Dr. Bruce Hoffman: Let me begin with a question for everyone. What accounts for the historical continuity in what we see as the replenishment and perniciousness of antisemitism today? And why has it become such a problem today compared to recent years? You know, I’ll say growing up in the Bronx, for example, this is something, especially in a community where there were many Holocaust survivors, it was very common to see people with tattoos on their arms. Many young people growing up were victims of antisemitism, as were their parents and grandparents. By the time I went to university I thought this was over, but it has now resurged to such an extent. I would be grateful for all of you to weigh in on why you think it has become such a problem today and why it almost went away it seems.

Ira Forman: Well as I think I mentioned in my remarks, I don’t think there is a clear answer. I think there are correlations. Economic dislocations, other dislocations like climate change are correlated. Certainly, the Nazis came into power in the context of the Great Depression. I think another correlation is the breaking of taboos in democratic society and I think there is a clear signal we’ve seen in the last 4 or 5 years or so. It worries me a lot even though so far, we don’t see a lot of evidence of the deterioration of American attitudes towards Jews. Although there are some hints in the ADL data…the Pew data that came out would tell us differently. Generally, a breaking down and deterioration of democracy is also correlated. I think also we cannot underestimate the impact of 2,000 years of Christian antisemitism when Christianity was the dominant culture, not just in Europe, but in the Western hemisphere and I think that legacy, although dramatically different today. And I think we should not underestimate the importance of the Catholic Church’s turning since nostra aetate and actually the possibility of the church being, and I’ve seen it in various countries, being an ally. It still I think permeates the culture at some maybe subconscious level. I think Nuremberg’s idea that a simple answer to society’s problems is, of course one has to ask, why the Jews as opposed to others? I think some of these other things like Christian antisemitism is one of the reasons. Another piece of it is, of course, it’s the 80 years after the Holocaust when survivors are dying in a tremendous clip. Firsthand testimony is dying. Knowledge of the Holocaust is dying almost inevitably. I think that is one of the reasons that antisemitism, the drip of antisemitism which turned down to a drip by the fifties etcetera that we can see in opinion data etcetera. That has got to be taken into account. Aaron mentioned this idea, the scapegoating, and the idea that the Jew though he may be a humanoid not exactly human, he is cunning and cruel, and this is a differentiation of antisemitism for a lot of other forms of hatred and I think that plays into this. And finally, I think we all have to acknowledge that this is not a rational ideology. It is a totally irrational ideology even if it brings comfort and simple answers to society. 

Pamela Nadell: Can I show a slide that I brought that I think will build on what Ira said? Because I think part of the reason for our understanding of the moment, we are living in. The first thing I want to point out is that in the year 2000, a scholar wrote a book called The Death of American Antisemitism. Today we would find that title ludicrous and actually the scholar was completely wrong even back then. That antisemitism really… the question is how it courses and comes up and down in American society and I find Izabella’s comments about what was happening from the Americans kind of looking at what was going on in Soviet Russia in that period really fascinating. This image I think really captures what’s going on in our moment in time and why it is so powerful now is because of the conflation of the different ideas and tropes all coming together. And this, of course, is from the banner of the organization called the Goyim Defense League hung over Highway 405 in Los Angeles in October in response to Kanye West’s…or Ye’s… comments, antisemitic comments, about Jewish control. [The banner] saying “Honk if you know Kanye is right about the Jews!”. And then of course they are saluting…giving the Nazi salute, and every time I see this…Americans must think that we were on the side of the Nazis during World War II, and I find this just inconceivable. But what I find most striking about this image is that last banner that references Revelation and John referencing the New Testament. By the way, some publications of this image online have blurred out the last banner because they are specific references to the “synagogue of Satan” or “your father is from the devil” and phrases from the New Testament. So, we have all of these conflated together. We have sort of Jewish world control coming straight from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We have racial antisemitism in the Nazi salute. We have Christian antisemitism in one banner.

Izabella Tabarovsky: I would just add to what has already been said. That, I think that it has been said, that it is a bit of a cliché, but that antisemitism is a virus that reemerges when the immune system of a society is weak. I think we are going through really rapid change and a lot of dislocations. We see the rising of conspiracy theory in general, right? There is a tendency to go to conspiracy theory to find answers, so I think that antisemitism arises as part of that in a way. Specifically concerning antizionism, this kind of conspiratorial antizionism. A lot of people trace its resurrection to the conference in Durban in 2001, and it is hard to say why it happened then, I don’t really have any insights into that but since then…because we are so confused, I think, on the subject: is antizionism antisemitism or not? We have not been able to oppose that kind of rhetoric and what it leads to effectively, so I think that runs unopposed. And I think that the ADL just recently had a survey that showed that whenever anti-Israel tropes run free, that kind of stimulates the development of antisemitic attitudes. So, all of this together.

