Rising anti-Semitism


I would like to thank the editor of Jewish Rhode Island, Fran Ostendorf, for publishing views on both sides of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) debate. This is a controversial topic. It is important that we hear all points of view.

In her letter (June 7) responding to the opinion piece by the pro-BDS Jewish students, Jane Arnold expressed concern that criticizing only Israel for its human rights abuses when many other states commit human rights crimes is unfair and “opens the door to attacks by anti-Semites.”

This is certainly a legitimate concern. There is little evidence for this argument, however. The steep rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the last two years, as recorded and analyzed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the leading watchdog of anti-Semitism, has little connection to criticism of the Israeli government. Instead, it is almost entirely driven by right-wing, white-supremacist ideologies. At a panel on anti-Semitism at the JCC on May 30, Robert Trestan, the New England director of the ADL, presented its analysis of anti-Semitic incidents over the last few years. These include vandalism of cemeteries, harassment of Jews and Jewish institutions, anti-Semitic incidents at schools and colleges, and, of course, the horrific shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway. The vast majority of incidents were driven by white supremacist motivations. Very few were due to either “Islamic extremism” or left-wing criticism of Israel. 

People who are concerned about rising anti-Semitism should be primarily concerned about right-wing white supremacism and growing intolerance of “the other” in general, whether that “other” is Jewish, Muslim, a person of color, gay, disabled or anything else. As Trestan noted, the shooter in the April 2019 Poway synagogue killings was inspired by the massacre of Muslims a month earlier at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. On its website, the ADL encourages people to “speak out against hate and extremism – particularly from the far right.” 

One may disagree with campus criticism of Israel, but it is not a primary cause of rising anti-Semitism.

Nina Tannenwald

Providence, R.I.