Some of Trump’s Critics on the Left Are Engaging in Similar Behavior
JNS.org – Many Americans know that the sickness at the heart of our political culture stems from a spirit of intolerance that has become the keynote of discourse. Liberals blame it on President Donald Trump and his supporters. But few of those people seem able to recognize this behavior when it comes from those who share theirs views. If you think Dennis Prager must be boycotted, or believe that Morton Klein is as much of a threat to American Jewry as Islamist terrorists, then you can’t blame Trump for how bad things have gotten.
Prager, a Los Angeles-based talk radio host and author, is a surprising candidate for this kind of opprobrium. Though he’s a conservative who believes that Trump must be supported against his critics, Prager is far from the prototype of right-wing incendiary. In my view, his approach is generally fair-minded and never lacks intellectual rigor. He has also spent much of his career promoting interfaith dialogue, and is as interested in helping his audience focus on personal happiness as he is in politics. In other words, he’s not the type of the bomb-throwing populist that many on the Left think are threatening democracy.
But that didn’t spare Prager from being treated as if he were the head of a hate group when he agreed to help raise money for the Santa Monica Symphony, by appearing as a guest conductor at a concert. Prager is a music enthusiast and amateur conductor, and has often appeared in a similar capacity with other ensembles. But when some of the symphony’s musicians heard that Prager would be conducting, they said they would boycott the concert.
A petition started by two UCLA professors who are violinists in the orchestra said that they would not appear with a “right-wing radio host who promotes horribly bigoted positions.” To back up that claim, they cherry-picked a few comments Prager has made about Islam and the implications of gay marriage. One boycotter even said he’d play with a North Korean conductor, but not with Prager.
Prager’s positions can be debated — yet to take them out of context is deeply unfair, especially when you consider that it wasn’t long ago that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shared his stance on gay marriage. But if you are going to anathematize someone like Prager and render him an untouchable, you’re saying that anyone who voices an opposing view must not only be shunned, but also be driven from decent society.
The same spirit animated an op-ed in The Forward by Steven Davidson. The piece was a response to commentary from conservative authors about the Left’s willingness to excuse hatemongering from Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American anti-Israel activist. According to Davidson, there are 19 people who are more dangerous to the Jews than Sarsour. But while his list included some who do fit that bill — like Louis Farrakhan, David Duke and the heads of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran — he couldn’t resist including mere political opponents along with terrorists.
It was bad enough that he lumped Trump as well as White House aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka together with Farrakhan and Hezbollah. But he also listed Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Most liberals don’t agree with Klein about the peace process and consider him a strident figure. But he is someone who works hard to build support for the Jewish state, and his views are actually more in tune with mainstream Israeli opinion than those of The Forward’s editorial board. By treating him as a threat to the Jews rather than just someone to be opposed, Davidson is arguing that any deviation from liberal orthodoxy should be punished with isolation and demonization.
In a world in which Google can fire an internal critic in the name of “diversity,” it’s hardly surprising to see some Jewish liberals playing the same game. But those who refuse to listen to, or to associate with, political opponents are at the core of our society’s current political illness — in which we have been divided into two warring camps that have lost the ability to listen to each other. That’s why if you think there’s nothing wrong with the treatment given to Prager and Klein, then don’t bother the rest of us with hypocritical complaints about Trump.
Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.