Aaron Keyak: And I think it is important to understand that antisemitism has never gone away. It has been constant throughout recorded history basically. But it is always sort of simmers under the surface until it gets poked and then geysers up. I think what has been so disturbing over the past few years is that, especially in the United States and other places too, is the normalization of antisemitism. Someone like Kanye thinks what he says is acceptable and antisemites see that as a rally cry to literally hangs banners on highways in Los Angeles. So, I think we need to return to a time where the antisemite does not feel comfortable spewing their antisemitic rhetoric. You can think in terms of sort of the racist lexicon or certain words, even if a racist believes in their racism, they just don’t mention certain phrases in polite society. I think we also have to understand the importance of the delivery mechanism. A few decades ago, if you wanted to spread antisemitic content, unless you were Henry Ford I guess, or Holocaust denial you know you would go with a few buddies at a local bar and talk about your antisemitism or you would receive some Holocaust denial materials in a manila envelope at your P.O. Box. But now any antisemite with an internet connection can spew their antisemitism. And even though as a raw number or percentage the antisemites in the world aren’t that high, they all know exactly how to get ahold of each other, and they can organize online in a way that just was impossible only a few decades ago. The fuel to the antisemitic fire is so much more widely available today. 

Mr. Forman: Bruce, can I just add onto that? 

Dr. Hoffman: Sure.

Mr. Forman: Something for Pam’s picture, I do something for Moment Magazine, it is a database of antisemitic incidents that appear in the English language breath, by country by date, and one of the things about the Goyim Defense League is it’s a very small number of people and they have gotten an inordinate amount of PR. Frankly I report every time these pamphlets are distributed in neighborhoods. You know, they are in Palm Beach one day and an Atlanta suburb the next day. Little crude pamphlets that are weighed down with kitty litter or stones or something and it gets press! You know look at local TV stations etcetera, they get press. As Aaron alluded to, you know, I’ve been reminded by a couple people that when the printing press was invented there was a century where there was a real difficulty of dealing with the lies etcetera that were coming out of the printing press. And now we have a social media environment, which we are all talking about, where it is not only just so much more pervasive, but as different from printing press on social media there is…I’m losing my train of thought here… it is morphing all the time and changing all the time. Social media, one we do not have the luxury of waiting a hundred years to finding answers to this, but it is also changing in front of us at exponential rates. 

Dr. Nadell: Can I just point out for the conversation we are having; Magda Teter and her fabulous book Blood Libel shows that it’s the invention of the printing press that allows for the dissemination of the blood libel and story of Simon of Trent – and before that they are essentially local stories that people don’t know about. You know, Ford was using the media of his moment, the newspaper. Coughlin used media of his moment, the radio. And now the antisemites are using the media of our moment, the internet. 

Dr. Hoffman: Well, and as Ira pointed out very primitive means of disseminating antisemitism using baggies with kitty litter or some pebbles and tossing it off at the homes of people. But Pam you raised up one of my future questions, but I will make it my next one. I mean, what is more pernicious – and this is for all of you as well but Pam you may want to weigh in first – what is more pernicious and consequential: is it the blood libel, which of course predates the protocols by several centuries, is that something we no longer hear about? Or is it the trope of Jews bent on controlling the world and using, most recently, even COVID as a way to expand their calls for us to fund this type of thing?

Dr. Nadell: I can’t answer which is more pernicious because they are all circulating simultaneously, and sometimes from the same groups and then sometimes, you know, one theme is from some group and one from another. But you know, we heard a little this morning about QANON and I’m sure we will hear more about QANON while we are here. But the blood libel tropes and the tropes & the ideas that the Jews as being murderers of children or in pizza parlors or of Palestinians. I mean, they are all trumpeted out there at this particular moment in time. 

Dr. Hoffman: Anyone else?

Ms. Tabarovsky: I mean, I would say that maybe we don’t even need to ask. I also don’t really have an answer and I wonder even do we need to ask what’s worse? I mean in a way I think we do that also. You know, there’s that discussion of what’s worse: right-wing antisemitism or left-wing antisemitism? I mean, it all works together, and one feeds the other and one borrows from the next. So, I think we really need to look at it holistically. 

