Jewish progressives have a serious problem with anti-Semitism. They deny it where it’s obvious, and fight passionately against it where it doesn’t exist.
In 2017 alone, the Jewish left has embraced Keith Ellison, Linda Sarsour and Rasmeah Odeh. It has savaged President Trump, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.
Who are these people?
Ellison is a former spokesman for Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. Sarsour is a Hamas supporter and BDS advocate. Odeh is a terrorist, convicted of murdering Jews because they were Jews.
President Trump has embraced visibly observant Jews, and the State of Israel, with a warmth virtually unprecedented among world leaders. Steve Bannon is a staunch American nationalist who surrounded himself with Jews at Breitbart and in the White House, and who sees Israel as America’s primary ally in a civilizational death-struggle against radical Islam. Sebastian Gorka destroyed his own promising political career in Hungary when he publicly repudiated the anti-democratic and anti-Semitic attitudes animating other members of the Hungarian right.
When the broader progressive movement—which now controls the Democratic Party—selected Ellison, Sarsour and Odeh as champions of their future, the Jewish progressives plunged right in. Endorsements and expressions of support gushed forward—evidence of their heroes’ obscene Jew hatred be damned.
Meanwhile, Haaretz and the Forward—two leading publications of the Jewish left that have never shied away from attributing vile motives to Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria—determined that lifelong pillar of the Jewish community, observant Jew, philanthropist, Zionist and staunch Israel advocate Ambassador David Friedman, was anti-Semitic because of contempt he expressed for the anti-Israel libels and political machinations of J Street.
Increasingly, Haaretz and the Forward are coming to resemble proudly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propagandists such as Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada. Last month, Haaretz published a piece arguing graphically that Israel’s religious Zionist sector was worse than rampaging Arab terrorists. The article drew widespread outrage and condemnation, from the Prime Minister on down. Haaretz stands resolutely behind the piece. Eli Clifton, whose rhetoric of overt Jew-hatred was condemned across the political spectrum just five years ago (including by the ADL, the Obama White House and the National Jewish Democratic Council), has now been given a platform at the Forward, where he serves as the bridge between that progressive Jewish flagship and the anti-Semitic fulminations of his other publisher, Electronic Intifada.
Of course, Jewish leftists did express outrage against two genuinely concerning outbreaks of anti-Semitism. The first involved anti-Semitic email and internet attacks against Jewish journalists critical of the Trump campaign. The second was a series of bomb threats called into JCCs around the country. But the outrage on the left persisted only as long as it could blame Trump and his allies for the hatred. Upon investigation, the internet attacks originated from fewer than 2000 sources, half of them in Ukraine or Russia. The JCC threats were the work of a Jewish Israeli-American teenager. Concern on the Jewish left evaporated overnight.
Jewish progressives are deeply concerned about white supremacists, personified by old-school David Duke, alt-right Richard Spencer and occasional parades of Nazis or Klansmen. But despite the tremendous burst of free publicity the media has showered upon these odious groups in an attempt to magnify the threat, their membership is negligible, they are utterly rejected and marginalized on the right and they wield zero influence. Meanwhile, the left mainstreams and lionizes black supremacist groups—whose views on Jews are no less repugnant. Hillary Clinton handed them an entire evening at the Democratic convention to promote their war on America’s cops, and to promote intersectional support for all other struggles. Israel and the Jews rank high on the list of intersectional oppressors, evidenced not only by blood-libel claims of an Israeli-perpetrated genocide, but by the frequent burning of Israeli flags among advocates of unrelated progressive causes (including at the Democratic convention).
Despite the black supremacists’ overt anti-Semitism, Jewish progressives, like all progressives, have embraced their agenda enthusiastically. On the rare occasion that the leftist Jew-hatred becomes too obvious and extreme for even progressive Jews to ignore, they invariably find a way to blame Israel—the victim—for having provoked the attacks. Indeed it often seems as though the primary mission of progressive Jewish publications like Haaretz and the Forward is to manufacture a steady stream of defamations of Israel as grist for the anti-Semites’ mills.
In assessing this shocking record, it’s easy to dismiss this leftist inversion of reality as cynical partisan politics. But what if it’s not? What if Jewish progressives really believe their own press? What if the anguish they’re expressing is from their kishkes rather than just tactical manipulation as part of their progressive agenda? What if they are reporting honestly on threats they perceive, and embracing those they truly consider friends to the Jews?
If so, then today’s Jewish progressives have completed a long journey. To them, progressivism and Judaism are more than merely compatible, they are synonymous. To them, it is inconceivable that either progressivism or Judaism would ever fail to champion the cause of justice—as they perceive it. Their progressivism defines their Judaism. The logical calculation is simple; the emotional identification is complete: Progressive values define justice. Judaism stands for justice. Therefore, progressive values define Jewish values. QED. In their world, any attack on progressivism is definitionally an attack on Judaism.
When President Trump embraces visibly Orthodox Jews committed to tradition and faith and proud of Israel’s culture and values, he repudiates the progressivism central to leftist Judaism. When Republicans value Israel as a front-line ally in the war to preserve Western civilization, they establish the Jews’ status as part of the oppressor class. Because progressive values compel the West to embrace refugees from a virulently Jew-hating culture, anyone concerned about the implications of importing that Jew-hatred stands against Jewish values.
The Jewish progressives’ problem with anti-Semitism is clear: Those who view progressivism as synonymous with Judaism inevitably conclude that anti-progressivism is synonymous with anti-Semitism. Thus Haaretz declares peace-loving, patriotic Israelis “more dangerous than Hezbollah.” Thus the Forward embraces progressive feminist leaders who call for the destruction of the the Jewish state—while labeling White House officials leading the charge to roll back Iranian nuclear weapons “anti-Semites.”
We have met the enemy and he is us.
By Bruce Abramson & Jeff Ballabon