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Mexicans and Jews face a common struggle

Jan 23

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Antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise in the United States and around the globe, with Jewish people once again finding themselves being targeted by extremists and vigilante mobs eager to conflate Jewish identity with Israeli policy. The Jewish people, however, are far from the only ethnic or religious minority to have survived such waves of xenophobia and ethnic violence.

Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette looks at another such group, Mexican Americans, and compares their history and shared experiences with those of Jewish Americans. Navarrette details a wide range of similarities between these groups, encourages them to always have each other’s back, and reaffirms to both of them: “America is our country.”

Well, I was already feeling like Mexicans and Jews were sympaticos, you know, birds of a feather, two peas in a pod, brothers from another set of mothers. But then as a Mexican American, I heard something about our premise and the tribe that sealed the deal, and proved to me that we really understand each other. I’ll get there. But first, let’s quickly run through some of the common threads between Mexicans and Jews.

Both groups have a strong immigrant history and more than their share of wanderers, exiles, migrants and refugees. Both were the targets of hateful legislation aimed at keeping them out of the United States: The 1924 Immigration Act for Jews, and just about every other immigration law since then for Mexicans. In the U.S., both Mexican Americans and Jewish Americans suffered discrimination from those who were threatened by their culture, language or religion. Both have been accused of harboring divided loyalties and having allegiance to foreign countries, i.e. Mexico and Israel.

In the 20th century, both groups were barred from colleges, country clubs and certain residential communities in the United States. Both groups have trouble fitting into [the] Black-and-white paradigm. They treat us white one minute and non-white the next. And both have the same tormentors. White supremacists have committed hate crimes, including mass shootings, that target Jews and Latinos.

Well, I was already feeling like Mexicans and Jews were sympaticos, you know, birds of a feather, two peas in a pod, brothers from another set of mothers. But then as a Mexican American, I heard something about our premise and the tribe that sealed the deal, and proved to me that we really understand each other. I’ll get there. But first, let’s quickly run through some of the common threads between Mexicans and Jews.

Both groups have a strong immigrant history, and more than their share of wanderers, exiles, migrants and refugees. Both were the targets of hateful legislation aimed at keeping them out of the United States: The 1924 Immigration Act for Jews, and just about every other immigration law since then for Mexicans. In the U.S., both Mexican Americans and Jewish Americans suffered discrimination from those who were threatened by their culture, language or religion. Both have been accused of harboring divided loyalties and having allegiance to foreign countries, i.e. Mexico and Israel.

In the 20th century, both groups were barred from colleges, country clubs and certain residential communities in the United States. Both groups have trouble fitting into [the] black-and-white paradigm. They treat us white one minute and non-white the next. And both have the same tormentors. White supremacists have committed hate crimes, including mass shootings, that target Jews and Latinos.

In fact, as the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, I identified with Jews long before October 7. The massacre that day of 1,200 Israelis by Hamas, which led in turn to a global wave of antisemitism, only strengthened the connection. In January 2012, I took a memorable trip to the Holy Land with a handful of other Latino journalists. The visit, sponsored by the New York-based group America’s Voices in Israel, included an hour-long meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then in his second term as Prime Minister. Now he’s in his third. During a trip to a synagogue, our group was greeted by Israeli worshipers with a kind welcome home. And indeed, it did feel like home, the hospitality, the strong devotion to family, the sense of place, the reverence for history, the undying faith, the love of food, it all felt very familiar.

Now to that thing I heard that sealed the deal and convinced me that Mexicans and Jews really are kindred spirits. I was listening to the podcast “Call me Back.” The host is Dan Senor, an American Jew. And the author most recently of a book called “The Genius of Israel: The surprising resilience of a divided nation in a turbulent world.” He was in conversation, as he is every week, with Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur of The Times of Israel. Gur made the point, and I’ve heard the same thing several times from others Israelis and other sources, that Hamas and other terrorist groups that wish to drive the Jews out of the Middle East are missing a couple of essential facts. The Jews in Israel have nowhere to go. And in any case, they’re not going anywhere. Israel is their country, and they’re not leaving. Deal with it.

Okay, now it’s our turn. Similarly, white supremacist border vigilantes, nativist politicians, and racist MAGA meatheads who want to drive Mexicans and Mexican Americans out of the U.S. are also missing the same couple of essential points. We too have nowhere else to go, and we too are not going anywhere. America is our country, and we’re not leaving. Deal with it.

Like I said, Jews, Mexicans, sympaticos. You come for one, you’d better be ready to fight the other.

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