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The Forgotten Ones

Surging anti-Semitism across the globe must be addressed and combatted, not ignored.

History is prescient. A mere 80 years ago, World War II left blood splattered across the globe as the Nazis slaughtered over six million Jews. It was one of history’s most violent injustices and left a generation of people that vowed to “Never Forget” in its wake. But this promise of remembrance is being broken. Internationally, Holocaust denial proliferates. With it comes record cases of violent antisemitism: Jews, despite comprising just over 2 percent of the US population, are the victims of 57.8 percent of religious hate crimes. While many perpetrators are radical white supremacists on the fringe right, antisemitism now traverses the political spectrum: A new wave of far-left antisemites bring perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that translate into a generalized prejudice against Jews. Justice cannot be exclusionary, and as faulty memories and bigoted scapegoating become increasingly potent, the safety and well-being of Jews in the world grows ever more fragile. 

Substantial numbers of photographs, written and verbal accounts, and physical remnants of the Holocaust remain in circulation today, providing extensive documentation of the slaughter of two-thirds of the European Jewish population. In spite of this archive, denial of such horrors are pervasive, with much of the rhetoric springing from age-old anti-Semitic tropes that label Jews as greedy, power-hungry masterminds intent on manipulating the truth to garner sympathy. According to the Claims Conference, a group working to support Holocaust survivors, 49 percent of Millennials and Generation Z in September 2020 said that they had seen posts espousing Holocaust denial or distortion on social media, and 22 percent of Millennials hadn’t or weren’t sure that they had heard of the genocide. An event that the world vowed to remember forever is now being forgotten, steadily increasing the possibility that it will occur once again. 

Amid the disturbing trends of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, too, is on the rise. Following a downward trend of anti-Semitic sentiment between 2001 and 2015, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 34 percent spike in 2016. That figure further increased to 57 percent in 2017, coinciding with the infamous neo- Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. All of this aligned with the election of former President Trump, who was widely panned after saying that there “were very fine people on both sides” of the rally. Just one year later, a terrorist murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania, a tragedy that preceded the arrest of 12 white supremacists for their suspected roles in terrorist plots against the Jewish community over the following year. In 2019, a March of Remembrance in Arkansas was invaded by a neo-Nazi group equipped with swastikas and chanting “six million more.” These people do not reject the Holocaust’s existence; they support its revival. 

Appalling incidents such as these may seem isolated to the fringes of the far right, but as of late, prejudice against Jews is also growing among radical, far-left activists. This trend is inextricable from Israel, the world’s only Jewish-majority country. In 2017, a Chicago gay pride parade expelled Jewish marchers carrying rainbow flags stitched with Stars of David. After accusations of antisemitism, march organizers responded by saying that they made the decision after the marchers “repeatedly expressed support for Zionism.” In May 2021, after record escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, an extremist fundamentalist Islamic militant group with deeply anti-Semitic roots, a flood of anti-Israel sentiment ensued. This subsequently drove an increase in antisemitism globally, as conflations between the beliefs of the Israeli government and those of all Jews ran rampant. At a pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin, participants waved flags lauding Hamas. In Norwich, England, a swastika was sprayed onto the door of a synagogue. In north London, four people were arrested for yelling anti-Semitic abuse. And in the United States, the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased by 115 percent this May compared to the previous year, particularly in high-density Jewish areas like New York. 

Though these incidents have been widely condemned, it is essential to acknowledge that antisemitism continues to spread, bleeding into mainstream politics. One month after violence erupted in Israel, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar drew a comparison suggesting that atrocities committed by the United States and Israel were akin to those of globally recognized terrorist groups Hamas and the Taliban. At George Mason University in September, Vice President Kamala Harris nodded along as a student accused Israel of “ethnic genocide.” While Israel and Hamas called a ceasefire on May 20, President Biden waited 4 days to publicly condemn the rise in antisemitism correlated with the 11-day conflict, when he published a statement to Twitter. None of this is to say that these individuals themselves are anti-Semitic, but each of these incidents demonstrates that as public figures with incredibly large audiences, they spare insufficient concern for how anti-Israel sentiments threaten the Jewish community. 

Insufficient concern for Jews is hardly a phenomenon exclusive to politicians. According to a 2020 report, 72 percent of Americans said that a Jew labeling an incident anti-Semitic would either have a negligible or negative effect on whether or not they considered it anti-Semitic as well. When asked if they thought antisemitism had increased over the past five years, 82 percent of Jews said yes; just 43 percent of non- Jews said the same. The same study reported a 25 percent difference in the rates of Jews versus non-Jews (88 to 63) in the United States who consider anti-Semitism a significant problem. In a society that lauds justice, fights for equality, and works to elevate all, Jews are being left behind to fend for themselves. Vastly more education is needed: about the Holocaust, about anti-Semitism, and about the intricacies of the relationship between Israel and the global Jewish population. The perception that fighting antisemitism and opposing Palestinian suffering are mutually exclusive, or that all Jews are responsible for the actions of the Israeli government, is anti-Semitic at its very core and springs from ignorance, hatred, and bigotry. Never forget that the fight for justice is not over until its reach extends to all.