Updated Statement on Anti-Semitism

The National Association of Social Workers – New York State (NASW-NYS) strongly condemns the recent multiple hate-fueled attacks on the Jewish community and the increase in antisemitic actions and rhetoric across the globe. We are heartbroken, disturbed, and outraged by these horrific acts of violence, we stand with our Jewish sisters and brothers in this time of grief and offer our most heartfelt condolences to the families and communities affected by these attacks.

We share the below statement provided by the NASW-NJ Chapter,  and echo their call for all social workers to stand against violent anti-Semitic hate:

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement on incidences of anti-Semitism in the U.S. during the month of May 2021. They note: “new analysis from ADL’s Center on Extremism reveals anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. more than doubled during the May 2021 military conflict between Israel and Hamas and its immediate aftermath compared to the same time period in 2020.”

An article in the Washington Post notes there were 17,000 tweets with some variation of the phrase “Hitler was right” posted between May 7-14.

And as reported by WABC-TV (ABC7 NY), over Memorial Day weekend, racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on the Queens, NY Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

According to the latest FBI hate crimes data, while Jews account for less than 2% of the American population, more than 60% of religious-based hate crimes in 2019 targeted Jews, an increase of 14% over 2018. Hatred and violence directed towards Jews has roots far deeper than the most recent flare-up of the conflict in the Middle-East. Incidences, however, have been trending upward for at least 5 years, making the May 2021 incident spike especially worrying.

During the two weeks of military conflict between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. reported to the ADL increased by 75% compared to the two weeks before the fighting began, from 127 to 222, according to preliminary data. Many of these incidents appear to have been perpetrated by individuals scapegoating American Jews for the actions of the Israeli government.

We’ve become accustomed to expressions of anti-Semitism coming from the political far-right, accompanied by Nazi symbolism, white nationalism, and calls that “Jews will not replace us.” Such was the case during the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, the 2018 Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, and other tragedies in recent years. It has been easy to label those incidents anti-Semitic and condemn them as such. However, the current strain of anti-Semitism has also found fertile ground in the political far-left, where Jews across the United States and throughout the world have been scapegoated by many for the actions of a hawkish Israeli government.

Perpetuating crimes of hatred against Jewish Americans for the policies and actions of the State of Israel is as harmful and misdirected as those crimes committed against Asian Americans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s nothing more than an excuse for the proliferation of the hatred, intolerance, and violence against a people that is centuries—even millennia—old.

NASW-NJ condemns anti-Semitism and acts of violence against Jewish people in New Jersey, the U.S., and beyond. It is our responsibility as social workers to stand up against all forms of hatred and intolerance—whether based on religion, ethnicity, race, sexual preference, gender identity or any other identifying characteristic.

In a recent interview with NPR, Alex Zeldin, former Senior Communications Associate at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and contributing author to publications including The Jewish Daily Forward and Tablet Magazine, observes that people find it easier to see and condemn antisemitism when it involves white supremacists and neo-Naziism. However, he notes, when anti-Jewish hatred “gets twisted up with Middle East geopolitics, folks struggle to identify it and to understand that it is a severe problem.” In a sense, it has become far too easy—and far too socially acceptable—for anger at the actions of Israel’s government to become anger and hatred directed towards the Jewish people as a whole.

Whatever a person’s feelings are regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, Jews worldwide cannot be demonized or held responsible for the actions of the Israeli government and the various political and religious factions operating in Israel; just as Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims throughout the world cannot be held responsible for the actions of their respective governments and violent acts conducted by their extremist factions; and just as all Anglo-European Americans are not responsible and cannot be held responsible for the Capital insurrection on January 6 or the actions of white nationalists in our country.

Hatred and violence towards Jews worldwide for the actions of Israel, or for any other reason, is anti-Semitism and plays to the worst tendencies of humanity. And it must stop.