If Not Now, When? Contextualizing the White Supremacist Threat to Muslims and Jews

If Not Now, When? Contextualizing the White Supremacist Threat to Muslims and Jews

Much ink has been spilled in recent months debating comments by U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) regarding Israel. People have argued, sometimes in good faith, that they used antisemitic tropes, unintentionally or not. However, this discussion has lacked necessary cultural and social background to make sense of the criticism in a nuanced, informed fashion.

We believe that many professed concerns from the right about Israel or antisemitism are expressions of American identity politics and nativism, more than they are statements of genuine concern for the safety and well-being of minorities. To take a couple of examples, critical statements by Meghan McCain and Jeanine Pirro on Omar or Tlaib’s supposed antisemitism or illiberal commitments themselves express significant prejudice towards Jewish, Arab, and Muslim Americans.

We think the relative clarity of this moment yields an opportunity for Jewish, Arab, and Muslim Americans to recognize and exit the mental and social system by which right-wing, white Christian culture controls and dominates political discourse by feigning and manipulating concern for the groups they dominate. In the wake of ongoing white supremacist terrorism against minority communities across the West, we are convinced that now is the time to speak up against white Christian control of our narratives. Crucially, we do not ascribe these bigotries as essential to the Christian faith, but they are legacies of historical domination with which white Western Christians must contend. Christianity is a rich, complex religious tradition and a multifarious faith community, and we are firm in distinguishing it from the racism for which it has too often been used.

We may first ask: what kind of prejudices are Islamophobia and antisemitism? We do not typically understand Islam and Judaism as races, and hence, do not conceive of islamophobia and antisemitism the way we might conceive of racism. Nonetheless, both Jews and Muslims are marginalized by whiteness and white supremacist acts of terror as though they were members of a marginalized race. We first unpack this issue by examining the striking commonalities in their mutual experiences of domination. In turn, we discuss how white, right-wing Christian hegemony conceals and undermines Jewish and Muslim solidarity by conceptualizing Muslims and Arabs as the greatest threats to Jewish survival while disguising the threat of white supremacy against Jews, Muslims, and Arabs more broadly. In parallel, Muslim and Arab Americans have sometimes absorbed white Western antisemitism within their own communities, creating barriers to their solidarity with Jews through a failure to understand their interconnected struggles.

In their histories of religion, Talal Assad and Tomoko Masuzawa document how the concept of religious membership  frequently intertwines with the idea of race. In each of their accounts, Islam and Judaism were not always seen as religions. Rather, their classification as such came out of their encounter with Christianity, particularly Protestantism, during the period of European expansion and developing further during the Enlightenment and modern colonialism. Practices were pushed to conform to the Protestant ideal of spirituality, especially the view which prizes doctrines over rituals and actions. Religion emerged as a social category in the wake of the Reformation; and later the political revolutions associated with the Enlightenment. Spiritual practices became privatized and removed from the public square.

Judaism and Islam, as faiths with heavy emphasis on religious law shaping one’s lifestyle, present alternative modes which challenge this approach. The “secular space” was carved out by European and Western societies as a way to diminish public conflict about faith. However, commitments that are distinctly Christian and/or Protestant were implemented in the process. For Christianity, Islam and Judaism are not always seen as religions, but rather as “ideologies” which threaten the social order by shaping lifestyles in significant ways that sometimes compete with societal norms. To be a religion is to be socially and philosophically “contained,” and thus not ask its participants to commit to any strong obligations outside the dominant social order—to avoid the condition of “dual loyalty.”

Religion can be interwoven into race because race has political baggage. While many people in the discussion around race and racism think race concerns prejudices based on skin tone and/or geographical origin, philosophers, sociologists, and historians have shown otherwise. This common misconception misses a big part of what race is, and what it means for a group to be racialized. Race is not a genetic category. While race superficially makes reference to certain biological characteristics, the notion of different racial groups, as distinguished from the species homo sapiens, is not scientific. It is instead the result of the long history of bigotry, marginalization, and discrimination.