DSEAS Keyak: We could talk about qualitatively which is worse when it comes to leading to violence or something like that, but I think what’s important to understand is what Ira was saying, …it is irrational. The concept of antisemitism is irrational – that some Jews behave like other Jews just because they share a religion. , And… obviously you can convert into the Jewish religion, so the Nazi’s pseudoscience around race… just made no sense whatsoever. But just because it’s irrational doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Our office meets with foreign diplomats, goes to other countries, and meets with senior officials from other countries, and we hear there’s a lot of positive and I hope we can to the positive in a bit. But we still hear comments like, “if you solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict antisemitism will go away.” This is someone who set up a meeting with the U.S. Office to Combat and Monitor Antisemitism, was fully briefed, and they made a point of saying, “if you solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict antisemitism will go away.” You know, you don’t need a historian to tell you how absurd that is. I mean of course, there was antisemitism before there was an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, before there was Zionism but yet this is something that they really do believe. And likewise, maybe that person was not trying to give us the best impression, but we will see foreign diplomats –you know, we get some of the best other countries have to offer, often literally Western educated, speak English better than some of us in this room, understand all the nuances, and again when they are meeting with us, they are on their least antisemitic behavior,,, –. even then, sometimes antisemitism seeps in….. They don’t even realize the antisemitism that they’re relaying to us… – whether its Christian antisemitism, Islamic antisemitism, you know more of the conspiratorial aspect of antisemitism. You know, it just seeps in everywhere and fundamentally has to do with dehumanizing another human, othering a group of Jews. And so, wherever it comes from, …obviously…we need to combat it. 

Mr. Forman: I think, you know, the blood libel is still with us, and I mentioned the Barnard students saying that millions of Palestinians have been killed, that’s a blood libel. Jews behind COVID: the same as poisoning wells in the Middle Ages during the Black Death. These things are still with us. Aaron mentioned a diplomat. I once met with a Hungarian member of parliament who was head of the education community in Hungary and I sat down with him and the immediate thing he said was, “you know we have antisemitism because all the communists in 1919 during the Bolshevik Revolution in Budapest were Jews” which is a lie. Beyond that, I just attended the Holocaust Museum, the legitimate Holocaust museum, not the Disneyland version the government is trying to put together. There’s these great two posters right next to each other. One – both made by the same person because you could tell the graphics were exactly the same – the first one is, “The Jew is a Capitalist” with a big cartoon character of pinky rings, fat hooked nose, diamond studs, etcetera. And then the next one it says, “The Jew is a Communist” and it has this kind of skinny, hair waving in the breeze, and bomb in his hand. I was so mad, and it was the only well not only time I’ve lost my temper but one of the few times, and I said to him, “I just came and saw these two things: “The Jew is a Communist and “The Jew is a Capitalist. Choose one of the other, you can’t have both.” And this continues and I walk out but I don’t think it phased him very much, but this stuff is alive and well among diplomats.

Dr. Hoffman: Well, if I could make two quick interventions. As an elementary school student, I routinely walked home and had to avoid the older kids from the local parochial school who lay await to ambush us, to beat us up for killing Jesus. This was quite common. The second one, something that Aaron said. I mean, it is remarkable, I’m not a scholar of antisemitism or certainly of the Protocols, but as someone who studies terrorism I can tell you how often the past 22 years traveling around the world, I’ve heard from people something very similar to what you said Aaron. If we just solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism would go away. It’s “the State of Israel is responsible for generating so much throughout the world.” People have short memories, of course. In 1998, the height of the Oslo Accords, the cooperation between Israeli and the Palestinian Authority was perhaps at its zenith was exactly when Osama bin Laden was blowing up our embassies in Africa. I see people signaling me for questions so let’s ask one more question for everyone and then we will open it up. 

It may be a sad commentary on the state of the world today and to the regard that Jews are held. But is it in your opinions becoming much more fashionable, in the U.S. in particular but elsewhere, to be antisemitic compared to at least in the immediate past? We have entertainers, social media influencers, political figures from both parties in the United States who have made antisemitic comments to varying degrees. So, is this becoming a fashion, as well as a political statement? 

Dr. Nadell: I mean, absolutely. There’s no question. I think what we’ve seen in the past, especially in the past year, antisemitism has become normalized. We have this sense that when the academy award-winning film, The Gentlemen’s Agreement, in 1947 or ‘48 comes out, the acceptability among people of a certain class/educational level in the United States, they no longer voice their antisemitism. That film exposed gentile antisemitism. Amazing film, you know, never mentions the Holocaust but it’s clearly in the back of their minds. And we hit a point where it’s just not okay to say certain things and all the sewer covers came off in the election of 2016. Now, it is okay to say everything. We’ve definitely hit a turning point where we have politicians who are saying this. They meet with…you know…where else would you get a white nationalist to sit down with a former president and an African-American rapper. It’s become normalized. The kinds of things that our diplomats have been hearing from international figures, and I’ve got stories too that I’ve heard, about why did you Jews used to do this referring to the blood libel, but they don’t do it any longer, presumably. It’s normative in certain sectors of American society and I think what people forget is how deep America has, in a liberal tradition, that embraces antisemitism and how many millions of people follow that tradition. That’s really where we are at this moment in time. 

