Is it Pos­si­ble to Fight Both Neo-Nazis and Left-Wing Anti-Semites?

The Jewish Voice - - SPECIAL FEATURES - (JNS.ORG)

We live in a time when, as the U.S. State De­part­ment has noted, a “ris­ing tide of anti-Semitism” has swept across the globe. Anti-Semitism has crept into the main­stream from the mar­gins of so­ci­ety in the West, as a coali­tion of in­tel­lec­tual elites and Mus­lims has pro­duced a surge of venom against Is­rael and Jews who iden­tify with it. That move­ment has found a foothold on Amer­i­can cam­puses and among left-wing groups, re­sult­ing in Jews be­ing stig­ma­tized and iso­lated in the pub­lic square, and stu­dents be­ing sub­jected to vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion.

But the growth of this nox­ious form of hate is not what most Amer­i­can Jews are most wor­ried about. In­stead, it is the spec­ta­cle of neo-Nazis and their Ku Klux Klan and alt-right al­lies parad­ing in Char­lottesville, Va., that scares Jews the most.

A rea­son­able ar­gu­ment can be put for­ward to as­sert that, even now, with far-right anti-Semites be­ing more ac­tive than in re­cent mem­ory, their left-wing coun­ter­parts pose a more se­ri­ous men­ace to global Jewish se­cu­rity. But fear of the anti-Semitic right is al­ways go­ing to be the threat that res­onates the most in the Jewish com­mu­nity. The thought process lead­ing to the con­clu­sion be­hind this mind­set might be de­bat­able, but it also re­flects a dis­turb­ing truth about the per­sis­tence of anti-Semitism and the fail­ure of both lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives to think clearly about the is­sue.

Part of the rea­son why rightwing anti-Semites are scarier to Amer­i­can Jews is a func­tion of im­agery and his­tor­i­cal mem­ory. The spec­ta­cle in Char­lottesville of large num­bers of neo-Nazis and Klan mem­bers hold­ing a torch­light pa­rade while chant­ing anti-Semitic slo­gans is chill­ing in of it­self, but also be­cause it is rem­i­nis­cent of the Holo­caust. These thugs aren’t any­thing close to be­ing the threat the Nazis were in Ger­many, but their brazen­ness pro­vides a vis­ceral shock that even the most vi­cious and per­haps more in­flu­en­tial Jew-haters on the left can’t pro­voke.

The in­creas­ingly cen­tral role anti-Semitic at­ti­tudes are play­ing on the left of­ten flies un­der the flag of anti-Zion­ism rather than open Jew-ha­tred. But that is a dis­tinc­tion with­out a dif­fer­ence. Even in the U.S., where it is less preva­lent than in Europe, this has meant boy­cotts and even vi­o­lence, as well as in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric—com­ing from many prom­i­nent mem­bers of the anti-Trump “re­sis­tance”—that de­mo­nizes af­fil­i­ated Jews as racist op­pres­sors.

Lib­eral Jews have been slow to re­spond to this threat be­cause it requires them to con­front erst­while al­lies who are part of the Demo­cratic Party base or groups they view with sym­pa­thy, like Black Lives Mat­ter or or­ga­ni­za­tions that pur­port to rep­re­sent the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

But lib­er­als aren’t the only ones who have ig­nored things that didn’t fit into their world­view. Repub­li­cans have be­come a lock­step pro-Is­rael party, and the main or­gans of con­ser­vatism like Na­tional Re­view chased anti-Semites out long ago. This has led Jewish con­ser­va­tives to be­lieve the virus of right-wing anti-Semitism was dead and buried. But anti-Semitism on the right has made a come­back in the form of a vir­u­lent and vi­o­lent alt-right move­ment that re­jects main­stream con­ser­vatism.

Neo-Nazis and the Klan, and their alt-right al­lies, may be small in num­ber and make up only an in­fin­i­tes­i­mal frac­tion of the coali­tion that elected Trump. But their im­pact is mag­ni­fied by Trump’s re­luc­tance to con­sis­tently take them on. Trump is no anti-Semite and has gov­erned as a staunch friend of Is­rael. Yet he has en­cour­aged right-wing anti-Semites by al­leg­ing a false moral equiv­a­lence with those who op­pose them, while also sig­nal­ing sym­pa­thy with the cause (pre­serv­ing Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues) that the anti-Semites and racists turned out to support in Char­lottesville.

Neo-Nazis may seem scarier than Jew-haters on the left, but the chal­lenge for Amer­i­can Jews now lies in try­ing to rise above the par­ti­san loy­al­ties that can blind us to both sides of the anti-Semitic coin.

Lib­er­als pre­fer to ig­nore the po­tent in­flu­ence of those who pro­mul­gate anti-Semitic boy­cotts of Is­rael while en­cour­ag­ing in­tim­i­da­tion and at­tacks against Jews. Many seem to think call­ing out left-wing anti-Semites in the anti-Trump re­sis­tance is not as im­por­tant as op­pos­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion. At the same time, con­ser­va­tives need to ac­knowl­edge that speak­ing up about the anti-Semitic right isn’t chas­ing ghosts. They need to un­der­stand that call­ing out Trump for his en­cour­age­ment of alt-right anti-Semites will nei­ther be­tray Is­rael nor aid left­wing Jew-haters.

What is needed is a Jewish com­mu­nity with the wisdom to take up the fight against hate and big­otry no mat­ter its ori­gin. Un­til that hap­pens, lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives alike will con­tinue to fail to ad­e­quately ad­dress a prob­lem that ought to tran­scend pol­i­tics.

Jonathan S. Tobin is opin­ion ed­i­tor of JNS.org and a con­tribut­ing writer for Na­tional Re­view. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at: @ jonathans_­to­bin.

Neo-Nazis may seem scarier than Jew-haters on the left, but the chal­lenge for Amer­i­can Jews now lies in try­ing to rise above the par­ti­san loy­al­ties that can blind us to both sides of the an­tiSemitic coin.

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