The Four Rungs of Anti-Semitism

The public tolerance or acceptance of open Jew-hatred does not develop in an instant. An analysis of the descent into the abyss of anti-Semitism shows four distinct stages, or rungs. After the fourth is reached, there is very little room to go. That fourth rung was reached just a few days ago, and it is a significant milestone whose importance should not be ignored.

A very talented colleague of mine (non-Jewish, for the record) has been monitoring hatred of Jews and Israel for decades. As a perceptive observer, she has a keen eye for noticing patterns of behavior, and for reading between the lines to discover strategies of anti-Jewish groups.

Five years ago, she watched some internal discussion in the BDS world. The mainstream BDS position was to boycott Israel fully. Others, like Peter Beinart, argued for “smart BDS,” i.e. targeting only companies doing business in the settlements. Strangely, the BDS puppet masters did not resist the suggestion as strongly as expected. She began to suspect that they were OK with a more limited approach, because their intention was not to hurt Israel economically, but to keep up the conversation. In that public conversation, Israel would increasingly be painted in darker hues, until a generation would accept a new orthodoxy: that Israel was a colonialist, oppressor, apartheid state. Keep up the character assassination long enough, and it will become a woke truism. That certainly would hurt the Jewish state.

It would do more than that. She watched patterns, and in time formulated what she believed were four rungs of BDS coordinated anti-Semitism:

  • First RungBDS aimed at the settlements. Hey, it’s only the Occupation that is being protested, right?
  • Second Rung – BDS against Israel because it’s the State of Israel that is implementing the Occupation or apartheid or whatever crime it is that sticks to the wall. The Kairos Palestine Document, now accepted by a host of liberal Protestant denominations, is an example of this. It calls upon churches to conduct blanket BDS against Israel—Israeli academics, anyone doing business with Israel. 
  • Third RungBDS against Zionists, wherever they live, because they prop up a racist, colonizer state. This used to be really rare, even on campuses, but is becoming more and more the default position in places where the left holds sway. “Punch a Zionist” is one of the scariest manifestations of this level of BDS. Of course, the targets are “only” Zionists. Jews can be OK.
  • Fourth RungBDS against Jews. The assumption is that anything or anyone Jewish is Zionist and therefore subject to being scorned, ostracized, and boycotted, unless there is an explicit denunciation of Israel. 

Now, this Fourth Rung had been absent from civil society. There were hints of it in the BLM riots (vandalism of synagogues with “Free Palestine” graffiti, for example.) Beginning last May, we say trolling of Jewish neighborhoods in the UK and the US with Palestinian flag-festooned vehicles. Still, this was under the limited cover of protesting against Israel.

That has now changed. A few weeks ago, the DC chapter of Sunrise, a movement dedicated to environmental protection and extremely popular with young people, sought to bar Jews from participating in a planned rally. A short while ago, a resolution at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus makes it the policy of the student government – which controls funding to all student groups, and is financed by compulsory student fees – to refuse to “engage with organizations [and] services” that do not act in synch with the global BDS movement. This ban explicitly includes provisions against kosher food on campus, since providers “normalize Israeli apartheid.” Thus, the student government at the UT effectively declares all Jews presumptive enemies of humanity.

What microaggressions have kosher bagel bakers visited upon the Torontonian snowflakes? Elementary. Kosher catering is done by – gasp! – Jews. Jews, their thinking goes, overwhelmingly support Israel. Ergo, all Jews are evil, until they prove otherwise, such as declaring their distaste for the Jewish State.

It took many years for the world community to acknowledge that “anti-Zionist” was often used as a substitution for anti-Jewish. Indeed, the growing adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by governments around the world – including those of Canada and Ontario – is a welcome statement of that recognition, a positive development that should not be under-appreciated.

