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It was just reported late last month that incidents of antisemitism in the United States rose this year by 34% to record highs, continuing a dangerous upward spiral. The numbers, released on April 26, come as no surprise to American Jews, whether they are students on college campuses, observers of anti-Semitic demonstrations or victims of violent attacks in many cases assaulted by thugs solely because they look Jewish. 

As I observed this growing trend from afar while serving as the United States ambassador to Israel, I became increasingly disturbed for my family, for my faith and for my country.

America is a great nation because of the Judeo-Christian values upon which it was founded. An American nation that is inhospitable to Jews is no longer a great nation. 

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Antisemitism thus poses an existential risk to our country. The question is, what do we do about it?

Much has been said about this problem and many well-intended solutions have been advanced. But most ideas do little more than replicate the failed policies of the past. NGOs dedicated to fighting antisemitism have been around for more than a century. 

David Friedman served as the United States Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021. 

(Courtesy David Friedman)

Although it is painful to say, we must acknowledge that they have not succeeded in their assigned task. We must step up our efforts to confront and defeat antisemites rather than trying to win their “hearts and minds.” Antisemites dont have “hearts and minds” and certainly not both. 

Some experts posit that misperceptions of Israel and its policies are the root cause of the rise in antisemitism and push for greater education on Israel and the risks it faces from its enemies. 

Efforts to counter anti-Israel slander are important, but the challenge is daunting.  Virtually every American university is hostile to Israel and no pro-Israel professor has a chance for tenure. 

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At the highest levels of American education, our “best and brightest” are taught to hate Israel. We should continue to make the case for Israel at every opportunity but we must recognize that we are swimming upstream.

It’s time to stop treating the fight against antisemitism as a civilized debate, as to which we must advance the winning argument. We dont need to persuade antisemites, we need to defeat them! 

And then there are those who dont even try to defend Israel they just throw up their hands in defeat, arguing that we must cut loose anti-Israel sentiment from the definition of antisemitism in other words, condone anti-Zionism as the price for leaving American Jews alone. 

Its a shameful approach, but its becoming more prevalent.

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Those combatting antisemitism are mostly engaged in defensive tactics that betray the fear and insecurity that has been the hallmark of the American Jewish community. We will not defeat antisemitism by only playing defense any more than we could win a basketball game with that strategy. 

Its time to go on offense. Here are some initiatives I would welcome:

1. Demand that anti-Semites be held accountable. Step up law enforcement. Those engaged in violence or conspiracies to commit violence must be tracked, captured and prosecuted. 

Keep them off the streets. And insist on a robust, well-publicized presence of undercover officers to patrol the streets dressed in traditional Jewish garb. 

Let every violent thug wonder when he attacks a Jew whether he might by attacking a cop. 

2. Demand equal rights for Jews. Jews have assimilated well into America and thankfully, many do not yet feel threatened. But that is cold comfort: Jews remain a minority, subject to oppression and discrimination, and unchecked antisemitism ultimately affects everyone. 

Unfortunately, Jews are nearly unique among minorities in not standing up for themselves. I have not seen the kind of public outcry from the Jewish community that the dire circumstances require. I encourage leaders to organize large protests that have well served oppressed minorities in the past.   

3 .Stand with Israel. End the lame appeasement of antisemites by trying to bifurcate Zionism and Judaism. It cant be done. 

All three major streams of Judaism Orthodox, Conservative and Reform contain prayers within their respective liturgies for God to restore the Jewish people to Zion (a synonym for Jerusalem) and the Land of Israel.

Zionism is an integral component of the Jewish faith. While 42% of the nations of the world have an official or preferred religion, only Israel the one and only Jewish state is singled out for attack, even though it meticulously strives to ensure access of all faiths to their holy sites. 

It is high time for those fighting antisemitism to stop making unnecessary excuses for Israel and unapologetically support the Jewish State!  

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4. Exercise Power.  Its also time to boycott the boycotters. Last week the Harvard Crimson, one of Americas oldest and most respected college newspapers, abruptly announced its support for anti-Israel boycotts, proving once again that high SAT scores are not indicative of high intelligence. In doing so, these misguided students followed in lockstep in the footsteps of others, accepting the arguments of some of the most antisemitic organizations on campus. 

One day, these folks will have to abandon the protection of the Ivory Tower and go out and get a job. When they do, I hope their employers ask them where they stand on anti-Israel boycotts. And when they respond, I hope they are shown the door in the same manner as those employers properly would refuse to hire any racist or fool. 

It’s time to stop treating the fight against antisemitism as a civilized debate, as to which we must advance the winning argument. We dont need to persuade antisemites, we need to defeat them! 

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America cannot be great and be antisemitic. America cannot prosper if it is antisemitic. And America will not be blessed if it is antisemitic. 

We must fight antisemitism aggressively playing offense, not just defense — to keep our country the greatest nation on earth and the last best hope for humankind.