Ms. Tabarovsky: I would tend to agree, and I would say that there is actually a sense of a social credit that one gets by being antisemitic, right? It’s like you’re breaking a taboo, you’re being brave, you’re speaking truth to power. It’s something that Aaron mentioned earlier, you’re punching up. And I think that it gets worse as there is this campaign to kind of devalue the accusation of antisemitism. Again, we saw it back in the Soviet Union fifty years ago to claim that accusations of antisemitism are something that’s used to silence the criticism of Israel. The more that becomes adopted and accepted, the more there is a…it loosens the opening for people to be antisemitic and just say, “I’m speaking truth to power, I’m criticizing Israel…” Yeah, so…

Mr. Forman: I don’t mean to enter a little bit of a contrary note, not that I disagree with what anybody said, but there are ways that even today we’re pushing back, and I think of the pervasiveness of antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party. If you haven’t ever read it, there’s a piece by Allen Johnson in the magazine, Fathom, called “Institutionally Antisemitic” which is hair-raising of what was being said. There was a leadership change, and by the way one the great quotes was an activist named Jackie Walker who would talk about Jews controlling the slave-trade etcetera all the things about Jews. And, when she was confronted, she says, “Well, you can’t criticize Israel anymore!” She never mentions Israel. This is one of a hundred examples in Fathom etcetera. Now, that is not gone. That is under the surface. But it is really tough now for a Labour elected official or organizer to say that because they are going to get kicked out of the party. So, that has an impact. The other piece of a little optimism, Pew does what is a called a thermometer test that asks everybody in America: “What do you think of various religions?” They’ve done it like twice and they just came out with a new one which is not quite the same but it somewhat similar. The thermometers – you feel pretty negative you’re zero and if you’re positive to religion you’re ten – so the first two in the last decade, the Jews are the most admired religion. Now, statistically is it much different than Catholics? No. But, it is worthy, and it is interesting and I’m following just the sea of attitudes are switching. The newest one is a little bit different, but again, the Jews are the most popular. Strange at a time when the levels of antisemitism and the taboos are gone. So, we are dealing with…it is not always as black and white as sometimes we’d like to think.

DSEAS Keyak: Yeah, just a little bit on the positive end of things. We now have governments taking antisemitism seriously. You know, sometimes there’s some comparisons made of what was happening in the 1930s and ‘40s to today. But today we have the U.S. government, the German government itself, governments throughout Europe, and really throughout the world, who as a matter of policy are working to combat antisemitism. Our office was legislated by Congress in 2004. When it was legislated by Congress, it was really seen as an outward position because while there was antisemitism in the United States in 2004, it just wasn’t as prevalent or as violent as it is today. In the wake of our office getting created, other countries – dozens and dozens of other countries – have created counterparts to Ambassador Lipstadt. So, there are dozens and dozens of countries throughout North America and South America, throughout Europe and elsewhere where they have a government official in charge of monitoring and combatting antisemitism. That just wasn’t the case in the ‘30s and ‘40s. We can speak with a certain amount of humbleness with U.S. foreign policy and especially with the State Department when we ourselves turned away the St. Louis – something that would be unfathomable today. Not just because we have a President and a Secretary of State who takes antisemitism seriously, but we have an ambassador in charge of it. She would stop, if G-d forbid somehow that were to happen again, she’d be in the Oval Office the next day….. Now as a matter of U.S. foreign policy, speaking for the U.S. government, it is a matter of U.S. foreign policy that we speak to other countries about how they’re combatting antisemitism in their countries. Not because we’re perfect but coming to it with a certain amount of humbleness saying that we have a problem when it comes to antisemitism, and we must work together to denormalize it. We’re not going to eradicate it, but we can certainly combat it. 

Mr. Forman: Yeah, getting to the government piece of it. I think Aaron is totally right that we are in a very different situation than the ‘30s in terms of government. I mean, when you look at the Iranian government and say this is a deeply antisemitic government. It does “tolerate” its Jewish minority for political purposes but it’s not easy to be a Jew in Iran. But I think we also have to be really conscious. There’s many many forms of antisemitism. I always think that government antisemitism is the worst because as we all know governments have the monopoly on the legitimate use of power in a society and when governments want to play with it, and even though it’s I would say Iran or maybe Venezuela are the deeply antisemitic, we have lots of governments that play games with antisemitism. When you start playing games, it gets really really dangerous. It is one of the reasons I personally have a real real problem with the current Hungarian government. The Turkish government is also problematic. I don’t usually talk about that because I don’t want to hurt the Turkish Jewish community which they could get hurt if we talk too much about that stuff. 

