The Dilemmas of Fighting Anti-Semitism

by Haya Luftig

By David Bernstein

To go public or not?

Whenever someone does or says something anti-Semitic or anti-Israel or both, we face a quandary: should we speak out or hold our tongue?  

One school of thought says “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and that we must always publicly condemn such actions and statements, lest we allow such sentiments to spread. Let’s call this the sunlight school.  

The other school of thought says when we publicly condemn an action or statement, we might inadvertently breath oxygen into an idea or give it more publicity than it would otherwise get. Instead of preventing the spread of hate, we unintentionally aid in its spread. Let’s call this the oxygen school.   As I’ve aged, I’ve gradually moved in the direction of the oxygen school.

Years ago there was a study done of the accusation that Israel is an Apartheid state. The vast majority of the citations in the press were quotes from Jews opposing the analogy. In other words, our public rejection of the analogy may have been giving it life.  

But when we decide not to speak out, we face a secondary dilemma. Someone else will speak out, and that someone else may not be thoughtful or nuanced. In our silence, we may allow them to define the Jewish voice on the subject. So even if it would be better that the Jewish community remain silent, we know that’s not going to be the case and may feel compelled to speak.  

One of the key questions we have to answer in our decision making is: if we hold our tongue, will others?



About the Author

Haya Luftig