The newly rededicated Hostage Memory Wall in Newton./BAILEY ALLEN

Double standards that feel like antisemitism

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Double standards that feel like antisemitism

The newly rededicated Hostage Memory Wall in Newton./BAILEY ALLEN

Editor’s note: Jeffrey and Miriam Kosowsky’s posters of kidnapped Israelis on their fence in Newton were defaced last month. On Sunday, their Hostage Memory Wall was rededicated in a ceremony attended by 2,000 people.

I was originally planning to talk about WHY we built the Hostage Memory Wall, WHAT happened, and HOW we chose to respond. But you all know the story already, due to the wonderful media coverage and the viral word-of-mouth spread.
Instead, I will just say that my wife Miriam and I have been awed by three things:

1. First, we learned how much this Hostage Memory Wall has meant to those who passed by and saw it as a place of memory, comfort, meditation, or even prayer.

2. Second, it is amazing how many neighbors and strangers have come up to us and shared how devastated they were by the Wall’s desecration. People knocking on our door, leaving flowers or notes, offering help to rebuild, and volunteering supplies or donations.

3. Finally, as the word got out about our response, the entire community has come together so positively. We have long lost count of the number of people who have thanked us, honked their horns, or given us a thumbs up as they pass by.

Instead, I want to talk about antisemitism – not as an academic expert or a community leader or a politician, but as someone whose property was recently defaced and who worries about the future of our proudly Jewish children and grandchildren growing up in the America of today.

The anti-Jewish sentiment we face today is not our parents’ and grandparents’ antisemitism, motivated by age-old religious or racial hatreds. Nor is it about glass ceilings and exclusionary clubs.

The core antisemitism of today is in some ways more insidious and pervasive, especially in our centers of learning, media, and culture where Jews in general and Israel in particular are held to a double standard.

This insidious double standard in turn creates an environment that enables or perhaps even encourages events like the destruction of our Hostage wall, or recurrent swastikas in Newton school bathrooms, or the plastering of posters just yesterday in Newton Centre calling for the replacement of Israel from the River to the Sea.

While as individuals, we may not be able to change the hard-core haters, we can at least together call on our community – and even more so our leaders – to stop this terrible anti-Jewish double standard which, according to the widely-adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, is a key constituent of post-Holocaust antisemitism.

This IHRA working definition of antisemitism has been adopted by 31 countries, 30 U.S. states and more than 1000 cities, including Massachusetts and Newton.

I would now like to take you through a list of hurtful double standards that many of you have shared with me as I prepared my remarks. If you agree with any of them, please feel free to join me aloud in the refrain “this FEELS LIKE antisemitism.”

I say “FEELS like antisemitism” because we must not rush to judge motives or label people. Indeed, there are many otherwise enlightened people who are inspiringly sensitive when it comes to other minority groups but somehow appear tone deaf on Jewish issues.

Let’s start with some easy ones and warm up as we go…

1. When people say “Believe Women” and “#MeToo”, but ignore or even deny the live-streamed rape of Jewish women on Oct. 7, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

2. When people reflexively support the right of national movements and indigenous people all over the world, but question the right of Jews to a tiny state in their indigenous, 3-thousand-year-old homeland, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

3. When pictures of civilians accidentally killed in Gaza lead the news day-after-day, but we can’t recall the last time the media showed pictures of the hundreds of thousands of civilians deliberately massacred each year across dozens of Muslim countries, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

4. When people sympathize with Hamas, whose Charter calls for the slaughter of Jews, but denounce Israel, whose Declaration of Independence calls for “equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

5. When people talk only about the “Occupation” in Israel but ignore the dozens of other “Occupied” areas of the world, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

6. When people excuse Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for persecuting or even executing LGBTQ+ people as culturally appropriate, but condemn Israel’s world-leading tolerance as “pinkwashing,” that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

7. When people accuse Israel of recklessly killing civilians, but said nothing when the U.S. had a far worse civilian casualty ratio in recent wars, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

Two thousand people attended the rededication of the Hostage Wall in Newton on Sunday. /BAILEY ALLEN

Now let’s start moving a little closer to home…

1. When colleges suspend or revoke the admission of students for insensitive speech but presidents of two major local universities testify that “genocide depends on context,” that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

2. When even left-leaning Israeli scholars are disrupted or disinvited from speaking at universities but members of known terrorist organizations are invited to participate in local university-sponsored symposia, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

3. When Harvard Chabad was told that they can’t put a peaceful Chanukah Menorah on campus because it may be vandalized, but a hate-speech strewn Israel Apartheid Week Wall is given 24×7 police protection, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

Now let’s move even closer…

4. When Newton schools invited a pro-BDS speaker as part of an anti-Israel curriculum, but would never consider criticizing or boycotting China for imprisoning 1 million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

5. When residents put up yard signs decrying all types of hate near-and-far but forget to put up signs calling out the rise in local antisemitism, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

6. When First Lady Michelle Obama was praised for using her bully pulpit to call to “#BringBackOurGirls” but our city sees calling for the return of hostage Israeli children or even putting up a blue ribbon as political speech, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

7. When the stealing of a few Asian Hate signs in 2021 rightfully evoked universal city outrage, but the ongoing stealing of hundreds of Hostage or StandWithIsrael signs, even from synagogues and temples, is allowed to become commonplace, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

8. When we live in a world where racial slurs are beyond the pale, but swastikas appear regularly in Newton Public School bathrooms, that FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

9. When other minority groups are encouraged to air their grievances in loud, public rallies but Jews are pressured to hold our antisemitism events inside a private synagogue, that double standard FEELS LIKE antisemitism.

Whether you are Jewish or not Jewish, do not succumb to that double standard within yourself and do not tolerate it in others.

• Do not allow our freedoms or even our lives to be “contextualized.”

• Do not allow others to silence our speech or our cultural identities.

• Do not allow haters to putrefy our 3,000-year yearning for Zion and attachment to the land, people, religion, and culture of Israel. Θ

Jeffrey Kosowsky writes from Newton.

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