Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Why did it take the desecration of a Jewish cemetery for President Trump and Vice President Pence to finally condemn anti-Semitism?
There were, of course, multiple factors that finally teased out a condemnation from the president (issued, rather bizarrely, at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture): Ivanka Trump’s tweet on Monday, following the fourth round of bomb threats against Jewish community centers. The dread felt throughout the Jewish community after Trump not only failed to condemn anti-Semitism in response to a question at his press conference, but scolded the questioner, an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Surely some of that concern had percolated inward to Trump’s inner circle, as his own Jewish allies began asking just what was so difficult about condemning Jew-hatred.
But there’s something about cemeteries in general, and Jewish cemeteries in particular.
To desecrate an individual grave is a personal insult, but to vandalize an entire cemetery is to insult an entire people. Though the perpetrators are still unknown, it was against Jewish identity itself. It’s an outing, an othering: no, Jew, you are not one of us. Even in death, we will despise you. You are not an individual, not a person; you are a Jew. It’s a uniquely personal act of depersonalization.
There’s another reason why Jewish cemeteries, like African American ones, are laden with historical significance.
Twenty years ago, when I was a college student on a rail pass across Europe, I visited the old Jewish cemetery in Prague. Its crooked, crumbling stones seemed the fitting memorial to a community once proud, now devastated. And on one of them, someone had left a note saying, in German and English, vergeben und vergessen: forgive and forget. I left a second note, with the piety of a 21-year old, zachor: remember.
In fact, this cemetery had not been affected by the Holocaust. But we both knew what we were taking about.
Jewish cemeteries are a reminder of Jewish death, and Jewish death means the Holocaust, a genocide still unprecedented in scope and scale.
The bigoted, racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, white supremacist far right knows this. (Their wanna-be “alt” signifier can go to hell.) Whoever committed the acts of vandalism in the Chesed Shel Emet cemetery, they knew that defiling a cemetery is a particularly loathsome act, and defiling the graves of dead Jews, many of whom were surely Holocaust refugees or survivors, has a very particular resonance..."
What the Jewish Cemetery Attack and Trump’s Movement Have in Common - The Daily Beast