December 23, 2022
From wars, peace agreements, and protests to a sharp rise of antisemitic rhetoric among celebrities, college students, and so-called human rights activists, 2022 has been a newsworthy year for the Jewish community. Here are five big Jewish stories that drew our audiences’ attention and spurred action by and on behalf of the Jewish people.
1. The Insidious Creep of Antisemitism
The year 2022 was barely underway when a British Pakistani man took a rabbi and three others hostage during a Shabbat service in Colleyville, Texas.
From there, antisemitism continued to spread, with the number of antisemitic hate crimes in New York, for example, more than doubling from 2021. To discuss New York City’s efforts to combat the alarming rise of Jew hatred, Hassan Naveed, executive director of New York City’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), joined AJC’s People of the Pod to explain how his office coordinates agencies across the city to curb the rise of antisemitic hate crimes.
New York City was one of more than 30 other major cities that did not report its 2021 hate crime statistics to the FBI, limiting the nation’s understanding of how widespread incidents have been, especially as anti-Israel protests increasingly targeted American Jews. Efforts to isolate pro-Israel students also proliferated on college campuses, such as the University of Vermont and the University of California Berkeley Law School. (Read more below.)
Meanwhile, after a shameful delay in the confirmation process, renowned Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt was confirmed in May as America’s point person to help fight antisemitism around the world as antisemitism in the U.S.
Rapper Kanye West, also known as Ye, posted antisemitic tropes for his social media audience of more than 50 million, shared antisemitic conspiracy theories during TV and podcast interviews, exalted Adolf Hitler, and, on social media, threatened violence against Jews. White supremacist Nick Fuentes joined Ye for part of his media tour, including a meeting with former President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Nets basketball star Kyrie Irving promoted an antisemitic film and book to his more than four million followers on Twitter. Titled “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” the book and film rooted in radical Hebrew Israelite ideology deny the Holocaust and blame Jews for the transatlantic slave trade. His endorsement made both items bestsellers on Amazon, prompting an AJC petition urging their removal.
During a White House roundtable on antisemitism in December, AJC CEO Ted Deutch explained the importance of having a national action plan to combat antisemitism. Days later, the White House announced a task force to develop such a plan.
2. The Year BDS Showed Its True Colors
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement suffered a number of noteworthy setbacks in 2022 that showcase the true nature of the movement . In June, the FBI launched an inquiry after anonymous BDS supporters published a website claiming to identify Massachusetts institutions that incite harm against Palestinians. In reality, the so-called Boston Mapping Project risked inciting harm by including locations and details of vulnerable Jewish institutions across the state, including a Jewish center for people with disabilities, Jewish student groups, and synagogues.
The movement’s relentless efforts to recruit on college campuses also faced backlash. At Harvard, an editorial in the Harvard Crimson endorsing the BDS movement inspired counter columns pointing out the antisemitic movement’s mission to eliminate Israel including this powerful response from Jewish student Natalie Kahn that went viral. Watch her share her perspective at AJC Global Forum 2022.
Meanwhile, controversy erupted at the University of California Berkeley Law school this fall over the decision by nine student groups to adopt bylaws that would ban Zionist speakers. In response, AJC united with 35 other Jewish organizations to condemn the ban as a “vicious attempt to marginalize and stigmatize the Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel community… This is unabashed antisemitism.” Charlotte Aaron, a Berkeley Law student and board member of the Jewish Student Association (JSA), joined AJC’s People of the Pod to share what this meant for students on campus.
The Biden administration and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also condemned a report from Amnesty International that repeatedly tried to stigmatize Israel and delegitimize its existence.
Meanwhile, stockholders of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, overwhelmingly voted to reject a proposal against Google’s work on Israel’s Nimbus Project. Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s failed in its effort to freeze sales of its dessert in the West Bank when a court refused to halt parent company Unilever’s sale of its Israel division to a local licensee who will handle sales across Israel and the West Bank. Ben & Jerry’s sued, seeking damages and a return of its trademarks. That litigation, too, has since been resolved.
