The Facebook-Twittersphere is awash in worry over the current, very ugly anti-Muslim rhetoric. Trump’s comments are only the tip of this nasty iceberg. What’s left unsaid is how the ground for this wave of bigotry was fertilized by the last two years’ worth of anti-Semitism throughout the civilized world. Notwithstanding the other contributors to this fervor in the United States, with our historical undercurrents of racism and the out-dated and destructive gun laws, without this acceptance of violence against Jews and hate-speech against Judaism, we couldn’t be where we are today.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but when respected universities ban Israeli scholars and scientists from their conventions because a vocal group of students objects to actions by that country’s ruling party and its military, this feeds a belief that religion equates with politics. It allows for a refusal to look at an individual’s contribution to the greater good simply because of his religion. To be consistent, these angry groups would have to ban American scientists because of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan or the bombing or killing of innocent children by American or UN forces, boycott Nigerian intellectuals based on the unrestrained actions of Boko Haram, or Egyptian poets because of rape and killings in the post-Arab Spring. But they don’t.
Very few people object to the demonization of Jews. Entire countries and governments assert that all Jews should be wiped from the face of the earth and we hear only the loneliest voices of protest. Terrorist acts against Jews throughout the world are reported with a yawn, as these have been going on for centuries. But it is this very acceptance that makes “Christian” white people, Americans and Europeans, comfortable with their own hatred of Muslims. It is that same uncritical thinking, that association of a religion with disgusting, evil thugs, that allows Donald Trump to announce his bigotry to the American public and generate only liberal outrage.
In literature, we have an avalanche of stories of the hatred of “others.” The Duel for Consuelo describes in chilling detail the Inquisition’s search-and-exterminate of Jews, and they didn’t exactly love Muslims either. Holocaust stories line the bookshelves, and, if we prefer non-fiction, a glance at the news will suffice.
And yet, despite our knowledge, we have become accustomed to anti-Jewish rhetoric, and barely blink at another synagogue bombing or an attack on a school bus of Jewish children. We nod sagely and discuss the intellectual honesty of banning scientists, poets, intellectuals and scholars because of their nationality, as long as it’s a nationality it’s back in vogue to hate. Otherwise thoughtful and self-proclaimed anti-racists are happy to vilify Jews. Can it be surprising that, seeing the acceptance of religious hatred in America and Europe, anti-Muslim forces are comfortable proclaiming their views?
The argument can be taken further: If we accept anti-Semitism, we empower the likes of terrorist groups, Al Qaida or ISIL, or the next acronym, to attack anything even remotely Jewish. There are whispers that the owners of the concert venue in Paris are part-Jewish, the band playing that night was Jewish, the San Bernardino killers spoke of killing Jews, and of course the cartoonists in Charlie were Jewish. By accepting anti-Semitism, yawning at attacks on Jews, we are complicit in the terrorists’ choices of targets. And when their hideous acts are perpetrated, we cannot react in shock to the anti-Muslim response. After all, we created the climate for just that.