In locations with a sizeable Jewish population antisemitism has spread like a disease. Headlines and reports are full of antisemitic attacks from Lod, Israel, Paris, France, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Los Angeles, Calif. While it’s clear there is an antisemitic pandemic spreading, a phenomenon less understandable is the claim by Jews there is no problem of antisemitism among the non-Jews they know and favor. It’s as if there is a problem of antisemitism, but no one we know is an antisemite.
Antisemitism is an illness born of nurture, not nature. If there are symptoms of antisemitism, it’s impossible that it’s isolated; the community must also possess the hate to some extent. Many feel their warm friendship with specific non-Jews immunizes that particular non-Jewish community from antisemitism. This is a fallacy. It is just as much of a misconception to think that because a specific non-Jewish community includes antisemites that the entire community is antisemitic. Assuming any one community is homogenous in their hate is an irrational generalization that never proves true. When combating antisemitism, it’s crucial to simultaneously address the reality without assuming or exaggerating the problem to inaccurate levels.
The narrative many have convinced themselves about the Palestinians is that they are victims of their own leaders. Jews always think the best of people and project our desire for peace and prosperity on to others. We assume, given the opportunity, all people will make pragmatic choices to better their lives. Jews have trouble with the notion of worsening our own lives for ideology; our ideology pushes us to better our lives. Our only way of understanding Palestinians’ decision to choose terror over prosperity is assuming its radical leaders are the ones making poor decisions and oppressing their people.
The assumption is that terror attacks are the work of Palestinians extremists, and not supported by the Palestinian masses, that radical terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad fire rockets, while the Palestinian public wish they wouldn’t fire rockets – and that antisemitism in the “Free Palestine” movement isn’t inherent or from the people, but external antisemitic groups jump on the Palestinian wagon.
If the Palestinian masses were really captives of their leaders’ diabolical oppression, even with curtailed free speech you’d see signs of objection to Palestinian extremism, Hamas rocket attacks and antisemitic slurs chanted at their protests. Why didn’t Palestinians in the West Bank protest when one of their own committed a terror attack, when Hamas fired rockets at Israel or when antisemitic slurs were chanted at their protests? In their silence, Palestinians demonstrated they favor Palestinian terror attacks, rocket fire and antisemitism.
In a survey of Palestinians in 2015, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 66% of Palestinian asked were in favor of an armed intifada or uprising. In a different survey, reported by the New York Times in 2008, the same Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found unprecedented support for the shooting of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. A survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014 showed 93% of Palestinians holding anti-Semitic beliefs. The sad, unavoidable truth is that the Palestinian community suffers from a problem of antisemitism.
The problem of antisemitism in the Palestinian community doesn’t mean that all Palestinians are antisemitic. Many Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria – the people the world calls settlers in the West Bank – have Palestinian friends. I personally live outside of the Palestinian controlled city of Jericho. While Israeli law prohibits my entering Jericho, and Palestinians require a permit to enter my town, there are a number of coffee shops between our towns that serve as the perfect meeting spot to grab a cup of coffee. It is here that I can hear their stories and perspectives and they can hear mine. We don’t always agree, but we gain from hearing each other’s views. These friends give hope to Israelis that there might one day be a grassroots movement to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The world must recognize the gravity of the antisemitism in the Palestinian community without concluding that every Palestinian is an antisemite. The assumption that Palestinians will make the correct choice to improve their lot, if only given the chance, is erroneous. The rampant hate filled antisemitism in the Palestinians community prevents Palestinians from considering getting along with their Jewish Israeli neighbors. To assume Palestinians will simply set aside their hate is a dangerous mistake.