A Special Kind of Hatred

Ian Speir on November 6, 2023

The shocking brutality of Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israeli civilians had two immediate aims: murder Jews en masse and broadcast the butchery to the world. It was Holocaust horror designed for digital consumption—“as if the Cossacks had TikTok,” to quote Bari Weiss.

Behind the atrocities lay a malevolent calculus. Hamas and its Iranian patron believe that the sheer horror of what they have done will galvanize world opinion, both against them and for them. And they’re betting their gains will outweigh their losses.

So far, they seem to be right. 

The attacks unleashed a torrent of antisemitic hatred around the world. Even before Israel had responded—before grieving families had even buried their dead—there were official statements blaming the Jews. “We … hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” Harvard students said. Then came the flood: Nuremberg-style rallies cheering on genocide. Harassment, vandalism, and violence against Jewish people and property. A surge in antisemitic rhetoric online. Marches through Jewish neighborhoods. Chants of “Gas the Jews” and “Death to the Jews” may hark back to 1938, but they are very 2023.

Recent statistics are equally disturbing. Both the United States and Europe have seen a dramatic rise in antisemitism. The UK recorded at least 805 antisemitic incidents in the three weeks after October 7, “the highest ever across a 21-day period” since tracking began in 1984, according to the Wall Street Journal

An ADL/University of Chicago study published in October finds that 10 million Americans hold “both high levels of antisemitism and support for political violence.” That may be a small segment of the American public, but it’s almost twice the number of Jews in the United States.

An under-reported Harvard CAPS / Harris poll last month found that nearly half of 18-24 year olds and just under a third of 25-34 year olds “side more” with Hamas over Israel. Which is to say: mere days after terrorists massacred more than a thousand innocents in southern Israel and kidnapped hundreds of others, about 28 million American college students and young adults are standing with the terrorists. No wonder our college campuses—morally bankrupt for decades already—suddenly find themselves awash in Jew-hatred, some of it utterly vile.

Harvard CAPS / Harris Poll (Oct. 19, 2023)

The global irruption of antisemitism is Hamas’s aim. The Go-Pros mounted on assault rifles, the snuff videos, the humiliating images of Jewish bodies paraded across social media—these were not incidental to the massacre. They were the point. They were, as Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur put it, “the essence of the whole enterprise.”

That’s because Hamas and its supporters understand something we don’t, or which we perceive only dimly: that antisemitism is a special kind of hatred. It doesn’t follow the normal rules.

Under the normal rules, the international community responds to brutal aggression with either revulsion or apathy. There was universal horror at the Islamic State’s atrocities—even Iranian leaders were using terms like “crimes against humanity.” There was global condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—even Harvard students managed to register “shock and horror.” Conversely, when Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s backing, started to ethnically cleanse its Armenian population several weeks ago, the world collectively shrugged.

Not so with the Jews. Normal rules don’t apply. When Jews are targets of violence, revulsion is only partially felt. Loud equivocation replaces apathetic silence. And a disturbing additional element surfaces: the celebration of Jewish suffering. And the intensity of the celebration is directly proportional to the visibility of the suffering. The more public the brutality, the more it is excused and glorified.

In this sense, persecution of Jews is uniquely polarizing. While good people remain consistent in their moral revulsion, for some the effect is precisely the opposite. The violence, and especially its visible expression, are activating.

It was an antisemite at Cornell, Russell Rickford, who gave the game away when he said he found Hamas’s attack “exhilarating” and “energizing.” Pay attention to these words. They describe what antisemitism at its core really is. It is an energy, an emotional and spiritual force, a sense of power. I’m not the first to observe that Rickford sounded like a cocaine user on a drug-induced high.

What Hamas did on October 7 was less like flipping on a light and more like turning on a magnet. The atrocity theater of that day didn’t so much reveal antisemitic hatred as energize it—polarizing world opinion, activating its evil elements, and drawing them to Hamas’s side. That was their gambit, and that is their goal.

Because antisemitism is a uniquely malevolent force, it cannot be combated in the usual way. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is right that “something is deeply wrong at America’s colleges and universities.” But antisemitism is not a lazy prejudice whose remedy is simply more education. It won’t be solved with another ethics class. It is a unique evil that must be confronted, combated, and eradicated totally. Wherever it manifests, it must be recognized, called out, resisted, and deplatformed.

That begins with a decisive victory over the malign elements that committed the massacre. Hamas must be wiped out. But it cannot end there. Antisemitism is now the world’s festering wound, and Christians must play a leading role in the healing.

We must be about the business of loving our neighbors, especially our Jewish neighbors. That means checking in on them, showing up for them, physically protecting them where necessary, and letting them know they are not alone.

It also means speaking the truth and spotting the lies. Christians should discern when anti-”Zionism” is but a thin veil for Jew hatred. And Christians must not be shy in pointing out the telltale sign of antisemitism: the double standard. Israel should be held to the same standard as other nations and accorded the same benefits—of charity, the benefit of the doubt, and the right to self-defense—that apply to others. One need only inject the Russia-Ukraine conflict into the Harvard students’ statement—“we hold the Ukrainian regime entirely responsible for the unfolding invasion”—to see the absurd double standard too often applied to Israel.

