Skip to content

‘It Is Anti-Semitic To Hold Jews Collectively Responsible’ for Israel... Sort of

Shirley Vermillion, the founder of Williamsburg, Virginia’s “2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival,” disallowed a Hanukkah candle-lighting event, saying that it “seemed very inappropriate” given current events in Gaza. Local media report her explanation: “The concern is of folks feeling like we are siding with a group over the other … not a direction we ever decide to head.” She added that no religious groups have been allowed to perform at 2nd Sundays. Others, including Christian groups, have always been turned down.

The United Jewish Community of Virginia Peninsula (UJCVP) issued a curious statement in response, saying that Vermillion had written them that a lighting ceremony would be allowed only if it were held under a “ceasefire” banner. However, it became evident that the UJCVP was not willing to do so. Their statement said that they had been told the event, as is, would appear to choose sides in the conflict; but they claimed that their event had nothing to do with the Israel-Hamas war.

The UJCVP statement then took a curious turn: “We should be very clear: it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s policies and actions, and to require a political litmus test for Jews’ participation in community events that have nothing to do with Israel. Those standards would never be applied to another community.”

It is notable, both that the UJCVP is opposed to “collective responsibility” (the very doctrine that the Netanyahu government applies to the civilian Palestinians in Gaza) and that they make a distinction between Jewish activity and the state of Israel (a distinction Israeli administrations ignore whenever anyone dares to criticize their government). However, it is not clear that the UJCVP is therefore ready to declare the Israeli government “anti-Semitic.”