Dani Ishai Behan

Ignore Leftist Whitesplaining: The Real Reason Jews Are More Forgiving of Alt-Right Antisemitism

Before I begin, I would like to offer a few disclaimers. First, this article is NOT an endorsement of the alt-right. I despise the alt-right. I think they are one of the greatest threats our community has ever faced, and I am not at all fooled by their “pro-Israel” pretenses. They are white nationalists through and through, by their own admission. My goal in writing this article is to grab my leftist “comrades” by the jaw and wrench their eyes towards some very uncomfortable truths, of which more anon. Second, I use the term “whitesplaining” in my title because, although I recognize that many of our enemies on the left are not white (in fact, some are even Jewish), most of what I’m about to address emanates from white anti-Zionist leftists.

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, the American Jewish community is still, by and large, left-wing oriented. About 74 percent of us voted for Hillary in the recent election, whereas only a quarter voted for Trump. Nevertheless, those numbers are troubling for a community that has been squarely Democratic for decades. Furthermore, Jewish approval ratings for Trump are even higher outside of the United States, especially in Israel itself. All of this indicates that something seriously wrong is afoot, and if we want to ameliorate this problem, we must do so not by talking down to these pro-Trump Jews or shaming them into silence, but by endeavoring to understand how they think and why they made the choices they did on election day. That is what I have been doing since November 8th.

As one might expect, most of my friends are fellow Jews, many of whom are either pro-Trump or have become disillusioned with the left’s increasingly anti-Israel (read: antisemitic) slant. I belong to the latter camp myself. I ran out of patience for the left’s seemingly inexplicable blindspot towards Jewish suffering years ago. And yet despite all of that, I repeatedly challenged my pro-Trump Jewish friends on their decision to vote for a man whose campaign track record is stained with all manner of racism, including antisemitism. My intuition, at least initially, was that they all had a deep-seated “whiteness” complex and were so delusional and desperate to keep their imagined seat at the proverbial big boy’s table that they just didn’t care about anything else. Oh, how wrong I was.

When I pressed them on their vote, the responses I got were not at all what I was expecting. Instead, they would talk about how “Trump is more pro-Israel” and that “the left doesn’t care about us, so why should we listen them?”. And as a leftist myself, it’s hard to blame them after taking a long, hard look at the behavior my (mostly white, or otherwise non-Jewish) “comrades” have exhibited towards Jews, Israel, and antisemitism. To wit, the bare act of raising antisemitism as an issue worthy of concern in progressive circles is enough to be branded a “Zionist troll” and ostracized. Without absolving the right of its own transgressions against us (even if they are oftentimes more restrained and subtle), we on the left can no longer afford to deny reality: the left has a Jewish problem. A major one. And it is gradually driving my people away from the party altogether.

To any leftists who are aghast at what I just wrote, consider this: as horrible and revolting as Bannon and Trump are, they are not the ones attacking our indigenous rights… are. They’re not the ones intimidating Jews on campuses, holding “River to the Sea” banners on the streets, defending terrorism against Jewish civilians, and smashing up Jewish shops whenever the IDF has the gall to do its job, which is defending its people and preventing the second Holocaust that so many of its enemies (both right and left) have wet dreams about. No, that would be the anti-Zionist left. I am aware that there is more nuance to it than that (there are leftists who support Israel, however rare they are, and there are right wingers who unabashedly oppose it), but when your average, relatively uninformed Jew sees, on one hand, a party that gives the appearance of unrelenting support for Israel and, on the other, a party that is becoming increasingly antagonistic towards the Jewish state, has betrayed it again and again and again, and has placed virtually all of the blame for the conflict on its shoulders, who do you think they’re going to trust? I would hazard a guess and say “the party that isn’t apologizing for Palestinian terrorism – refusing to even call it by its name – or declaring us ‘illegal settlers’ in our own capital”.

If you are a non-Jewish leftist and your response is to lecture us on how “Jews and Zionists/Israel are entirely separate”, please spare us. Most of us are not interested in your “wisdom” on what you think a Jew is or what rights we alone should be deprived of, certainly not the Jews who voted for Trump. The truth is, Israel is our ancestral, indigenous homeland. And as such, the overwhelming majority of us care about it, and we are perfectly justified in doing so. We should not be forced to pick and choose between loyalty to our people and loyalty to our country of residence. This is a demand made of no other people (let alone other minorities). If you support indigenous rights, you must support Jewish indigenous rights as well. If you support national autonomy and self-determination for everybody else, you must also support Jewish national autonomy. If you condemn the deaths of non-Jewish civilians, you must also condemn the deaths of innocent Jews, be they in Israel or in the diaspora. Otherwise, you are singling out Jews for unfair and unequal treatment. That is called discrimination, and discrimination against Jews has a name: antisemitism.

The left needs to come down from its high horse and start listening to Jews. Not Jewish Voice for Peace, not Mondoweiss, not Max Blumenthal, nor any of the other Jewish Hermann Cain’s you can find who will tell you exactly want you want to hear about us, but the Zionist mainstream that you have repeatedly chosen to mock, belittle, dismiss, and accuse of “crying wolf”. You need to stop pretending that you know better than we do about our own oppression. And most importantly, you need to take a long, hard look at your own backyard before acting stupefied at how Jews are allegedly “betraying their own best interests” by aligning with the right. Because it’s not like you really gave a damn about us when it wasn’t convenient for you to do so. You couldn’t even bother to mention us on your “safety pin” memes following Trump’s election. What reason do we have to listen to you now?

The Jewish community’s trust in the left is dwindling, and the left needs to earn back that trust. If you do not, you will continue to hemorrhage Jewish support. It’s really that simple. We refuse to be obedient, sycophantic “useful” Jews who will happily cede our autonomy (national or otherwise) to our “betters” and let them decide our fate, and we are tired of your naked hypocrisy. If you cannot respect that and engage with us on our own terms, then neither you nor your fellow travelers have any right to call yourselves “anti-racist”.

About the Author
Half-Irish/half-Jewish American activist, musician, and writer.