The strange new turn taken by anti-Semitism

When members of the Jewish community are attacked because they are Jewish, one immediately thinks that the attacker will be found to be a white man motivated by neo-Nazi ideology because it is such groups that have seen a recent resurgence in the US. And that usually does turn out to be the case. But two events recently have disturbed that pattern because they were committed by black men with unclear motives

Just two days ago an attacker entered the home of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi in Monsey, New York during a Hanukkah dinner and viciously attacked everyone present with a machete before running away. He was later captured in Harlem, covered in blood. He is suspected to have a history of mental problems

Then a few weeks ago, we had the case of two black men armed with rifles who attacked a kosher bodega in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Jersey City and set up a five hour standoff with armed police that ended with the deaths of three people plus the two attackers.

Authorities believe Anderson and Graham intentionally targeted the store, and say the pair is believed to be responsible for the death of Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals, who was killed shortly before they attacked the store. Anderson was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, sources told NBC News, and his social media pages pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The Black Hebrew Israelite movement has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Black Hebrew Israelites, whom I had not heard of before, are yet another group that thinks of itself as descended from the mythical lost tribe of Israel but are angered by Israel’s reluctance to accept their claims of being Jewish.

Most Black Hebrew Israelites live in Dimona, Israel, with the first ones arriving in that country in 1969. The group began in Chicago in 1967 under the leadership of Ben Ammi Ben Israel, an African American whose birth name was Ben Carter. Ben Israel appointed 30 disciples and in 1967 moved the group to Liberia before embarking for their final destination in Israel.

Some Black Hebrew Israelites, frustrated by their lack of citizenship, denounced Israel and adopted anti-Semitic rhetoric, arguing that white Jews were frauds and that Black Hebrew Israelites were the only true Jewish descendents.

So why this seeming metamorphosis in ant-Semitism, creating a new branch of it? This is something that sociologists will have to examine. But one can understand the deep concern that these new attacks are generating in the Jewish community as they feel targeted from a new and unexpected direction.


  1. Lakitha Tolbert says

    Yeah, this isn’t a new metamorphosis, at all. There has been tension between the Black community and Orthodox Jews, at least since the 80s.

    There has been a hard through-line of antisemitism that more than a few Black people have absorbed from the larger society, and more than a few Jewish people have adopted some anti Blackness, since we fought by each other’s side in the sixties.

    Its not new because White supremacy has been hard at work breaking up all the coalitions that occurred during that period, and been fairly successful at it.

  2. Jenora Feuer says

    Pursuant to the last paragraph of comment #1, my first thought when I saw this was the old joke about the boss, the worker, and the union steward sitting down a a table with a dozen cookies. The boss takes eleven of them, and then turns to the worker and points at the union steward, saying “He’s trying to take your cookie.”

    It’s easy enough to see people trying to convince people of colour that the fact they’ve been kept down despite official equality is because of THEM. Say that enough, and stochastic terrorism eventually starts to kick in.

    Playing on distrust isn’t particularly new. See also why both the Jewish community in New York and the Somali community in Michigan had measles outbreaks due to being targeted by anti-vaxxers playing directly on that (historically reasonable) mistrust of mainstream medicine.

  3. alixmo says

    There is of course the old tradition of religiously motivated anti-semitism. I can imagine that this is still relevant for a few people, especially if they are both very religious and poorly educated. Sadly, (often valid) criticism of the “1%” of super wealthy people, of banks and “multinationals” are misunderstood by some lesser educated people who listen to conspiracy theories about “the Jews”. Those conspiracy theories surface quite often in comments, chats etc. by leftists (I am left myself, but I am not dogmatic and detest anti-semitism). Many people (no matter of which “color”) feel attracted to those facile anti-Semitic answers. I think that especially underprivileged and undereducated people like to believe them -- and many leftists are also religious and may have picked up religiously motivated anti-Semitic feelings from an early age. That mixture is dangerous. Information, education is key in fighting this. The problem is, that deep religious feelings can numb people to arguments, to reasoning… Sadly, there is anti-Semitism on both the right and left side of the political spectrum. This has to be discussed openly.

  4. says

    There’s another fringe group that believes that black people were the inhabitants of the Americans and that indigenous people’s ancestors had stolen it from them. I feel for them and the Black Hebrew Israelites because black people in the Americas -- and especially in the US -- have never had an easy time, in particular those who were stolen from their homelands and forced into slavery. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live a life with the constant pressures that black people face and I can see how it can affect some people psychologically and am surprised by how few are radicalized.

    That said, it’s disturbing that the people being affected here aren’t white Christians and atheists but Jews and indigenous Americans -- each a group that has also been assailed by white Christians through the centuries, one of which has a legitimate claim to as much if not more suffering than black people.

  5. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    In specific, the sociological research finds that black resentment toward Jews tended to come about as a result of Jews being more likely to be the middlemen of white supremacy. They weren’t the boss, but they may own the local deli or be the superintendent or be the manager. So this is not a new thing, any more than black resentment at Koreans and other Asian immigrants for similar reasons is not a new thing.

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