Last week, a bit of controversy erupted over an anti-Semitic cartoon posted by Benjamin Netanyahu’s adult son on Twitter; apparently, he had misread it as mocking George Soros’s person rather than using the financier as a stand-in for an international Jewish conspiracy. Jewish reactions to the incident, as Shmuel Rosner writes, bring into sharp contrast the divergent perceptions of anti-Semitism in Israel and the United States:
Because of Israel’s circumstances and assumptions, Israeli Jews haven’t developed the same sensitivity and ear for anti-Semitism that Jews elsewhere have. . . . The younger Netanyahu hasn’t yet explained himself, but I have no doubt that he’s not an anti-Semite. . . .
Since the only anti-Semitism Israelis understand is one of violence, blood, and brutal intimidation, it is hard for many of them to appreciate [many American Jews’] panic over, [for instance], a few hundred marchers [in Charlottesville] and the ineloquent condemnation of [them by] the president. Since the only remedy for anti-Semitism they know is a Jewish state (and its Jewish army), it is hard for many of them to appreciate fears about anti-Semitism that are not followed by immigration to Israel.
But most of all, what should Israel do? Just consider some of the options. Assist American Jews in some material way? They seem to be doing fine. In fact, they seem to feel confident enough to fight their own fight. Any attempt by Israel to intervene in this crisis would suggest that the Jews of America are not as integrated as they claim to be.
Join the chorus of condemnation? Israel doesn’t need to prove that it dislikes neo-Nazis. But as a country, it has other interests. First and foremost is its need for good relations with the American administration—the same administration that many American Jews blame for the crisis. Moreover, Israel has an aversion to leftist radicals like the ones who clashed with the white supremacists in Charlottesville because many of these radicals are associated with groups highly critical of Israel’s policies, who often support boycott of Israel—a stance that most Israelis believe is as anti-Semitic as the anti-Semitism of the right. . . .
The only thing that Israel can really offer in response to anti-Semitism is something tried and true: its existence.