Today’s tragic shooting in Kansas City doesn’t mean that the United States has become unsafe for Jews. The person arrested for the incident at the Jewish Community Center campus in Johnson County, Kansas which left three dead allegedly yelled “Heil Hitler” and sought to inquire if his victims were Jewish. Only the tiniest minority of Americans shares such hatred. Unlike attacks on Jews in Europe where a rising tide of anti-Semitism has called the viability of Jewish life there into question, even a shocking event such as this one doesn’t change the fact that Jew hatred remains a marginal phenomenon on these shores. American society has embraced Jews in every possible way. But however much we should resist the temptation to draw broad conclusions from the acts of what may be a lone madman, it is a reminder that anti-Semitic violence remains the most common form of religious-based hate crime committed in this country.
While much of our chattering classes remain obsessed with the fear of Islamophobia and are determined to keep alive the myth of a post 9/11 backlash against American Muslims, FBI hate crime statistics continue to show that anti-Jewish attacks outnumber those directed at Muslims by a huge margin. In every year since 9/11, the numbers show that attacks on Muslims are far less frequent than those on Jews. This is especially important to remember not just because of the sad violence in Kansas City but because so much of the media and other institutions are so heavily invested in the myths about Islamophobia while not taking strong stands against non-violent forms of anti-Semitism, such as the movement to wage economic warfare against the State of Israel.
Sadly, even institutions such as Brandeis University, which has strong ties to the Jewish community, remain so sensitive to charges of hostility to Islam that they are afraid to honor a person like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has spoken out against Islamic oppression of women. But while worries about a non-existent wave of prejudice against Muslims are without basis, even in the United States those willing to express hostility to Jews and to, as the BDS movement has shown, subject their state to prejudicial treatment they would not inflict on any other religious or ethnic group, remains an unfortunate reality.
In her classic 1992 book If I Am Not For Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, Ruth Wisse wrote that anti-Semitism was “the 20th century’s most durable ideology” since it was employed by several movements including fascists, Nazis, and Communists and yet had survived and transcended those horrors to reassert itself in a new era. Today the greatest threat to the Jewish people comes not from stray neo-Nazis but from Islamist terror and a genocidal theocracy in Iran that seeks nuclear capability. But whether focused on the remnants of old threats or the peril from the new, Jew hatred remains an unfortunate fact of life. While the crime that took place in Kansas City should not distort our view of American society or cause us to forget that barriers to acceptance of Jews have been almost totally erased, it should serve as a reminder that Jew hatred is far from dead.