Letter: Writer misportrayed Jews, anti-Semitism | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Writer misportrayed Jews, anti-Semitism

In his Sept. 10 letter to the editor ("Breeding anti-Semitism," The Aspen Times), Sean Elias unfairly responded to Rabbi David Segal's commentary on the rise of anti-Semitism ("On anti-Semitism, from Aspen," Commentary, Sept. 6). He not only mischaracterized Segal's statements, but also he employed age-old canards about Jews that reflect bias.

Elias falsely accused Segal of equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and appallingly called this the "Jewish race card." Legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, and notably, Segal never claimed that it was. Elias' argument is a red herring and represents a feeble attempt to undermine a serious discussion about anti-Semitism.

Even more troubling, Elias essentially blamed Jews for the existence of anti-Semitism and advanced disparaging stereotypes about Jews to do so. Relying on a canard that has been used since at least the Dark Ages, he asserted that Jews are somehow to blame for anti-Semitism because of their belief that they are God's "chosen people," which Elias erroneously equated with a belief of superiority. Contrary to Elias' assertion, the concept of "chosen-ness" focuses on responsibility rather than any privilege or superiority. Flawed claims such as Elias' have long been asserted by those unfamiliar with Jewish tradition and teachings as well as those with an intent to foster ill will about Jews. Furthermore, Elias' attempt to blame Jews and Jewish beliefs (as he misconstrues them) for the existence of anti-Semitism effectively legitimizes and condones anti-Semitism and bigotry.

Elias would do well to learn from the essence of Segal's message, which beautifully notes how thankful we all should be for living "in a country that, with all its imperfections, strives to be a beacon of freedom and acceptance" and that we have "the responsibility to work against bigotry, anti-Semitic or otherwise, whenever and wherever we witness it."

Scott L. Levin

Regional director, Anti-Defamation League, Denver