In this regard, race is a social construct. The modern concept of race can be broadly traced back to the enslavement of Africans and other peoples of colour by Western Europeans.     As Ibram X. Kendi, Nell Irvin Painter, and other historians of race have catalogued, the initial enslavement of what we now refer to as black people was not a distinct phenomenon from that of whites. Slavery is an ancient institution going back thousands of years, with records of slaves with a variety of skin colours and backgrounds populating the ancient world. Beginning in the 15th century, indentured servitude and outright slavery were common practices for people from Europe with large debts and/or people who had committed crimes. These people were often sent to the Americas and forced into labour alongside Africans and West Indians who had been kidnapped. Over time, this population slowly diminished, while people of colour remained. Ideas of race “science”, racial theology, and other systems of thought incorporating ideas of race, especially racial inferiority and superiority, developed as a form of post-facto justification for slavery, colonialism, and other European misdeeds.

Racialization, like many of our ideas about sexuality, mental health, criminal deviancy, and others, are a product of what the philosopher Michel Foucault argued is an inherently normative social epistemology derived from disparate power relations. Put differently, the way we talk and think about society is not neutral. It is a product of the values we hold and the culture in which we are embedded, and often serves as a way to defend the actions of the powerful and the majority over the less powerful and the minority. Normality and deviance are driven by values that impact what types of people fit into each category. Such discourses help to legitimize systems of power,  social control, and exclusion. Foucault’s framework applies not only to race, but to culture and religion as well.

Likewise, Lynn Hunt notes in Inventing Human Rights that respecting our humanity has not always been a universal value emerging from membership in one species. This is because the features that undergird rights such as autonomy, independent reasoning, and considered moral judgement, have been socially defined. Confirmation of our humanity and the rights that go with it has depended on whether we fit into a particular social category. As Hunt explains (our emphasis):

In the eighteenth century (and indeed, right up to the present) all “people” were not imagined as equally capable of moral autonomy. Two related but distinct qualities were involved: the ability to reason, and the independence to decide for oneself. Both had to be present if an individual was to be morally autonomous. Children, servants, and the insane lacked the necessary capacity to reason, but they might someday gain or regain that capacity. Like children, slaves, servants, the propertyless, and women lacked the independence of status to be fully autonomous. Children, the propertyless, and perhaps even slaves might one day become autonomous, by growing up or by buying their freedom. Women alone seemed not to have any options, they were defined as inherently dependent on their husbands. If the proponents of universal, equal, and natural human rights automatically excluded some categories of people from exercising those rights, it was because they viewed them as less than fully capable of exercising moral autonomy.

Both Foucault and Hunt are significant for helping us to understand how whiteness is not merely a biological framework, but a cultural one, resulting in the still significant divide between Western Protestants and everyone else. In this regard, to be “white” in America, or in the West, is not just about how you look, but includes your broader social background. The features that make up whiteness track not only appearance, but also a view about cultural normativity which otherizes those who depart from it. Embedded in the idea of whiteness are notions about being “civilized” and “cultured,” about the ability to think rationally, and about being trustworthy and morally upstanding. Such ideas are defined in terms of the discourse of white Western Christianity, and thus hold white Western Christians as exemplars of these ideals. To be non-white means that qualities which are essential for social worth and inclusion are under constant doubt.

This is why race and whiteness can shift based on political power and circumstance. Racialization is a political process. It identifies a set of people with arbitrarily shared characteristics, then continues to impose those traits and characteristics on said group. Muslims, Arabs, and Jews are racialized as groups despite vast differences in appearance and a lack of both physical and ethnic homogeneity. As Charles Mills points out, racial divisions are highly dependent on common beliefs about race. Racial divisions do not wholly coincide with self-identification, as identity is also contingent on “who the person is taken to be.” Hence, while race is socially constructed, its meanings are not simply in our heads. The way I internally conceive of my race does not mean that I live as or am treated as that race. Because race has a social meaning, it has a relationship to “facts about our environment.” The way we experience racialization can thus shift depending on our environments, as can our proximities to whiteness.

That is not to say that essentialist views have no relationship with race. Take Mills’s discussion of racial “realism”, an issue that Edward Said also grapples with in Orientalism. Traditional racial “realist” views, Mills argues, see “culture as an emanation of biological race, so invoking it as an additional criterion would be otiose.” That is, one’s “biological race” implies a sort of psychological determinism. But where do Judaism and Islam factor in to this?

Racialization and Judaism

In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, David Nirenberg robustly demonstrates that antisemitism is not a phenomenon restricted to medieval Europe or Nazi Germany, but is a culture woven deeply into the fabric of “The West” as an idea. Since “Western Civilization” originated as a product of the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire, the West is inherently constructed as an oppositional concept, built out of the notion of “Christendom” established by Charlemagne and the Church. It was contrasted as the realm of the true and the righteous, with the non-Christian world of the false and sinful.