Dr. Hoffman: Okay, let’s go to questions from the audience. I think there are microphones available. So, let’s go to Professor Zipperstein first. The microphone is on its way to you. Here it comes. 


Dr. Hoffman: It’s mainly because we are recording this, so we want to pick up everything. 


*Panel laughing*

Mr. Forman: Just come up here!

Professor Steven Zipperstein: The question seems to be not simply why the Jews, but who are the Jews? A number of you refer to Jews as a religion but most Jews are not. So, we are not a religion. I think there’s only been two Prime Ministers in the history of Israel who have attended synagogue outside of an electoral cycle. Menachem Begin and perhaps one other may have stopped by for Shiva. But so, we are too rich to be an ethnic group. We’re not really a religion. Part of the problem is the inexplicability of us with the use of Christian categories. A. B: The whole configuration of antisemitism internationally is now, it seems to me, incredibly complicated. In as much as, Ira alluded to this without making it explicit, Benjamin Netanyahu is the leading spokesperson of populist nationalism in the world. Far more articulate than the Prime Minister of Hungary or Poland and so what it means for…actually for a country to be antisemitic and to be friendly to Israel complicates things enormously and that needs to be taken into account. And lastly, whoever George Santos may be, you actually get elected to Congress now asserting that you’re Jewish and we’re not talking here about Brooklyn or Crown Heights. That complicates this narrative. It doesn’t, in any way, undermine the very intelligent things that have been said. Finally, this, with regard to antizionism on campus and elsewhere, the regnant way to understand the workings of the world now through the prism of colonial settler paradigms. And Zionism saved people by Polish Jews who were escaping in the 1930s are seen as settler colonialists. Those who employ these categories aren’t even necessarily antizionists. They’re simply employing regnant categories. Now, the implications may well be troubling as you say. But the source of it, it does not come either from antizionism or the hatred of Jews and so also nuances, I think, some of what has been described. 

Mr. Forman: Professor, let me just say that we’re dealing with Jews so that means complexity, by definition. 

Professor Zipperstein: Super complexity.

[Laughter from crowd]

Mr. Forman: I would agree, super complex. I talk to my students periodically. I try to illustrate the complexity and I go back to Soviet Jewry movement. Which, arguably, the greatest human rights victory of the 20th century. And, when it began in the early ‘60s, no one thought the Soviets would let go of any ethnic group let alone the Jews who were highly educated etcetera, and antisemitism was rampant. And it happened – hard to believe. As difficult as that was, I think what we face here is infinitely more difficult and complex because rather than one country to focus on we literally have dozens that the problem is really serious let alone ours. And, in any one of those countries I couldn’t tell you one address to go to. In the Soviet situation, it was one address. One Red Square, you go there, and the Politburo says, “let him go” and they go. We don’t have that in any country! There are multiple places to address the problem. So yeah complexity, it’s the one thing that shocked me the most when I got to the State Department and found the [unintelligible] filing then actually learned something…is the complexity of this and the changing nature of this. It is…even compared to when I came in 2013…what we’re seeing is just night and day in some places. Not least of which is in the United States. So, I agree totally but that’s who we are. 

Dr. Nadell: Can I just…you know…Bruce in his opening remarks said something about, you know, antisemitism can also come from Jews. That’s what you’re seeing in Israel at the moment, right? I mean, they’re using antisemitic symbols. I was told a few days ago that a swastika was painted on Rabin’s tomb, so the right and the left are using these symbols against each other. But I throw this back to you Steve, does it really matter that we define the Jews? I don’t see any reason that…first of all it’s impossible to define the Jews as Ira said and I think as Izabella alluded to…but most importantly it doesn’t really matter for the antisemites. They don’t define the Jews. It’s some kind of you know…the way David Nirenberg written about it…kind of broad categories as a way of attacking all sorts of other things in civilization. 

Dr. Zipperstein: [Unintelligible talking]

Dr. Nadell: You might want the mic again for the recording. 

Dr. Zipperstein: [Unintelligible talking]

Dr. Nadell: Yeah, I agree. 

