Michael Jackson

American Anti-Semitism: Left and Right  

An article by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic April edition stimulated this post.  Its title was “The Golden Age of American Jews is Ending”.  This topic provided images for the magazine cover that featured famous American Jews, posters, and some sentences in Yiddish (see cover below).

Foer’s article reminded me of two books I had read a few years ago:  Deborah Lipstadt’s Antisemitism: Here and Now (2019) and Bari Weiss’s How to Fight Anti-Semitism (2019).  The two books were published during the Trump presidency and after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.  Foer’s article and the two books both try to balance the anti-Semitism of the Left and the anti-Semitism of the Right.

I will focus mainly on Foer’s article.  However, I will start with the two books.  Weiss’s book has 35 pages on the anti-Semitism of the Right and 47 pages on the Left.  This disproportionality is in a book published while Trump was the president who had praised the white Supremacist Charlottesville anti-Semites.  He also made racist statements about Africans, Haitians, Mexicans, and Muslims.   Deborah Lipstadt has an interesting section on enablers of anti-Semitism.  These folk are not necessarily anti-Semites themselves but allow or enable anti-Semitism among their associates and supporters.  Her two examples from the Right and the Left:  Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.  Donald Trump, at the time of the book’s publication, was the US president, “the most powerful man in the world” to use the traditional American expression.  Jeremy Corbyn was the leader of the UK Opposition.  Most British journalists and political commentators at the time thought Corbyn would never be elected Prime Minister.  He never was.  He lost his position after a disastrous election performance.  In 2023, he was expelled from the Labour Party.  Today he is a political nothing.  Trump went on to espouse election denial, to foment a violent insurrection, and to become the Republican presidential nominee in 2024 with a reasonable chance of becoming president again.  Today, Lipstadt is the United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism.   Even when Lipstadt wrote her book there was an incommensurable power difference between these two Left and Right “enablers”.  That disparity has subsequently grown.  Her balancing of Left enablers with Right enablers was misplaced then.  It is misplaced today.

Weiss and Lipstadt make determined efforts to show that Left and Right anti-Semitism are equivalent in their dangers.  Franklin Foer in his bemoaning of the passing of the “Golden Age” of American Jewry follows the same path.  He has sections of his article relating to Left-wing and Right-wing anti-Semitism.  The section on the Left deals primarily with Left-wing student activity on college campuses.  In describing these activities, he downplays the role of Muslim students (not necessarily Leftists).  He also writes about Bay Area city council meetings.  The groups sponsoring these activities are both small and geographically isolated.  He does not mention the Democratic party or any recent leaders of the Democratic party such as Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, Jeffries, and Biden.  None of these leading Democratic politicians are anti-Semites or even enablers of anti-Semitism.  In the section on the Right, he mentions Trump and billionaire Trump supporter, Elon Musk, both of them being powerful people in stark contrast to the anti-Semitic Left-wing students.  He quotes Trump giving mild support for a conspiracy theory involving George Soros, the foreign-born Jewish billionaire.  Foer also points out how Fox News demonizes Soros.  Again, Fox News has an influence far outweighing a few hundred angry students.  Ex-president Trump had dinner at Mar-a-Lago with two outspoken anti-Semites, Kanye West and Nick Fuentes.  

The faction of the left that wishes to eliminate the Jewish state is a minute part of the Left.  He does not even give statistics for its support among Democrats.  He then makes a direct comparison “America’s ascendant political movements – MAGA on one side, the illiberal left on the other – would demolish the last pillars of the consensus that Jews helped establish”.  Let’s correct Foer’s statement:  MAGA is not “ascendant” – it dominates the Republican party and the Right.  The illiberal Left is not “ascendant” – it is a small fraction of Democratic voters and an even smaller fraction of elected federal and state Democratic officials.  The illiberal Left has virtually no influence on Democratic party policy nor on Biden’s support for Israel.

This equivocation continues with Foer’s statement “The Golden Age of American Jewry has given way to a golden age of conspiracy, reckless hyperbole, and political violence”.  The most prevalent conspiracies are from the Right, i.e., the malign influence of Soros, 2020 election fraud, Pizzagate, Hillary Clinton and pedophilia, Democratic use of children’s blood, Joe and Hunter Biden corruption in Ukraine, Jewish space lasers, etc.   The most reckless hyperbole comes from the mouth of the leader of the Republicans.  As for political violence, an analysis of Left and Right shows that “Right-wing extremists perpetrated two-thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between January 1 and May 8, 2020.” (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

Lipstadt, Weiss, and Foer exaggerate Left anti-Semitism and underestimate Right anti-Semitism to make their theories more palatable to the wider American public.  In doing so, they twist the realities of American anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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