By definition, anti-Semitism means prejudice or hatred towards Jews. The Holocaust —the persecution and the murder of Jews perpetrated by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945— is the largest systematic, anti-Semitic event in history. However, anti-Semitism was not only put into practice the way the Nazis did. Both in Europe and in the Arab world, two overt anti-Semitic modalities occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries: collective attacks against Jewish communities (pogroms) and persistent defamation of the Jews and their religion.
Throughout history, Anti-Semitism has taken other forms, including the written word, as in the case of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” created by tsarist intelligence services to defame Jews in the Russian Empire and later propagated by the Nazis. The crux of this hateful text is not different at all from the article published two weeks ago by El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s largest and most important newspaper. In a Spanish-language column titled “¿Qué quiere ‘el judío’ con la colonia?” “(What does “the Jew” want with the colony?), journalist Wilda Rodríguez blames “Jewish power” in the federal government for the crisis that island is living after the ravages caused by Hurricane María.
Based on an anti-Semitic article from a 1994 op-ed published by Avinoam Bar Yosef called “The Jews Who Run Clinton’s Court,” Rodríguez wrote that what happens economically and politically in Puerto Rico is in the hands of the “Jews” who exercise their dominance from the “high American domes,” although expressing that she is not at all anti-Semitic. “More than 20 years ago, the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv (second largest newspaper in Israel) had an article in Hebrew that explained how the Jews control Washington,” she wrote. “For Israelis, recognizing Jewish power over Washington is not an offensive statement. It is the victory of the diaspora.” After a slew of criticism and condemnations, El Nuevo Día removed the article from the internet and issued a “clarifying” statement. In it, they apologized for what happened. Nevertheless, to me, Rodríguez’s and El Nuevo Día’s excuses left a lot to be desired and were not sincere at all.
Because last Monday, on her own personal Facebook page, Rodríguez delved deeper into the subject to reinforce her anti-Semitic beliefs about the “political control” that Jews have in America. In that post, Rodríguez says that the she knows that the Jews control the U.S. thanks to her “experience” in recent years because “she lived with them, worked with them and fought others.” The columnist said that “nothing is taken out of her sleeve” about her belief that since the administration of Ronald Reagan, the “Jews in positions of power” and the Israelis in the U.S. have decisively influenced, according to her, the foreign policy of America and therefore Puerto Rico. In that post, she also refers to the Jews by talking about “their relationship with money and the power that money gives” that is “sustained by the Bible itself.” She also adds the contrast between “the Jew power controller who speaks impersonally” and the other “Jew,” who has more liberal and progressive stances.
I have a very simple answer for Rodríguez: we Jews do not control the United States nor the world.
As a Jew who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, I am sad that this happened in the land where I learned that although I did not have much, we must help those who have less. I am sad that there are people who completely ignore the fact that after the Hurricane María, Israel was one of the two only countries in the Middle East that helped Puerto Rico. After the catastrophe, Israel sent some machines that convert humidity into water. I am also saddened that this lady —through the hatred that she tries to camouflage in her text by saying that she is not a anti-Semite— does not mention that the Jewish state of Israel was one of the first countries to send doctors to the island to treat civilians.
Rodríguez’s fraudulent arguments and lies —very similar to the anti-Semitic ideas Henry Ford promoted, to those who accused Alfred Dreyfus of “not being loyal to France” and to those the Nazis used in order to implement the “final solution”— were the main cause for the death of more than six million Jews during World War II and the expulsion of 850,000 Jews from Arab countries after the establishment of the State of Israel. With a lot of pain in my heart, and knowing that since I was little, being the same as everyone around me was my goal, I cannot deny that I am a Jew. Therefore, defamation against my people hurts me—especially when it comes from fellow Puerto Ricans. It is sad that people without historical knowledge in their arguments have the liberty to try and accuse us of “controlling the U.S. and causing damage to Puerto Rico.” Despite this, their anti-Semitic stances will not stop us from continuing to grow, and helping Puerto Rico and the world.
Before concluding, and since Rodríguez’s Facebook talks about our Torah (the Old Testament for Christians), let me explain one last thing.
She is correct when saying that being self-sufficient is a duty for a Jew. Although I understand that her interpretation of this is to demonize this mitzvah, it means being able to be self-sufficient in order to help those around us. Which can translate into creating organizations that tackle poverty around the world or even giving your last dollar to someone who needs it more than you. That mitzvah does not means “controlling the U.S. or the world.” Why didn’t Rodríguez mention this? I know her arguments attract attention and the people who love conspiracy theories. They also align themselves with the hate groups that share the same views as her. But to those of us who suffer from being seen different by others due to the type of comments that people like you make about us, it causes us only pain and anger.
If Rodríguez defines herself as a “human rights fighter” and someone who does not believe in “racism,” let me say this: her comments are targeting a particular religious and ethnic group.
So her words are not only anti-Semitic, but also racist.
Rodríguez should offer a real apology—because so far, she has only addressed her anti-Semitism with more anti-Semitism.
José Eriel Muñiz Gómez has written for Diario Judío, The Times of Israel and The Daily Capitol. He is based in Washington, D.C.