Dr. Zipperstein: As Ira pointed out correctly, the most admired group in the United States, “the most admired religious group” are Jews. And so there are so many counter examples that are very real examples you and the other panelists have offered that it doesn’t merely complicate things, it means you want to stutter a little bit, if you will, when talking about the rise of antisemitism. Farrakhan often noted when he criticized homosexuals, he got no press, but when he criticized Jews, he got a hell of a lot of press. The fact that six jerks hold up a sign on a freeway, and I was there I saw, that makes national news, my God. You know, so rather than being in a bar hall…That does not invariably mean the rise of antisemitism, it might, or it might not. I think it’s just worthwhile sort of stuttering a little bit, as we talk with certainty about the topic that was discussed just now. 

DSEAS Keyak: In our office, we really try to call out antisemitic actions and rhetoric. We rarely will call anyone an antisemite themselves because that gets them the motivation, even though maybe, they are obviously antisemites. But it also allows this confusion that antisemitism can also come from Jews. Since Ambassador Lipstadt has been in office she would talk about, as I just did, antisemitism comes from all parts of the political spectrum/all religions and she would list them: Christianity, Muslims, Atheists, and even Jews. But by the time she got to Jews I think people stopped listening. Actually, while she was in Israel right before– she had to go back there right before the President’s visit –there was an incident there at the pluralistic section of the Kotel. Basically, for those of you who don’t know, there was a group of young Haredi youth who interrupted a bar and bat mitsvahs at the section of the Kotel where there is no division between men and women. And they made Nazi analogies, they spit at them, they ripped parts of their prayer book and wiped their noses with it, and it came to our attention. She [Amb. Lipstadt] was meeting with the Prime Minister and the President and others. What she said at the time was…– because we were just looking at the actions, those are obviously antisemitic actions comparing Jews to Hitler or Nazis, taking out someone’s prayer book, defacing it, and wiping your nose with it – those individual actions and that rhetoric [are] certainly antisemitic. So, what she said at the time was if this were to happen in any other country, we wouldn’t hesitate to call it antisemitism. The complicating factor for some, including some of our friends in the Israeli government, was that it was happening in Israel, and it was happening by Jews but actually you can disconnect those two things. I think it helps with that sort of clarity when you isolate the actual actions and the actual words, that that is antisemitism and that’s what the President and Congress powered our office to combat and so we do. 

Audience Member: Couple of quick points: One. We also have to remind ourselves of two things. You’ve all alluded to history. History is not yesterday as Faulkner reminds us. It is always present. That’s number one. Number two, I’m very uncomfortable confining this perception to irrationality only because for the haters themselves this is a very rational, and at times, well-thought out, well-defined process that leads to these actions. I forget the author of the famous phrase, “It’s the rationality of the irrational that results in the violence.” I want to add for your response, factors that we haven’t addressed and one that is the xenophobic proclivity of the individual psychologically. We share a common xenophobia, all of us, in our possible behaviors. The likes and the dislikes of others. You [DSEAS Keyak] mentioned othering, that needs to be explored in this context. The other that we do not talk about xenophobia sociologically. Groups are equally as xenophobic as are individuals. The process of psychological xenophobia and sociological xenophobia, all groups and persons, pick on others and that is something I think is underexplored in this phenomenon of antisemitism. History’s xenophobia and rationality that we don’t talk about. We are all subject to these factors. All of us, Jews as well. And the last point I would make is that the present crises in Israel at the plurality Wall. This is now new! This has been going on even before ’48. There has always a division among us Jews about those who are not like us and there’s a long history of that phenomenon as well that is, again, not publicized. The last point I would make to you because, I think, Professor Nadell you reference the previous administration. What has become with social media is the public voice of dislike, that is what we’re seeing in this country. The public voice. You can say things, that in so many different contexts, that people have never said before. That was given reality by the previous administration and its leader. That you can say things that you never could say…you could say them…and that’s the difference. 

Mr. Forman: I might just say that you mentioned historically, Jews have always been fighting in some…Second Temple Period they weren’t fighting. We were all the same. I mean, weren’t we? I’m being facetious.

[Mr. Forman laughing]

Mr. Forman: Exactly.

Dr. Hoffman: Yes, the woman in the back. 

Susan Hochstetter: Thank you, my name is…is this on? Yeah, my name is Susan Hochstetter and I do some work currently in the Jewish community combatting antisemitism. One of the things that I think is really important to look at is the role of ignorance. I think it underlies everything that our panelists are talking about. A stark example for me was decades ago when I went to college in Indiana, I bonded with my friends really well in the dorm room. They started telling jokes and said, “Wait, is anyone here Jewish?” and I said, “I am!” And they went “…but you’re like us.” Someone talked about how, you know everybody, humans are xenophobic about the other. I think there’s a lot of ignorance that underlies that xenophobia and thinking that Jews are so different. I think that one of the audiences for us as we look at combatting antisemitism are people who may not be going out and holding up those signs with swastikas on but the people who are just…who let it happen more because they think, “Oh, well maybe that’s true! Maybe, Jews are awful.” I think there is a tremendous amount of ignorance about Jews in this country and around the world and I think we have to look at the role of ignorance and education as we deal with this issue. 

