Visitors look at items well-wishers left behind along the fence at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on the first anniversary of the shooting attack on the synagogue, Oct. 27, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Jeff Swensen-Getty Images)
Visitors look at items well-wishers left behind along the fence at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on the first anniversary of the shooting attack on the synagogue, Oct. 27, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Jeff Swensen-Getty Images)

Can’t I even define my own hatred? Antisemitism is real

When did antisemitism disappear? I don’t mean the act of Jew-hatred — unfortunately, that seems to be surviving and thriving. I mean the act of defining antisemitism as … antisemitism.

While the superintendent who oversees Wheatland Union High School (Yuba County) strongly condemned the off-campus display of her students’ fondness for marking themselves with Nazi swastikas and Gestapo lightning bolts, she referred to the acts as racism, never mentioning antisemitism.

I’ve been noticing a trend that as acts of antisemitism increase, calling out antisemitism as such seems to decrease.

Several years ago — before the murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and Chabad of Poway — I was at an MLK convocation honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and current members of our small community. The rabbi from the largest shul was being recognized for her social justice advocacy in our county. One of the speakers welcoming us to this event was the diversity, equity and inclusion officer from UC Santa Cruz. While addressing the audience, this officer encouraged us all to fight racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism and ableism. Somehow antisemitism was left off the list of isms. To me, it was a glaring omission, particularly in light of honoring the local rabbi (whose synagogue, like probably every other synagogue in the U.S., requires even extra security measures around the High Holidays).

How did antisemitism not even warrant a mention? And if antisemitism is invisible to someone whose job is ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion, what does that say about who gets to be included and who not?

I really wondered, so I emailed the officer and left her a voicemail asking, but I never received a reply.

No other historically marginalized people in this country are simultaneously reviled by the alt-right and invalidated by the far left. Some so-called progressives ignore prejudice against us, because to them, most Jews in America are Ashkenazi and therefore white-passing (especially with a name or nose job, which was common when I was young) and don’t take the very real hatred against us seriously — until it results in our deaths.

Is it really asking too much to just have people acknowledge that hatred against us Jews is, well, real and often violent and deserving to be simply acknowledged at the very least?

As acts of antisemitism increase, calling out antisemitism as such seems to decrease.

While channel surfing one evening, I stumbled upon a “documentary” declaring that Jews were responsible for capitalist corruption, communism, the world wars and the Holocaust. No, I do not have a subscription to some sketchy neo-Nazi cable channel. This was my town’s community TV station.

When I contacted the station to notify them that they were broadcasting antisemitic programs, I received an email response contending that it constituted free speech and did not cross any of their red lines. I suspect that if a racist documentary targeting another people had been broadcast, the station’s board of directors would have been shocked and taken immediate steps to ensure the program was not aired again. But that’s just speculation.

It’s bad enough that many people don’t take prejudice against Jews seriously (until we’re dead and then everyone is so sad).

But now I see people in some circles blaming Jews for not only being the victims of antisemitism, but condemning them for having the gall to call the ancient hatred against us “antisemitism,” even though “antisemitism” is defined as the dislike of Jews (and has an exceedingly long history of 1,000-plus years).

Facebook is filled with (non-Jewish) people proclaiming that it is impossible for Jews to be victims of antisemitism because, they contend, Jews aren’t even Semitic and therefore only Palestinians can be the true victims of antisemitism.

Can’t I even define my own damn hatred?

People need to stop minimizing antisemitism. They need to stop telling us we are overreacting. They need to stop blaming us for being targets of anti-Jew hatred. They need to stop trying to dictate to us what does or does not constitute antisemitism, or tell us that the ancient hatred against us needs to be renamed because, based on their uneducated opinion, they think the name’s not a good fit for us.

So please, to both our haters and to our potential allies: Enough with the gaslighting. You should know that we’ve been through too much to be fooled. Shame on you for trying.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Anastasia Torres-Gil
Anastasia Torres-Gil

Anastasia Torres-Gil is a former Assistant District Attorney for Santa Cruz County, served as the Santa Clara County District Attorney's first Hate Crimes Unit Coordinator and is a national board member of Hadassah. She is the creator of the pro-Israel comic strip “Zionist Pugs.”