(JNS) On July 11, the American Jewish establishment tried to prove that it could fight anti-Semitism and be progressive at the same time. It failed.
Outside of Congress that day, dozens of American Jewish groups co-sponsored a rally against the rising tide of Jew-hatred in America. The organizers had hoped that tens of thousands would show up for the event, and for good reason. In April 2002, a hundred thousand American Jews from all over the country congregated in Washington on short notice to rally in support of Israel during “Operation Defensive Shield.” And here they were supposed to rally not for Jews in Israel, but for themselves, as anti-Semitism rises from coast to coast.
But the multitudes were no-shows. The crowd numbered somewhere between a few hundred by most counts, to 2,000 according to the organizers. What accounts for the failure?
The problems began with the name the organizers chose for the rally. They might have called the event: Zero Tolerance for Jew-haters. But they opted for “No Fear.”
“No Fear” as a banner for a rally against rising levels of anti-Jewish bigotry makes no sense. Of course Jews should fear anti-Semitism. They are being targeted for discrimination and violence nearly everywhere they look—in the classroom and boardroom; on the streets, in their synagogues. Calling the rally “No Fear” denigrates the very people the organizers claim they want to protect.
The content of the rally was equally problematic. First there was the rally’s credo. Titled the “Statement of Inclusion,” it read, “We stand against all hatred. We know that we cannot truly defeat anti-Semitism if we allow other forms of hatred within our midst … This coalition will not tolerate expressions of racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia or any other hate … Our tent is big, but those who espouse hate must stand outside it.”
Lauri Regan is a prominent community activist with a decades-long record of achievement in organizing mass demonstrations for communal causes and effectively fighting anti-Semitism. Regan penned a postmortem of the event in the Jewish Voice where she listed the many reasons it failed. The organizers refused to permit Republican congressional leaders, former Trump administration officials, evangelical leaders or conservative media superstars to speak at the event. They would not permit Holocaust survivors or victims of Palestinian Arab terror attacks to speak.
Instead, the rally featured one progressive activist after another, followed by Democrat spokesmen and administration representatives. A Reform leader attacked Israel and the “occupation.” The speakers raved over President Joe Biden, even though he has hired men and women to serve in senior positions in his administration who have records of anti-Semitic statements, support for BDS, Iran and Palestinian terrorism.
Speakers attacked right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis. They did not attack the anti-Semitic lawmakers in the Democrat congressional caucus or criticize the party leaders who promote rather than condemn them.
Given the name of the rally and the speaker lineup, Jews committed to actually fighting anti-Semitism had no reason to make the effort to travel to Washington. And progressive Jews don’t care enough about anti-Semitism to bother.
As Regan summed it up in her devastating analysis, “This failed rally sent the message that Jewish votes and voices don’t matter. They don’t even come out to a rally to fight anti-Semitism so why would a politician stand with Israel and the Jews if Jews don’t stand with Israel and the Jews.”
The rally’s epic failure is even more striking when you compare it to British Jewry’s successful fight against the British Labour Party throughout Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015-2019 tenure as party leader.
Britain’s Jewish leadership is usually divided and not particularly powerful politically, certainly not in comparison to its counterpart in America. But when Corbyn was elected, the normally split community unified to oppose the man who referred to Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as “my good friends,” rejected Israel’s right to exist and compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. In an unprecedented show of unity and concern, in 2016 Britain’s three Jewish papers put their rivalry aside and published the same front-page editorial condemning Corbyn. They referred to the specter of a Corbyn-led government as “an existential threat to Jewish life,” in Britain.
On the eve of Britain’s parliamentary elections in 2019, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote an article in The Times warning that due to Corbyn’s candidacy, “the soul of the nation is at stake.”
After Labour’s devastating defeat at the polls, many commentators attributed the loss to the Jewish community’s success in demonstrating the truth and implications of its accusations that Corbyn was anti-Semitic and that Labour under his leadership had become systemically bigoted against Jews.
Corbyn was ousted from party leadership after the elections specifically due to his refusal to fight anti-Semitism. His successor, Keir Starmer, takes the job of purging anti-Semites from party ranks so seriously that still today, nearly two years after the election, he continues the job. This week the party’s ruling National Executive Committee was scheduled to vote to oust some 1,000 members who have denied claims of anti-Semitism within the party.
The American Jewish establishment is far more homogenous than its British counterpart. It is composed of a minority progressive faction and a majority moderate faction. Like its counterpart in the Democrat Party, the progressive minority in the American Jewish establishment has managed to exploit the majority’s aversion to disunity to seize control over the tone and parameters of the American Jewish discourse, and through both to largely dictate the actions of the communal leadership.
