J Street is greatly disturbed by and condemns the rise in antisemitism in the United States and globally. The rapid rise in antisemitism throughout the world is deeply troubling to the entirety of the Jewish community. J Street stands shoulder to shoulder with those who want to take meaningful action to fight this ancient scourge, including action in Congress. J Street was proud to welcome the Biden Administration’s recently released Antisemitism Strategy, which provides a whole-of-government approach to fighting antisemitism in the United States.
J Street is also a pro-Israel organization and proudly advocates for Israel’s future as a safe, just and democratic homeland for the Jewish people. We are painfully aware that anti-Zionism can be a cover for antisemitism. When that line is crossed, we at J Street have condemned it and rallied others to join us, and will continue to do so.
Recent incidents in which Jewish houses of worship, Jewish-owned businesses and individual Jews have been targeted for protests or harassment in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and the resulting war dangerously conflate Judaism and Jewish heritage with the State of Israel and its actions. This antisemitism has no place in our society. We must expose and reject all those who seek to use antisemitism to further their political goals.
While we will never waver in calling out antisemitism from any corner, we have been equally clear that not all beliefs, statements and actions that are anti-Zionist are also antisemitic.
Unfortunately, while the Kustoff-Miller resolution (H.Res.894) rightly denounces antisemitism, supports the Jewish community, and rejects terror, the resolution states “clearly and firmly” that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” – a blanket, inaccurate and ultimately counterproductive statement with no recognition of the complexities of the Jewish people or the definition of Zionism and anti-Zionism itself.
There are many members of the Jewish community that historically, and even to this day, do not support the Zionist movement, including some in the Hasidic, Orthodox community, some in the Jewish labor movement, and members of the Jewish anti-occupation movement.
That’s why so many Jewish Americans view attempts by lawmakers to legislate that anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitic, as the Kustoff-Miller resolution does, as problematic or even exploiting Jewish suffering to silence criticism of Israel. It’s why so many in our community oppose efforts to give the force of law and codify definitions of antisemitism. Efforts to codify definitions of antisemitism, such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism – along with its “contemporary examples” – would legally define some Constitutionally protected speech on Israel and its policies as antisemitic. J Street therefore opposed H.Res.894 and will oppose all such measures to legislate a single, imperfect definition of antisemitism, even when included in legislative vehicles that otherwise contain laudable denunciations and steps against antisemitism.
Rather than litigating who and what is and is not antisemitic, Members of Congress should avoid false generalizations and focus on taking practical, meaningful actions to fight the rise in antisemitism. As Congressman Jerry Nadler, the dean of the Jewish Caucus in the House of Representatives, said, there are several productive steps Congress can take or encourage to meaningfully fight antisemitism. These include ensuring full implementation of the White House National Strategy on Antisemitism, appropriating adequate funding to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for Title VI enforcement to protect Jewish students, and increasing funding for the High-Risk Nonprofit Security Grant Program to secure Jewish institutions. J Street strongly supports and will advocate for H.Res.907, introduced by Rep. Nadler along with Reps. Jamie Raskin and Dan Goldman, which calls for these and other tangible steps to combat antisemitism.
Additionally, but with no less urgency or importance, we recognize and condemn the concurrent rise in bigotry and deadly violence against Palestinian-Americans and other people of Palestinian heritage in the United States. This vile hatred, accompanied by increased Islamophobia, has resulted in the brutal murder of a young American boy and the shooting of three Palestinian students in this country since October 7. Just like the human security of Israelis and Palestinians is inextricably intertwined in Israel and Palestine, so too is the safety of Jewish and Palestinian communities here in the United States in no small part bound together. None of us are truly safe until all of us – all Americans and others who call our country home — need not live in fear of bigotry.