Europe’s Left-Wing Anti-Semitism Has Come to America

The 2018 and 2019 synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and San Diego were widely covered by American media. Not only because they resulted in tragic loss of life, but they also fit a narrative that loan wolf white supremacists were the primary terroristic threat against Jews and other minorities in America.  While this same traditional white supremacy is endemic in Europe, the most heinous and frequent perpetrators of European anti-Semitic violence are from Muslim immigrant communities in Germany, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. These attacks and incidents, although excoriated by European politicians, occur within the sea of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric floated by Europe’s left-wing and academic institutions. So much so that Jeremy Corbyn, himself permitting deep-seated anti-Semitism to infect the UK Labour Party, was forced out as its leader.

But where Corbyn was curtailed, the latest conflagration between Israel and Hamas and inter-communal violence that blighted Israeli society, has opened the lid on a similar situation in America.

Unthinkable just a decade ago, Palestinian supporters and their benefactors in the progressive movement and media are now the primary vehicle for a different but just as dangerous version of anti-Semitism. If allowed to thrive, the United States will become a place, like in Europe, where Jews will be intimidated on the streets and be forced to renounce Israel or risk excommunication from government, academia, media, and other sectors where we have thrived for decades.

Anti-Semitism is nothing new in America. The ever-present fringes of the right-wing neo-Nazi movements and occasional violence that they perpetrate reminds us that it remains a threat.  In addition, a disturbing trend has also seen Jews being physically attacked on the streets of New York City, specifically Brooklyn, over the past three years by African American residents. While ugly, these incidents have been largely contained within that area of New York City. However, the pro-Palestinian protests that took place throughout the country during and immediately after the latest clashes in Israel and Gaza, that clearly targeted Jews in locations like New York, Los Angeles, Florida, and on social media, indicate something much more sinister.

As in Europe, these attacks and intimidation have taken place within that similar sea of anti-Israeli activity that provides anti-Semites top cover.  But unlike in much of Europe, the chief supporters of this anti-Semitic left are the progressive politicians who occupy seats in the halls of American power and are lauded by prominent American media. And while Jeremy Corbyn ended up ostracized, it is unlikely our politicians will be removed or disappear anytime soon. That paints a dangerous picture for a largely liberal yet pro-Israel American Jewish community that prides itself on social action and community involvement.

Perhaps worse than the political rhetoric that fuels it, America’s activist leaders have harvested this anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism that portrays Israel as apartheid and colonialist. If we thought Israel and America’s social justice initiatives were mutually exclusive, the portrayal of Israel by the progressive wing as white colonizers oppressing people of color should be a wakeup call that this is no longer the case. Worse is the notion that Jews who have been active supporters, participants, and fundraisers for these causes could very well be forced to pledge omerta against Israel in the name of a progressive movement that has taken the anti-Semitic bait.

So, this begs the question of what we are to do as a Jewish community that has thrived in America. Is the answer to submit and join the throngs of anti-Israel voices such as what some of the more prominent Jewish journalists have done in the media and professors in academia? Or is the answer to remain silent and/or appease, as many of our Jewish members of congress have attempted to do? The answer to both is of course, no.

The answer for us as a community, the second largest Jewish community in the world, is simple. We shall not surrender to the pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic mobs that physically target us on the street, and vocally on social media. We shall not surrender to the anti-academic and lazy portrayal of the world’s only Jewish state as one that practices apartheid and is deserved of boycott. We shall not surrender to the hucksters in the activist movements we participate in, who are eager to conflate Israel with racism and oppression. And most importantly, we shall not surrender to fear. If we surrender and willfully erode Israel’s centrality to our American-Jewish ethos, then we will hasten our community’s existence to one that is precarious and on par with our European Jewish brethren. That is unacceptable and history has shown what that will bring us.

About the Author
Ryan Gardiner, a Navy Veteran and 2016 Presidential Management Fellow, previously served as Managing Editor for Harvard Kennedy School's Journal for Middle-Eastern Politics and Policy in 2016, and an Assistant Managing Editor for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy in 2020. His previous works can be found in the National Interest and in Small Wars Journal.
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