Antisemites to the Left of Me, Nazis to the Right: Stuck in the Middle With Jews
We enjoyed a wonderful 60-year run, we American Jews. The postwar boom of the 1940s and 1950s heralded a Golden Age of Jewish cultural acceptance and influence. The 1950s marked the end of Jewish quotas for Ivy League admissions, Albert Einstein spoke out on social issues until his death in 1955, TV comedy rested in the hands of actor/writer/producers like George Burns, Milton Berle, Carl Reiner, and Sid Caesar, and Sandy Koufax was starting his ascent into baseball history.
In the 1960s, Jews became deeply involved in the civil rights movement, Abbie Hoffman played a central role in the formation of the counterculture, Lenny Bruce changed the face of stand-up comedy, Betty Friedan ushered in the second wave of feminism, and Bob Dylan shook up American music. From the 1950s until today, Jewish political thinkers of every stripe, from Henry Kissinger to Bernie Sanders, from Norman Mailer to Andrea Dworkin, from William Kunstler to Irving Kristol, enjoyed the freedom to launch heated intellectual debates across the political spectrum without having to suffer ad hominem attacks simply for being Jewish.
Those days are over.
The slaughter of the congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was carried out by a right-wing extremist who soaked up the hate speech of President Trump, Fox News, right-wing media, the GOP, and all the other supporters, enablers, and apologists of our hate-based political ecosystem. The killer was angry about the manufactured “foreign invaders” theory this administration has been peddling for three years now and he decided that the Tree Of Life synagogue, which supported refugees from around the world, was an “enemy of the people,” as Trump so giddily labels any who stand in opposition to his policies. “They’re committing genocide to my people,” the shooter said, as per an FBI affidavit. “I just want to kill Jews.”
Trump’s response: Continue to attack Jewish philanthropist George Soros, long the favorite target of antisemitic conspiracy theories from the GOP and the hard right — just days after Soros was the target of the Trump-rally-attending pipe-bomb terrorist in Florida.
Trump and his unhinged rhetoric present a clear and present danger to Jewish life in America. But this essay is not a jeremiad against one side in this bitterly divided nation, because antisemitism is on the rise all around us.
Today, right-wing trolls use Twitter to spread images of Jewish journalists Photoshopped into ovens, Jewish college students suffer hate crimes disguised as anti-Israel protests, a Washington, DC Democratic councilman claims wealthy Jews control the weather to make money off of the poor, and armed neo-Nazis, holding swastikas aloft, march proudly around our village squares while receiving winks and nods of support from the White House.
The election of Donald Trump has divided American Jews more profoundly than any political crucible since World War II. But antisemitic incidents from the right and the left are at 50-year historic highs. This is a poor time to be a moderate Jew. It is a terrible moment to be a moderate Jew who refuses to speak up about the hatred that confronts us on all sides.
Nazis On The Ballot
Let’s start on the right. In North Carolina, Russell Walker, a white supremacist running for the state House of Representatives as a Republican, proclaims that Jews “descend from Satan.” In Illinois, Arthur Jones won the GOP primary for the 3rd Congressional district after bragging of his membership in the American Nazi Party. John Fitzgerald, who claims the Holocaust is a hoax and appears regularly on neo-Nazi podcasts, finished second in the June “top-two” GOP primary in California’s 11th Congressional District. He will be on the ballot against the Democratic incumbent in November’s general election.
As in every other anti-Jewish period in world history — from the Spanish Inquisition in the 1300s and 1400s, to the Russian pogroms in the 1800s, to the Third Reich in Germany — organized anti-Jewish hatred starts at the top. President Trump’s governing theme, “America First,” was famously used by a powerful group of American antisemites (including Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford) during the run up to World War II to attack President Roosevelt for his plans to join the war against Germany. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, after KKK leader David Duke endorsed him, Trump played dumb and pretended not to know anything about Duke and repeatedly dodged questions about the KKK. “I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists,” Trump insisted — even though he spoke out against Duke in 1991 after Duke ran for governor of Louisiana as a Republican. (On Memorial Day, 1927, Trump’s father, Fred Trump of Jamaica, Queens, was one of seven members of the KKK arrested after 1,000 white-robed Klansmen marched through Jamaica and caused a number of riots.)
Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked with Trump to define the Trump Doctrine, as explained by journalist and author Josh Green: “The power of demonizing immigrants as a way of motivating grassroots voters.” The other facets of that vision — white supremacism, hard-core nationalism, isolationism, racism, attacking the pillars of liberal democracy — all served the same goal of stoking resentment. The battle was always Us vs. Them, even if the boundaries could be changed at will to stoke the anger as needed per the issue at hand. The campaign focused on white grievance over anything and everything that could tossed on the bonfire.
To activate that game plan, the campaign portrayed Hillary Clinton as part of a global conspiracy made up of political, financial, and media “elites,” the same messaging strategy that fascist, communist, and authoritarian regimes use to warn of the supernatural influence of Jews. The Trump campaign and its acolytes have repeatedly invoked Hungarian billionaire George Soros as a Jewish left-wing boogeyman, right through Trump’s wild-eyed lies that Soros paid women to protest the Brett Kavanaugh nomination — not the first time that Trump, whose campaign actually paid extras to show up at early campaign events, accused Democrats of staging fake protests.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump tweeted a photo of Hillary Clinton next to a Jewish Star of David, Photoshopped on to a pile of cash, emblazoned with the words “Most corrupt candidate ever!” Trump’s former policy adviser Sebastian Gorka proudly wore a medal from Vitézi Rend, a group linked to World War II Nazi collaboration. Gorka tried to explain that he wore the medal to honor his father, who belonged to the “Order of Vitéz” because of its conservative Christian values, but this group of Hungarian politicians, paramilitary, and military officers worked with the Nazi regime in helping to send hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to death camps and was labeled by the US State Department at the time as an organization “under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany.”
A video shot by a reporter shows a room full of khaki-clad Trump supporters in DC performing the Hitler salute and yelling “Hail Trump!” after listening to alt-right leader and neo-Nazi organizer Richard Spencer blather on about white nationalism right after Trump’s election. Studies by data scientists showed that the volume of racist and antisemitic content online — from fringe hate sites such as 4chan — spiked around Trump’s inauguration and crossed over into mainstream Internet news and social feeds. Trump’s election provided a green light for every hate group, conspiracy theorist, misogynist, and white supremacist to crawl out of the underbrush and take a stroll down Main Street.
When Melania Trump criticized a 2016 GQ profile written by journalist Julia Ioffe, the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer exhorted its followers to tell Ioffe what they thought of “her dirty kike trickery.” Ioffe was bombarded by antisemitic abuse online — including images of Holocaust-era Jewish stars and a gruesome cartoon of a Jew being shot in the head — and received multiple death threats, including warnings that that she would be sent back to the Nazi ovens. When this fusillade of hate speech was shared with Trump by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Trump replied: “I don’t have a message to the fans. … There is nothing more dishonest than the media.”
When Trump was forced to comment after the disastrous 2016 Unite The Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where swastikas flew, neo-Nazis in khakis marched with Tiki torches, and banners screamed “Jews will not replace us!” he tried to turn the ugliness of the event upside down. Trump blamed the counter-protesters and said “both sides” were responsible for the violence. But the counter-protesters were local Virginia residents who vowed to outnumber the bused-in neo-Nazi marchers to show the world that Virginia does not countenance racism. These counter-protesters defended a Charlottesville synagogue and its staff from being violently attacked by the neo-Nazi mob.
Since one of the Charlottesville Nazi marchers rammed his car into a group of anti-Nazi protesters, killing one woman and injuring many others — using the same tactic employed by both jihadists and white supremacist terrorists — the only logical conclusion from Trump’s analysis is that being murdered by a neo-Nazi while protesting neo-Nazi activities is morally equivalent to being a violent neo-Nazi. That is some stable genius logic right there.