Dr. Hoffman: Okay. 

Mr. Forman: Well, I have nothing to say but I can always say something. You know, people always ask me, and I think legitimately, to do a speech on this to the Jewish community particularly. Well, what do we do? Again, we go back to complexity. There are no silver bullets here. If you go to any antisemitism conference and they’re ubiquitous these days. You’re always going to hear security, and absolutely security it’s essential but it doesn’t do anything to fight antisemitism. The second piece is education. Everybody agrees education is critical but what type of education? We can go to Europe and half the time you talk to educators about teaching the Holocaust. They say, “One, I either put my kids to sleep because it’s like for them talking about the Roman Empire. Or two, I might get beat up talking about this.” That doesn’t say there aren’t way to involve kids, adults too, that is meaningful to their lives and the sickness that this is. Of course, we all talked about social media but still we’re struggling on how do we deal with this on social media? I would tell you that a fourth piece that I’d like to talk about, I don’t think it’s talked about enough, is social ostracism. Like in the Labour Party in the U.K., you make them pay the price for saying this stuff. You know, you go back to Billings, Montana in ’93 when a little kids window was broken with a cinderblock because he had a minora in his window and it was this spontaneous outrage by the community, not by the Jewish community which were terrified, but by churches, by elected officials, by civil society…They were in minus five degree weather, people were marching down the street with minoras. The newspaper ran a full page of a picture of a minora and asked people to put it in their window and many people did. It was essentially a message of the minorities in this community are a part of us! Part of our society. You are not! Break the law, we’ll put you in jail. Even if you don’t, you’re not welcome here. Richard Spencer goes to Whitefish, and he goes into a restaurant, and he’s kicked out. Those are powerful weapons. We have a strong civil society, if weakening, but we got to figure out how to organize civil society, by the way it’s not just on antisemitism, but make them pay a price. A social price. 

Dr. Hoffman: Yes, sir. 

Audience Member: Thank you very much for the enriching…

Dr. Hoffman: Can we get a microphone please? 

Audience Member: I really appreciate this very rich and enriching and thought-provoking panel. And what Professor Nadell was mentioning just in very brief terms makes me go back to my own theory that is, there is no society that is free of antisemitism and there is no society that is completely antisemitic. You can find pockets, size of the pockets of course makes all the difference, and that includes the Jewish state. Secondly, Ira made a point that I think is absolutely poignant and that is for people who are at the receiving end of this kind of behavior, for want of a better word, is very important to be not conducting…well their relationship with the outside world when considered from this angle. And therefore, teaching about antisemitism at large may be more productive by teaching it at the same time with racism against other groups in society – be it American society and so on and so forth. That may mitigate or bring towards some kind of more balanced approach towards racism or at large with antisemitism being the eternal, if you will. And, I would have a question and that is if you would address the issue of antisemitism being used as a conduit of sorts or facilitator of anti-Westernism and anti-Americanism. Which would be very characteristic usually of well leftist antisemitism, but not only, the words antisemitism as aimed at anti-Westernism and anti-Americanism.

Ms. Tabarovsky: Well, I can start because certainly it was a big part of Soviet propaganda. Again, something that we see after ’67 onward in that “body of work.” Israel and Zionism were always connected with the United States or the implementers of American foreign policy, at the same time, the manipulators of American foreign policy so it was very much part of the anti-Western/anti-American critique. You know, just like today we often see Zionism and Israel being brought into conversation just about anything, right? Any atrocity, you bring up Israel…Israel & Palestine. In Soviet literature of the 1970s for example, you would see Israel’s actions being compared to what America is doing in Vietnam, right? So that kind of a tie in. So, for sure in that, that was a big part of it. And it was a big part of the reason it was used was that it helped the Soviets to kind of corral and unite the different forces that were sympathetic to it anyway but maybe had very little in common. But this issue very much connected them.

Mr. Forman: I don’t know if the ADL still does that, but they used to put out cartoons, antisemitic cartoons, every year and if you looked at those…here we go…do you guys still do that? 

Audience Member: I think they still…I can’t speak to it anymore…but we certainly did.