Standing up and speaking out do not exhaust the necessary Christian response to the rising tide of antisemitism around the world and here at home. But they are starting points.

Ian Speir is a First Amendment attorney based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and is the Founder of Covenant Law PLLC.

  1. Comment by David on November 6, 2023 at 3:18 pm

    It is possible to oppose both the recent Hamas terror attack and the 75-year displacement and persecution of Palestinians. Justice in the Middle East should be the goal and a path to peace.

  2. Comment by David S. on November 6, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    The interesting thing about the latest round is to hear those in the mainline tell it until recently, the rise in anti-semitism is due to their favorite boogeyman, white supremacy. Yet, since Hamas and its supporters always challenge that narrative – not to mention the Reverend Farakhan, they are suddenly stone-cold silent on denouncing other sources of anti-semitism.

  3. Comment by Dan W on November 6, 2023 at 10:41 pm

    I’ll tell you what I hate. I hate people insisting we are either islamophobic or antisemitic because we don’t support hate from either side.

    I hate that “the World” is insisting on an immediate cease fire in Gaza, but seems to be fine with war in Ukraine, soon to be two years old.

    I understand the need for Israeli’s to have safety and security, and wish the people of Gaza desired the same.

  4. Comment by George on November 7, 2023 at 7:40 am

    David, if you really believe what you say, why won’t you practice what you preach? You would like for the Jews to leave and allow the Palestinians to take over all the land which Israel now occupies and make it theirs . You have said this over and over and don’t deny it. Why will you not demand the same for all white Americans? Should we not leave and give this land back to the indigenous people? What about it? Are you ready to hand over the parcel of land where you live and go back to where ever your ancestors came from? Should the Canadians drag up and head back to France? Should the whitest of Mexicans head back to Spain? You see where I’m going with this but you attack the Jews constantly.
    Now, pack up all you can and sell the rest (or give it to the indians) and leave. Just go back to wherever your people originated. Then we will say,”old David really practices what he preaches “. A man of integrity! Bye bye

  5. Comment by David on November 7, 2023 at 10:11 am

    There comes a time when it becomes too late to make changes. While PA, NJ, and NY were purchased from native tribes, most of the US was not. My neighborhood was purchased for one axehead per five acres with the natives retaining the right to harvest the bullrushes in the 17th century. “Wee the Indians above named and Mentioned ye true Owners and proprietors of ye said Lands,” and that the sale has been made “upon good reasons and Considerations…and without any compulsion or feare.” Of course, the introduction of Old World diseases caused a population crash among the natives, as much as 90% by some estimates.

    The displacement of Palestinians is, however, of recent origin and is still going on. West Bank settlers, probably the most extremist segment of Israeli society, attack Palestinian farmers, shepherds, and olive orchardists even as we speak.

    The partition of Palestine was the big mistake. Zionists insisted on this lest they be a minority in Palestine. This is still the case and why Palestinians cannot be incorporated into Israel—it might lead to a Jewish minority. I suppose one could go back further and demand Canaan for the Canaanites—Jews and Arabs out!

  6. Comment by George on November 7, 2023 at 11:34 am

    So you are very comfortable with the price paid for the Indians land back east. Beads, mirrors, and whiskey bought a lot of land back then. You said “there comes a time when it’s too late to make changes”. We can wait another thousand years and they will still be attacking the Jews in the land that God gave them. The conquerors have come and gone hundreds of times. Were the Palestinians fighting the British before Israel? Not so much.
    Were the Palestinians happy with the Muslim Turks for three hundred years? Not so much but at least they weren’t Jews, right? It’s all about the hatred of Jews. Islam is a relatively new religion. It came hundreds of years after Christ. They aren’t happy about not being God’s chosen people. So they hate. Hate is all they have. They teach their children to hate
    From a very early age. If the Jews in Israel ceased to exist today, the Sunni and Shia Muslims would fight and kill each other because they are full of hate. It’s a human concept magnified when religion gets involved. Stop the hate.

  7. Comment by David on November 7, 2023 at 1:19 pm

    Muslims in Palestine like to imagine that they are of Arab ancestry. Christians there claim to be of indigenous ancestry as do Jews. If one looks at genetics, however, it turns out they all go back to Canaanites more or less. The major outliers are northern European Jews, the Ashkenazi, whose maternal ancestry is about 30-60% indigenous European. It seems Jewish men often wedded Italian women, northern Italians in the modern population. Conversions of Italians to Judaism were common at one time and provoked animosity between the Pharisaic Jews and early Christians who were out to convert the same population. Foreign cults were popular in Rome with that of the Egyptian goddess Isis even reaching Britain.

    The Sunni and Shia are much like the Protestants and Catholics of the 17th Century Europe. There is actually not all so much difference in belief, but enough for each to consider the other heretics. Of course, during the Crusades, European Catholics considered the Eastern Orthodox heretics and killed them along with the Muslims.

  8. Comment by Corvus Corax on November 7, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    “I’ll tell you what I hate. I hate people insisting we are either islamophobic or antisemitic because we don’t support hate from either side.

    I hate that “the World” is insisting on an immediate cease fire in Gaza, but seems to be fine with war in Ukraine, soon to be two years old.”

    Great comment, Dan W.!

    The behavior of states, armies, and militias are fair game for criticism regardless of the ethnicity of the participants.

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