Guest columnist Jeffrey Gold: A more nuanced look at anti-Semitism is in order

Published: 9/18/2020 1:54:06 PM
Modified: 9/18/2020 1:53:55 PM

Jay Fleitman’s recent letter to the editor (Sept. 14) attacking Joe Biden’s visit to Jacob Blake Sr. because Mr. Blake is reportedly an avowed anti-Semite, and then going on to praise Donald Trump’s policies for the African American community, is a sad case of selective attention.

Mr. Fleitman has, of course, every right to express his beliefs. But a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to questions of anti-Semitism and racism is in order.

First is the fact that one set of wrongs does not automatically cancel out another. Mr. Fleitman seems to be arguing that if Mr. Blake holds anti-Semitic beliefs, this automatically cancels out the suffering that he has experienced when his son was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police. Therefore, he deserves no empathy.

By extension, Mr Fleitman gives little to no credence to the greater context in which this shooting happened, that is, the increasing awareness our society is experiencing concerning police shootings, murders and harassment of unarmed African Americans, and the role police departments have historically played in African American communities.

If Mr. Blake Sr. holds antiSemitic views, that should be confronted appropriately, just like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jemele Hill, Zach Tanner and others responded to DeSean Jackson, Nick Cannon and Stephen Jackson.

But such appropriate confrontation does not eliminate the pain of having your son shot in the back by police. Mr. Fleitman then goes on to proclaim Trump’s beneficence to the African American community as a whole through our “once-great” economy and other policies, mimicking Trump’s “I’ve been the greatest president to African Americans since Abraham Lincoln” nonsense.

If Mr. Fleitman genuinely wanted to examine issues of contemporary anti-Semitism and racism in our culture, why did he not mention Charlottesville and Trump’s “good people” response, the murder of African American churchgoers and the Tree of Life murders as incidents of white supremacy and white nationalism (ideologies which Trump has certainly encouraged), or the incredibly harmful immigration policies he has implemented? And what about Trump’s handling of COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on communities of color?

Mr. Fleitman remains silent. Finally, and even more recently, Mr. Fleitman does not mention Trump’s racist tropes regarding “law and order” and the destruction of the “white suburbs” as part of his reelection campaign strategy to create fear and chaos. Anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise in this country and are a product of white nationalist ideology.

Fleitman’s criticism of Joe Biden’s visit to the Blake family — without an understanding of this greater context — is an effort to drive a wedge between African Americans and Jews and only serves one purpose: to reinforce white nationalist ideology.

Both communities need to internally assess their thinking regarding anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism in their respective communities, and that is something which is in fact occurring. Both communities have common interests in identifying the rise of white nationalism in our midst. Mr Fleitman would do well to do the same.

Jeffrey W. Gold lives in Pelham.

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