Throughout history, Jews have been denied standing and power. They have been restricted professionally, forced to wear identifying clothing, forced to live in specific areas, and generally made subservient to the whims of the ruling class.
The White House’s May 2023 Strategy to combat Antisemitism is based on four pillars: increasing awareness, improving safety of the Jewish community, reversing the normalization of antisemitism, and building cross-community solidary to combat hate. As part of the strategy, the Biden administration announced several measures to increase education about the Holocaust and Jewish American history through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Department of Education. The White House also called on Congress to fund a series of Department of Education programs, and for state and local government to increase their commitments to Holocaust education and Jewish studies. Further, the White House called for improved data collection by law enforcement on antisemitic crime and interagency partnerships to directly combat antisemitism, including on the state and local levels. In addition to boosting resources for law enforcement, security grants for Jewish institutions, and education, the White House also laid out a strategy to reverse the normalization of antisemitism by calling on elected leaders, as well as educators, social media platforms, and other communal organizations, to forcefully reject antisemitism when confronted with it.
The White House strategy noted that while antisemitic speech is often protected under the First Amendment, there can still be “meaningful accountability for antisemitic conduct.” And all ends of the political spectrum must undertake such accountability by recognizing all forms of antisemitism and that no one group has a monopoly on spreading this ancient hatred. In a politically polarized United States, it has become common to hear those on the right and the left accuse one another of presenting the greatest danger. In fact, both sides are dangerous. By attacking the legitimacy of the Jewish nation-state in the form of anti-Zionism and targeting all Jews as representatives of Israel, the left targets the Jewish way of life. Conversely, the far right is largely responsible for targeting Jewish life itself through violent attacks, such as the 2018 assault on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Voices on both sides of the political spectrum are quick to absolve themselves of the actions of a few, but extremism coming from either side warrants alarm.
Both ideologies rely on the promotion of old stereotypes. For one side to argue that the other side is far more antisemitic, however, is dismissive of the larger problem. In reality, both ends of the spectrum have employed antisemitic rhetoric and tactics that slowly but surely legitimizes antisemitism.
The commonality among antisemitism on the far left, the far right, radical Islamism, and Christian antisemitism is a manufactured fear of perceived Jewish power and the need to defend against it. This underlying theme is present among all forms of antisemitism. Historically, it was easy to assign blame to a powerless and nomadic group. Charging Jews with responsibility for society’s ills alleviated responsibility from those with actual power—and, more importantly, it distracted the general population from holding those in power responsible.
As Jews began to gain a modicum of freedom, the historical scapegoat became even a larger target. Jews were the easy answer to every stubborn problem: Uncertainty in global financial markets, the rise of communism, or Hollywood undermining morality. But the core of modern antisemitism is primarily based on a fear of perceived Jewish power and strength. The Jew is the enemy that needs to be defended against. The Jew is controlling and influencing the system and thus responsible for the ills of the world. For those who feel insecure in their current place in the modern world, and especially for those who wish to manipulate unease in order to gain power, the Jew continues to be a convenient target.