Monday, January 27, 2020

Fighting Anti-Semitism: An Interview With Jewish Leader Dov Hikind

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The Daily Wire conducted an email interview with New York City Jewish leader Dov Hikind, a former Democratic New York state assemblyman, founder of Americans Against Antisemitism, and prominent public-facing activist representing large swaths of New York’s Orthodox Jewish community. Just last month, President Trump called Hikind a “highly respected Jewish leader”:

What follows is a question-and-answer exchange about anti-Semitism — and how to fight it.

The Daily Wire (TDW): Anti-Semitism is, of course, the world’s oldest bigotry. But why has it been so on the rise over the past decade or so in Europe and now, it seems, in the U.S.?

Dov Hikind (DH): The answer is complex, as there are many factors involved. Though Europe and the U.S. are experiencing increased anti-Semitism, the sources aren’t exactly the same. In Europe, most physical attacks and verbal assaults are committed by Muslims — though there is also a resurgent far-Right. In America, nationally, it is primarily a white supremacy problem; but in the major cities, which happen to be areas with high concentration of Jews, it’s the far-Left and minority groups that are responsible for perpetuating anti-Semitism and justifying the violence committed in its name. But what they do have in common is that the rise happens because hatred is tolerated and anti-Semitism is back in vogue. Additionally, the cesspool of hatred that can be found on social media has no borders or political affiliations and serves to feed the growing hateful appetites on both sides of the Atlantic.

TDW: How much do you blame Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for the rise in anti-Semitism in New York and New York City, specifically?

DH: I’m not in the habit of blaming any single individual for a massive problem that predates their own existence. The governor and mayor did not create anti-Semitism and certainly don’t directly contribute to its rise. They are, however, responsible for reacting appropriately and swiftly to restore the sense of security that has been robbed of the Jewish community. And here, the onus is more on the mayor than the governor since it’s New York City that is far beyond out of control in comparison with any other city in America. That’s not a great distinction for New York to hold. So I don’t blame them for the rise, but they are to be held accountable for the lack of results on the ground.

TDW: To what extent have Mayor de Blasio’s constant attacks on police undermined the safety of Jews in New York City?

DH: That goes to the broader issue of policing and criminal justice that we’re seeing unfold now. There’s no doubt that when respect for law enforcement is undermined, so is respect for the law itself. Add to that the lack of consequences for violent anti-Semitic criminals, and there’s no doubt as to why there’s a lack of deterrence and the attacks continue unabated. The police of New York City are the best; they just need to be enabled to do their jobs with the dignity and respect they deserve. Strong policing ensures safe communities; they go hand in hand. It remains to be seen if these trends will be reversed or if they continue to deteriorate.

TDW: Why do so many Jews seem to not take self-defense seriously? Why is a fear of guns and gun ownership so seemingly popular among large swaths of the Jewish community?

DH: Two reasons: First, there is a notion that G-d protects every person, not guns — so if a person’s time comes, no gun will help. Second, there is a legitimate fear that in households filled with children, bringing in a lot of guns to a community that is not especially adjusted to it will only lead to accidents and tragedies that will be painfully regretted. Also, there’s a notion that the fighter, the one to take up arms, is not for every segment of the Jewish population. Some study and pray, some fight. I do think it’s important for every person, Jewish or not, to know how to defend oneself in this crazy and unpredictable world, but that’s a decision for each individual to make.

TDW: Why do so many people politicize anti-Semitism and weaponize it as a cudgel? Why do so many on the Left, in particular, only focus on white nationalist/neo-Nazi anti-Semitism and turn a blind eye to anti-Semitism from Islamists, so-called “anti-Zionists,” and black nationalists alike?

DH: Anti-Semitism has always been used as a cudgel. Rather, more precisely, Jews have always been used as political cudgel (in previous times, known as “the Jewish question/problem”). What it signifies is a certain decay and rot within society. When a society cannot face its decisions and actions, and instead seeks a scapegoat, the most available and returned to in history, are the Jews. Easy. Convenient. And it comes with an entire repertoire of “reasons” for hating Jews. Now, at this point in time, in America, it is the Left that has a major blind spot when it comes to anti-Semites in their ranks, and that’s because anti-Semites got so good at couching hateful rhetoric in the guise of humanitarian concern that they’ve lost sight of what they’re really promoting. Think of the morning Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) woke up to find that David Duke had tweeted in her support! A white supremacist neo-Nazi tweeting support for an African-American anti-Zionist anti-Semite! That’s the level of distortion and blindness at play in the current landscape that leads to such strange political bedfellows.

