Defining anti-Semitism down with Jewish Voice for Peace and Linda Sarsour

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan has long been “one of the leading anti-Semites in the United States.” Just this May, the ADL noted that “since the beginning of 2017 he has continued to preach to his followers that Jews are satanic conspirators who represent the epitome of evil in the modern world.” The specific examples cited by the ADL are truly hair-raising and include the deranged claim that today’s Jews are “not really Jews but are in fact Satan,” as well as a call “for Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the broader Muslim world to unite in opposition to the existence of the State of Israel.” And just a few days ago, the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt called out Farrakhan again for demonstrating once more that “he’s an unabashed anti-Semite.”

But during a controversial event hosted by The New School on Tuesday evening to market a recently published book on anti-Semitism by the misleadingly named Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the group’s Lina Morales insisted on dismissing Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism as inconsequential.

After claiming [starting at about the 33 mark of the video] that anti-Semitism is generally understood to target only white Ashkenazi Jews, Morales asserted that too many people wrongly believe that “Muslims, Arabs and black and brown people and communities are especially anti-Semitic.” She went on to explain:

“I’m coming from Chicago, and Chicago that’s the home base of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam. Louis Farrakhan – I think he’s an anti-Semite; but materially, how has he put Jews in danger? Not really, because he only really affects the black community. But people in Chicago – white Jews – love to talk about him and love to paint him as the ultimate anti-Semite. Why is that? So I wanted to bring into this analysis how anti-Semitism factors into the structural repression that we’re trying to dismantle.”

That is certainly the most stunning example of the soft bigotry of low expectations that I’ve heard in quite some time – and the bigotry expressed by Morales isn’t all that soft.

If we apply the “reasoning” of Morales, anti-Semitism isn’t much of a problem as long as a purveyor of anti-Semitism has not really “put Jews in danger.” Moreover, if the person promoting anti-Semitism can somehow be said to suffer from “structural repression” like “Muslims, Arabs and black and brown people and communities,” it’s not progressive at all to even notice this person’s Jew-hatred – indeed, any “white Jew” who does so would naturally be guilty of furthering the “structural repression” that progressives like Morales and her co-panelists are so eager “to dismantle.”

In other words, Jew-hatred – and presumably other forms of bigotry – exhibited by “Muslims, Arabs and black and brown people and communities” in the US (and around the world?) are to be shrugged off by the apparently superior “white” people, and in particular by “white Jews.”

It was hardly surprising that Morales’s co-panelist Linda Sarsour was eager to do her part to downplay Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. As I have documented, Sarsour has embraced Farrakhan’s NOI as “an integral part” of “the history of Islam in America,” and she apparently shares the ardent admiration for Farrakhan displayed by two of her close friends and fellow activists. At the New School event on Tuesday evening, Sarsour opined:

“The existential threat resides in the White House, and if what you’re reading all day long in the Jewish media is that Linda Sarsour and Minister [Louis] Farrakhan are the existential threats to the Jewish community, something really bad is going to happen and we are going to miss the mark on it.”

This presumably means that Jews shouldn’t worry about anti-Semitism as long as it doesn’t pose an “existential threat” – which of course echoes Morales’s argument that Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism isn’t worthwhile fussing about because in her view, he hasn’t “put Jews in danger.”

But the combination of Farrakhan and Sarsour is arguably quite worrisome. During a speech on July 30, 2015, Farrakhan threatened that if the US government failed to act as he demanded, “then we must rise up and kill those who kill us, stalk them and let them feel the pain of death that we are feeling.” Some two months later, on October 10, 2015, Sarsour spoke at a rally organized by Farrakhan in Washington, DC., to mark the 20-year anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March. Echoing Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic efforts to blame Jews for problems and hardships experienced by Blacks in the US, Sarsour told her audience: “The same people who justify the massacres of Palestinian people and call it collateral damage are the same people who justify the murder of young Black men and women;” she also insisted that “the liberation of the Palestinian people is bound up with the liberation of Black people in America.”

Farrakhan’s views about the Jews could probably be summed up with the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune;” for Linda Sarsour’s views, it would perhaps be more accurate to use a slightly modified version like “The Jews who are Zionists are our misfortune.”

However, “progressives” will be cool with all that as long as neither Farrakhan nor Sarsour can be definitely shown to have “put Jews in danger” – and putting Israeli Jews in danger probably doesn’t count anyway, judging from the pronouncements of the august panel of “experts” on antisemitism that were provided a platform by The New School last Tuesday. The event fully vindicated Jonathan Greenblatt’s verdict: “Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from [the] perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”

About the Author
Petra Marquardt-Bigman is a politically homeless lapsed leftist who can’t get used to living in a time when the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune” is considered quite acceptable in its 21st century version “The Jewish state is our misfortune.” She therefore writes mostly about antisemitism, anti-Israel activism and BDS, i.e. Bigoted Double Standards. She grew up in Germany and has a Ph.D. in contemporary history.
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