In the good old days, anti-Semites insisted that they had nothing against Jews – it was just Zionists they hated. [First Rung] The Toronto Stalinist resolution rips the mask off that screed, and shows the distance that would inevitably be traversed after that attitude was fully embraced on campus and by progressives. Now, all Jews are presumed to be colonialist apartheid supporters and oppressors unless they can convince the self-appointed gatekeepers of civil society otherwise. We’ve arrived at the Fourth Rung.

Where will anti-Semitism go now? Ideologically, it has gone as far as it can. The only next step, it would appear, is to turn its ideology into action.

The issue, then, is not whether campus authorities in Toronto use their influence to talk the student government figures into climbing down its tree. (Because the internet has a long memory, those students have already compromised their professional futures for the rest of their lives. It might be a good idea for them to relocate to Gaza.) That is largely irrelevant. What this episode, and the one with Sunrise, tell us is that a new chapter has opened in the age-old war against the Jews.

It is a chapter many of us thought would never be opened in America.

[This essay differs substantially from an earlier version in the Jerusalem Post.]

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29 Responses

  1. dr bill says:

    A part of me believes that the fourth rung is to varying degrees inherent in at least the second rung. Only political reality makes unwise to be disclosed. Maybe not all, but I fear either many or most.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    The fourth rung is unfortunately the logical progression for those committed to the element of the false deities of the woke agenda which focus obsessively and exclusively on the intersectional aspects of race gender and climate change .It is no secret that the heterodox and secular Jewish establishment have surrendered to the woke agenda The issue is how our communities should deal with this threat which is the AZ of our time For many aliyah is a real choice For others the issue is how to deal with such a toxic point of view that is present on college campuses and social media and increasingly in public school curricula

  3. Lacosta says:

    It is sad to mention such Jew traitors as Beinart, though we rely ultimately on our Father in Heaven, who will one day make an accounting of evil in the name of good. Moshe rabeinu most be slapping himself over the unending torment his Erev Rav continue to do. But ultimately, if amech Kulam tzadikim , then automatically the land would be ours

  4. Reb Yid says:

    Open Jew hatred?

    “Jews will not replace us?” Walking into a shul and killing Jews?

    That’s antisemitism, all right. It has transformed the nature of our Jewish institutions. Security and shomrim are now standard operating procedure.

    This is neo-Nazism. White nationalism. Domestic terrorism.

    That’s the all too obvious elephant in the room, the most virulent form of anti-Semitism.

    Ignore it at your own peril.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Who is out in the streets and engaging in acts of violence against Orthodox Jews , painting the Jewish community as privileged, defacing synagogues, attacking Jewish students , Hillel and Chabad on college campuses and using anti Semitism as part of school curriculums-those who support the woke agenda ,,The rhetoric that you described was in reaction to those assimilated Jews who claim that the woke agenda is their clearly mistaken definition of Judaism ( Charlottesville) and those who oppose Trump as too supportive of Israel. ( Pittsburg and Poway) Those who don’t condemn anti Semitism that originates from the woke left world have no basis to lecture our community about anti Semitism solely being a function of the right world. The bottom line today is that anti Semitism is a huge part of the woke agenda that has far more influence in Big Tech, Big Media , and on college cam;puses and in public school curricula than the perpetrators of Pittsburg and Poway.

      When you use the terms “white nationalism” and “domestic terrorism” that is the agenda of the left to deligitimize legitimate dissent from the woke agenda that seeks to impose its views on race, gender and climate on many who differ with that agenda. If we oppose our children being told that we are inherently racist, that gender is fluid, that a child can have two fathers or two mothers for their parents, and that we are doomed to die because we drive cars, that is our rights and that we are proud of living in a constitutional republic, as opposed to being denounced without evidence as supporters of “white nationalism” or “domestic terrorism”.

      • Meir says:

        Just making sure I get this – so the Jews in Pittsburgh, Poway, and Charlottesville brought it on themselves by allowing some Jews to support politics that some peope didn’t like? I’m assuming that’s not what you mean, but it is what it sounds like.

