On April 4, 2017, in Paris, Kobili Traore broke into the apartment of Lucette Attal-Halimi, known by her Hebrew name, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman. Yelling in Arabic, he beat her repeatedly, calling her the “devil” and shouting “Allahu akbar.” When he was done, he threw her from the window to the pavement below. She was dead before the police arrived. In the aftermath, some had accused the police and the government of covering up the anti-Semitic nature of the attack — the murder was not labeled an act of anti-Semitism when Traore was charged.
This was not the first, nor would it be the last, anti-Semitic attack in France. In 2015, Amedy Coulibaly, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, entered a kosher supermarket and killed four people inside — all Jews — and took 15 people hostage. He was killed after a standoff with the French police. In 2012, Mohammed Merah murdered four Jews at a Jewish day school in Toulouse — three of them children.
In their column on Nov. 1, Jacob Hanna rightly notes the connection between anti-Semitism and white supremacy and highlights the elevated confidence and visibility of white supremacist, neo-Nazi groups that are newly emboldened. It’s a point that must be made, and I applaud them for it.
But it is on their analysis of the causes and sources of anti-Semitism that I depart from their overall thesis. The attacks I mention above were not white supremacist in nature. Instead, they were the consequence of percolating anti-Semitism in the Arab world, where blood libels against Jews are frequently exclaimed on television, repeated in sermons and whispered about in the streets. Medieval conspiracies — and the remnants of Nazi propaganda — about the Jews found new resonance in the 20th century in the Middle East, and a deep suspicion or outright hatred of the Jews has persisted, including Holocaust denial.
This face of anti-Semitism has been ignored or excused by some figures in the United States and Europe. Among these figures is Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in Britain of which, as of Nov. 2, several members are under investigation for anti-Semitism within its ranks. Corbyn has attended events with unsavory characters committed to the destruction of Israel, including senior officials in Hamas. In 2009, he said, “It will be my pleasure and my honor to host an event in parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking.” Corbyn has recently said that he regrets these remarks, but one doesn’t get credit for painstakingly coming to a conclusion that others have easily recognized as a consequence of decency. Corbyn was also photographed at a wreath-laying ceremony for the individuals behind the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics — a charge he initially denied, but later admitted to.
Precisely why this face of anti-Semitism is covered up, ignored or excused is a question that deserves an answer. No doubt some of it is because the issue is bound up in questions about Israel and Zionism. No doubt one may be critical of Israel — as I often am — and even opposed to Zionism in principle, without being an anti-Semite. Presumably, it’s not necessary to excuse or abet the anti-Semitism of the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. It is an amazing coincidence, then, that among the Palestinian movements one could choose to identify with — including those that are nonviolent and peace-seeking — the one figures like Corbyn have ostensibly chosen as representative of the Palestinian people is the same that seeks the destruction of the state of Israel and the indiscriminate murder of the Jews who live within it.
Can we be at the point where we wonder seriously whether to seek the murder of Jews, or to spread vicious libel about them, is to hate them? Pick and pull threads apart, and the fabric comes undone. Pick and pull apart the murder of Jews, and suddenly the motivations are a mystery to be excused or shrugged off. This kind of blindness can’t be helped, but some of us have to be clear-eyed enough to name the problem; there are many faces of anti-Semitism, and to confront anti-Semitism in its totality is to confront them all.
Aaron Bondar is a senior double-majoring in political science and economics.