Mr. Forman: And if you look at much of it, it is connecting Israel and the United States and just as Izabella said it was often the Jews manipulating the United States. But periodically the United States manipulating Israel for its own purposes and they’re always, you know, it’s hooked nose Uncle Sams as well as hooked nose Jews or Israelis, so you saw all that. And today, Iran does that all the time, but it even happens in the West. I mean, thirty years ago when we even have some stuff today when the Swiss banks were being brought to justice about what they did with Jewish assets, looted Jewish assets. You had all this stuff in Swiss press about, you know, the United States is just controlled by the Jews, and this is not a radiant press, this is in a democracy and supposedly a sophisticated Western society. So yeah, you know, this stuff it continues. 

Dr. Hoffman: Jessica Rota? Wait, the microphone is coming…

Audience Member: Thank you so much for this very stimulating panel, I would like to go back to the incident at the Kotel actually between Haredi Jews and I guess it was a secular Jewish person and more specifically about the labeling of this act as an antisemitic act. My question is it our…because you know tension between different types of you know you Jews, and expression or so of Jewishness in the Jewish world is part of our, you know our history, and listening to this example and by bringing just the label that this is an antisemitic act. I feel it’s a little shortcurt maybe to what is really happening in this specific case and my other question is about, yeah about this brother phenomenon of you know sometimes there is an act like this to just right away labeling it, and I know that the power of labeling, but on the other hand is it necessarily, you know, especially internal tension among Jews, and you know seeing it necessarily through the lens of antisemitism, and maybe to complexify a little bit, but I am just curious about what is your thought here?

DSEAS Keyak: Okay, so let me just say one thing that we sort of talked around, criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic. And, you know just to point out the absurdity of folks who think otherwise, you can just look at what is happening on the streets of Tel Aviv right now. There is no harsher critic of Bibi and his policies than the Israelis themselves. I am happy to go through our thinking when it came to the antisemitic Kotel. The State Department has embraced the, what Ira was talking about, the IHRA definition, although not named after Ira necessarily…

Mr. Forman: I was named after that. [Laughter]

DSEAS Keyak: That’s right – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism. There is a definition and a number of examples of what can be antisemitic, and we use that as a tool to identify what is antisemitic and what isn’t –  obviously, along with the expertise of the head of our office, Ambassador Lipstadt. And there are a number of examples there, and one of them is comparing Jews to Nazis as being antisemitic, and that’s clearly what they were doing. And this is why I think it’s important to… look at the words themselves. If you were to see a transcript of what they were saying, our office would say they were antisemitic. And it seems very obvious to me that when Jews are attacked simply for expressing their own Judaism and for praying to the God the way they see fit. And when their prayer books are torn out and the attackers are wiping their noses with them, it seems on its face, to be classical antisemitism….

Mr. Forman: I think one of the things that often, that is important too is… we mentioned this before, you don’t have to think that you’re being antisemitic, you don’t have to think that you hate Jews, but your actions, et cetera can be conveyed that way. And these are all tough questions, but we also have to recognize, and we’ve all heard situations like this that secular, or even other denominational Jews discriminate against Haredi and that is, there are antisemitic incidents. Some of them, and again… where’s the line? The line, it is sometimes, it is not always well-defined, and I said we should all be careful about where it’s not really well-defined. That we be careful about using the term [antisemitism], overused, but having said that this is one, I was taken aback when Ambassador Lipstadt said that, but looking at it afterward, I said “Yeah, I think this could be a situation”. It’s important in all of this that we are not being so xenophobic, were not demonizing people, or demonizing Haredi, demonizing Muslims, demonizing, even, the religious right, or demonizing parts of the left. We have to take it by specific actions, specific rhetoric, and be careful. So, I appreciate your concern, but there is, you know, we talked about these tensions between Jews and sometimes they result in antisemitism.

Ms. Tabarovsky: I think this term demonization is really important because sometimes I think there is really a confusion between criticism and demonization. I don’t know if it necessarily applies to the case we are talking about now, but more generally I think a lot of times I would see an obvious case of demonization being referred to in the papers as criticism of Israel. There is a difference. Maybe we need to define that clearly, but on the other hand I think it’s also the case of, you know, I know it when I see it, the demonization is very different from criticism. That’s what we need to be attentive to.

Dr. Hoffman: Pam, I’m going to give you the last word for the whole panel. Not necessarily on this subject…

Dr. Nadell: Okay, I think what I would say is I would get back to what Aaron said and we are talking about antisemitic acts, and the language, and so the specificity. We are not saying they are inherently antisemites, but that the language they have used, the actions that they have taken, are antisemitic. And I would say for the closing words I think we should all remember today is the being of the trial for Robert Bowers, accused of the shooting at the Tree of Life.

Dr. Hoffman: And on that note, it’s time for lunch! Please join me in thanking the panelists.


U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future