Antisemitism, the evil which must not be named

The multifaceted nature of the “oldest hatred” makes it difficult to combat because it means different things to different people and is too often disguised by blaming the victims.  

Matthew M. Hausman, J.D.

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ADL antisemitism table
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Despite laudatory coverage of the “No Hate, No Fear” Solidarity March against antisemitism in New York last month, none in the political or media establishments have acknowledged their complicity in facilitating Jew-hatred and shielding its purveyors.  For many progressives, the rally cry “no hate, no fear” was a platitude used to obscure their own biases and excuse identity communities where antisemitism is flourishing. 

And few of the mainstream commentators professing support showed any self-awareness given their initial efforts to blame the deadly assaults against Jews in Monsey, NY and Jersey City, NJ on white supremacism, right-wing extremism or President Trump, when in fact they were perpetrated by members of minority groups – some with suspected ties to an antisemitic religious sect.  

Misdirection in assigning blame is perhaps unavoidable when vague euphemisms instead of graphic specificity are used to describe anti-Jewish hatred.  While the “No Hate, No Fear” rally was organized to denounce violence against Jews, its moniker omitted the words “Jew” and “antisemitism.” Indeed, the event name avoided any appearance of ethnocentrism and seemed to project an aura of inclusiveness, though antisemitism targets only Jews and the lethal attacks being condemned affected no other minority.  And despite declarations of concern regarding hate violence generally, there has been no similar uptick against any other class or group.

Whatever the reason for this apparent inhibition, it seems to echo an establishment reluctance to offend those who should be offended, i.e., doctrinaire progressives and identity communities where antisemitism is thriving but with whom liberals find common cause.  Moreover, it evokes the efforts of those who seek to reconceptualize Jewish history as a universal metaphor to validate a political agenda that, among other things, heaps disproportionate criticism on Israel and downplays left-wing antisemitism.  

It appears Democratic leaders are unable to condemn antisemitism without generalizing its meaning or diluting its focus.  They instead analogize it to other hatreds, especially those affecting demographic groups favored by progressives.  Or they turn it into an allegory to justify their goals and programs. Not all hatreds are equal, however, and none is more pernicious than antisemitism.  Indeed, no other group has been as persecuted throughout history and across national and cultural boundaries as the Jews.  Though the left tries mightily to genericize antisemitism, there was never a “Final Solution” calling for the extermination of the Black, Hispanic or gay populations, women were never subject to pogroms or deported to concentration camps because of their gender, no other people were so unflatteringly integral to apocalyptic Christian and Muslim eschatology, and American slavery – shameful and dehumanizing as it certainly was – was not genocide.  

Progressives use exaggerated outrage over the Holocaust as a tool for labeling ideological opponents racist and solemnizing their political sacred cows.  In the process, they obscure its meaning and insult its victims with false parallels, e.g., comparing Trump to Hitler, likening Republicans to Nazis, equating southern border detention centers with Auschwitz, or analogizing Nazi Germany’s abrogation of Jewish civil rights to the struggle for same-sex marriage.  These comparisons are clearly inapposite, but there is no shortage of nontraditional rabbis and secular communal leaders willing to provide a gloss of Jewish approbation.  Ironically, such affirmation provides cover for those who incite Jew-hatred on the left.

Whereas the “No Hate, No Fear” rally was organized with good intentions, it was difficult for many to reconcile the presence of anti-Israel progressives, e.g., members of Jewish Voice for Peace, whose website proclaims support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) movement.  It was likewise difficult to condone the presence of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken supporter of former British Labor leader (and unrepentant anti-Semite) Jeremy Corbyn. Ocasio-Cortez has in the past justified violence against Israel and identifies with the Democratic Socialists of America, who at their rallies have chanted the slogan, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” calling for Israel’s destruction.  Her participation was therefore incongruous and offensive. 

Democrats who bemoan the threat of white supremacism should be just as outraged at the presence in their midst of BDS advocates and leftists who facilitate bigotry.  They should also publicly question why antisemitism is flowing from identity communities they embrace.