It is thus unsurprising that antisemitism first clearly emerged (Nirenberg discusses “proto” movements in Greco-Roman antiquity) through medieval Christianity’s theologically charged hatred of Jews. The medieval Europeans blamed their Jewish neighbours for the supposed killing of Christ, and saw them as stubborn and wicked due to ongoing refusals to convert and accept Christian doctrine. Christians saw Jews as a continual threat to the well-being of Christian communities (metaphysical expressions of the “body of Christ”) which was perpetuated through inciting myths such as the blood libel. Jews were not simply seen as a differing faith, but as a disloyal and harmful group, dedicated to challenging the wider society and bent on using non-Jews for their own ends.

From this Christian hostility we get the early beginnings of race. Jeffrey Gorsky explains that significant racial concepts emerged to rationalize the oppression of Jews in medieval Spain. Under the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were forced to convert to Christianity. Even afterward, the perpetrators of the Inquisition persecuted these “conversos,” believing Jews were untrustworthy due to their “perverse lineage”, constituted by “limpieza de sangre” or “blood purity.” In this way, ideas about religion and race were thoroughly intermixed. For both Jews and enslaved Africans, the construction of race was culturally driven and partially rooted in religious prejudices. For medieval society, Judaism was seen as the practice of a separate racial group bearing a spiritual culture that did not match and even challenged that of the Christian majority, regardless of Christianity’s Jewish origins.

These initial bigotries made an institutional impact which fed further racialization. Restrictions of Jews to socially marginalized activities such as money lending, combined with theological hatreds and growing conspiracism led to contemporary tales of Jews as a race of untrustworthy, self-interested manipulators. Texts such as the infamous forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” reinvented these medieval suspicions for a modern context. This theme has become prevalent in the modern era across a variety of contradictory forms, from economically-tinted political conspiracies of Jews as “Judeo-Bolsheviks” or  “Cultural Marxists”  to Jews as global financiers (exemplified by the Rothschild myth) out to abuse “host” societies for their own ends. Jews have been paradoxically seen as “rootless cosmopolitans” undermining conservative culture, while also being criticized as a deeply exclusive people wholly devoted to tribal nationalism, but in all cases dedicated to lobbying and manipulation for personal interests.

As Nirenberg argues, for many Westerners, Jews have not been seen as real people, but as an imaginary mythic community against which non-Jews have evaluated and criticized aspects of their own society, and as a device to frame opponents as an archetypical “Other.” “Judaizing” one’s enemies through accusations of acting or thinking incorrectly or harmfully (and hence, like a Jew) became a common way for Europeans to insult or characterize one another of wrongdoing. This ranged widely from critiquing governments and the Church, to theological and intellectual disputes, to simple interpersonal slights. When applied to actual Jews, this mental landscape of dreaded phantoms spurred hate, frequent violence, and finally apocalyptic genocide.

In How Judaism Became A Religion, Leora Batnitzky notes that for influential philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Judaism was not a religion, but an amalgam of crude folk practices and tribal identity without the respectability of Protestant Christianity, which emphasized spirituality, love, and inner redemption—all aspects of “high” European culture. Others such as Voltaire and Diderot saw Jews as a backward, primitive, and untrustworthy, unable to be good members of modern “civilization.” Despite the supposed Enlightenment commitment to universal suffrage, many modernists and liberals repackaged old prejudices in new clothes. This view was fought by Jewish Enlightenment philosophers such as Moses Mendelssohn, who sought to refashion the view of Judaism as tribal custom and framed it primarily in terms of theology, while encouraging Jews to restrict their ritual practices to their homes. This framing of Judaism with ritual observances playing a secondary role manipulated Jewish identity into a crude copy of the dominant culture. This was reflected in moves by the early German Reform Jews to integrate Christian aspects into Jewish worship, such as moving the Jewish Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and replacing the bar mitzvah with a confirmation ceremony, decisions which were later retracted.