        And Israel is working against climate change so I doubt they see concern for the climate as part of an anti-Zionist conspiracy.

    • Raymond says:

      Open Jew hatred?
      AOC, Ilhan Omar, Raunchita Tlaib, Black Lives Matter, George Soros, Al not so Sharpton, Jesse JerKson, Yasar Arafat, islamoNazi terrorists, Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, the German National Socialists? Walking into Europe and gassing Jews?
      That’s antisemitism, all right. It has transformed the nature of our Jewish institutions. Security and shomrim are now standard operating procedure.
      This is Radical Leftist antisemitism. anti-American terrorism. antisemitism.
      That’s the all too obvious elephant in the room, the most virulent form of anti-Semitism.
      Ignore it at your own peril.

    • Nachum says:

      I must have missed all the respectable society defending those attacks.

      That makes a difference, you know.

      • Reb Yid says:

        There’s a heck of a lot of “respectable folks” out there who are pretending that January 6th did not exist.

        That makes quite a bit of difference, indeed.

        Most of that mob descending on Capitol Hill are members of groups that make no secret of their hatred of Jews. We know who they all are.

      • Nachum says:

        Yeah, now you’re just making things up and throwing things at the wall. Keep to the topic, please.

      • Raymond says:

        There’s a heck of a lot of lot of “respectable folks” out there who are pretending that the widespread, violent rioting and shooting of policemen in response to the Floyd George incident did not exist.

        That makes quite a bit of difference, indeed.

        Most of that Left-wing mob destructively descending on family-owned businesses are members of groups that make no secret of their hatred of Jews. We know who they all are.

      • dr. bill says:

        no one respectable is defending the physical attacks, yet. but in explaining the events by Jews that caused them or engaging in votes against kosher food is not foreign to so-called respectable society.

      • Reb Yid says:

        None of these comments does anything to negate the only point I raised.

        This article has a provocative title of the “Four Rungs of Anti-Semitism” and headlines the public acceptance or tolerance of Jew hatred.

        The article, and seemingly most posters here, ignore or deny the elephant in the room. Right wing domestic terrorism is alive and well, and was sadly aided and abetted by the previous Administration. Our own community has suffered from this.

        As to January 6th, too many individuals in a position of power in this county are trying to do all they can to erase it from their memory and not allow proper investigation and prosecution of those responsible.

        All I am saying is that one cannot have any viable or serious discussion of Jew hatred or antisemitism in this country without also acknowledging the most dangerous form of it. Ask SCAN or any of the Jewish security organizations where the bulk of the threats are coming from.

      • Raymond says:

        All of the comments raised here negates any Leftist attempt to make any point.
        Left-wingers ignore or deny the elephant in the room. Left-wing domestic terrorism is alive and well, sadly aided and abetted by the Obama and Biden Administrations. Our own community has suffered from this.
        As to the months-long rioting in the name of George Floyd, too many Leftists in positions of power in this country are doing all they can to erase it from our memory and not allow proper investigation and prosecution of the Leftists responsible.
        All I am saying is that one cannot have a viable or serious discussion of Jew hatred or anti-Semitism in this country without also acknowledging the most dangerous form of it. Ask Mossad or any of the other Jewish security organizations where the bulk of these Leftist threats are coming from.

  5. Steven Brizel says:

    Take a look at this linked article are in a state of massive denial as a community if we think that the hashkafic tools of the 1950s and 1960s , are adequate protection for the average MO high school graduate even after a year or two learning in Israel against a toxic secular culture curated on college campuses and by social media and by a woke culture that has our communities and values in its sights as a target. You don’t fight the Blitzkrieg with the Maginot Line or deny that air power can sink ships.