TDW: Is so-called “anti-Zionism” the same as anti-Semitism, pure and simple?

DH: Yes. Pure and simple. Why? Because can you find a similar movement that is “anti-China” over its detention of over 1,000,000 Uighur Muslims? Is there any anti-Syria movement over Bashar al-Assad’s committing genocide against his own people? The list goes on. The answer is no. There is only one movement of people that are mobilized to challenge the “right to exist” and sovereignty of a single nation on Earth, and that so happens to be the lone Jewish state. Anti-Zionism is simply one variation of anti-Semitism. It’s on the menu. You can hate Jews because we’re not white (neo-Nazis), because we’re white and share in its privilege (far-Left), or because we’re baby-killing, Zionist-colonialists who have absolutely no history in the land of Israel (radical Islamism). They can take their pick from the “hate du jour.”

TDW: What can be done to make Zionism and the pro-Israel cause palatable and popular again among the American and international Left?

DH: You know, traditionally this question gets an answer like, “we have to show how valuable Israel is to the world, how the start-up nation is innovating for the betterment of the world by bringing water and irrigation technologies to rain-deprived regions in Africa and being among the first to send rescue teams and humanitarian aid when natural disasters strike any country on earth.” But I’m personally sick of those answers because it implies that we need to constantly compete in some kind of warped popularity contest. Our deserving of equal rights and treatment on the global stage should not be tied to how wonderful Israel is. No. Let’s take Israel for no better than any other state, no more amazing — it would still be no less deserving of fair treatment! So I don’t think we can magically make Zionism and Israel more palatable, but more importantly, I don’t think that’s where our energies should go.

TDW: Why is Israel so unpopular on the American university campus? What can be done to counter growing anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment on the university campus?

DH: We know for a fact that a lot of money has been pouring into the American university system from terror-supporting states like Qatar, which bankrolls Hamas as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and its American subsidiary, CAIR. These benefactors are behind groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, which is single handedly responsible for creating a terribly toxic environment for Jewish students and faculty. Frankly, I don’t believe Jewish groups will ever invest the same resources in combating those efforts as the enemies of Israel do, but it goes back to high school education. When you peel that layer back and see what kind of Jewish education students have received prior to arriving on campus, it becomes clear that too many lack the basic and adequate knowledge to defend themselves against the malicious lies and libels that anti-Semitic student groups spread. If we can better educate our high school students, they’ll have a better chance at fighting back against anti-Semitism on university campuses.

TDW: What role does education play, exactly, in countering anti-Semitism? How can education about the Holocaust and Jewish history, in general, help counter the trend?

DH: Crucial. Central. It’s all about education. Hate is borne of ignorance. But the task is doubly as hard because it’s not only a matter of getting the right information to students, but working to counter all the lies and falsehoods that are perpetuated at astounding speed and frequency. The Holocaust is the central case study of anti-Semitism because it encapsulates from beginning to end what the dangers of unchecked anti-Semitism look like. What starts with hateful rhetoric can easily end in a genocide perpetrated by the most “cultured” and “civilized” of European societies, with a majority of its citizens partaking in the apparatus that annihilated six million Jews. No society is immune to the plague of anti-Semitism. However, those who choose ignorance and denial of the Holocaust rather than wrestling with its wrenching paradoxes are those most likely to repeat its darkest chapters.

TDW: What advice would you give to those who are trying to make a difference in their own lives, in terms of countering anti-Semitism?

DH: Action! Get involved with an organization, like Americans Against Antisemitism, that takes concrete steps to combat this hatred. Taking part gives the individual a sense of control, that we are not victims or pawns, that we will not be pushed around, but will stand up for our G-d-given rights. But individuals can do anything that works for them. For some, it’s being loud on social media; for others it’s hosting events and attending rallies. The point is for every individual to do his or her part, no matter how small or big, because our force is increased with unity. And to be clear, one need not be Jewish to take up the fight against anti-Semitism; the fight to eradicate this special and oldest of hatreds is quintessentially an American struggle for the right to live in freedom and pursue happiness.

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