The rising tide of anti-Semitism that has spread from the Middle East to Europe and which seeks to establish a stronger foothold on American shores is a source of concern to many in both the Jewish and general community. But before one can do something about it, you’ve got to be willing to understand what is the factor that is fueling the fires of hatred. The Koret Foundation, a San Francisco-based philanthropy, is doing just that with a new initiative to combat anti-Semitism that is focused on addressing the anti-Israel incitement that is increasingly tolerated and even supported by those who would never openly espouse hatred of Jews.
This initiative is backed up by an initial investment of $5 million in grants to groups that seek to push back against the false narrative that has sought to brand Israel as an apartheid state that deserves to be isolated. Efforts to boycott Israel and its products and other activities that are often centered on college campuses aren’t merely annoyances for supporters of the Jewish state. They are directly linked to acts of anti-Semitism that have risen in the last decade in the United States and to a trend in which Jewish students are intimidated or even assaulted by pro-Palestinian teachers and students. By funding programs that will both assist students and bolster efforts to tell Israel’s side of the story, Koret will be going to the heart of the problem rather than merely adding to the flow of rhetoric about the issue which is par for the course in the Jewish community.
To speak of anti-Semitism today without understanding that much of the rhetoric and activism used to attack Israel is merely thinly veiled Jew-hatred is to misunderstand the situation faced by Jews today. The notion that one can theoretically oppose Israel without being an anti-Semite is beside the point. Anti-Zionism or anti-Israelis is the main expression of Jew-hatred in our world today. Those who deny Israel the same right of existence and self-defense that is not contested for any other country in the world are endorsing prejudice. This form of bias is not benign as it not only seeks to support violence against Israel but it leads inevitably to expressions of anti-Semitism here as well. Any program that seeks to fight anti-Semitism that is not primarily focused on the attacks on Israel and Zionism is largely a waste of time.
The Koret grants will target five areas for maximum impact: on-campus advocacy, pro-Israel thought leadership, legal and policy strategies, media monitoring and the highlighting of Israeli contributions to the world. That will enable groups such as BlueStar PR, which works with students to teach them about Israel and enable them to make its case when confronted with attacks; the Institute for Jewish Community Research which has played a key role in uncovering the truth about anti-Semitism in academia and MEMRI, the vital source of translations of Arab media that enables us to understand the source of many of the anti-Semitic canards thrown at Israel and Jews; and other organizations that address these concerns to continue their vital work.
This boost for pro-Israel advocacy and accountability for Jew-haters is exactly what is needed. It is to be hoped that Koret’s efforts will not only continue but that its example will be emulated by the rest of the organized Jewish world.