The recent dinner featuring former President Trump, Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and anti-Semitic entertainer Kanye “Ye” West — followed by largely muted reactions from many Republican officials and leaders, including some seeking the presidency — underscores the need for all Americans to recognize that anti-Semitism is opposed in the country.
After the meal, Trump tried to distance himself from West by saying he was meeting with him to “help a man with a serious problem” and from Puentes by saying he didn’t know him and didn’t know his work when they met.
However, the former president’s repeated behavior and words, including his response to the 2017 Charlottesville tragedy, and the lukewarm responses to anti-Semitism from many of his supporters, can be seen as legitimizing the hostility expressed toward Jewish Americans.
The former president and his various enablers reduced and eliminated anti-Semitism in the United States, including assaults and killings. These failures to deal with the anti-Semitism facing America are inexcusable, disgraceful and dangerous.
The Jewish population in the US is a relatively small part of the country. In 2022, according to estimates, Jewish Americans represent slightly more than two percent of America’s population of 333 million.
Despite their relatively small share of the population, the number of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide in 2021 in the US reached a record 2,717: more than seven incidents per day, and nearly three times the 2015 level.
The obscene incidents occurred across America, including in places of worship, community centers, schools and colleges. The motivations for antisemitism are not always clear because they usually do not have a single identifiable ideology or belief system.
One notable exception, however, is the “Great Replacement” theory promoted by white supremacist groups in the US. They believe in a conspiracy that white Christians are being deliberately replaced in the population by individuals of other races through immigration and other means. At their various demonstrations and gatherings, including Charlottesville in -2017, the neo-Nazi marchers often read hateful anti-Semitic nonsense like “the Jews will not replace us”.
In “The State of Anti-Semitism in America 2021” of the American Jewish Committee” According to estimates, 60 percent of Americans indicated that anti-Semitism is a problem for the country. However, about a quarter of the respondents in that report believed that anti-Semitism is not a problem in the United States.
In contrast, about 90 percent of Jewish Americans in the report stated that anti-Semitism is a problem for the country and about three-quarters believe that there is more anti-Semitism in the country today than about five years ago. The majority of Jewish Americans, 53 percent, report that they feel less personally safe than in 2015 .
Contributing to America’s anti-Semitism is an apparent self-imposed amnesia among some extremist groups regarding the methodical persecution followed by the horrific events perpetrated against the Jews of Europe some eight decades ago. The Holocaust resulted in the murder of about 6 million European Jews, or about 63% of the Jewish population of Europe at that time.
Unfortunately, anti-Semitism was also evident in America’s refugee policy in relation to European Jews seeking refuge from their persecution in Nazi Germany. Perhaps the single most memorable event that reflects its poor past refugee policy is the US government’s refusal in 1939 to grant entry to some 900 Jewish refugees seeking asylum aboard the USS St. Louis that arrived in Miami. The ship was forced to return to Europe, where nearly a third were murdered from her passengers in the Holocaust.
America too often chooses to ignore its troubling anti-Semitic past and the many popular figures who were openly anti-Semitic in their public attacks on the character and patriotism of Jewish Americans, including Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Coco Chanel and Louis Farrakhan.
Furthermore, in addition to facing educational quotas at major universities in the 1920s, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia, Jewish Americans experienced discrimination among the majors and restrictions on residential housing. They were also denied membership in most clubs, resorts and associations, while some hotel advertisements specifically excluded Jewish Americans.
Although recent tragic history remains beyond doubt, many of America’s anti-Semitic white supremacists, including Fuentes and West, continue to deny the existence of the Holocaust, express hateful rhetoric, and discriminate against Jewish Americans. They try to deny the historical facts of the Nazi genocide, promote the false claim that the Holocaust was invented or greatly exaggerated to advance Jewish interests, and display the Nazi swastika flag and make the “Heil Hitler” gesture.
America’s anti-Semitism in the past has also provoked vocal criticism and opposition to political leaders who have tried to deal with discrimination against Jewish Americans. For example, at a conference of about 20,000 people in Madison Square Garden in 1939, Fritz Cohn, the leader of the “German American Bond”, mocked President Roosevelt as “Frank D. Rosenfeld”, calling the New Deal the “Jewish deal”. and declared the Jews as enemies of the United States.
No matter the 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 actions.
It is impossible to continue to sweep anti-Semitic behavior and comments under the rug, unethically edit for political television consumption or ignore them in the hope that they will go away. They cannot be excused as insignificant or insignificant events blown out of proportion by the news media. Nor can they simply be diverted, reduced or explained away with reference to irrelevant diversions overseas.
Based on the tragic lessons of the recent past, addressing anti-Semitism requires every American to rise up with courage, speak out unequivocally, and respond defiantly against discrimination against Jewish Americans. Tolerance of antisemitism is not only categorically un-American, but also a moral threat to US democracy, as well as to the nation’s prospects in the 21st century.
Joseph Chemi is a consulting demographer, former Director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his latest book, “Births, deaths, migrations and other population matters are important.”