offered bureaucratic responses in place of direct answers.

Again, as with Section II, “Silent No More”, in contrast, to the inaction of public law enforcement and college administrations, others have stepped forward to fight. One response has been that of private corporations which have rescinded job offers to persons identified as participating in the marches or those making comments supporting Hamas and the events of Oct. 7 (see Ryne Workman). Dave Portney, the owner of Bar Stool stated his intention not to hire applicants from Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania. Recent reports indicate that there has been a 17% decrease in the number of students applying for early admission to Harvard. Whether this trend will continue and be characteristic of these institutions is unknown at the present time.

Another response was the action of private individuals identified as major donors to the universities in question stating their refusal to continue their donations. It was reported that they plan to send in a contribution of $1 to express their displeasure. In addition, a number of prominent individuals have resigned from the board of trustees of the respective institutions.

Still another response has been the use of “Doxing Trucks” to highlight publicly the individuals involved in college anti-Semitism. Such trucks with pictures of those individuals have appeared at Harvard, Yale, NYU and other blue state universities. Prior to her resignation, “doxing trucks” carried the picture of Ms. Gay at Harvard calling for her resignation. The mob has tried to counter this public display both by covering their faces to avoid recognition, picketing the trucks and by seeking to physically damage them. None of these actions has deterred their fight against college antisemitism.

Lastly, a series of lawsuits have been filed against these universities by individual Jewish students charging the institutions with violating their civil rights, creating a “hostile work environment” and failing to protect them from assault. As expected, these will take time to work their way through the system. However, they will ensure that the respective institutions not only will need to respond legally to these claims but also they will keep this issue front and center in their consciousness. As such, these lawsuits represent another avenue for Jews to fight this battle, keeping the issue front and center in the minds of the administrative powers that be. They also serve the purpose of keeping “governmental feet to the fire”.

Epilogue: Now We Fight: A difficult decision may await American Jews

 Since the mid-1970s, two generations of American Jews, millennials and Gen Z, have grown up in what may be termed a “bubble of Jewish History.” All was well, they could pursue the American Dream undisturbed by the nightmares of their forefathers. The existence of Israel was/is a given. It was there when they were born, it was there when they grew up, it is there now as they pursue their lives. Indeed, many may have visited Israel either with their families, on teen tours or through the Birthright program.

Now that bubble has burst, probably forever. They find themselves in a maelstrom, confronted by hostile forces which we have faced through the years but thought were all gone. Their daily lives may be impacted in unforeseen ways. Who would think that they would face the hate of antisemitism at a high school basketball game in Yonkers, New York? Yet, there it was. Jewish basketball players were subjected not only to verbal abuse but were physically accosted as well. They had to leave, escorted by security guards.

From the evidence presented in this article, it is clear that, no matter how much we may wish, such events cannot be dismissed as “isolated incidents.” They must be recognized for what they are. That begs the question of what do American Jews do now? Good question. It may be that the day of the “Nice Jewish boy and girl” is over. It was/is a reflection of the passivity which characterized American Jewry in the 1930s. In its place, in 2024, we may be entering a time of American Jewish activism, i.e., Now We Fight. What that will be remains to be seen.

Michael A. Sirover is an emeritus professor of pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here