With Anti-Semitism On The Rise, Jews Must Call Out Hatred On The Left And The Right


Es iz schwer tzu sein a yid. It is hard to be a Jew. — Sholem Aleichem

The recent deadly assault on the Chabad temple in Poway — just six months after a bloodier massacre in Pittsburgh — reflects the sad reality that anti-Semitism, in all its hoary forms, is back.

This is, if anything, even more the case in Europe, where Jewish populations are under siege and are almost one-third as large as right after the Holocaust.

Sadly, confronted by such incidents, the Jewish community, reflecting the deep fissures of American society, seems divided by political orientation. The conservative faction, sometimes aligned to President Trump, focuses largely on growing anti-Semitism on the political left often downplayed by progressive Jews who focus on the scattered, albeit sometimes deadly, expression of anti-Semitism among scattered white nationalists.

The problem here is that both the far-right and the progressive left represent clear and present dangers to Jews around the world. The proper response to incidents at Poway, as well as those perpetrated by the political left, should not be division, but a common sense of unity in the face of a growing, and, until recently, largely unexpected threat.

The two faces of Jew-hatred

Historically, anti-Semitism has fed on two different, although sometimes aligned, perceptions. The first, dating back to classical times, was based on a notion of “otherness". In ancient Greece and Rome, that was in large part because Jewish monotheism clashed with the dominant state-sanctioned polytheism. Later this hatred was reinforced by Christian, and later Muslim, intolerance. Jewish ideas may have underpinned both faiths, but the refusal to embrace “the true and only” divine relation infuriated religious zealots of the new religions.

In medieval societies, emerged a conspiratorial strain of anti-Semitism that maintained that a secret cabal of Jews was seeking, or even have achieved, world domination. This melding of the othering and conspiracy was mostly embraced on the right and turned into policy in Nazi Germany.

Even today the far right in Poland and other European countries — where roughly one in four hold anti-Semitic views — retains such memes even if their countries are largely judenrein. The unhinged alt-right of the Charlottesville marchers, as well as the lone wolf shooters in both Pittsburgh and Poway, embraced this particularly virulent ideology.

“The socialism of fools”

America’s progressive Jews, dominant in the non-Orthodox rabbinate, have had a harder time confronting the rise of left-wing anti-Semitism, which focuses on Jews as capitalist exploiters or Israel as a neo-colonialist power. The German social democratic leader August Bebel is widely credited describing this as “the socialism of fools.”

Groups like the Anti-Defamation League like to focus on right-wing hate groups, but their statistics have been roundly criticized in such respected magazines as Tablet, and are widely thought to reflect their predictably progressive bias.

Others accuse President Trump as inciting anti-Semitism. But despite his poorly chosen comments about “good people” on both sides in Charlottesville, Trump has been arguably the most pro-Israel president since Truman and the first president with Jewish grandchildren; for this, he was bitterly denounced by both the Pittsburgh and Poway shooters.

The progressive Jews own sense of moral superiority and desire to push “social justice” as the core of their identity — conflicts with the reality that, in both Europe and North America, the strongest anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel, political movements come from on the left. In Great Britain, for example, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has embraced the virulently anti-Jewish Hamas and has attended ceremonies laying wreaths at the graves of such “heroes” as the terrorist killers at the 1972 Munich games.

Anti-Zionist, and anti-Jewish, sentiments are most commonly found in progressive bastions like college campuses, where “third world” oriented academics push “disinvestment” from Israel. Pitched merely as anti-Zionism, these same political warriors rarely favor actions against far more repressive states as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Worse yet, for the first time in decades, there are now anti-Semitic members of Congress, led by Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose pronouncements about Jews, money and “dual loyalty” have been tolerated by a party leadership intimidated by the rising left.

Normalizing anti-Semitism

We are witnessing the normalization of anti-Semitism. Democratic Presidential candidates, most recently Pete Buttigieg, seek out the blessings of the likes of Reverend Al Sharpton, a past dealer in anti-Semitic calumnies. The New York Times recently printed, in its International edition, a cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leading a blind, Kippur-wearing President Trump that would not have been out of place in Julius Streicher’s Nazi era Der Stürmer.

In Europe, far more than America, anti-Semitism is also rising on the right. In Belgium, Jewish caricatures have been on display at local festivals despite complaints. And in Germany, one official of the rightist Alternative for Germany party, dismissed the Holocaust as “a speck of birds*** in 1,000 years of glorious German history.”

Faced with what could become a permanent threat, Jews, and their friends in other religious communities, should confront anti-Semitism in all its forms. Divisions about fighting hatred serve to empower the haters, and make us all, of any faith, more vulnerable.

This piece originally appeared in The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, director of the Chapman Center for Demographics and Policy and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston, Texas. He is author of eight books and co-editor of the recently released Infinite Suburbia. He also serves as executive director of the widely read website www.newgeography.com and is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Real Clear Politics, the Daily Beast, City Journal and Southern California News Group.

Photo: The White House from Washington, DC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Why no mention of the most-powerful anti-Semite of them all?

This is, if anything, even more the case in Europe, where Jewish populations are under siege and are almost one-third as large as right after the Holocaust.

I disappointed that you did not make mention of the current king of anti-Antisemitism, President Trump's buddy (and perhaps his FSB handler) Russian Federation dictator Vladimir Putin. Examples can be found here, here and here.

Trump's Charlottesville comments

Trump's comments on Charlottesville have been widely taken out of context. He was referring to opinions about statues of Confederate war heroes, e.g., Robert E. Lee. He was not referring to the neo-Nazis.

Honestly, in that demonstration there were no good people on either side.