We got a recent glimpse at how this works when GBAO, the progressive Jewish establishment’s in-house polling firm led by a J Street founder, published a poll regarding American Jewish perspectives on American politics and on Israel. From the way the survey questions were drafted and chosen, it was clear that the purpose of the poll was to promote an agenda, not measure public opinion.
Among the questions included in the survey were a handful focused on identifying anti-Semitism. Participants were asked if Israel has the right to exist and if it is anti-Semitic to question Israel’s right to exist. They were asked if Israel is an apartheid state and if it is anti-Semitic to call Israel an apartheid state. They were asked if Israel is carrying out genocide and if it is anti-Semitic to accuse Israel of carrying genocide. And they were asked if Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is like racism in America and whether it is anti-Semitic to draw the comparison.
The responses to the questions were hard to stomach. The Israeli public reeled at the news that a quarter of American Jews think that Israel is an apartheid state (and 24 percent say it isn’t anti-Semitic to say Israel is an apartheid state); 22 percent believe Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians (and 31 percent say it isn’t anti-Semitic to say that Israel is committing genocide); 9 percent think Israel has no right to exist (and 17 percent say it isn’t anti-Semitic to say Israel has no right exist); and 34 percent believe that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is like American racism (and another 30 percent say it isn’t anti-Semitic to say that the two are the same).
But even more distressing than the responses was the fact that the progressive Jewish establishment wanted to ask these questions. If a polling institute run by neo-Nazis asked Americans if it was right to beat Jews on the streets, no doubt a certain percentage of respondents would answer affirmatively. The Jewish communal response to the poll wouldn’t focus on the results. It would rightly focus on the neo-Nazis who asked the question, and the leadership would justifiably accuse the polling firm of inciting violence against Jews.
Thanks to the progressive Jews who ordered up the GBAO poll, Rep. Ilhan Omar and her fellow Jew-haters inside and outside the Democrat Congressional Caucus will use this poll to deflect criticism as they spew anti-Semitic blood libels against Israel and its “Benjamins” wielding American Jewish supporters.
This brings us to the moderates who comprise the majority of the American Jewish establishment. Like their counterparts in the Democrat leadership, these leaders know full well that Israel is not an apartheid state or committing genocide or guilty of systemic racism, and they know it is anti-Semitic to raise these obscene allegations. But like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, they won’t fight progressives to defend the truth.
They will remove Israeli flags from their synagogues, schools, JCCs and stages at rallies. They won’t talk about Israel. And they will endorse “Statements of Inclusion” that insist you cannot fight anti-Semitism without fighting all forms of hatred because there isn’t anything unique about Jew-hatred. And anyway, “the occupation” is divisive and stuff.
They will repeat these incantations without realizing that they have adopted Jeremy Corbyn’s lexicon. Corbyn after all defended himself from allegations of anti-Semitism by saying he couldn’t possibly be an anti-Semite because he was anti-racism.
The victims of the failed Jewish-American establishment are the American Jews. Last month, City University of New York’s faculty union overwhelmingly passed a resolution labeling Israel an “apartheid … settler-colonial state” that has perpetrated the “massacre” of Palestinians and demanded the Biden administration cease U.S. aid to Israel. The resolution also called for CUNY to join the BDS campaign against Israel.
Some Jewish professors quit the union in protest. In an interview with Algemeiner, professor Robert Shapiro of Brooklyn College said that for him, “It’s hard to figure out what to do.”
“It’s more complex than simply anti-Semitism,” he said.
“It’s the use of the concept of intersectionality and arguing that if you’re really in favor of justice for your particular group or certain groups you have to be in favor of justice for everybody discriminated against.”
The situation is even more complicated by the fact that many of the intersectionality crowd’s preferred victim groups—including the ones included in the “No Fear” rally’s “Statement of Inclusion”—are the chief instigators of anti-Semitic assaults on Jews on campuses throughout the United States. The credo of the American Jewish establishment requires Jews to side with groups that are victimizing and deliberately targeting them.
Anti-Semitism in Britain didn’t disappear with Corbyn’s defeat. It has continued to rise, just as it has in the United States. All the same, the difference between the two communities is clear. When push came to shove, the British Jewish establishment stood up for the Jews, even at the price of turning its back on progressive intersectional slogans.
Through its show of weakness July 11, as in its activities both before and since, the American Jewish establishment has demonstrated to friend and foe alike that in the United States, the situation is reversed. While the progressive faction of the Jewish establishment promotes and abets anti-Semitism, the moderate majority has opted to give up the fight for Jewish rights without a struggle.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.”