During the late 60’s, this was the battle cry of my generation. We chanted it at rallies on behalf of Israel and Soviet Jewry. To the general Jewish public, the phrase meant that Jews would never again be led like lambs to the slaughter as they allegedly were during the Holocaust. To those who belonged to the Jewish Defense League, the slogan meant that Jews would meet violence with violence in the fight against anti-Semitism and use violent tactics in the battle to free Soviet Jewry.
In the days following the Six Day War, Jews the world over believed that anti-Semitism of the type that reared its head during the Holocaust had ended. Sure, the Arabs hated us. Sure, France was a fair weather friend. Nevertheless, the world’s post-Holocaust revulsion at anti-Semitism, coupled with the existence of a powerful state of Israel, would serve as an inoculation against the recurrence of World War II-level anti-Semitism.
Yet today, not even forty years later, we are seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism on a worldwide scale. I believe the American Jewish community has become complacent. We believe that anti-Semitism in this country exists only on the fringes of the political left and right. We see the world through rose-colored glasses and truly believe the anti-Semitism of Europe and the Middle East will never rear its head in the U.S.
It may be time to take off our glasses.
The events of 9/11 shocked the world. But the warnings had been there since the November 5, 1990 murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane. When Rabbi Kahane was killed, it was widely believed that his assassin, El Sayyid Nosair, was a lone gunman. Our community was virtually silent when a Manhattan jury voted to acquit Nosair of a second-degree murder charge.
In their book The Cell, veteran police reporter John Miller and his co-authors write that Nosair’s home contained Arab-language terror manuals, bomb-making instructions, and videos and photographs of New York landmarks. There were clues to terror cells operating on U.S. soil. But the documents were not translated until years later. When translated, they revealed references to Al Qaeda and attacks on American skyscrapers. Indeed, who knew that part of Nosair’s legal fees was paid by one Osama bin Ladin?
When police in New York began to worry about an Islamic conspiracy, the Justice Department refused a request for wiretaps. After all, what was the life of one rabble-rousing rabbi worth anyway?
In March 1994, Rashid Baz, a livery cab driver from Lebanon, opened fire on a van of yeshiva students on the Brooklyn Bridge, killing Ari Halberstam. All the early reports indicated this was merely another unfortunate example of road rage. That was the official position of the FBI. Eventually, it was determined that Raz had connections with Islamic extremists operating in Brooklyn. But even when politicians forced the investigation to be re-opened in 1999, the FBI found that while the murder was political in nature, Raz acted alone.
New York’s Jewish community well remembers the 1991 Crown Heights pogrom, when angry mobs of African-Americans sought revenge after a child was accidently killed by a car that was part of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade. Rioting broke out, and the NYPD essentially was ordered to let the rioers play themselves out. We know the results: an untold amount in property damage; beaten Jews; psychological scars that will never be healed; and the death of Yankel Rosenbaum. Not surprisingly, Rosenbaum’s murderer was acquitted by a jury in the case prosecuted by the Brooklyn D.A. and found guilty only in a civil rights action brought in Federal court by Federal authorities.