Bari Weiss: 'Antisemitism is a symptom of a much deeper crisis'

‘Antisemitism is a symptom of a much deeper crisis’: Journalist Bari Weiss excoriates anti-Israel sentiment in the aftermath of October 7 terror attacks by Hamas and says anti-Jewish feeling is a ‘sign that society itself is breaking down’

  • Journalist Bari Weiss on November 10 delivered the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society’s annual conference in Washington DC
  • Weiss condemned those defending the October 7 terror attack by Hamas, delivering a blistering rebuke to those who claimed the victims deserved it
  • Weiss said the subsequent surge in antisemitism was ‘a sign that the society itself is breaking down’ 

Antisemitism is ‘a sign that the society itself is breaking down’, journalist Bari Weiss has warned, as she excoriated the ‘hip, young people with pronouns in their bios’ who cheered when Hamas murdered 1,200 people on October 7.

Weiss, who founded online news site The Free Press, said she had been stunned by the rush to justify the terror attack, and was shocked by the contrast in response to 9/11.

Weiss was speaking at The Federalist Society’s annual conference in Washington DC, and on Friday evening delivered the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture – given in honor of an influential lawyer and free speech advocate who died aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11.

Weiss said it was obvious to her that her speech should discuss ‘the civilizational war we are in. The war that took the life of Barbara Olson and 3,000 other innocent Americans.’

She continued: ‘I want to talk about the stakes of that war. About how we must wage it – fearlessly and relentlessly – if we seek to build a world fit for our children, and if we want to save America itself.’

Bari Weiss, founder of The Free Press, on November 10 addressed The Federalist Society’s annual gathering, delivering a speech at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC

Pro-Palestine demonstrators are seen on November 9 in New York City

Weiss, who is Jewish, said she had been devastated to see how people ‘poured into the streets of our capital cities to celebrate the slaughter.’

Pro-Palestine activists around the world chanted for an end to Israel, and said Israel only had itself to blame for the October 7 attack.

Weiss said the antisemitism unleashed was terrifying – noting that the New York City offices of The Free Press were vandalized with ‘F*** the Jews’ and ‘F*** Israel.’

‘The social justice crowd – the crowd who has tried to convince us that words are violence – insisted that actual violence was actually a necessity. That the rape was resistance. That it was liberation,’ she said.

‘University presidents – who leapt to issue morally lucid condemnations of George Floyd’s killing or Putin’s war on Ukraine – offered silence or mealy-mouthed pablum about how the situation is tragic and ‘complex’ and how we need to think of ‘both sides’ as if there is some kind of equivalence between innocent civilians and jihadists.

‘But the most alarming of all were the young people who threw their support not behind the innocent victims of Hamas terrorism, but behind Hamas.’

Weiss condemned the academics and students who justified the terror attacks, and said she was deeply disturbed by their defense of Hamas’ actions. She also condemned the university presidents who failed to speak out.

She told the rapt crowd of her sadness at seeing the kidnap posters being torn down, and struggled to understand how anyone could do such a thing.

‘The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews,’ she said.

‘And that antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred.

‘But that is not the whole answer. Because the proliferation of antisemitism, as always, is a symptom.’

Weiss said the proliferation of antisemitism was a symptom of the wider challenges facing society, with racial identity at the forefront of all debates

Protesters in London take part in a sit-in at Victoria station, holding placards calling for the erasure of Israel

Kate Varnfield, 66, was pictured attending the rally in London this weekend with a placard showing the Star of David enmeshed with the Nazi swastika above the words: ‘No British politician should be a ‘friend of Israel”’ 

She said the surge in antisemitism – the Anti Defamation League said on October 27 that reported incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault have increased by 388 percent over the same period last year – was part of the broader trend.

‘It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad),’ she said.

‘It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob.

‘People were to be given authority in this new order not in recognition of their gifts, hard work, accomplishments, or contributions to society, but in inverse proportion to the disadvantages their group had suffered, as defined by radical ideologues.’

Weiss noted that Jewish people accounted for two percent of the U.S. population, but their success, under the new ideology, ‘suggests not talent or hard work, but unearned privilege.’

She added: ‘This conspiratorial conclusion is not that far removed from the hateful portrait of a small group of Jews divvying up the ill-gotten spoils of an exploited world.’

Weiss said: ‘Their moral calculus is as crude as you can imagine: they see Israelis and Jews as powerful and successful and ‘colonizers,’ so they are bad; Hamas is weak and coded as people of color, so they are good. No, it doesn’t matter that most Israelis are ‘people of color.’

‘That baby? He is a colonizer first and a baby second. That woman raped to death? Shame it had to come to that, but she is a white oppressor.’

An image projected onto the library of George Washington University reads: ‘Glory to our martyrs’ 

A woman shouts slogans as NYU (New York University) students participate in a walkout during a national day of action called by the ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ at Washington Square park

Weiss urged the audience to open their eyes, and realize that you do not need context to know that murdering civilians in their beds was wrong.

She said it was fundamental that laws were enforced, regarding bans on full-face masks at protests in some states, and said it was time to end ‘double standards’ on freedom of speech, particularly on campuses.

‘The universities play favorites based on the speech they prefer, and the racial group hierarchies they’ve established,’ she said.

‘It’s a nasty game and they need to be called to account for it.’

And finally, she urged her audience to fight to defend what they believed in.

‘Time to defend our values – the values that have made this country the freest, most tolerant society in the history of the world – without hesitation or apology,’ she said.

‘We have let far too much go unchallenged. Too many lies have spread in the face of inaction as a result of fear or politesse.’

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