On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. shared a photo of himself, his father, and other members of the administration dressed in combat gear as “The Deplorables,” a jab at Hillary Clinton, which might have been amusing (on a radically curved grading scale) but for the fact that the photo included Pepe the Frog, the beloved anti-Jewish meme of the alt-right and neo-Nazis. More recently, Eric Trump attacked journalist Bob Woodward, whose bestselling book details the inside workings of Trump’s chaos presidency, for trying to earn a few “extra shekels.” This ham-handed reference to Israel’s currency is all the more stupid because Woodward is not Jewish; but even for lazy, weekend fascists, the media is always Jewish.
Republican Jews excuse or dismiss this Trump cyclone of antisemitism because Trump is a “friend of Israel.” Superficially, Trump’s strong support of Israel could be seen as a meaningful counterpoint to the clear and unprecedented bias against Israel long demonstrated by the United Nations. The ugly irony is that the UN’s obsessive and farcical fault-finding of Israel is driven by rampant antisemitic sentiment across Europe. Physical attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions across Europe have soared in the last two years as Trump-style populism has gained traction across the continent. More Jews have emigrated from France to Israel than at any time since World War II. Some Jewish leaders warned that most of Europe is unsafe for Jews.
Does Trump’s support for Israel derive from any real understanding of Israel’s religious and geopolitical history, culture, economy, or role as a US ally? Or is it just a blatant favor to Protestant Evangelicals, who are increasingly supportive of Israel? It is impossible to tell what Trump really thinks of Jews as human beings. It is true that Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism; Trump has Jewish friends in New York and Mar-A-Lago; and he hires Jews in positions of authority.
But all of that is less material than his core political strategy of using hate to divide Americans. Trump rallies his base around hatred, distrust, and fear of The Other: Muslims, Mexicans (and Hispanics generally), blacks, women, feminists, Hollywood, the LGBTQ community, academics, athletes, socialists, journalists, and anyone outside his angry white base. And Jews are always on the list when angry white nationalists start making lists.
And Now For Something Completely Similar
As a lifelong liberal, I find it shocking to watch the steady growth of antisemitism on the far-left. While we have swastika-toting neo-Nazis marching in our streets and making death threats to Jewish journalists, encouraged by Trump’s Fascism 101 vilification of the free press, the far left has adopted the intellectually bankrupt and morally degenerate position that Zionism equals Nazism. The American far-left — aligning with the ugly, antisemitic far-left all across Europe — holds it as an article of faith that Jews are enemies of democracy and freedom. Because Israel.
This essay is not an analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like the majority of American Jews, I support a two-state solution. I am focusing on domestic antisemitism.
The far-left has embraced the calculation that the conflict is a black-and-white, medieval Passion Play in which Israel is evil and the Palestinians good. This conflict is as complex as any geopolitical and religious conflict on Earth and is a good example of Hegel’s definition of “tragedy” — a conflict in which both sides are right — but the far left has adopted the puerile absolutism that Israel equals evil, so all Jews equal evil unless they are avowedly anti-Zionist.
As a moral equation, Zionism equals Nazism is the same reductive claptrap as any right-wing dogma that claims all Muslims are terrorists, all blacks are criminals, all Mexicans are illegal, and all Catholics take orders from the Pope.
As a zero-sum political calculation, Zionism equals Nazism would act as an equivalent to: Gay rights equal the end of straight rights, freedom of religion equals persecution of Christians, women’s rights equal the enslavement of men, Black Lives Matter equals white genocide.
This political math has been poured into the highly-effective PR tactics of anti-Israel pressure groups, a movement based on college and university campuses. While I am repelled by almost all Republican identity rhetoric, I find it hard to ignore this glaring example of how America’s campuses can sometimes be guilty of warehousing rigid and orthodox left-wing ideologies.
Groups likes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have recruited many American students to the anti-Israel cause. I have no problem with groups of students joining fractious political debates. That’s a college rite of passage. And I know well-meaning, well-intentioned students who joined BDS to express their legitimate support for Palestinian statehood.
But BDS, SJP, and their affiliated groups have moved far beyond politics and are playing a game of bait-and-switch. They now use their political organization and social influence to launch hate-based attacks on Jewish students, Jewish faculty, and Jewish religious and cultural institutions on campus using politics as camouflage.
