Israeli-American philanthropist wants U.S. Jewry to go to war with, not ‘handle,’ antisemitism
Yossie Hollander, who funds Holocaust education and other efforts to combat antisemitism, thinks the American Jewish leadership has for too long been ignoring the threat of far-left antisemitism and wants a new umbrella group to lead the fight against it
Yossie Hollander, an Israeli software entrepreneur and philanthropist now living in California, wants American Jewry to go to war against the groups and individuals responsible for the current wave of antisemitism in the United States. He wants that war to be well-funded, professionally organized and supported by the Israeli government, and he doesn’t think the current communal infrastructure is up to the task.
Hollander, who has long donated to Holocaust education causes and other efforts connected to combating antisemitism, is convinced that American Jews have misdiagnosed the threat of Jew hatred, focusing too much on white supremacists and far-right antisemitism. (Hollander dismisses that threat as insignificant, despite the fact that it has claimed the lives of more Jews in America than far-left antisemitism.)
His solution is a new umbrella organization, one funded with $100 million a year, which would hire lawyers, lobbyists and media relations experts to play a far more aggressive role against university professors that espouse antisemitic views, school districts that adopt curricula that paint Jews as oppressors and Qatari-funded media campaigns.
Earlier this month, eJewishPhilanthropy spoke with Hollander about his analysis of the situation in the United States today and his vision for this organization.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Judah Ari Gross: Let’s speak first about combating antisemitism in the U.S. and especially on college campuses.
Yossie Hollander: In the short term, the priorities of American Jewry should be to make sure that the American support for whatever Israel needs to do continues. And that is not a given at all.
JAG: When you say support, you mean from the United States government or from within the American Jewish community?
YH: The United States government. We need [President Joe] Biden to stand with Israel. We know the patterns in the past that we get initial support from the U.S. but only to a certain point. And then whoever decides or pressures the administration that this is enough and [Israel] should stop. We can’t afford to stop right now. So that’s why I think this is the most important thing right now.
We have to keep exposing what [Hamas] did. Israel showed the 47-minute movie [of compiled footage from the Oct. 7 attacks] to a few people. But the internet is full of other things that we need to expose, and the Israeli [military] spokesman should release a video of the horrific acts every day. And all the social media companies need to make sure it gets distributed. I think that’s the only way that America keeps support because as we all know there are people living in the progressive wing and especially in the democratic one that want to see Israel gone. They don’t even deny it.
JAG: Do you think that part of the issue is the lack of a clear plan for what happens in Gaza the day after the war?
YH: I don’t think that has anything to do with it. I think it has to do with what Biden and the people around him say.
JAG: OK, so that’s your focus for the short term. What is your long-term focus?
YH: We have to look at the antisemitism in the U.S. According to [Anti-Defamation League] data, only 18% of antisemitism comes from the right. [Ed. note: The source of this data is not immediately clear. In the ADL’s 2022 survey of antisemitism in the United States, at least 852 of the 3,697 incidents of antisemitism (23%) were attributed to known white supremacist groups, which does not include all cases of right-wing antisemitism.]
And [right-wing antisemitism] is the least dangerous one. They may kill a Jew here and there in a synagogue, but they don’t control anybody in Washington, they don’t have anybody in the universities. No disrespect, but you know, most of the right-wing antisemites don’t have the GPA to get into universities. So, the antisemitism in the universities, for example, is all left-wing and Islamist.
What we’re seeing in the demonstrations is Islamists and the radical left. It is not right-wing masses demonstrating. So, I’m not suggesting we ignore them, but that’s not where we have the problem. They have zero influence on Biden. Qatar has influence on Biden, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has influence on Biden.
We need to think about who are the real enemies and where they sit in the centers of control and how we fight them. And that’s a bigger strategy that we have to divide between universities, high schools, district attorneys, social media. It’s a whole strategy that Jewish people need to get around because right now they are basically ignoring the fact. They kind of try to stay within the comfort zone, which was a few crazy Nazis. This is what I call a Jewish comfort zone. This is not what’s happening out there, OK? The people who are tearing down the posters are not Nazis. The people with the keffiyehs are not Nazis.
JAG: What does that mean in practice?
YH: In practice, the Jews should start organizing. Until now, in the universities, most of the Jewish focus was on what I call student activism.
