Over the past several weeks, the political discourse relating to Israel/Palestine has rapidly deteriorated. We have witnessed members of Congress attack their colleagues by name, making accusations of anti-Semitism, often talking over and distorting what was actually said. As an organization committed to advocating for U.S. policies that will help bring about justice, equality, and human rights for all in Israel-Palestine and throughout the Middle East, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has been dismayed by the tenor of these conversations. They reflect just how far we are as a nation from helping to foster a sustainable end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine.
CMEP unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism and recognizes the ways in which the Christian church has contributed to anti-Jewish ideology. Over the past few years, we have seen a disturbing rise in anti-Semitic attacks and a resurgence in neo-Nazi activities. CMEP is committed to standing alongside our Jewish neighbors to confront those who perpetrate hateful acts against against Jews and all communities who have faced increased threats and violence.
As Congress considers a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, CMEP calls on leadership not only to repudiate all forms of bigotry, but to be clear in differentiating between actual hate speech and critiques of policy. While we we affirm the desire to denounce anti-Semitism, Congress cannot speak with integrity on this issue if it does not also make clear its opposition to Islamophobia and racism as well. If Congress fails to distinguish between anti-Semitism and valid critiques of the government of Israel, they are playing into the hands of forces who wish to weaponize anti-Semitism. Doing so harms everyone by suppressing free speech and undermining open debate about a major U.S. foreign policy issue; and by singling out, as in recent instances, people of color and vulnerable populations while remaining silent when privileged others express clearly bigoted sentiments.
Leveling accusations of anti-Semitism when actually motivated by political gain and not concern for the Jewish community only serves to embolden those responsible for the recent rise in anti-Jewish and white supremacist activity. Tolerance of weaponizing anti-Semitism allows for the possibility that anti-Jewish words and deeds will be lost in the barrage of attacks that are meant not to protect Jews, but to protect long-held political positions. We owe it to all victims of anti-Semitism and bigotry to do better and deal with such serious issues with moral clarity and integrity.
Language matters, and we call on all people, especially those in power, to be mindful of the ways in which certain phrases have been used throughout history to dehumanize Jewish people. And yet--despite several recent instances of members of Congress and political operatives using anti-Semitic tropes in political attacks on their opponents-- a resolution was only considered after the comments made by a Muslim woman of color. Such politicization of anti-Semitism will not move us closer to safety and security for all communities, including the most vulnerable. Indeed it will only further fracture our society, entrenching the forces of division and hate.