A terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria that appeared to target Jewish people should wake people up to the reality of antisemitism.
On Monday, a shooting took place in Vienna, Austria. The attack began near Vienna's main synagogue and it was determined the Jewish population was at particular risk. Authorities asked citizens to remove their Kippurs and any other items that identified them as Jewish. Five people were killed and over 20 others were wounded, with many in life-threatening condition.
Three men were praised in Turkey's Vienna Embassy for their life-saving efforts to assist the victims. Recep Gultekin, Mikail Özen, and Osama Joda were among the heroes who bravely risked their own lives to help others. Kujtim Fejzulai, 20, was shot and killed by police, along with more than a dozen arrests. Fejzulai was recorded killing people on CCTV footage and reportedly had plans to join ISIS. This previously led to his imprisonment, which he was released from in December of last year. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack.
It is clear to me that this terrorist attack targeted Jewish people. An outpouring of sympathetic messages flooded social media, although there wasn't nearly enough compared to previous shootings and attacks. One can't help but wonder why. Is it because we've seen so many attacks that we've become desensitized? Is it because people don't prioritize condemning antisemitism the way they condemn other forms of bigotry?
The attack in Vienna shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. That is unless people haven't been paying attention. In France, there have been many antisemitic attacks reported this year. A 29-year-old Jewish man was attacked in a Paris apartment building. A kosher restaurant in Paris was vandalized with antisemitic slurs and imagery. In New York, attacks toward Jewish people have seen a frightening spike. This year alone, a Jewish man was attacked in broad daylight in Brooklyn and antisemitic graffiti was spotted in Crown Heights.
Antisemitism is something everyone needs to be educated on. If you're unfamiliar with Jewish history, the tropes that come with antisemitism, and why they're harmful, there's no better time to learn than now. Some of the most damaging forms of antisemitism come from a lack of education. The ignorance many posses allows the bigotry to slip through the cracks and spread. It doesn't just exist in the streets among regular citizens, even celebrities are targeted.
When Gal Gadot was announced as the actress who landed the upcoming role of Cleopatra, there was a backlash online. Many "liberal" social media users claimed Gadot being cast was a way of whitewashing the story of the queen of Egypt. Even though Cleopatra's nationality and ethnicity are contested, this was a position many held. Many historians believe Cleopatra was of Greek descent. It's worth noting that several actresses these people suggested as possible replacements were neither Greek nor Egyptian.
It was clear to me that the issue was with Gadot's Israeli and Jewish background. When your own recommendations go against your very point, there's no other way of looking at it. The only people doing the whitewashing were the critics of Gadot being cast. They were whitewashing her Jewish and Israeli background by painting her as just another privileged white person.
It's the same reasoning I saw many giving on Twitter after the Vienna attack — in an attempt to undermine the significance of it.
One user even claimed we shouldn't speak against the attack because it would just trigger Islamophobia. The argument being that Jewish people are just "privileged white" people and antisemitism isn't systematic. I personally believe one can stand up against bigotry of any kind, whether they're directed at Muslims or Jewish people.
Yet, it's not just the movie-watching, the music-streaming public who makes their antisemitic views known. Celebrities with influence and reach spread antisemitism as well, knowingly or not. Nick Cannon generated controversy this year when he spouted antisemitic statements on his podcast. Cannon has since apologized and did a lot to educate himself to fix the error of his ways.
Ice Cube, however, didn't receive the same level of backlash when he posted antisemitic cartoons to his Twitter. Diddy broadcast a speech by antisemite Louis Farrakhan on his network and Madonna shared a clip of Farrakhan on her Instagram. Dua Lipa even said Jewish people in Israel were "fake Jews" on her Instagram. None of them were called out either.
And it's not just in the realm of pop culture. Antisemitism is alive and well in politics too. What has become clear is that many voters are oblivious to the antisemitism that exists in their favorite candidates. Much of this comes from pure ignorance. It's the result of being uneducated on Jewish issues. We expect antisemitism to rear its ugly head in conservative spaces. The white supremacy that has been catered to in recent years isn't friendly to Jewish people.
As much as some Twitter users try and claim Jewish people are "privileged white people," this is the reality.
However, antisemitism has its way of sneaking into otherwise progressive spaces as well. Remember the Black Lives Matter Carrd link that everybody has in their social media bios? Well, if you scroll down to the bottom, you'll find a link that says "Free Palestine." If you click on that link, it will take you to a page about what is supposedly going on in the Palestinian territories. It claims that Israel is committing war crimes against the Palestinian people and taking their human rights away.