Antisemitism is unique because it is driven by often disparate motivations.  In that Jewish identity is both religious and ethnic, Jews have been persecuted because of heritage, ancestry, and otherness as well as belief. 
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy comes from Democratic politicians who accuse others of prejudice while refusing to castigate their party’s tolerance of Jew-hatred.  Claims of pro-Jewish solidarity are dubious in light of their ongoing failures to: (a) censure anti-Israel bigots like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib; (b) shun party members who embrace Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, and Linda Sarsour; and (c) chastise Barack Obama for publicly expressing pride in Tlaib despite her use of hateful slurs, including her recent retweet (since deleted) of a false story that Israelis had killed an Arab child in Jerusalem. 

This hypocrisy is abetted by journalists who always seem to blame Jews for inciting the passions of those who hate them.  Some reports about the fatal Jersey City shooting, for example, made sure to mention the growth of Jewish communities in urban areas – as if to imply that Jews create antisemitism by their very presence.  These stories conveniently failed to report the outbursts of community members and neighbors who were captured on video praising the shooters and calling for more violence against Jews.  

The same media dynamic has been in play since the Crown Heights riots of 1991, when mobs inflamed by community provocateurs attacked Jews and murdered rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum.  Blame-the-victim reporting was employed then to mitigate the rioters’ culpability by depicting pogrom-like conduct as reactive rather than hatefully aggressive. And it has since become standard in a media that portrays terrorists as victims, applies vile stereotypes to the Jewish State, falsely accuses Israelis of massacring Arab children, and publishes bogus reports of IDF soldiers murdering Palestinian-Arabs to harvest their organs.  Though such slanders are deeply rooted in blood libel mythology, they are disseminated without shame or embarrassment.  

Today’s mainstream establishment bears a large measure of responsibility for enabling partisan disinformation.  It falsely accuses conservative Republicans who support Israel and condemn Jew-hatred of innate antisemitism, for example, while exonerating progressives who slander Israel, disparage Jewish tradition, and validate the BDS movement that they created.  If Democrats truly want to combat antisemitism, they should acknowledge and repudiate their party’s complicity.  

Throughout history, anti-Jewish hatred was rooted in religion, culture, and economics and was ubiquitous in both Christian and Muslim society.  And while it was never the exclusive province of the left or right, it infected the entire political spectrum consistent with prejudices inherent in common culture.  Religious antisemitism can be expressed by word or deed:

-In Christendom it provided the foundation for replacement theology, targeted evangelism, and programmatic misrepresentation of Hebrew scripture, while also spawning ghettos, massacres, expulsions, Crusades, the Inquisition, and ultimately the Holocaust. 

-In the Islamic world, canonical antisemitism mandated subjugation of the Jews and their homeland, generations of persecution and enmity, forced conversions, and genocidal slaughter in the name of jihad.  

-On the political right, antisemitism was often fueled by baseless fears of disproportionate Jewish political and economic influence, toxic cultural stranger anxiety, and the Jews’ refusal to renounce their religious and ethnic heritage. 

-The left was inspired by similar stereotypes, but often for different ideological reasons. Specifically, in attempting to remake the political and social order, European progressives were leery of religion and divergent nationalisms, which they believed fostered societal division.  Accordingly, they mistrusted Jews who resisted assimilation while maintaining their distinctive religious and national character.    

Antisemitism is unique because it is driven by often disparate motivations.  In that Jewish identity is both religious and ethnic, Jews have been persecuted because of heritage, ancestry, and otherness as well as belief.  Consequently, Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust whether they were observant, secular or agnostic, communists or capitalists, traditional loyalists or baptized apostates.  Sadly, the multifaceted nature of the “oldest hatred” makes it difficult to combat because it means different things to different people.  

Those who are influenced by anti-Jewish beliefs in Christian and Muslim tradition cannot change their views without conceding critical errors of faith.  Likewise, those whose bigotry arises from the common culture will cling to their biases unless they acknowledge the foundational flaws that mold their historical and cultural perspectives.

In many ways, Jew-hatred today is no different than in generations past.  But in an age ruled by political correctness and moral relativism, its purveyors are often absolved by progressives who rationalize it as merely responsive to Jewish behavior.  Unfortunately, the problem will continue until the establishment admits its complicity and repudiates the hateful zealotry it has encouraged and empowered.

Matthew M. Hausman is a trial attorney and writer who lives and works in Connecticut. A former journalist, Mr. Hausman continues to write on a variety of topics, including science, health and medicine, Jewish issues and foreign affairs, and has been a legal affairs columnist for a number of publications. 



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