The Intelligentsia's Craven Silence in the Face of Anti-Semitism Is Unforgivable | Opinion

Where have you been? Yes, you?

You know who you are: The academics who have sat on panels with me. The Twitterati, journalists, and staffers who haunt the same D.C. spots as me. The analysts and advocates and activists who share my professional environment. We've broken bread, or at least had coffee.

Where have you been?

I know everyone was really busy the last couple of weeks with the latest violence in Gaza. Lots of writing, curating, and brand burnishing had to be done.

But there have been almost 200 anti-Semitic attacks in the last two weeks and you, you the righteous, have been silent.

Where have you been?

I know you've been silent because I checked your Twitter and Instagram feeds. Your Facebook posts, too, where you never forget to post about the things that are important to you.

Where have you been? For the past two weeks, as Jews have been watching our safety in this country go up in smoke, you haven't posted once. It's been just crickets.

What is up with that?

A 20-something kid from Long Island got his butt kicked in Times Square the other day because he was wearing a yarmulke. He happened to be going to a pro-Israel rally, but his attackers didn't know that. He could have been going to a million other places. They beat him up because he is Jewish. Because he was exercising his freedom of religion and wearing a yarmulke.

And... crickets from you.

Last week, a caravan drove through the Diamond District hunting Jews and throwing fireworks. A woman was scalded. They screamed obscenities at Jews.

Crickets from you.

Another caravan drove through the Jewish parts of London promising to rape Jewish daughters. Synagogues across the nation have been vandalized. A Jewish man wearing a Star of David around his neck was punched by a man shouting, "What is that around your neck? Does that make you a fucking Zionist?" Three men drove around Borough Park yelling anti-Semitic slurs. They kicked in a synagogue's doors and harassed children. A mob surrounded Orthodox teens in Crown Heights, wielding baseball bats and demanding the teenagers say "Free Palestine" before beating them.

And from you? Crickets.

It's tough, I get it. You wouldn't want anyone to question your solidarity with the Free Palestine movement, if you call out anti-Semitism. After all, many of these Jews are Zionists! I guess you agree that this makes them legitimate targets.

Because if you knew the truth, that this is anti-Semitic logic, if you knew that attacking Jews as a sign of solidarity with Palestinians was just anti-Semitism with a new excuse, surely you would have posted about it, or said something, condemned it loudly or even at all.

You did not, though. It's been just... crickets.

anti-Semitic violence

So here is my question to you well-credentialed influencers of thought, you shapers of opinion: What do I do? What do I tell my kids? My bookish almost 16 year old is exploring her Jewish identity. She attends her grandparents' synagogue on Friday evenings via Zoom because it gives her peace and comfort. Sometimes she wears a Star of David necklace. Should I tell her not to wear it?

Because judging from your silence, it seems like the answer is yes.

I can almost hear you thinking, What an overreaction! How ridiculous! But that is part of the problem. You would never tell an African-American what is racism, or a Muslim what is Islamophobia. You enlightened members of the intelligentsia would never dare tell a woman what is misogyny. But so many of you feel it is important to lecture Jews what we should and should not fear.

It must be OK, you tell yourselves, because there are Jews—the "good Jews"—who tell you it's all our fault. Not in so many words, but that is what they mean. After all, we're Zionists. So we must deserve what's been coming to us.

You betray your fundamental misunderstanding of how many Jews think of our place in this world, our very lives. Our place is fraught. Our lives can be taken. We can be erased.

You're proving that right now with your silence.

We are hemmed in and up at night over people braying for our blood and their cultural enablers. They exist on both the Right and the Left, but you would prefer to focus on the former.

You have turned your eyes from a monster and chosen to remain silent because it's off-brand to assail those who attack us. This is a betrayal not just of Jews, but of every other value you claim to represent.

I am not going to call you out by name, but I know who you are and if I now know one thing it is this: You have no character. It's something I'll never be able to forget.

See you around town.

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The views in this article are the writer's own.