Naomi Shulman: Why publish an anti-Semitic letter?

Published: 9/17/2020 4:50:59 PM

I’d like to acknowledge Mary H. Hall for writing the most anti-Semitic letter I’ve seen in this paper (“Responding to Fleitman,” Sept. 16). She was responding to Jay Fleitman, who objected to Joe Biden’s visit with Jacob Blake Sr.

Dr. Fleitman quoted antiSemitic comments that have been attributed to Mr. Blake. I pretty much never agree with Dr. Fleitman’s positions and this was no exception. But Ms. Hall’s rebuttal to Dr. Fleitman — now, that was something else. Ms. Hall’s letter is impressive in how much classic anti-Semitic ground it covers.

She victim-blames, suggesting the comments in question are simply “exhibiting unhappiness with Jewish behavior.” She then begins conflating Jews with Israelis — who themselves are not a monolith — and does so for the rest of her letter. She refers to a shady “Zionist project,” saying that “Jews” are “proceeding in ways that I cannot defend.” (Nothing in Dr. Fleitman’s letter had a single thing to do with Israel.)

She comments on our “differentness” and snarkily refers to “the chosen people.” And then: “I would encourage him to move his cohort toward behaviors that people like me may find supportable.” His cohort? Again, she is not talking about Israelis — citizens of a country whose government is acting in ways she finds objectionable. (By the way, that could describe Americans, too.)

She’s talking about all Jews, everywhere, as if we are responsible for the elected officials of a country where we do not live and have no vote. Ms. Hall’s words are harmful. To quote the ADL, “Words or actions related to Israel are anti-Semitic when they blame all Jews for the action of the state.”

It is roughly the same thing as blaming Jews for killing Jesus, which was the reasoning behind centuries of European persecution of Jews. In a time when an increasing number of Americans are held in the thrall of QAnon, which is a reworking of the ancient blood libel against Jews, and on the same day that our president accused Jewish Americans of having dual loyalties, that the Gazette would publish an antiSemitic letter like this is truly disappointing.

NAOMI SHULMAN

Northampton




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