Mendelssohn’s efforts (however misguided) were a central part of his broader plea for Jews to be granted equal rights in the modern era. Parallel issues have been a constant in the American context, as Catholics, Jews, and Muslims have been accused of commitments that threaten liberal democracy, imagined in terms of Protestant and/or Christian norms. In the Muslim (and/or Arab) as well as Jewish cases, these commitments have been seen as foreign imports, part of practices that belong to groups carrying what are experienced by outsiders as exotic and bizarre identities. Significantly, Jews only recently overcame this barrier in part by mounting a concerted campaign to reimagine Judaism as part of a theologically incoherent “Judeo-Christian” construct enabling a narrative of Judaism to be seen as less “tribal” and “Semitic” and thus more “white” and “Western.”

Racialization and Islam

Like Jewish people, Muslims in the West have been subject to prejudice and othering from white Christians, particularly on the right. In describing Islamophobia’s connection to fascism, Enzo Traverso connects the “Islamic terrorist” to the anti-semitic imagery of the radical Jewish Bolshevik in the twentieth-century. For instance, the “Judeo-Bolshevik” trope was used by the Polish Catholic Church that blamed antisemitic violence on Jewish people, who ostensibly were “the main propagators of communism in Poland.” Similarly today, we see politicians blame Muslims for the violence they experience by claiming that they also push a threatening ideology onto the countries they inhabit. Additionally, Muslims’ religious cultural clothing and dietary habits help the West construct Muslims as foreign bodies that are unable to assimilate. Like antisemitism, Traverso argues, Islamophobia is a repertoire of stereotypes that are continuously reproduced in the attempt to create the “immigrant enemy” that seeks to destroy the West from within.

Contrary to the common discourse, Islamophobia does not operatively refer to the antagonism of the theological doctrine of Islam, or even to those that practice the Muslim faith. For instance, the Sikh Coalition in the United States documented more than 300 hate crimes since 9/11, with the victims often having been mistaken for Muslims. Evidently, the problem isn’t really the practice of Islam on its own. Instead, it’s the otherizing of racialized subjects vaguely associated with a practice that’s considered foreign.

Though non-Arabs like Sikhs have been targeted, Islamophobia deeply connects to Arab identity as well. For instance, Lebanese Catholics and Jews have described racism they have experienced for being culturally associated with Islam, including, for instance, being kicked off an airplane without reason—a perhaps too common experience of Muslims and Arabic speakers due to an association of Islamic terrorism and air travel.

How did this come to be? In The Racialization of Muslims, Steve Garner and Saher Selod show how the political environment Muslims inhabit has racialized them. Garner and Selod characterize racism in three parts. First, racism contains a set of ideological principles that determines the ways race is categorized via “specific natural characteristics derived from culture, physical appearance, or both.” Second, there is a “historical power relationship” that racializes groups by treating their features as intrinsic to their being. Third, there are discriminatory practices ranging from moderate to severe.

A common objection to describing Islamophobia as racism is that religious groups are not divided by traits that are prima facie innate as race is—in principle, people can choose their religions. Second, every world religion contains members from a variant range of races; Arabs are not the only Muslims, nor do they make up the majority of Muslims globally. If “[r]acism is focused on one or more distinct racialized groups”, is it possible that Islamophobia can be racism?

To respond to this point, the authors present a counter-logic. First, they remind their interlocutors that the concept of race is both physical and cultural. Race theories focused solely on the body are an “anomaly” in a “longer history that evidences various combinations of culture and phenotype being combined to define racial characteristics.” Racialization ascribes a set of both physical and cultural characteristics to members of a group. For instance, the class “Arabs” is a broad, racialized class related to language and culture. As the age-old debate about the varying genetic origins of individuals across the Middle East shows, “Arab” does not practically refer to a genetic class, but rather, a culture united by a common language and loose cultural similarities.

Garner and Selod further emphasize that racialized groups are created and defined in relation to whiteness, where the differences may include but are not limited to pigmentation. Cultural traits such as language, clothing, and religion are also considered. In observing how Muslims can and have been racialized, Garner and Selod conclude that:

Islamophobia is therefore a specific form of racism targeting Muslims, and racialization is a concept that helps capture and understand how this works, in different ways, at different times, and in different places […] people (physical bodies) are the ultimate site of racism, even if the path toward those bodies lies through cultural terrain.

Islamophobia thus relates to antisemitism—not by being qualitatively the same—but by being culturally coded and racialized under white Christian normative dominance.

