BY EMILY GREENBERG '17
Given the kind of vitriol the internet at large is wont to spew, going on Twitter is risky on a good day, but the day after this election, it seemed especially dangerous. Still, I felt I couldn’t sit in a box of artificial silence any longer; I had to see and engage with what other people were saying.
That was my first mistake. Joseph Fink, writer of the popular podcast “Welcome to Night Vale,” retweeted Peter Beinart, who, according to his Twitter bio, is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as well as an associate professor at the City University of New York. Beinart tweeted, late Tuesday night, “I’ve never felt more Jewish and less American.”
Fink’s retweet added, “[R]eally, truly not trying to distract from much more vulnerable and visible groups, but I’ve felt this more and more this year,” and the replies to his tweet expressed largely sympathy and solidarity.
Looking at the replies to Beinart’s original tweet was my second mistake.
Antisemitism is alive and well in the United States, folks. All we need to do is look on Twitter.
Some highlights from the replies include, “Then take your un-American-feeling ass to Israel, and let AMERICANS focus on MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.....” which was tweeted by small-time actor Tom Stedham, and a follow-up from Stedham, “I’m very happy to be an AMERICAN, who loves AMERICA and my people.. I will NOT be ruled by your people any longer.” Other gems include, “Time you #TrojanHorse jews were outed and made to feel vulnerable for what you’ve done to western civilization,” a number of generic antisemitic slurs coupled with calls for Beinart to move to Israel and, one of my personal favorites, an image of Pepe the frog in a Nazi uniform. That one was accompanied by the caption “get in my oven” and was sent by a user with the handle @CarlMcCuck.
I want to be shocked by what I saw, but I’m not. I’m just tired, because it’s the same thing we’ve seen so many times and so many places throughout history.
Coincidentally, I’m taking a class this semester on modern Jewish history. What I’ve learned is not surprising, but it is revealing. We have discussed in class some of the features that made modern antisemitism, as it arose in the late 19th century, different from older, more traditional forms of anti-Judaism. These included the fact that modern antisemitism was, and still is, mostly secular, targeting Jews as an ethnic, rather than a religious group. Additionally, it became much more organized; people began founding social and political groups based around antisemitic ideals. The onset of modern antisemitism saw people, for perhaps the first time, blaming Jews for contemporary social ills. Anything gentiles saw wrong with modernity, with the world at large, could be attributed to the Jews. Unbridled capitalism? Jews’ fault. Rise of Marxism? Also, somehow, Jews’ fault. Poor conditions in newly urban areas? Jews’ fault, even though Jews were the ones living and suffering there in overwhelming numbers. Feminism? Blame it on — you guessed it — the Jews.
What we’re seeing now is nothing different. Modern antisemitism didn’t end when we left the industrial revolution behind and started living in the information age, or whatever we’re calling it now. In fact, the emergence of new technology has made it easier than ever for antisemites to spread their vicious hate while hiding behind the anonymity of usernames and images of cartoon frogs.
I’m not asking anyone to engage with this nonsense on Twitter; in fact, I think it’s worthless to do so. An age-old internet mantra is “Don’t feed the trolls.” I’m not going to fight with these people because that’s exactly what they want me to do. I don’t want to be “that Jewish girl” who got “all riled up” at some comments she saw online. But these people are more than trolls. They’re actively spreading a rhetoric and a sentiment that can have serious, real-world consequences, and that have incited such consequences in the past.
Antisemitism isn’t “over” just because Israel exists now. Antisemitism isn’t “over” just because it’s not actively the Holocaust. Antisemitism is present, dangerous and on the rise, particularly among the alt-right, which to my understanding mainly consists of young white men who blame feminism and minorities for the fact that they can’t get a date.
All of this ties in a little too neatly with Donald Trump’s equally dangerous, nationalist, white supremacist rhetoric for me to feel entirely comfortable. As a white person, I know I am safer than many right now. As a queer Jewish woman, I have a hard knot of fear in my heart. Like Fink said, I don’t want to take space away from other marginalized groups and people. I just want to add my voice, as a Jew, to the many others as together we cry out. I want to say, as a Jew, that America is my home, and I will not be forced out of it.
My great-grandparents arrived in New York in 1920, fleeing the violent, antisemitic pogroms sweeping Russia and Romania. They fought to make a home for themselves and their family in this country, like so many other Jews have here, like so many other Jews have across the globe for millennia. We’ve been chased out of too many places too many times for my taste. So no, I won’t move to Israel. I don’t care that no one is forcing me to live in the United States; your suggestion effectively forces me not to, and that’s just as bad. This is my home and home for so many Jews like me, and we won’t let you “make America great again” when we all know that’s code for “make America white and Christian.” Antisemitism is alive and well online, and people may be growing more and more comfortable speaking their hate aloud, but you’ll get no further than this. We said never again, and we meant it, America.