The Hanukkah holiday brought a frightening reminder of the upsurge in violent anti-Semitic attacks. The stabbing attack that wounded five at an Orthodox rabbi’s home in Rockland County, N.Y., was far from an isolated event. The perpetrator was charged with attempted murder and federal hate crimes. The Post reported:
“Even before Monday’s charges brought a potential motive into focus, many officials and community leaders had denounced anti-Semitism and expressed concern about a spate of attacks on Jewish residents. Saturday’s stabbing was the 13th anti-Semitic incident in three weeks in New York state, the governor said, calling the Monsey stabbing ’domestic terrorism.’ Earlier this month, four people were fatally shot in what officials called a targeted attack on a Jersey City kosher grocery store.”
It is no surprise that in an era in which white nationalism is on the rise, the attorney general advocates for a theocratic state, the president echoes “replacement” theology, and politicians on both sides of the aisle tweet and retweet anti-Semitic memes, violent anti-Semites now feel emboldened. The attack was roundly condemned by politicians on both sides, including President Trump — who repeatedly has fanned anti-Semitic tropes — and the Democratic presidential contenders.
Nevertheless, it was left to the only Jewish presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to make a public and personal showing of defiance. (“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had relatives killed by Nazis during the Holocaust, responded Sunday to the latest incident of anti-Semitic terror by wearing a kippah and lifting a blowtorch to light a public menorah on the final night of Hanukkah,” The Post reported. “And less than 24 hours after an intruder stabbed five Hasidic Jews at a rabbi’s home in New York, the Democratic presidential candidate delivered an urgent speech on a frigid evening in Des Moines decrying recent attacks against Jews and other minorities.”)
It is not enough for the same leaders and politicians, mostly in New York, New Jersey and other environs with large Jewish populations, to speak up. It is not enough to raise the issue only after a horrific attack. It requires a uniform and immediate response from Republicans when the president goes on his next anti-Semitic jag, and when Trump and other Republicans accuse the entire Democratic Party of being anti-Jewish. Republicans who defend and rationalize Trump’s anti-Semitic attacks, citing his positions on Israel, are part of the problem, and must take responsibility for the president’s white nationalist rhetoric as well as his refusal to take domestic terrorism seriously.
It requires a uniform and immediate response from progressives when Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party’s indulgence of anti-Semitism has managed to convince 87 percent of British Jews that Corbyn is an anti-Semite. When even a backbencher Democratic lawmaker resorts to anti-Semitic rhetoric. And when BDS defenders make specious arguments denying the movement’s anti-Semitic foundation.
The second unpleasant trend carrying over from the last decade is the collapse of U.S. credibility in the Middle East. In a written statement condemning the Iranian-backed militia attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) declared in a written statement released on Tuesday, “While the Trump Administration has touted its maximum pressure campaign against Iran, the results so far have been more threats against international commerce, emboldened and more violent proxy attacks across the Middle East, and now, the death of an American citizen in Iraq.”
It is frankly pathetic that administration officials in charge of Iran policy, the very ones who touted the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and who defend Trump’s incoherent approach to Syria, still blame former president Barack Obama (!). This recent performance by Brian Hook, special representative on Iran, on PBS’s NewsHour was downright pathetic:
Nick Schifrin: Brian, you just mentioned deterrence, but Iran shot down a U.S. drone earlier this year and attacked an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, and there was no U.S. military response after those two incidents.Have you been worried that Iran feels that it could get away with these attacks?Brian Hook: Well, what we saw was an erosion of deterrence for the many years preceding the president’s election three years ago. What we have done is, we have now sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and entities as part of the Iranian regime. We’re trying to restore deterrence. We’re trying to reverse the gains made by the Iranian regime over the last many years. Iran today faces its worst financial crisis and its worst political unrest in its 40-year history. But if we’re attacked, then we’re going to respond, as the president did yesterday.Nick Schifrin: But I know that you want to talk ability deterrence after the Iran nuclear deal a few years ago, but the deterrence over the last few months, I have heard from military officials fearing that that deterrence has been lost. Do you worry that that deterrence, that the fact that Iran felt it could get away with these attacks, do you feel like that was happening because the U.S. wasn’t responding to previous attacks?Brian Hook: Well, I think we did respond. We certainly increased the number of sanctions on the regime. We enhanced our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. We also put more troops in the region. We removed the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group. So we did a number of things.But during that same period of time, the president and Secretary Pompeo made clear that we will use military force if we are attacked. And that happened then a few days ago. The president, as I said, has shown a great deal of restraint, because the last thing America is looking for is another conflict in the Middle East.
And none of that has worked. (Recall how incensed Republicans were when Obama administration defenders continued to blame the Bush 43 team for the conflagration that followed removal of troops in 2011, two years after Bush left office.) The policy of unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), maximum pressure without a willingness to use force when challenged, and ceding Syria to Iran and Russia have increased violence and instability — and decreased U.S. influence. We are now free game for tin-pot dictators and jihadist mobs. Republican self-described hawks who would be screaming for a national security team shake-up and rethinking of U.S. policy instead circle the wagons around an impulsive and ignorant president. It will take a responsible Congress, a new president and a legion of dedicated civilian and military officials to find a road to repair U.S. prestige and influence.
Both at home and abroad, then, there are dark trends that demand our serious attention. Whether we can rise to the occasion collectively, regardless of partisan loyalties, to address them will greatly influence whether we are able to put a dismal chapter in U.S. history behind us.