On April 11, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish students at Columbia University in New York erected a booth to honor the memory of the six million. But they were attacked by anti-Israel student groups who screamed, shouted at, and taunted the Jewish students with hate speech, including: “From Gaza to the plaza, globalize the Intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
This is pure hate speech. What’s more, the slogans cited above quote the founding ideology of the terrorist organization Hamas, whose charter explicitly calls for the obliteration of Israel and the murder of every Jew in the nation.
That incident is not isolated — it is part of an organized, intelligent, and insidious campaign to demonize, terrorize, intimidate, and silence Jewish students, faculty, and administrators, no matter where they fall on the spectrum of support for Israel.
Why do I believe that the far-left’s current anti-Israel position is based on antisemitism and not Middle East politics?
Polling shows that support for Israel among Democrats has slowly and steadily declined since 1978, when Egypt and Israel signed their historic peace agreement. At the time, US Democratic support for Israel (over Palestinians) stood at 44 percent. Today, that support has dropped to 27 percent, with 25 percent of Democrats supporting Palestine over Israel.
Overall American support for Israel is at an historic low. If the BDS and SJP were legitimately dedicated to promoting a two-state solution, the eight years of the Obama administration provided the most fertile opportunity for progress since the 1970s. President Obama was friendly, but cool, to Israel, and often critical of President Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing rhetoric, the lack of progress in peace negotiations, and West Bank settlement building. One of Obama’s final acts in office was to sneak in the delivery of a $221 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority, which had been held up in the Republican-controlled Congress.
But instead of agitating for a Palestinian state or pushing for peace negotiations, the BDS, SJP, and their cohorts used their political capital to attack and intimidate Jewish students, spread hate speech, and share the doctrine that Zionism equals Nazism. They doubled down on hate when they could have created movement toward political dialogue and a regional peace process.
The public mission of the BDS movement — to create economic penalties against Israel in the form of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions — is a piece of political deception, because the founding documents of BDS call for compliance with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which was passed just after the UN voted to establish the state of Israel in 1948 and during the first Israel-Arab war. Resolution 194 contained disputed language that Palestinians and their supporters interpret as a right of return for all refugees. But 194 is not binding and has been superseded by Resolution 242, which calls for the refugee question to be settled as part of an overall peace process.
In other words, BDS does not wish to fight Israel with sanctions, but to abolish Israel as a Jewish state through an unlimited and undefined “right of return,” and then re-argue the terms of statehood based on 1948 political language.
BDS claims it “advocates for Palestinian rights,” but its parent group, responsible for fundraising, has helped to raise tax-exempt donations to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups designated by the US State Department as terror organizations. Both Iran and its military wing Hezbollah, which has assumed control over the government of Lebanon and launched hundreds of terror attacks against Jewish civilians around the world, have financial and logistical connections to BDS, especially across Europe.
Columbia University has been ground zero for antisemitism disguised as Middle East political theory. (Of course, the entire University of California network puts up very big numbers in the antisemitism game.) Hamid Dabashi, a Columbia professor who teaches Iranian studies and comparative literature, wrote two Facebook posts in May directed at Israel and Zionists. He called Israel a “key actor” in “every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world” and criticized “diehard Fifth Column Zionists working against the best interests of Americans.”
Columbia’s long and hate-filled syllabus includes poet Tom Paulin, who was given a visiting professorship in 2002 despite declaring that American Jews who reside beyond Israel’s 1967 boundaries “should be shot dead.” Jewish students were routinely intimidated and discriminated against by Joseph Massad, a Columbia professor of modern Arab politics who — guess what? — compared Israelis to Nazis. And there was the 2009 campus visit by Iran’s Holocaust-denying and wannabe-Israel-obliterating president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, which Columbia President Lee Bollinger defended as “an affirmation of freedom of speech.” Asked if he would invite Adolf Hitler to campus, John Coatsworth, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, actually said: “If he were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion, to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”
I don’t understand why American Jews haven’t boycotted Columbia University.
At NYU, members of SJP harassed students in Washington Square Park who gathered to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary by burning an Israeli flag. The group waved the Palestinian flag and chanted, “Displacing lives is ’48, there’s nothing here to celebrate.” Swastikas have appeared multiple times this year on the NYU campus and on the doors of student dormitory rooms — although, it must be noted, NYU’s Muslim students came together to express solidarity with Jewish students after the most well-known of these hate incidents.
