The Jewish people have found themselves, time and time again, fighting to defend their right for self-determination, persecuted as a people without a homeland. Even after the systematic extermination of European Jewry during the Holocaust, and the return of the “wandering Jew” to their ancestral home, Jews around the world continue to find itself in opposition to a growing rally cry for the annihilation of the State of Israel “from the river to sea.” For Israeli-Canadian businessman and philanthropist Sylvan Adams, the rise of antisemitism has reached a critical point, with the Jewish people finding themselves in a position to defend their existence in the face of an enemy that has openly called for, and demonstrated its intent on the destruction of Israel.
For years, Adams has referred to himself as a self-appointed Ambassador for Israel, dedicating his time and resources to help elevate the image of Israel on the world stage, bringing the true nature of Israel as an open, tolerant, and democratic country to the “silent majority.” Adams has directed his efforts to the millions that are otherwise apathetic or uninformed about the reality of Israeli society and its deep-seated connection to Jewish traditions. Born to Holocaust survivors, Adams has dedicated his entire life to ensuring that the horrors his parents endured would never be forgotten. “Not even 80 years following the slogan of ‘Never Again,’ it’s happening all over again. It’s never gone away, always lurking there. Whatever we were doing before clearly wasn’t working so we need to find better strategies to decry this despicable behavior where Jews are the only minority where people feel a license to be able to attack.
Adams, who had immigrated to Israel in 2015, has been working tirelessly to help change the narrative of Israeli society, but has taken his campaign to the international arena since the horrific massacre on October 7th. For a fleeting moment, the global community rallied around the pain of the Jewish people, understanding the unrelenting threat that Israel has been fighting along it’s precarious borders. Masked by years of media bias and disproportionate resolutions against Israel by the international community, it seemed that the true face of terror had reared its ugly head and the world would finally see the true nefarious nature of Hamas and its allies.
This begs the question of how the majority of the world can so quickly turn on Israel, in favor of the dangerous, yet compelling, narrative propagated by Hamas. Regardless of personal opinion, the objective truth remains that the ultimate goal of Hamas is to wipe out any existence of a Jewish state. The precision of the language used by Hamas propaganda, referring to the Jewish people as western colonizers, hijacking the historical connection of the Jewish people to Land of Israel, and referring to the heinous actions of terrorism as resistance, as a seemingly justified method for their agenda, has garnered the sympathy and aggression of millions around the world. “In addition to history being hijacked, vocabulary has been hijacked,” Adams explains, drawing on the example of the Jabalia Refugee Camp in Northern Gaza established by the United Nations after Israel’s War of Independence, where over 100,000 Palestinians currently live, “Most of the residents of Jabalia were born after 1948, which begs the question if they can still be considered refugees. Additionally, a camp implies a temporary settlement, but what you have in Jabalia is a town, with permanent buildings and infrastructure. We allow them to not only shape the historical perspective, but also the vocabulary, and we need to start fighting back.”
Comparatively, around the same time as Jabalia was established, the new State of Israel began establishing immigrant and refugee camps, ma’abarot, for the massive influx of Jews arriving following the Holocaust and later those who fled from persecution from the Arab world. While there are arguments that can be made as to the opportunity for development of the former Israeli ma’abarot, which still struggle in Israel’s geographical periphery, the fact remains that the prolonged subjugation of the Palestinian people has created a compelling narrative that has galvanized sympathizers around the world. This is an advantage for the oppressive Hamas regime that preys on the victimization of its own people, and for Adams, even Israel’s advocates play into this narrative.
“We, ourselves are complicit when we refer to this as a refugee camp. We need to take control over the narrative and bring back accuracy to reporting. We must fight back every time somebody puts words into our mouth,” Sylvan explains. Israel’s growing critics, empowered by the perceived crusade of Hamas, have even weaponized the Jewish slogan that Adams has dedicated his life to preserving- Never Again, popularized after the liberation of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp by Jewish survivors. They have gone so far as to equate the ideals of Zionism to Nazism, the horrific irony of which should not even need to be explained, but still seems to be lost on the pro-Hamas masses, mindlessly being manipulated by a terrorist regime who openly call for the destruction of the only Jewish state.
While many “peaceful protesters” will purport that their stance is firmly anti-Zionist, not antisemitic, it is becoming increasingly clear that they are one in the same. One would have been hard pressed to find a pro-ISIS rally just two years ago, despite sharing a frighteningly similar ideology to Hamas, and the few public demonstrations against the horrific Syrian Civil War, which has claimed the lives of more than half a million civilians and left millions displaced, boasted only a few hundred protesters. The murder of George Floyd sparked a global movement that inspired tens of millions take part in one of the largest movements in US history. Yet, the provoked response to the glorified and barbaric murder of over 1,400 men, women, children and babies has seemed to trigger an overwhelming global response condemning the actions of the State of Israel.