To the uneducated eye, this wouldn't strike one as odd. After all, it claims to be standing up for human rights. So what's the problem? The problem is that is removes the context of war and tells a misleading side of a story. It also includes a link to support an organization called BDS, which stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. I and many others find this group notoriously antisemitic. Their goal is to get Israeli businesses boycotted in America due to what they call a violation of Palestinian human rights.
Now, legitimate criticism of the Israeli government isn't antisemitic. There are Israelis who criticize their government's decisions all the time. However, I find that BDS is so ruthlessly antisemitic, it's a wonder they still haven't been classified as a hate group. Their so-called "criticism" of Israel has failed the "three D's of antisemitism" test. This is a test to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism. According to the test, if you delegitimize Israel, demonize Israel, and hold Israel to double standards, you've crossed the line into antisemitism.
BDS has done all three. They don't support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. They don't support a two-state solution. They have said many times they want Israel wiped off the map. They have said they only want one state, Palestine. They have links to known terrorists. When they're not ignoring Israel's attempts at peace with Palestinians, they're rejecting Israel's peace deals with their neighbors. BDS also hurts Palestinians, the very people they claim to help. In 2016, over 500 Palestinians lost their jobs at SodaStream, an Israeli company. This was the result of pressure from groups like BDS.
BDS also perpetuates the lie that Israel is an "apartheid state," when there are plenty of Arab people who live there. The fact that Palestinians and Israelis work side-by-side in Israel and the West Bank also proves them wrong. It makes their move to end these working relationships even more confusing.
These are all facts that one wouldn't catch when being introduced to this subject from the perspective of BDS. The BDS website claims they don't call for a one-state or two-state solution, which I find extremely telling of their motives. Why would anyone call for anything other than a two-state solution if their goal was peace? The answer is very simple to me: BDS doesn't want peace. And no amount of Jewish members will make them any less antisemitic. This is like the line, "I have Black friends." Tokenism is racism.
This is how antisemitism spreads. In May, Congregation Beth-Israel, a synagogue in Los Angeles, was vandalized with graffiti. The graffiti read, "free Palestine" and "fuck Israel." One might share the Black Lives Matter Carrd link without thinking anything of it. However, there are some real consequences to this kind of ignorance. This is what leads to people engaging in antisemitic activity without even realizing it. This is how antisemitism becomes normalized.
And let's be clear, there are ways to support a necessary movement like Black Lives Matter without verging into anti-Semitic territory.
Another thing to make very clear is, when it comes to politics, antisemitism exists on both the left and the right. Democrat Rashida Tlaib has been criticized for describing a "calming feeling" when thinking about the Holocaust. She went on to describe her...
"... ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, human dignity, their existence in many ways has been wiped out … in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews." — Rashida Tlaib
It sounded to me like she was "calmed" by the idea of Jewish people dying in the Holocaust because of their return to Israel following World War II. Tlaib has claimed this wasn't the case, but it comes across as one of the most violently passive-aggressive displays of antisemitism on record.
AOC and Ilhan Omar have written or co-sponsored legislation that supports boycotts like the ones called for by the BDS movement, a fact I think not many people are aware of. Omar has also used antisemitic tropes in her criticism of Israel. To many liberals, they're the picture-perfect examples of wokeness and progressive values. I see people getting a kick out of their relatability when playing "Among Us" on Twitch. I see people idolize and glamorize AOC by putting her on the cover of Vanity Fair.
To my disappointment, these three antisemitic members of "the squad" were re-elected to their respective positions on Election Day.
There is a problem when it comes to this lack of awareness. Many people are hoping AOC will become president one day. I, for one, don't want to see her as president until her views on Israel evolve. Otherwise, I believe she will be very bad for the Jewish community. However, when hearing about her refusal to meet with Zionist Jewish Rabbis, my faith in that evolution is practically nonexistent.
I feel about the Jewish community the same way other liberals feel about the Black and LGBTQ communities. If a candidate is bad for this community, that is a dealbreaker for me.
But, again, antisemitism exists on the right as well. Donald Trump has spouted antisemitic tropes in the past. Even though he has done great things for Israel, I think he sees Jewish people as a political tool. Many Republicans use antisemitism this way. Just like the left elected AOC, Omar, and Tlaib, the right made its own share of mistakes this election. They elected Taylor Greene, who expressed a belief in the antisemitic "QAnon" conspiracy theory.
When it comes to antisemitism, we must be educated about how it spreads. We must then be extra aware of the world around us. We must pay attention to the message influential public figures are sending. We must be aware of the politicians we vote for and whether we consider such hate a priority. We must also call out antisemitism when we see it and hold others accountable. Education must come before cancellation, but one must be open to such a discussion.
If we follow all these steps very closely, we could live to see a world where antisemitism is nowhere near the norm. I hope I live to see that world.