There was very little top-down effort to change university infrastructure. Now you see people like Bill Ackerman and Marc Rowan starting an activity on the boards. But there are many other activities we should be doing on the university level.
JAG: Such as?
YH: What we need to do is make sure that all the professors that are antisemites are removed from universities. Removed. Already a few have been removed, by the way. The university started removing those professors. They need to be removed from academic life. They can’t be in touch with students. You should never allow them to talk to any student, ever. We need to remove the faculties that are becoming a hotbed for antisemitism, like many of the Middle East studies.
Students for Justice in Palestine was removed from Brandeis, suspended in Columbia, and [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis tried to outlaw them in Florida state universities. This needs to be a national standard. We cannot have organizations that are antisemitic and anti-America.
If there were a Ku Klux Klan parade in the university, all the students, professors and organization involved would be out tomorrow, within 24 hours. And we need to make sure that none of these students [who take part in pro-Hamas activism] ever gets a job in the United States. Half of them are not U.S. citizens. So we need to throw them out of the U.S. tomorrow.
It’s war. It is war not just against Israel or the Jewish population. It’s a war against the U.S. This is war, and we have not been fighting so far. We’ve been ‘handling’ it. We need resources and we need focus. If anybody thinks that it’s going to get better, just look at the statistics. The Harris-Harvard poll showed 50% of adults under the age of 25 support Hamas over Israel. How do you think that happened? That’s a combination of TikTok, of universities, of high school education.
There’s a lot that needs to be done, but the Jewish people have to start getting organized a little bit more centrally. Not each one doing whatever they want in their own ways. It’s very nice, but it’s not working. We’ve been fighting antisemitism from the left and the Islamists for the last 20 years. So far we’ve been losing. We haven’t been fighting it in an organized way. We need to get organized.
What we need is we need 10 Jewish billionaires to each put together at least $10 million a year in one big batch with an aggressive agenda and professional management, not federation management. When you hire professionals, you need professionals to manage them. We need to put in $100-$200 million a year. And Israel needs to join the fight as well as a strategic practice.
JAG: In terms of the role that you see the State of Israel, the government of Israel having in these efforts, there have been a number of articles recently raising questions about the role that the Qatari government has in funding programs at universities and think tanks. Is there concern that if Israel starts entering this as a government — not private Jewish funders and Jewish philanthropists — but Israel as a government playing more of a role that you could have a similar blowback of state-sponsored propaganda?
YH: We have a lot of organizations that bring opinion makers and people to visit Israel. It’s part of the education and explanation and communication of what Israel is about. Suppose Israel decides to fund 20 times more than it currently funded. The Jewish organization in the United States will help bring more people to Israel and the people in Israel will fund the organization that does it here. What’s the big problem with this? Things that are done anyway, just do it 20 times more. Just to give you an example.
Another example is declaring that Iran fights us not just on the nuclear front, but on the soft war [of public opinion]. They must understand that Qatar is an enemy state, not a friendly state, and start treating it as such. Israel has the tools to fight Qatar, but it needs to decide that it does because Qatar is fighting us, but we’re not fighting Qatar. That’s the big difference.
So you ask: What could Israel do to fight Qatar? Israel could do a lot. What could Israeli-American Jews do to fight Qatar? Not much.
JAG: You said that you want to see some large donors coming together and putting money toward this. Is there anything concrete on the table? Are there any talks that are currently happening?
YH: No comment on that. I hope so.
JAG: Do you think that this requires new organizations or should it be done by working within the existing frameworks and filling in those roles and bulking out those organizations?
YH: I think it requires a new coordinating umbrella organization. It doesn’t mean that the money will not go to an existing organization. If the Lawfare Project will say, ‘OK, if you can give us $2 million more a year, then we can do X,’ that’s fine if the program makes sense.
JAG: But there is already the Anti-Defamation League, which has the mission of combating antisemitism. So you could just give more money to the ADL and get it to hire more of the professional people that you want, or you could say, ‘OK, ADL, you’ve had your time, we’re going to go and create a new ‘Anti-antisemitism League.’
YH: You’re putting it in the black and white. The ADL would be part of the fighting network, the question is, how it is coordinated and planned, and the ADL will not be the center of coordination for the Jewish world.