“When you treat Israel differently to any other conflict in the world, it becomes antisemitism. When ever other conflict in the world, particularly when it is Muslim on Muslim violence are ignored, and the only demonstrations you can see on campus are against Israel, you can only call it what it is. Purely antisemitic,” Adams says bluntly, “This has revealed the most ancient hatred which exists on our planet, which has never gone away. We must call out this unacceptable, hypocritical, unadulterated antisemitism for what it is.”
These antisemitic tropes have resurfaced exponentially, perpetuating centuries-old racism against the Jewish people. These prejudices significantly predate the earliest recorded history of Palestinian nationalism and, in fact, precede almost every form of nationalism still in existence. The rise of antisemitism in response to Israel, in itself, underscores the necessity and rightful claim of the Jewish State.
One of the most significant and vocal populations against Israel are the young adults, 18-25, who parrot the tropes and vocabulary that Adams believe have been hijacked and perverted. The impressionable younger population plays right into the hand of Hamas, taking up the cause for the perceived “victimhood” of the Palestinian people, but when pressed on historical facts and complex issues, demonstrate a lack of understanding of the scope of the situation.
Adding that many of these coalitions are led by young Jews, Adams explains that ‘This is a classic case of ‘useful idiots.’ They feel a compulsion to self-criticize, but they don’t even know their own history, the history of our people. They call us colonists, attack us as having an apartheid society. But they don’t even know what apartheid is. It’s an insult to the people who suffered under apartheid in South Africa to say Israel, which is a pluralistic democracy with equal rights for all its citizens is an apartheid society. To call us colonialists is an ahistorical absurdity which does not stand up to even the most minimal scrutiny.”
This leaves Adams to wonder what kind of a culture we are fostering, and how much power do we give to professors and teachers, who are either complicit or helping to further sow antisemitic hatred within institutions of knowledge. With many students likening their protests to historical movements of the 20th century, Adams further questions their commitment to their principles. “This is a fashion for them. As soon as large law firms and hedge fund managers like Bill Ackman and others started to rescind job offers, all of the sudden these students withdrew their names, saying they hadn’t read the document.” The fact that elite Ivy League law students fall back on the excuse that they did not read what they were signing either suggests that they are blissfully unaware of the movements they are supporting, or lack of conviction as soon as they are personally threatened.
In a mounting battle for public opinion, Adams understands that Israel must direct its message to the silent majority, who do not have a vested interest in the conflict, but are the most impressionable, easily shaped by Israel’s critics and the complicit media. Fortunately, Hamas has done a lot of the work to show this silent majority its true colors, touting the gruesome photos and videos of the October 7th Massacre on social media platforms. For those that believe in the values that Israel upholds, this is a war between good and evil, civilization and barbarism, highlighted by the humanitarian actions Israel, even against an enemy that seeks its destruction.
The war, however, is not against the Palestinian people, and Israel continues demonstrate its morality even during wartime. As the IDF moves into the heart of Gaza City, the most populated area in the Gaza Strip and the center of Hamas’s terrorist operations, they continue to offer safe passage for the civilian population out of harms way.
Adams himself continues to lead Israel’s humanitarian efforts, even against those that oppose its existence. In 2021, after the Taliban regained control over Afghanistan, Adams, together with IsraAID, led a rescue mission to help free 167 Afghans from the extremist Taliban regime. Adams is a founding benefactor of Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli humanitarian organization that provides cardiac healthcare for children around the world. He has met with Palestinian families from Gaza whose children receive lifesaving treatment at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, a reaffirmation of his belief in Israel’s tolerant and open approach to the world.
For Sylvan Adams, there is no question as to what side of history you should be on. “Being Israeli is a subset of being Jewish. One of our philosophical underpinnings is Tikun Olam (repairing the world), trying to be a force for good. I’m very proud of this, it’s one of the reasons I’m proud to be Jewish. We approach the world in a constructive manner, with positivity and love for our fellow man. This contrasts with those who preach hate, violence and destruction. They will never win because destruction is retrograde and they are not building anything. We need to stand up for ourselves and exhibit this Jewish pride in terms of who we are as a people. It is the most remarkable journey of perhaps any people on Earth. We are a force for good.”