There are parallels here between the racialization of Muslims and the racialization of Jews, both of which fit Garner’s and Selod’s criteria for racialization. Both are seen as cultural ideologies rather than faiths—and often in conspiratorial ways where said ideologies are thought to threaten the West from within. Islam and Judaism are seen as ideological and aesthetic threats to political society, whereas Western Christianity is seen as its default, indispensable pillar. Quebec’s latest secularism bill, for instance, prevents veiled Muslims and kippah-wearing Jews from being civil servants—all while Quebecois politicians deliberate under a crucifix.  In France, far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen are on the march to protect a French identity paradoxically defined by the “principles of secularization resulting from a Christian heritage.”

Both Muslims and Jews live in a moment defined by historical power imbalances. Discriminatory practices and prejudiced conceptualizations of Muslims and Jews have long histories that are built on domination and white supremacy. Discriminatory laws such as Quebec’s have not happened overnight. They are just the latest manifestation of a history of subjugation, Christian ideological hegemony, and conspiratorial tropes that falsely paint Muslims and Jews as threats to civil society.

Bad faith antagonisms

While Western Christianity marginalizes and racializes Jewish and Muslim individuals—and often lumps Arab Christians in with Muslims—it has recently attempted to position itself on the obvious side of the Jewish people in the fight against Muslim radicals. We contend that these attempts are made in bad faith and continue to marginalize both Jewish and Muslim individuals.

Western Christians often characterize antisemitism via the statements of Muslims like Ilhan Omar, while concealing their own antisemitism with support for Israel. Tropes and canards which Omar, Tlaib, and others are called out for perpetuating have been made far more extensively by Donald Trump and his supporters, who accused George Soros, a Jewish financier and progressive philanthropist, of funding the migrant caravan from Latin America and manipulating Western politics. The ongoing myth of Soros as boogeyman did not originate with Trump, but is part of a web of conspiracy theories perpetuated by the European far right, especially by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Likewise, Omar’s supposed claim about Jews as financial and political manipulators has been made far more explicitly by Trump, who told Jewish Republicans “I don’t want your money, so therefore, you’re probably not going to support me,” and “you want to control your own politician.” Trump also told a group of American Jewish White House visitors that “Israel is your country.” Yet nowhere do we see condemnation of these statements from the voices criticizing Omar.

Jewish support for Israel arising out of concerns over antisemitism are manipulated by the Christian right for ends which have little if anything to do with the health and safety of Jewish communities. Michael Pompeo’s statement that Trump was appointed by God to save Israel is emblematic of the ancient idea of Christianity as a supercessionary faith which must force salvation on stubborn Jews whose maintenance of religious independence signifies their inferiority. This notion is little more than a variation on the racist “white man’s burden,” in which white Christians must conquer and rule the “savage” or “primitive” peoples of the non-Western world for their own good.

John Hagee, leader of Christians United for Israel, has regularly trafficked in antisemitic tropes that heavily undergird his religious convictions about Israel. Hagee has stated that Adolf Hitler was a “half breed Jew” sent by God to commit the Holocaust in order to return the Jews to Israel, and that Jewish bankers such as the Rothschilds were responsible for stirring up antisemitism as part of a rebellion against God. Hagee later spoke with Robert Jeffress, famous for his incendiary statements about both Islam and Judaism, at the 2018 dedication ceremony for the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Like many Christian Zionists, Jeffress is a supersessionary dispensationalist, and holds that support for Israel is part of a broader program to bring about the end times, which will include the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity.

White Christian support for Israel is not a matter of defending liberal democracy against its illiberal opponents, to the extent that Israel lives up to that description. Rather, such a politics is about structuring one religious and racial identity above others and seeking to dominate by force. This is why Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities are equal targets for white supremacist terrorism. The antagonistic “clash of civilizations” narrative has nothing to do with concerns about democratic values or human rights, but as Edward Said observed, it is about constructing monolithic and racially charged notions of cultural difference. These differences have then been used by white Christian conservatives to defend dangerously Manichean binaries that are used to justify aggression.

One need look no further than the remarks of two former Trump advisors, both of whom have been apologists for Israeli foreign policy. Steve Bannon argued that there is a permanent conflict with the “Judeo-Christian West” from both Islam and secularism, while Sebastian Gorka has defended the Crusades and has claimed that Islam itself, rather than Islamist radicalism, is inherently violent. Gorka also has significant ties to far-right and antisemitic groups in Hungary, including Nazis. Likewise, many conservative evangelical leaders have characterized Islam as “satanic” and “evil and wicked”. It thus takes little to recognize that support for Israel is frequently driven by narratives of war with Muslims and Arabs. These views are part of a broader conservative evangelical mythology which, like Gorka, romanticizes the Crusades. Such dreams serve as direct parallels to Islamist visions of reviving the ancient caliphate. Likewise, Michael Pompeo’s attacks on Muslim communities are paired with his support for Israel.

