(January 12, 2023 / JNS) It seems that every Jewish organization claims it is fighting antisemitism. Yet, it is clear that they are failing. Many reasons account for the spread of this cancer. One is that some Jews are antisemites or have taken positions that are antisemitic. Others are enablers of antisemitism. Jew-versus-Jew is not a new story, but usually, we have managed to unite to fight a common enemy. Now we are proving the adage that we are our own worst enemies.
While it is true that antisemitism is a disease of both the far-right and the far-left, what is especially alarming is that it has infected even the moderate left. This is especially apparent in the Democratic Party’s normalization of antisemitism through, among other missteps, its defense of Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and its insistence on equating Jew-hatred with other forms of bigotry, most absurdly “Islamophobia.” The overwhelmingly liberal Jewish community has spoken up in the immediate aftermath of outrages but then retreats to its sha shtil tradition.
About the only people on the Jewish right who associate with antisemitic views are the lunatics of Neturei Karta. Orthodox Jews, who are the most frequent targets of hatred, have been leaders in the fight against antisemitism. However, many also fell silent regarding Donald Trump’s behavior until he finally crossed a line by dining with Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes—though it’s unlikely to stop them from voting for Trump again.
On the left, Jews who fancy themselves mainstream have increasingly become part of the problem. Today, the most obvious are those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The worst is Jewish Voice for Peace (everyone thinks if “peace” is in their name, they are on the side of righteousness), whose positions are consistent with the worst anti-Israel propagandists and whose work on campus is particularly insidious.
On the comparatively moderate side of the Jews who undermine the fight against antisemitism are groups like J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now. They were joined by Ameinu, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Habonim Dror North America, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and T’ruah in publishing a statement protesting Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to strip Ilhan Omar of her House Foreign Affairs Committee assignment.
According to these groups, the not-yet House Majority Leader was acting “based on false accusations that [Omar] is antisemitic or anti-Israel.” What makes this defense of Omar astonishing is not just that she is unabashedly both, but that even spineless Democrats in Congress condemned her most outrageous remarks.
This is not to excuse McCarthy’s removal of Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from their intelligence committee seats in an act of blatant political revenge or his failure to act against Republican antisemites like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is being allowed back on a committee after Democrats threw her off.
The GOP’s failings have nothing to do with the Jewish groups, some claiming to be “pro-Israel,” who have chosen to defend someone who is not just another critic of Israeli policy but a public official promoting antisemitic views with a congressional megaphone.
Jews are also among those who oppose the definition of antisemitism promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which has been adopted by 39 countries, including the United States, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Council of Europe, the U.S. Departments of State and Education, 26 U.S. states, more than 400 academics and intellectuals, some 314 institutions of higher education worldwide and more than 865 international entities. A group of more than 200 professors, for example, rejected the IHRA and wrote a definition that would exclude anything any of them might say, including comparing Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.
As is too often the case, Jews are giving cover to the antisemites, who can then say, “Even the Jews disagree on the definition.” A useful Jewish idiot can always be found to provide the haters with an excuse for persecuting their brethren.
On campus, Jewish professors and administrators who ought to be setting an example for their students of how to fight antisemitism are often the problem. Take the current case of the Jewish dean of UC Berkeley’s law school, who is going to the mat to defend student law groups that pledged not to invite speakers who support Zionism or Israel, and support the antisemitic BDS movement. Antisemites are accorded free speech rights that would never be granted to bigots targeting other minorities. I’d love to see what the dean would do if law students called for a boycott of “N***ers” (“Zionist” is the antisemites’ equivalent). In the unlikely event he stuck to an absolutist free speech argument, you can be sure students and faculty would be ready to burn the law school down if no action was taken.
How can antisemitism be successfully fought when there are Jews who refuse to accept the definition of the word, defend antisemites and engage in activities that are antisemitic?
Mitchell Bard is a foreign policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.