A recent dinner featuring former President Trump, Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and anti-Semitic entertainer Kanye “Ye” West, followed by largely muted responses from many Republican officials and leaders, including some presidential hopefuls, underscores the need for all Americans to recognize and oppose against anti-Semitism in the nation.
After the dinner, Trump tried to distance himself from West, saying he met with her to “help a person in serious trouble,” and from Fuentes, saying he didn’t know her or his work when they met.
However, the former president’s repeated behavior and words, including his response to the Charlottesville tragedy in 2017 and the cool response of many of his supporters to anti-Semitism, can be seen as hostility directed at Jewish Americans.
The former president and his various enablers have downplayed and denied anti-Semitism in the United States, including attacks and murders. These failures to address the anti-Semitism America faces are inexcusable, shameful, and dangerous.
The Jewish population of the United States is a relatively small part of the country. In 2022, Jewish Americans are estimated to represent just over two percent of America’s population of 333 million.
Despite the relatively small percentage of the population, the number of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide reached an all-time high of 2,717 in 2021 in the US, more than seven incidents per day and nearly triple the number in 2015.
The reprehensible incidents occurred across America, including places of worship, community centers, schools and colleges. The motivations for anti-Semitism are not always obvious, as they usually lack a single identifiable ideology or belief system.
One notable exception, however, is the “great replacement” theory promoted by white supremacist groups in the United States. They believe in a conspiracy to deliberately replace white Christians in the population with members of other races through immigration and other means. At their various demonstrations and rallies, including in Charlottesville in 2017, neo-Nazi marchers often chant hateful anti-Semitic nonsense such as “Jews will not replace us.”
In the work of the American Jewish Committee, “The State of Anti-Semitism in America 2021” In the report, about 60 percent of Americans said anti-Semitism is a national problem. However, about one-quarter of respondents to the same report believed that anti-Semitism was not a problem in the United States.
By contrast, about 90 percent of American Jews said in the report that anti-Semitism is a national problem, and about three-quarters believe there is more anti-Semitism in the country today than it was five years ago. A majority of Jewish Americans, 53 percent, report feeling less safe than they did in 2015.
American anti-Semitism is fueled by the apparent self-inflicted amnesia of some extremist groups regarding the methodical persecution that followed the horrific events committed against the Jews of Europe some eight decades ago. The Holocaust resulted in the murder of approximately 6 million European Jews, or approximately 63 percent of European Jewry at the time.
Unfortunately, anti-Semitism was also evident in America’s refugee policy toward European Jews seeking refuge from persecution in Nazi Germany. Perhaps the most memorable event that reflects its unfair refugee policies in the past is the US government’s refusal in 1939 to allow entry to approximately 900 Jewish refugees who sought refuge on the USS St. Louis, which had reached Miami. The ship was forced to return to Europe, where nearly one-third of its passengers were murdered in the Holocaust.
America too often chooses to ignore its troubling anti-Semitic past and many popular figures who were openly anti-Semitic in their public attacks on the character and patriotism of American Jews, including Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Coco Chanel and Louis Farrakhan.
Additionally, in the 1920s, Jewish Americans not only experienced educational quotas at major universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia, but also experienced discrimination among major occupations and housing restrictions. They were also barred from most clubs, resorts, and associations, with some hotel advertisements clearly excluding American Jews.
While this recent tragic history remains unquestioned, many anti-Semitic white supremacists in America, including Fuentes and West, continue to deny the existence of the Holocaust, express hateful rhetoric, and discriminate against Jewish Americans. They attempt to deny the historical facts of the Nazi genocide, promote the false claim that the Holocaust was invented or greatly exaggerated to promote Jewish interests, and display the Nazi swastika flag and make the “Heil Hitler” gesture.
American anti-Semitism in the past also fueled vocal criticism and opposition to political leaders who attempted to address discrimination against Jewish Americans. For example, at a conference in Madison Square Garden in 1939 attended by some 20,000 people, Fritz Kuhn, leader of the German American Bund, mocked President Roosevelt as “Frank D. Rosenfeld” and referred to the New Deal as the “Jewish Deal.” and declared the Jews to be enemies of the United States.
Regardless of place, occasion, or time, the United States cannot tolerate or support those who promote, condone, or condone anti-Semitism. In particular, the country’s elected and appointed government officials must be held accountable for their words and deeds.
Anti-Semitic behavior and remarks cannot continue to be swept under the rug, unethically edited for political television consumption, or ignored in the hope that they will go away. They cannot be excused as insignificant or meaningless events blown out of proportion by the news media. Nor can they simply be deflected, reduced or explained away by references to irrelevant overseas diversions.
Based on the tragic lessons of the recent past, addressing anti-Semitism requires every American to stand up boldly, speak out, and challenge discrimination against Jewish Americans. Tolerating anti-Semitism is not only categorically un-American, but also a moral threat to US democracy, as well as the nation’s prospects in the 21st century.
Joseph Shami is a consultant demographer, former Director of the United Nations Population Division and author of many publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, deaths, migrations and other important population issues“.