  6. -LFD says:

    Your comments, while accurate come generations to late. I say this because the Yeshivish/Chassidsh/Chareidi community has never backed the state (I understand why, but look at the long term consequences) . Years to late, they are realizing that the change of Israeli government needs to come from within. But I digress. Let me try to put it in a clearer way. To most non Jews, there is little distinction if any between an Israeli and a Jew, hence anti-Semites in Canada, Europe and the US targeting the most “Jewish looking”. You think that a Satmar being beat up will scream “I’m not a Zionist” and be saved? The problem being since we have turned our back on our brothers and our home so long, we are polarized. Is there one person at the Agudah convention that said “Let’s support Hillel houses on college campuses so our brothers will be safe?” No, they are busy finding more ways for immature people to get married to solve a manufactured crisis. And now we have Brooklyn college as basically a Mosque. Brilliant. Whatever the reason, we have been given the opportunity to “go home” (where else will we go when BLM and perverse culture takes over the rest of the world?) But we don’t back it. We disparage it by our silence. Was there any pushback from Lakewood, and other RW places about BDS? Not their problem, they love Israel but hate the state. The state is terrible with frumkite, don’t misunderstand me, but we needed to be part of it to effect change. We did not. Now the nations of the world are again showing us that like it or not, we are all one. By not having a unified narrative of Achdus, we allowed and encouraged the left to fill that void. And Hashem should save us. Because they have.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      LFD-in addition to Chabad and JLI families on college campuses , you can find some community kollelim in some major university towns-they do invaluable kiruv but as in all such efforts, it is a one person, one mitzvah at a time effort with a generation that is far less familiar with the basics of Jewish observance than their parents, .Anyone who is engaged in such efforts is aware of the toxic social , cultural and educational atmosphere that he or she is presenting an alternative to. We need more such efforts,

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Chabad, a JLI family and a community kollel located near a college campus are the last opportunities that a college student, regardless of their prior Jewish education and background, will have an opportunity to think about exploring their Jewish background and experience Jewish living in a family setting before entering the working world after graduate school. . NCSY , Oorah and SEED as well as Partners in Torah work very hard at kiruv, at younger ages, but kiruv today means working with high school students who in many cases know very little about basic Jewish traditions and knowledge, as opposed to kids whose parents and grandparents may have been more traditional. The OU’s JSU programs go onto secular high school campuses, and are very helpful in inspiring some to go on an NCSY summer program. The creme de la creme amd most motivated participants in these programs will go to programs for kids with higher Jewish educational backgrounds and then hopefully spend a year in Israel at a yeshiva or seminary where they will emerge as fully committed Bnei and Bnos Torah but as anyone in kiruv will tell you, it is a very labor intensive one person, one mitzvah at a time effort . RMF ZL emphasized that everyone should spend some of their time in kiruv and our responsibility to our brothers and sisters certainly involves more than supporting a Hillel house on a college campus.

      Brooklyn College, prior to the advent of open admissions, was a viable option depending on the courses and majors . Is it the same today?

    • Steven Brizel says:

      One sees and hears of more American Yeshivish and Charedi families making aliyah via Nefesh BNefesh which knows how to market to this commmunity. Every week , the American Yated has a column by a Charedi oleh. These are the facts on the ground and as the woke agenda consumes America, many Yeshivish families and empty nesters have decided to vote with their hearts, minds and feet regardless of whether they will say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim and their grave reservations about the present coalition and its approach to the long existent status quo.

    • Nachum says:

      “The state is terrible with frumkite”.

      Is it?

      No, it isn’t.

  7. Steven Brizel says:

    This is only two example of the woke agenda at work in the public schools of the US

  8. Nachum says:

    Of course there’s another rung. Peter Beinart being hauled off to a concentration camp as he protests that he’s not one of “those” Jews.

    It’s happened before.

