by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the wake of Hamas’s barbaric October 7 assault on Israeli Jews, antisemitism has become so rampant that Jews all across America are feeling unsettled and unsafe.
This is horrifying, and it is unacceptable. It is also un-American.
In 1790, George Washington famously sent a letter to a synagogue in Newport, R.I., which set forth the radical notion that the new nation would be dedicated to protecting religious freedom. Washington wrote, “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Following Washington’s lead, the United States has distinguished itself as the safest and most consistently welcoming to Jews of all the major world powers in history.
We are not so naive to believe that antisemitism in America began on October 7. Jews have often been viewed with suspicion by a certain portion of the population; subjected to accusations of divided loyalty and false rumors about their religious practices; and well into the 20th century excluded from living in certain neighborhoods, working for certain businesses, and joining certain clubs. Despite composing just 2 percent of the population, Jews have consistently been victims of a majority of the anti-religious hate crimes since the FBI began publishing data in the 1990s.
But the explosion of antisemitism we’ve seen in the past several weeks is on a different scale from anything we’ve experienced in contemporary America.
The current surge started almost immediately after news broke of the Hamas attacks. On U.S. college campuses, antisemitic students and activist professors, protected by a legion of DEI administrators, jumped in to either excuse Hamas’s attacks or to argue that Israel had it coming.