A tale of two anti-Semitisms

Both right and left have anti-Semites, but there is a vast difference.

Douglas Altabef

OpEds Black Lives Matter demonstration
Black Lives Matter demonstration

One of the classic observations about anti-Semitism is that “it starts with the Jews, but never ends there.” In America today, all people should be worried, because it is indeed starting with the Jews.

Anti-Semitism is the great unifier of those who hate. Each can find some common ground with those they otherwise detest in their common aversion tohe Jews.

In America today, there is “easy” and “difficult” anti-Semitism. The easy kind is on the lunatic fringe of the Right: the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, KKK, Aryan Nation, etc. 

Why is this the easy kind? Because they are so obviously identifiable, so straightforward in their hate. Above all, they set off exquisitely sensitive trip wires, conjuring images of the Third Reich, of hooded lynch mobs, of the most vile and frightening and to-be-shunned-at-all-costs haters.

The American DNA has been conditioned to react vehemently and unconditionally to this kind of hatred, and rightfully so.

The good news is that this is indeed a fringe. It is a small group that is often wildly overexposed by the media for the simple reason that this group should and does unite the rest of society in common revulsion. 

Simultaneously, there is a much more difficult anti-Semitism that I would submit is far more dangerous to the future of the American Jewish community: the anti-Semitism of the far Left. 

Today, we are seeing the growing phenomenon of intersectionality, in which all alleged oppressions are somehow linked and related. So, Black Lives Matter can find common ground with Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as radical feminist and LGBT groups. Part of that common ground is to identify Israel as a colonial oppressor, a bastion of white privilege apartheid.

Historic watchdog organizations such as the ADL have become putty in the hands of the far Left, choosing to appease them, because of their historic affinity for liberal causes
As might have been expected, we have seen the slippery slope of anti-Zionism leading to garden variety anti-Semitism. Supporting Israel’s right to exist, let alone its virtuosity, puts one outside the tent of the so-called oppressed; we are now starting to see the next step down, whereby being a Jew makes one per se suspicious of harboring sympathies to Israel.

So, why is this difficult anti-Semitism? Because the espousers are people we know and can relate to. They go to leading universities, espouse other positions that we feel sympatico with, and reflect a kernel of feelings that we can identify with.

So we are conflicted, and in that conflict we make excuses, overlook things we would otherwise condemn, put hateful behavior into context, and do somersaults to contextualize the hatred. Often this turns into blaming the victim or seeing the rationale for the anti-Semitism expressed.

The media is a leading enabler of this difficult anti-Semitism, by providing an uncritical, and often sympathetic platform for the haters, and often expunging the anti-Semitic aspects of the various platforms and policies from the groups that trumpet anti-Semitism in its shrillest form.

In the face of this difficult anti-Semitism, the American Jewish Establishment has largely been neutered. Historic watchdog organizations such as the ADL have become putty in the hands of the far Left, choosing to appease them, because of their historic affinity for liberal causes. In the process they signal that they are turning a blind eye to the hatred regularly espoused.

The ADL’s tepid response and its lightening speed to forgive the Imam in northern California, who recently called for the murder of Jews, is just an egregious example of what is becoming an all too familiar pattern.

A large portion of the American Jewish community has replaced Judaism with Progressivism. Unfortunately, like all faiths and cults, Progressivism requires its adherents to maintain certain tenets and core beliefs, and one of them is the evil that is Israel. 

Increasingly Jews in America will be forced to choose between a support for Israel and their bona fides in the Progressive movement. Of course, that is anti-Semitism in and of itself, the idea of dual loyalty.

These are not easy times for the American Jewish community. Much of it is content to lay their problems at President Trump’s doorstep. However, the problem preceded Trump and it will get worse regardless of who sits in the White House. 

The only way to confront both facets of anti-Semitism is to see them for what they are, and to have the courage to prioritize the unacceptability of anti-Semitism wherever and with whomever it is to be found.

Mr. Altabef is the Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu, and a Board member of The Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at dougaltabef@gmail.com.