One of the few bright spots in all of this hatred is that Trump has motivated American Muslims to support Jewish groups and communities that have been attacked. And Jewish groups have denounced – and fought against — the Muslim travel ban, and supported Muslim groups who have been victims of hate crimes. Despite our deep, tribal differences on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, American Jews and American Muslims know that antisemitism and anti-Muslim rhetoric travels in a circle and burns everyone inside it. A closer relationship between our two communities would be a silver lining to the current environment of hate and distrust.
Antisemitic incidents on US college campuses increased sharply in 2018, with at least 380 reported in the first half of this year, according to the AMCHA Initiative, which tracks antisemitic activity on college campuses. Their report explains that these antisemitic incidents are largely the result of anti-Israel activities that routinely deploy swastikas and other hate symbolism and include calls for the death of the Jewish people.
The FBI, the ADL, and other groups that track hate speech report that hate crimes against Jews — swastikas painted on synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and private homes; assaults on Jews; threats against Jewish individuals; hate speech, etc. — increased astronomically in concert with Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. The hatred of Jews on the left is neatly in sync with hate speech on the right.
The American far-left, and a small but growing number of Democrats, continue to embrace or ignore political speech that attacks the basic humanity of Jews. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has spent his career preaching that Jews are primarily responsible for the oppression of blacks in American society. The Anti-Defamation League ranked Farrakhan as “the leading anti-Semite in America” multiple times; in 2015, he spoke from the pulpit to proclaim that Jews were responsible for 9/11.
Farrakhan delivered a long sermon at Mosque Maryam in Chicago this May that was dense with attacks on Jews. Farrakhan said, “Satanic Jews … have infected the whole world with poison and deceit,” and claimed he studied Jewish religious texts to justify his conclusions. Farrakhan said Jews promote child molestation, misogyny, police brutality, and sexual assault; and that modern Judaism is a “system of tricks and lies” used to control non-Jews. There was muted denunciation from elected Democrats. And during a recent speech to mark the anniversary of the “Million Man March” in 1995, Farrakhan lashed out at his Jewish critics, and said that he is not an “antisemite,” but “anti-termite,” effectively saying Jews are not human.
Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour, a prominent organizer of the anti-Trump Women’s March, has been an enthusiastic Farrakhan ally for years. Sarsour argues that Jews are the common denominator between violence against Palestinians and violence against American blacks. She has appeared at events with convicted Palestinian-Arab terrorist Rasmea Odeh, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, convicted for murdering two Jewish college students in a 1969 terror attack in Israel that also maimed nine civilians. Sarsour has posed for photos with a member of the terrorist organization Hamas, expressed admiration for Saddam Hussein as a Muslim hero, supports sharia law, and, in photos, joyfully makes a hand gesture (popular with ISIS) that signals support for jihad.
Sarsour is a pioneer in co-opting protest movements with a tactic that can only be called hate-bundling. She has repeatedly attempted to tie her anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views to the anti-Trump Women’s March, to Black Lives Matter, and to other left-wing protest actions.
I find Sarsour’s tactics despicable and as ugly as anything concocted by the crazy, Alex Jones wing of the far-right. Her strategy is to use the Israeli-Palestinian issue to divide American blacks and Jews. Her actions are deeply offensive because of the deep historical ties that bind American Jews and blacks. While Millennial and Gen Z blacks and Jews might not be aware of our shared history, and our connections are not as vital as they once were, Jews and blacks have stood together for years. According to a survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 57 percent of American Jews support Black Lives Matter; only Muslims rank higher in their support among all religious groups in the US.
American Jews were the earliest supporters of the Urban League, founded in New York in 1911 to help black migrants from the rural South. Julius Rosenwald, who built Sears Roebuck, was a passionate philanthropist dedicated to the cause of Southern blacks. From the early 1900s until his death in 1932 — and after, when his family continued his legacy — Rosenwald built more than 5,300 schools in the deep South.
