Can it happen here? The lessons of Europe’s red-green antisemitic surge

T. Belman. I don’t trust anything the ADL says and does. Tobin is quite right to take them somewhat to task in this article. Yes, the ADL report points out the problem but at the same time it offers solutions in line with woke policies.

ADL’s report about anti-Israel activism fueling European Jew hatred is welcome but fails to point out that U.S. liberals need to rethink their fealty to woke ideology.

 By JONATHAN S. TOBIN  (August 16, 2023 / JNS)

America isn’t Europe. That’s the key thing to bear in mind when reading the Anti-Defamation League’s sobering report on “Antisemitism and Radical Anti-Israel Bias on the Political Left in Europe,” published last week.

Some parallels can be drawn between the way a bizarre and troubling red-green alliance between leftist elites and Muslim immigrants has mainstreamed antisemitism in Europe and the growing influence of the intersectional left in the United States with the same aims. Americans should be paying close attention to the rising tide of Jew-hatred on the other side of the Atlantic and seeking to learn from it. But it’s important to remember the big differences between the two situations. More than that, the ADL’s policy recommendations stemming from its research don’t adequately alert Americans to the forces that are working toward the same dismal surge in antisemitism.

The first thing to recognize about this subject is that antisemitism is not an integral part of the history or the official policies of the United States, unlike the nations of the Old World. Equally true, the majority of Americans are likelier to be philo-semitic and pro-Israel in numbers that are not to be found in Europe. Still, important lessons may be learned from the subject of the ADL report.

While nothing in the study is particularly new, it confirms the way political parties and activists have embraced anti-Zionism, and the way that has inevitably sparked a new wave of hatred for Jews on the continent. Focusing on the state of affairs in four countries—the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain—it provides a generally accurate and worrying evaluation of the predicament for Jews that resulted from the left’s adoption of the Palestinian cause that has enabled the legitimization of attitudes and action that undermines the Jewish community and spreads intolerance.

Anti-Zionism is antisemitism

While all of these countries are different, the parties of the left in each have shown themselves vulnerable to co-optation by anti-Israel ideologues. They dominate public discourse about Israel and help create an atmosphere in which Jewish activism is treated as inherently racist.

Every discussion about the subject is based in the false premise that supporters of the Jewish state treat all criticism of Israel as antisemitic. This is patently untrue. There’s nothing necessarily antisemitic about criticizing the government of Israel or its policies. But anti-Zionists oppose the existence of Israel, not just its stands or practices. They hate Israel because of what it is, not what it does.

So, while criticism of Israel is legitimate, the dichotomy between anti-Zionism—which claims that the Jews have no right to a homeland or to self-defense—and antisemitism is a distinction without a difference. Anti-Zionists are almost always engaged in antisemitism, because their advocacy is inherently prejudicial to Jews and aimed at denying them rights that no one would think of questioning with virtually any other group. No other nation has an international movement arrayed against it, whose purpose is its extinction. The global strength and reach of anti-Zionism is inconceivable without antisemitism. And it is not an accident how easily agitation against Israel morphs into acts of Jew hatred, including violence.

Nor is it coincidental that the parties of the left are susceptible to this sort of argument, since they view Jewish nationalism as somehow illegitimate. They think of Jews as European immigrants, rather than a multi-ethnic group, although the majority of Jewish Israelis trace their origins to the Middle East or North Africa, and are thus actually the indigenous people of that country.

That is why traditional right-wing antisemitism, which is rooted in religion or far-right nationalism, remains a factor in Europe. The current wave of Jew hatred is now largely driven by left-wing politics.

This report is to be welcomed, as is the ADL’s recent pivot toward acknowledging the danger of antisemitism from the American left.

Thanks largely to its CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL has shifted its stance in recent years from non-partisanship to that of a Democratic Party auxiliary advocacy group. That’s deeply unfortunate, because the ADL is uniquely placed to impact the national discussion. The ADL can do a lot of good when it publicizes something that advocates thinking clearly about the sources of antisemitism.

One shortcoming of the report is its tendency to downplay half of the problem on the European left. The power of left-wing antisemitism stems from the coming together of two disparate factions—left-wing intellectuals, artists and political activists and Muslim immigrants to Western Europe, who brought their antisemitism and intolerance for Jews and Israel to their new homes.

It isn’t surprising that the ADL wouldn’t want to make that community the face of antisemitism in Europe, and all such immigrants are not Jew haters. But the growth of the Muslim population in these countries parallels the recent antisemitism surge. The parties of the left that tend to accept a narrative about white racism and Muslim victimhood are natural allies of Islamists when it comes to Israel, even though they are diametrically opposed on social issues.

Woke politics and antisemitism

Even more problematic is the report’s final section, which seeks to alert Americans to what happened in Europe and to ensure that does not repeat in the United States.

Some of the ADL’s recommendations are merely anodyne expressions of concern. But its call to block antisemitism online is problematic given it is wedded to the Biden administration’s collusion with Big Tech and social media companies to censor conservatives and criticism of their policies. That makes it difficult to view any effort on the group’s part to impact online activity as anything but inherently partisan.

Equally problematic is the report’s emphasis on Holocaust education. It is important that people understand the truth about the Holocaust. But the growth of U.S. Holocaust education programs in the last generation hasn’t had the desired impact. Most of the programs seek to universalize the Holocaust or to claim that ordinary prejudice leads inevitably to death camps. This not only robs the Shoah of its uniqueness but also misunderstands the political nature of antisemitism. Moreover, the ubiquity of talk about the Holocaust is more responsible for the proliferation of inappropriate Holocaust analogies on both the left and the right than any amelioration of antisemitic attitudes.

It has become merely a metaphor for anything people don’t like.

But the main problem with the ADL’s recommendations is its failure to point out that the roots of left-wing antisemitism are to be found not just in Palestinian propaganda but in the fashionable ideologies of the left that groups like the ADL endorse routinely.

Just pointing out the antisemitic statements of the left-wing congressional Squad members like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) or the way that protests against Israel during its fighting with Hamas in May 2021 transitioned into violence against Jews isn’t enough. If you condemn that behavior but approve of intersectionality—which falsely analogizes the Palestinian war on the planet’s one Jewish state to the struggle for civil rights in the United States and the antisemitic Black Lives Matter movement from which it sprung—then you don’t understand what is driving the growth of Jew hatred on the left.

If you think critical race theory, which treats Jews as “white” oppressors and Israel as a manifestation of imperialism, you are aiding the antisemites.

And if you accept the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as necessary for all businesses and even the government to adopt, then you reject equality and embrace racial quotas that will inevitably hurt Jews.

Unfortunately, these are mistakes that the ADL has made and continues to make. Its recognition that antisemitism can come from the left as well as the right is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. American liberals and their institutions, like the ADL, will remain part of the problem and not the solution until and unless they understand that left-wing Jew hatred traces back to these toxic myths and ideas, as well as open attacks on Israel and Zionism.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

August 17, 2023 | Comments »

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