And despite calls to boycott, entertainers flocked to Israeli concert venues, including Maroon 5, rapper 50 Cent, Canadian megastar Justin Bieber, the American pop-rock band OneRepublic, alternative rock bands the Pixies and Counting Crows, and comedian Nikki Glaser.
3) Ukraine Embraced by the World
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine sparked widespread international condemnation. In turn, billions of dollars of aid and humanitarian relief poured into Ukraine from around the world as Vladimir Putin tried to spread lies about the denazification of a country led by its first Jewish president, Volodomyr Zelensky.
While the U.S. provided more military aid to Ukraine than any other country, Israel opened the first field hospital in Ukraine, with dozens of doctors and nurses and multiple wards on the grounds of an elementary school in Mostyska, outside Lviv. The Israeli government also sent four bullet-proof ambulances. And during Hanukkah, Israel donated 17 generators to provide electricity to the hospitals and water infrastructure in Ukraine’s half demolished Kherson region.
Meanwhile, Israel absorbed thousands of refugees, many of whom qualified for Israeli citizenship. Unlike other countries, Israel kept its flight route with Moscow open in anticipation of refugees fleeing the invasion in Ukraine or the situation in Russia and making Aliyah.
AJC funded two of those flights from Europe to Israel and raised more than $2.5 million of humanitarian aid, which it distributed as grants for organizations to help Ukrainians evacuate from the war zone and resettle. In addition, AJC’s Warsaw-based Central Europe office helped support on-the-ground aid efforts.
On the fourth night of Hanukkah, President Biden invoked the bravery of the Maccabees while welcoming Zelensky to the White House. Zelensky then addressed a joint meeting of Congress where he urged American lawmakers to further invest in democracy by bolstering their support.
4) Iran and Russia Deepen Ties
As an embattled Iranian regime faced massive anti-government protests, increasing sanctions, and worldwide scrutiny, it found a new friend in Russia, as the Kremlin faced backlash and setbacks in its war in Ukraine - a troubling development with profound implications for Israel’s security.
Deepening ties between these countries is a concern for many, Israel in particular, where since 2015, Russian soldiers have been stationed on the northern border with Syria, permitting Israel to fly over Syrian airspace - a critical capability that has allowed the Jewish state the ability to disrupt Hezbollah’s weapons supply lines from Iran.
Now Russia and Iran have quietly reached a deal for Iran to begin manufacturing hundreds of Iranian-made attack drones to dramatically deepen Russia’s arsenal of inexpensive but highly destructive weapons. Those weapons have since been used to target civilian infrastructures that provide power and water to millions in Ukraine.
The deal also supplemented the scarce financial and political support for the regime as world leaders began to hold Iran more accountable for its worsening record of human rights abuses highlighted by the violent crackdown on protesters that has claimed hundreds of lives.
The attempt on author Salman Rushdie’s life also highlighted Iran’s efforts to kidnap and kill dissidents who are critical of the regime’s human rights abuses, including Masih Alinejad, the 2022 winner of AJC’s Moral Courage Award, who has been outspoken about Iran’s discrimination against women and imprisonment and torture of political opponents.
Meanwhile, negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal, started, stalled, and stopped throughout 2022 as Tehran flouted one commitment after another while reportedly stockpiling enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, threatening Israel’s existence.
5) Abraham Accords Blossomed
Diplomatic ties, unprecedented government agreements, and people-to-people exchanges between Israel and its neighbors continued to expand in 2022 – two years after the Jewish state established relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, then later renewed and upgraded ties with Morocco.
In February 2022, Israel and Bahrain inked a security agreement to advance intelligence cooperation, a framework for exercises, and cooperation between the countries’ defense industries. An Israeli attaché was appointed to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.
Israel and the UAE signed an historic free-trade agreement in May 2022, which both sides hope will expand to $10 billion in trade annually in the next five years.
Meanwhile, concerts, soccer matches, and weddings brought together citizens from Israel and the Arab nations. During a historic performance in Abu Dhabi on the fourth night of Hanukkah, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed its first concert in an Arab country since before the founding of Israel. And AJC Abu Dhabi: The Sidney Lerner Center for Arab-Jewish Understanding opened its doors, which an AJC delegation celebrated with Emirati officials and members of the local Jewish community in early 2022.