by Contributing Author
When we met Avi, a 27-year-old Hassidic Jew living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, we found him waiting for us in the hallway of the apartment building where he lives. He was wearing a small kippah, “not the one I used to wear a few weeks ago, before things got a bit too violent here,” he remarked. According to him, ever since the recent clash between Israel and the terrorists of Hamas, he feels a lot less safe walking around his own neighborhood. “The gentile neighbors have never been too friendly with us, but they used to just ignore us when we walked past them. Now they mutter hate words against us and against Israel, which I don’t want to repeat here.”
Avi’s feelings are not unbased. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in the 11 days of fighting and the three days following it, the organization received reports of 222 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. – a 75% rise, compared to the preceding two weeks. On the other hand, the new generation of Jews is not as connected to Israel as their parents were – and they are somewhat baffled by the automatic hate against all Jews that spurs as a result of Israel’s acts of self-defense.
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“What we’re witnessing is mainly a result of one prominent fact: Israel is not perceived as being under an existential threat anymore, so American Jews feel they do not need to support everything that Israel does, with no exceptions and at all costs,” explained Rob Dorlowitz, a specialist on Israel-U.S. relations who provides consulting services to Jewish organizations. “Add to that the fact that a lot of people feel resent toward the attitude of the Israeli government toward reform Jews, and you’ll understand why this relationship seems to be dwindling.”
A clear and present danger
All in all, this is bad news for Israel and its supporters here in the U.S. Israel has always relied on its lobby inside the American government for political, financial and even military backup – and nobody can promise the same magnitude of pro-Israel lobbying in the future. Furthermore, the BDS and its counterparts are not quick to differentiate between Jews and Israelis, meaning that even those American Jews who do not show support for Israel’s policies are victims of horrid hate crimes.
Several Jewish American organizations – with J-Street being the prominent of them – are no longer afraid to criticize Israel publicly for its actions. As Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the organization, told the Times of Israel, “You can talk about security and of being a friend of the state of Israel, and you can also talk about Palestinian rights. You can say the Palestinians should have freedom and self-determination as a state, and that Israel should have security.”
A different approach
On the other hand are Jewish institutions which are trying to do things differently now, centering around new ways to tackle anti-Semitic behavior. Other than Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, notable key speakers were French president Emmanuel Macron, Japanese prime minister Suga Yoshihide, and even Emirati foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.