Jews, time for a change in strategy

Simply calling out antisemites for who they are just doesn’t do it anymore and writing about it on social media is not enough either.

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

OpEds Thousands of Christian Evangelists in Jerusalem, October 17, 2019
Thousands of Christian Evangelists in Jerusalem, October 17, 2019
צילום: PR
The recent rise of antisemitism means what we were doing didn’t work. We need to change our strategy. The fact that someone like Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders could rise to the highest spot in their party uninterrupted, or that House Democrats could not bring themselves to condemn the virulent anti-Semitism coming from Ilhan Omar and friends, all point to the fact that everything has changed.

When everything changes, we need to adapt to new circumstances.

Calling out antisemites for who they are just doesn’t do it anymore. Showing a candidate’s affinity to terrorist organizations did not hurt Corbyn before the general election, and we can’t expect it do be different elsewhere. We can’t just wait around for extremists to disappear or for the rules of the game to change.

And so, here are some new strategies for the new year:

Primaries, primaries, primaries - Do you see a party going in the wrong direction? Join it. Allowing a racist, pro-terrorist antisemite to just take over the party is an thinkable mistake. Driving Jews out of the party makes the takeover so much easier. Jews leaving the Democrat or Republican party in the U.S. because of antisemitism trickling in would be making a grave mistake. Extremists want all the moderates to leave the party, so they can take over and do as they wish. I hear too many people saying:” I am leaving the Democrat/ Republican party! The extremism is just too much!”

Stay in whatever party you are in, and make sure you vote in the primaries. There are national primaries that are won by only hundreds of voices. There is no reason that every single Jew should not be voting in every possible primary. From your neighborhood board to presidential primaries: Jews must vote. Jews must make sure that terrorist sympathizers like Jeremy Corbyn find themselves out of a job. It’s all about the primaries.

If at the end of the day, the list includes antisemites, you can show your protest in the actual elections.

Unite - When the three major Jewish newspapers in the UK published a united opinion on the danger of Corbyn, the message was heard loud and clear. This is a great example of how internal unity helps Jews become better prepared to face external threats. The flipside of this is also true. We must not spend too much time on internal conflicts when facing antisemitism. Sure, there are some Jews who advocate for BDS or for antisemites and that is very frustrating, but infighting has never made the Jewish people stronger. Seeing Jews saying Kaddish for members of Hamas hurts and makes our hearts bleed. One should try to convince them they are wrong, but is it worth a great deal of public infighting? Probably not.

Be Gracious - There will be people along the way that are true friends. Let us not question them or give them a hard time. The most obvious example is the Christian Zionists. All too often I hear people say:” they are only our friends because they want to see us die or convert in Armageddon.” Such a rejection of friendship and comradeship is morally, practically, and theologically flawed. When someone does the right thing, we need not question them.

Seeing Jews saying Kaddish for members of Hamas hurts and makes our hearts bleed. One should try to convince them they are wrong, but is it worth a great deal of public infighting? Probably not.
Recognize uncharted friendship - No matter how bad things get, there are billions of people in the world, not just in the West, but also in China and India, who are not contaminated by the toxic fumes of antisemitism. Recognize that. Build up, encourage those friendships. Not because it is convenient, but because there are really good people our there. All too often we spend great resources on winning over enemies. It’s time to drop that. Life is too short. There are amazing people out there. Build those relationships instead.

Be effective - If you see an act of hate and antisemitism, don’t just rant about it on your Facebook page or Twitter. Find out where the offender lives, what circles they are in and let their opinions be known there. This is what several on-campus Jewish organizations did when professors felt they could make libelous claims about Israel and Jews without scrutiny. The organizations  empowered students to take those views and showcase them to the broader community and to the University administrations. Don’t let any instance of hate and discrimination go quietly. Make sure that those who advocate hate are held accountable. 

Let’s make sure a group of very capable, smart, strategic, and determined Jews will be there to confront anyone who seeks our destruction - and make decency prevail.