Don’t Make Anti-Semitism a Partisan Football

March 3 2017

Responding to the desecrations of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia, the bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and numerous other recent incidents, Gary Weiss finds something amiss in the attention these crimes have received in the media:

I’m heartened by this sudden focus on anti-Semitism—at least when it is perceived as originating from the right. Yet somehow, I find myself uneasy. Something isn’t quite right. Something . . . stinks.

It’s the stench of cynicism, of rank hypocrisy, and of media double standards. The press was largely uninterested in December 2010, when 200 tombstones were overturned—an assault just as large as the one in St. Louis—at the . . . Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn. There were no fundraisers by Muslim-Americans or anybody. It was covered by the New York Post and Brooklyn weeklies but otherwise largely ignored. Not a word in the New York Times. To be sure, this was not part of a “wave” of anti-Semitism, such as we have seen. Still, 200 tombstones is 200 tombstones. Two-hundred families traumatized, assuming they knew. Not even worth a paragraph?

More recently, outside the pro-Israel echo chamber there was little interest in February 2015, when President Obama said—and his spokesman reiterated—that the attack on a Jewish grocery in Paris by Islamist terrorists was just a “random” attack on a bunch of “folks.” I doubt very much that the press would have accepted such mumbo-jumbo from Donald Trump or Sean Spicer. . . .

The reason, I would suggest, is that anti-Semitism has become politicized, and has become entwined in the widespread disdain for [President Trump]. . . . That brings me to the other reason I’m feeling uneasy. It’s the way people who make me feel uneasy are jumping on the anti-anti-Semitism bandwagon.

In a statement, the American Studies Association (ASA) said that it “strongly reproves the recent wave of attacks on synagogues, mosques, and religious community centers in North America and on the Jewish and Islamic people using those institutions.” The ASA, of course, is widely known not for “reproving” anti-Semitism but for quite the opposite, a widely condemned resolution boycotting Israeli academics—a singling-out of the Jewish state [in lockstep with] the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. . . . [I]t’s possible . . . the ASA [is] just bubbling over with empathy for the Jewish community. . . . It’s also possible that [it and others showing sudden concern] are cynically exploiting the wave of anti-Semitism as political cover for their BDS advocacy. I lean toward the latter theory. It’s a bit like “Jew-washing”—the use of Jewish supporters in anti-Israel agitation—except that in this instance the Jews are safely dead.

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More about: American Studies Association, Anti-Semitism, BDS, Donald Trump, Jewish World, Mainstream Media, New York Times

 

The U.S. Must Maintain the Kurdish Enclave in Eastern Syria

Aug. 16 2018

Presently only two rebel enclaves remain in Syria, and both are dependent on outside powers: one in the northwest, under Turkish control, and an area in the east controlled by the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Only by continuing its support for the latter can America prevent Iranian domination of Syria, writes Jonathan Spyer. Officials in Washington have made various statements suggesting that the White House has no intention of ceding the country to Iran, but haven’t clarified what this means in practice:

Actions . . . are a better guide than sentiments. And it appears that the SDF leaders remain skeptical regarding America’s long-term plans. Last week, the first direct negotiations took place between their representatives and those of the Assad regime, in Damascus.

It is not quite clear where things are heading. But Israel’s interest in this is clear. Maintenance of the east Syrian enclave and the [U.S.] base in Tanf means keeping a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian hope for a contiguous corridor [connecting it to Lebanon via Syria and Iraq]. It would also prevent an overall Iranian triumph in the war and give the West a place at the table in any substantive political negotiation over Syria’s future. . . .

Specifically, efforts should be made to ensure a formal U.S. declaration of a no-fly zone for regime and regime-allied aircraft east of the Euphrates. This move, reminiscent of the no-fly zone declared over Iraqi Kurdistan after the Gulf War of 1991, would with one stroke ensure the continued viability of the SDF-controlled area. There should also be a formal recognition of the SDF zone, or the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria,” as it is formally known. This entity is not seeking independence from Damascus, so Western concerns regarding the formal breakup of Syria need not be raised by such a move.

As the strategic contest between Iran and its allies and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East moves into high gear, it is essential that the West maintain its alliances and investments and behaves, and is seen to behave, as a credible and loyal patron and ally.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Kurds, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy