How Should Jews Push Back Against the Growth of Anti-Semitism?

That anti-Semitism seems to be growing more open in Europe and within the radical left (increasingly more mainstream) groups in the United States is an easily observable fact. Being not just anti-Israel but openly anti-Jewish in the UK has become socially acceptable in the Labour party,  but the Labour party itself is not facing any serious consequences from the rest of the political system and social elements inside the country, never mind among most of their counterparts in other European countries. The recent row with the deselection of the MPs, targeting critics of Corbyn’s anti-Jewish policies,  only underscores this precarious trend. What’s worse, some Labour leaders are now accusing the entire Jewish community of conspiring against the left. That is not dissimilar from the charges launched by the Obama administration against the Jewish Democrats who opposed the Iran Deal.

A slew of Democratic candidates in the United States have either been pictured with openly anti-Semitic public figures such as Louis Farrakhan, or have themselves aligned with Islamists and the radical left. Some Muslim Brotherhood backed candidates ran for office in Michigan, Minnesota, Massachussetts, New York, and other states; young Democratic newcomers such as Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and Julia Salazar got their education about Jewish community and Israel related issues from JStreet U, IfNotNow, New Israel Fund, etc. Linda Sarsour continues making appearances with both. How soon till in the United States, too, Jews are accosted for the mere fact of supporting Israel>? How soon till American Jews are held collectively responsible for some imaginary grievance? How soon till in Europe and in the US, it becomes the politically correct thing to bash Jews qua Jews on a government level?  In UK, anti-Semitism is no longer confined to the “street” but condoned and promoted ideologically by party officials. Anti-Jewish incitement is the logical next step.

Anti-Semitism whether in Europe  or anywhere else is not just a Jewish problem. It affects anyone who is sympathetic to Israel, has friends who are Jewish, or who judges people as individuals rather than as members as some collectivist cabal. It even affects people who don’t particularly care for Jews OR Israel, but are just fine doing business with both. A number of Labour officials has spoken out against the latest trends; in the Democratic party in the US, mainstream politicians like New York’s Governor Cuomo spoke dismissively of some of the more radical younger candidates for office. But Tom Perez, the Chairman of the Party,  embraced Linda Sarsour, and Keith Ellison, the Deputy Chair, is himself an Islamist, who never fully disavowed his links to Farrakhan. Holocaust deniers like David Duke, who are alleged to be aligned with the populist right, are coming out in support of Corbyn. Boundaries of common sense are getting erased. Identity politics work to increase divides and undermine the precepts of American individualism. Increasingly, divisions inside the US are reflective of those of Europe, where nationalist, ethnic, and religious tensions have led to centuries of wars and separations which even the EU bureaucracy could not fix.

Instead of finding a new, thoughtful approach to combat these latest phenomena, the Jewish community in the US seems to be facing an identity crisis of its own.  The organizational leadership of the mainstream left seems more interested in rallying around condemning Trump than about combating the perilous trends that threat their constituents. And Trump, with his excessive election rhetoric and populist style, is an easy mark. He is also not the root of all problems that plague America today, but rather a reflection of a diversity of reactions to the backslide into leftist populism.

The correct answer to preventing future Trumps is not to go full on Communist but shift back to the center and reflect on the issues that cause so many people, who do not particularly like Trump or his rhetoric or even his personal politics, to consider him the lesser of evils. Voting out or impeaching Trump won’t rid the world of Linda Sarsours or Keith Ellisons who were rising even before Trump announced his candidacy for office. They used the rise of the populist right as a convenient platform for a counter reaction – but should the Republican party shift away from whatever elements of populism remaining as the Trump administration shifts towards more mainstream solutions to governance – the radicals on the left will only continue to gain strength.

At least part of the problem is that some of the young radicals challenging the sense of security of the Jewish community today comes from that community. They have been educated in public or Jewish day schools, went to some of the top universities in the country…. and they have been claimed by the latest intersectionality trends, political correctness, and Alinskyite tactics of the radicalized groups who appeal to emotions rather than facts.  Critical thinking skills are not at issue here, when such a swath of the student body is taught that emotions are more important than thinking, that seeing is more important than listening, and that asking questions rather than accepting answers is conformist, and therefore must be rejected. Even among the mainstream right wing Jewish families it is not uncommon to see young adult children (not teenagers or college students, but adults!) embracing Bernie Sanders politics and willfully refusing to engage in the reading that would inform them about more sound choices. Where all of this has gone wrong is fairly obviously and has been analyzed to death in an infinity of publication. What to do now is a better question.

What to do when you are part of the problem? What to do when you are  pushing for children to spend more time being indoctrinated by the government instead of exploring a diversity of perspectives? What to do when, despite having the president you dislike – or maybe multiple presidents and other leaders – you still believe that government is the answer to all social ills? What to do when your entire belief system rests on conforming to the better judgment of other people, and then those other supposedly wiser and more moral people disappoint? What to do when people like Alexandra Ocasio Cortezbecome part of the government and insist on getting their education from self-reinforcing radical leftist sources?

So far, the answer from most of the Jewish community in the US, which is left-wing, was to shake fists and heads impotently and claim that “educating” candidates is the answer to everything. But how well has that worked out in the UK? And what kind of education is the “right” kind?  Julia Salazar educated herself by taking classes at J-Street U, and becoming, if anything, more entrenched in whatever views she left. Clearly, her views of the Jewish communities in the US are caricature because she had no problem faking Judaism to appeal to their sympathies – because in her estimation, Jewish organized life is driven by identity politics, and Jews would have more sympathies for other Jews, not for people who have views more similar to theirs.

However, if the Jewish organizations, and average American and European Jews concerned about the status quo are serious about changing these dynamics, they should think about making anti-Semitism costly, just as anti-BDS laws make it costly to boycott Israel in certain ways. Boycotts, which can be countered with effective buycott campaigns, are only part of the problem. Ideological endorsements, incitement, and abominable political alliances are at least as serious a concern.

Rather than discussing fleeing abroad, as 40% of British Jews are considering in case Corbyn is ever elected the Prime Minister, they should consider that this problem can just as easily surface elsewhere and perhaps work on cutting this off at the root. Hiding in the US or Israel will not ultimately solve the issue of having to travel for business or pleasure, or even finding enough international partners who will combat terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah, rather than openly embrace them as Mr. Corbyn does.  The rising Jew hatred trend is about far more than the comfort level of going out on the street with a kippah or other information identifying one as a Jew. It’s far greater than the security concern of any particular family. The spreading plague can ultimately shift to align remnants of Europe with some of Israel’s worst enemies – even more openly than many of the countries are already doing today.

There are attempts to bring some of the Labour’s anti-Semites to accountability through the existing defamation and speech laws in UK, but those are both far too limiting and far too anti-Freedom. They ultimately will not solve the problem, because the problem is in the spreading views, not the mere expression of them. Even if couched in more polite language, the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish plague will continue doing damage. Similar laws would not past muster under the First Amendment in the United States, and crippling self-censorship of social media tech giants breeds nothing but resentment no matter who is the target. Appeal to and judicious use of free market principles should ultimately bring about the result that the governments, which are increasingly part of the problem, cannot. No US or British official can dictate someone not to be a hater. But a business that refuses to deal with the Labour party until its leadership stops engaging with terrorists and vilifying a good portion of its own citizens may make such moves unwelcome to the pockets of the party officials. And when other governments or business refuse to welcome anyone contaminated by these scandals into their drawing rooms, the social costs of being an inciter and appealing to the lowest common denominator may finally start bearing their fruit.

Up until this point, Corbyn and his crew, just like their counterparts in the US, could well afford to spread their poison with impunity. Their leadership and status is still recognized by the international community and their political opponents. But being isolated from the popular kids and all good things in life may make the point that no amount appeal to reason, conscience, and good ethics will do – hatred has a cost to it, and most decent human beings won’t be caught dead dealing with virulent Jew haters and terrorist apologists and supporters. Ultimately, Corbyn’s alliance with the terrorist organizations is more than about his personal distaste for Jews which is ultimately his own business – it sends a terrible message to his constituents, and presents a security problem for the United Kingdom.

Similarly, Linda Sarsour’s calls for jihad against a sitting US president are a serious ideological threat that should find only condemnation and isolation not just for her, but for anyone who welcomes her after her detestable remarks. And her calls not to humanize Israelis should have her blacklisted from any group that is not a radical Islamist gathering – and once those continue inviting her, it will be easy enough to identify them for exclusion as well. It is a damned shame that her hateful radicalism is allowed to define or speak for the views of mainstream Muslims in the United States.

Most likely do not share her views that there should be a jihad on Trump, no mater what they think about him or his policies, and quite a number, however angry they may be with the Israeli government for whatever reason, do see Israelis as human beings. That Sarsour is acceptable anywhere is as much of disservice to the American Muslim community, as it is to the Jews, and they should be natural partners to the Jewish community in combating this wretched phenomenon. Maajid Nawaz has courageously taken up the mantle against the blatant Jew hatred in UK. However, thanks to UK’s overall failure to tackle the ideological spread of Islamist rhetoric internally, even under the Tory government, which at the very least rhetorically committed to acknowledging it as a problem, makes it harder even for someone with his stature to make an impact on the people who are more likely to be surrounded by leftists and Islamists in their private life on a daily basis thanks to living in such environments or socializing in online circles.  Much more needs to be done to normalize people like Nawaz and marginalize his hateful opponents.

At the end of the day, Jews, both on the left and the right, must put aside pointless political posturing and unite against blatant Jew hatred in whatever form it takes.  Focusing on Trump as the pinnacle of all things horrible does nothing for anyone; it only encourages vicious rhetoric from the radical left. Criticize him when you see fit, but do so in a manner consistent with what you would do for any other president; don’t make him a martyr for the right wing populists; don’t give additional ammunition for the populists on the left.  Jew hatred surpasses party lines, but has been openly embraced by the radical left under the guise of “political critique”. It’s time to stop giving this contingent an inch, much less a platform.

About the Author
Irina Tsukerman graduated with a JD from Fordham University School of Law in 2009 and received her BA in International/Intercultural Studies and Middle East Studies from Fordham University in 2006. Her legal and advocacy work focuses on human rights and security issue, mostly in Muslim countries. She is also involved in diplomatic outreach and relationship-building among different communities.
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