Much was said about the US House of Representatives’ failure to pass a resolution forthrightly condemning the forthright anti-Semitism of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and her defense by some other Democratic members. But not enough.
American Jews and others were befuddled when neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, VA in 2017 shouted “Jews will not replace us!” Replace? Those confused failed to comprehend the anti-democratic right’s conspiratorial vision of Jews as enablers of non-white immigration. The neo-Nazi who allegedly committed New Zealand’s mosque massacres clarified things, ranting online about “The Great Replacement” of European-rooted whites by other races, other non-Christian religions.
But many Jews and non-Jews don’t hear an anti-Semitic “replacement” dog whistle from the anti-democratic left. They should. It promotes replacement of Jews’ status as the otherwise undeniable target of the world’s oldest, most genocidal hostility.
Hence the final generic resolution passed by the House. It marginalized anti-Semitism, instead prioritizing rejection of fashionably unfashionable hatreds including “Islamophobia.”
Several pro-Israel groups originally had called for Rep. Omar’s dismissal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. No, said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). “There must be equity in our outrage.” So, members diluted anti-Semitism as but one ingredient in a soup of prejudices.
Equity in outrage? Iran repeatedly threatens Israel, the Jewish state, with annihilation, and the United Nations yawns. Religiously identifiable Jews no longer can walk the streets of Western European cities safely. Pro-Israel speakers on American colleges campuses require security guards. The horror of the New Zealand murders comes amid the killings of hundreds of thousands of Muslims by other Muslims across the greater Middle East in recent years. No matter; anti-Zionist anti-Semites obsess over Israel and its backers.
The ‘Islamophobia’ Smoke-screen
“Anti-Semitism” was coined in late 19th century Germany by Jew-haters to make their bigotry sound scientific. “Islamophobia,” a more recent neologism, is employed to denigrate or censor critical discussion of Islamic extremism or Islamic societies marked by religious intolerance, inferior treatment of women, suppression of homosexuals and widespread anti-Semitism.
Annual hate crime statistics reported by the FBI do not support charges the United States suffers from recurrent anti-Muslim epidemics. Those figures consistently do rank anti-Jewish incidents highest among religiously-motivated hate crimes.
Rep. Omar’s allegations during her first months in Congress, including assertions that Jewish money buys congressional support for Israel and pro-Israel American Jews display dual loyalty, the latter echoed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), were widely noted by politicians and the press. But these were not just “tropes” that “sounded to some as anti-Semitic.” They were golden oldies from the Jew-haters’ classic conspiracy theory songbook.
No matter. Omar and Tlaib were certified by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as minority women. That is, as exemplars of genuine oppressed minorities.
Jews, part of the white power structure, don’t really constitute a threatened minority. Therefore, Omar and Tlaib stood above criticism from an outmoded special interest, “the Jewish lobby” with its unnatural tie to Israel and obsession over the Holocaust.
Progressive Replacement Theology
At work, as Tablet online magazine writer Liel Leibovitz noted, is the progressives’ update of Christian replacement theology. The belief Christianity replaced Judaism as the sole means to salvation sanctioned centuries of anti-Jewish persecution in Europe.
Only after the Holocaust and the Vatican II Council (1962-1965) did Roman Catholicism and a number of Protestant branches acknowledge Judaism’s continuing religious validity. Hence the reactionary attempt, including by some Palestinian Christians, to revive replacement theology and undermine Evangelical support for Israel with the otherwise ludicrous claim that “Jesus was a Palestinian.”
Invoking Islamophobia to constrict examination of anti-Semitism — as did the House resolution — follows a parallel track. Making it difficult if not impossible to deal directly with Jew-hatred, its genocidal history and renewed vitality, helps render Zionism — Jewish national liberation — and Israel hard to understand or support.
So, expect more of this left McCarthyism from Reps. Omar, Tlaib and their apologists. Note that the first instinct of Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a member of the House majority leadership, was to cut Somali-born Omar some slack since she spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp. Her experience, opined Clyburn — who in 2011 reportedly shared a stage with one of the country’s leading anti-Semites, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — was “more personal” than that of Holocaust survivors’ children.
Clyburn’s subsequent clarification under pressure hardly countered the growth of progressive replacement ideology. Why should it? Secular fundamentalists find in cries of Islamophobia a useful lever to displace the Jews.
The writer is author of Jews Make the Best Demons: “Palestine” and the Jewish Question, published last year by New English Review Press.