  9. Steven Brizel says:

    Meir-The more that American Jews try to be woke the more they become targets of both the left wing Marxist anti Semitism that is a key element of the woke agenda and traditional anti Semitism of the right Given The secular coalition that governs Israel and its views on many issues I am hardly surprised that it is focused on climate change as opposed to developing a strategy against the development of a nuclear armed Iran If you wish to see how and why anti Semitism develops look at the first drasha of the Beis HaLevi on Sefer Shemos where the Beis HaLevi proves that anti Semitism directly related to increased assimilation

  10. Steven Brizel says:

    FWIW with no respect to climate change and environmental extremism which is very much an element of the woke agenda IIRC It is well documented that environmentalists are like watermelon- green on the outside and red on the inside

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    “It is a chapter many of us thought would never be opened in America”

    I am reminded of this spring, when Jews across the United States had been attacked because of the fighting in Israel and Gaza. The JTA then had an article, “Some American Jews are taking off their kippahs and Stars of David amid a wave of antisemitic incidents”, which described one Manhattan Millennial’s shock:

    “To Ricki, the fear that she may have to take down her mezuzah feels ironically painful. Grappling with the decision this week, she thought of her grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors. Growing up, she had felt safe as a Jew in America. Antisemitism had never felt like such an immediate threat as it did to her now in downtown Manhattan.

    “I was always told that antisemitism is really real, but as someone in the millennial generation, maybe I was blind to it,” she said. “But now I’m like wow, I see it.”

  12. Tal Benschar says:

    Some here seem to thik that anti-semitism is either a right-wing or left-wing phenonemnum. As someone once said on the Internet, “embrace the power of AND.”
    Both sides have anti-semites, although they manifest differently. There is a larger group of anti-semites on the left, and it is more intellectually acceptable than on the right. One need only look to the Labor party in the UK under Corbryn to see this. The same is happening to the Democratic Party in the U.S. Not all of it, but an increasingly more influential part of it.
    Some years ago, Louis Farrakhan came to Capitol HIll, where he was greeted by the Black Caucus, who all smiled to have their pictures taken with him. That included a certain Senator named Barack Obama. That picture was suppressed to aid him in his presidential run.
    It is difficult to imagine that if, say, David Duke visited Capitol Hill, he would receive a similar reception by Republicans. The anti-semites on the right are, for the most part, treated as fringe elements. That said, they tend to be loners, and some have become very violent, including two well-know incidents in the last few years.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    It’s likely that today’s “fourth rung” antisemites were on that rung all along. Previously, they were testing the waters and recruiting to their cause, by writing and organizing about lower rung concerns. Their inner question has been, “how quickly and how far can we safely push this?” We Jews can’t expect meaningful pushback against this tide from leftists running the current Administration or like-minded state and local governments. So it’s HaShem and us (with some support from sympathetic others) against them. We have a winning combination if we repair our relationship with HaShem as needed. It wouldn’t hurt to cultivate those others either.

  14. Steven Brizel says:

    The so-called Build Back Better Act has among its many dubious provisions, a prohibition against funding any faith based child care program. This provision of the bill IMO is an attempt to marginalize the faith communities so that the woke left has full control of the education of children even at the day care stage of their livesThe Talmud in Gittin describes two incidents that are worth mentioning in this context-400 Jewish children who were sent as captives to Rome after the destruction of the Second Temple committed suicide because they knew that they would be groomed as homosexuals and mistresses by the Roman world. The Talmud tells us a similar story involving a brother and sister who were held captive by two Romans with the idea of breeding children from such an immoral coupling who cried all night, recognized that they were a son and daughter of a HIgh Priest, and then died as a result of their suffering. The Talmud inChulin 92 also mentions that Egypt which afflicted the Jewish People, sealed its own fate by approving of marital contracts based on same gender relationships. This bill if passed in its present form would allow radicals and perverts to destroy the family unit from the earliest age possible.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Some lobbies in the Orthodox community act as if this monstrosity can be rescued by writing into it a few concessions to our social welfare organizations . Even Joe Manchin (D, WV) sees the totality as very bad news. It’s the poison pill for the Republic.

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