The fetishistic and occasionally philo-semitic tendencies of the white, Christian right threaten all of us that are not white Christians, or do not acquiesce to their political plans. Their support for Israel, for instance, has done little to protect Jews in places like Germany, Hungary, France, and the United States from rising antisemitic, white supremacist violence. In the U.S, such violence has risen by over 37 percent.  For centuries, Jews, Muslims, and those read as such have paid the price of Western Christianity’s deadly imperialism, racism, and assimilationism. Instead of contending with this past, Western Christians are happy to control and perpetuate a false narrative: that they have always been pro-Jewish, but that Muslims and Arabs have not been. In pitting Jewish and Muslim (including associated non-Muslims) groups against each other, right-wing Western Christians absolve themselves of their dark, antisemitic history. Instead of addressing antisemitism at home, Western Christians pat themselves on the back for paying lip service to the right-wing government of one Jewish country far away from them. Instead of addressing Christian antisemitism more broadly, Western Christians project their past conspiratorial tropes onto Muslims and rally other groups—including Jewish people—behind them. Across Europe, far-right parties and figures with prior histories of prejudice against Jews, have attempted to manipulate concerns about Islamist or Muslim antisemitism or to weaponize support for Israel as a way to further prejudices against Muslims, immigrants, and minorities generally.

Luckily, many are not falling for it: a recent poll, for instance, showed that American Jews were the least Islamophobic religious group in the country—and far less so than evangelicals. However, to the extent that Jews see the Christian right as allies in the fight against antisemitism and defenders of Israel, they avoid the ongoing threat of white supremacy that threatens both Jewish and Muslim/Arab communities. Worse, such alliances are sometimes accompanied by participation in the Islamophobia and racism which both upholds the supremacist narrative that also threatens Jews and instills unneeded enmity between our communities. Pro-Israel and Jewish communal organizations and leaders have sometimes made common cause with and/or funded rightwing figures or organizations who frequently produce material and participate in a network of activists that contribute to the crusading racism discussed previously.

Likewise, we urge Muslims and Arabs to push back against the antisemitism that exists in their communities and has produced deadly results. This too has significant roots in the legacy of Western racism, as no less prominent an Orientalist than Bernard Lewis stresses in The Jews of Islam (our emphasis): “as a direct result of European influence, movements appear among Muslims of which for the first time one can legitimately use the term anti-Semitic.” Prior to this, Jews had enjoyed what is broadly characterized as the “Golden Age” of medieval Islamic rule, which continued in less idyllic but comparatively more tolerant modes that shifted dramatically towards the modern era. Anti-Jewish bigotry that we can call specifically antisemitic (contrasted with the general inequality of the dhimmi status) was largely imported to the Middle East by both Western colonialism and by the Nazis. It was later encouraged by and is interwoven with radical Islamism, particularly the Islamist ideologue Sayed Qutb,  a prime inspiration for the Muslim Brotherhood. It has also been promoted by terrorist groups like ISIS, and Al-Qaeda, as well as Hamas in their original charter and historically by movement officials and members, to instill enmity between Muslims and others. In this regard, it is equally important for the fight against white supremacy to include self-reflective cultural housecleaning—to engage all our communities in pushing out the prejudices and hatreds with which we ourselves have been influenced.

Given the parallels between historical and current antisemitism and Islamophobia, we have strong reasons to believe that Jews, Arabs, and Muslims should be united in a common cause against white supremacy and the intolerant versions of Christianity that underlie it. In an era in which the lives and well-being of our communities are under threat, we say now is the time to question the discourse that normalizes this and all other kinds of racism, intolerance, and dehumanizing hatred. While there is much to be done in the conversation about race in the West, the first steps lie in identifying the cultural and institutional sources of prejudice. As one of us is an Ashkenazi Jew with some Israeli background and family experiences of the Holocaust, and the other of Lebanese and mixed-Abrahamic religious background and complex relationships to religious society, we are invested in raising awareness not just as an academic exercise, but as a matter of personal and moral concern. In the words of the famed Talmudic Sage Hillel the Elder: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”