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began his rise to national prominence in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, some black newspapers began to call Dr. King the “Moses of Alabama.” During those protests, Alabama black citizens sang spirituals, including “Go Down Moses, Way Down In Egypt Land.”
After the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress submitted amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the cause and filed legal briefs in subsequent civil rights cases on housing, employment, education, and other rights issues. Rabbi Ira Sanders of Little Rock testified against segregation before the Arkansas Senate in 1957. Rabbi Perry Nussbaum of Jackson, Mississippi joined the integration effort, along with Rabbis Jacob Rothschild of Atlanta, Emmet Frank of Alexandria, and Charles Mantinband of Birmingham.
The Southern KKK responded to Jewish support of Southern desegregation with violence. In 1957 and 1958, Jewish temples and community centers were bombed in Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Miami; undetonated bombs were found at synagogues in Birmingham, Charlotte, and Gastonia, North Carolina.
Jewish graduates of Ivy League law schools flocked to Mississippi in the 1960s to register black voters. Jews made up about 30 percent of all the white volunteers who trekked to the south in the 1960s. Jews rode freedom buses and picketed segregated businesses. Dozens of Reform rabbis marched in Selma and Birmingham.
Two young Jewish New Yorkers, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, registered voters in Meridian, Mississippi, working closely with a young black Mississippi man, James Chaney. In 1964, the KKK in Mississippi ran a vehicle the three men were traveling in off the road, murdered them in cold blood, and dumped their bodies in a secret grave. The discovery of their corpses became a media sensation and helped force Congress and President Lyndon Johnson to push through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jew from a Hasidic family in Poland that escaped the Nazi death camps, became a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King after the two men met at the 1963 conference on “Religion and Race” in Chicago organized by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Rabbi Heschel delivered a barn-burning speech. He said: “It was easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for a Negro to cross certain university campuses.” Black academic Cornel West called the speech “the strongest condemnation of racism by a white man since William Lloyd Garrison,” the prominent 19th-century abolitionist.
Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King became friends and allies; each man influenced the other. Rabbi Heschel appeared with Dr. King in several of the most iconic photos of the Civil Rights era: Crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge arm in arm in March 1965 and standing together outside Arlington Cemetery in silent protest of the Vietnam War in 1968.
Dr. King spoke often about his belief in Israel and his support for Zionism. In 1958, at the American Jewish Congress, Dr. King said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries.”
The ties that bind American Jews and blacks are profound. The cynical and self-serving attempts by Farrakhan and Sarsour to poison the relationship between our two communities — using Islam as a wedge — is hateful, dishonest, and tragic, and must be rejected by Jews, blacks, and Muslims alike. Sarsour’s attempt to co-opt the Women’s March and make it a corporate partner of BDS should be denounced by all groups within that coalition. If you are organizing a march for animal rights or farmer’s rights or union rights, and Linda Sarsour shows up, your cause is being hacked.
Sarsour is a cynical opportunist, and her tactics again resemble those of Trump, who for years blathered on about his support for New York after 9/11 when, in fact, he lied about making a $10,000 donation to the Twin Towers Fund in 2001. Worse, he actually pocketed $150,000 of New York State grant money intended to help struggling small businesses in Manhattan. He has played the faux-donate game with other charities for years just to get a photo-op in The New York Post.
Speaking of co-opting: In the last year or so, the tactic of calling Jews “Nazis” has begun to backfire. Many on the anti-Jewish left have shifted tactics and now call Israel an “apartheid state,” which is a clever, if sophomoric, piece of propaganda that hijacks the historical suffering of South Africa’s black population, misreads all of African history, and ignores the larger questions of who lived where first in present-day Israel and Palestine, an archaeological debate that ranges back some 2,500 years and predates both Islam and Christianity.
For millennia — since at least the height of the Roman empire, when Cicero publicly attacked Jews to help support one of his legal arguments — Jewish minorities have been used as scapegoats during times of political, social, and economic conflict. Those times are here again.
American Jews must navigate an environment in which some Republicans, proud to be called Nazis and Holocaust deniers, brazenly run for public office. Meanwhile, the far-left wing of the Democratic party compares Jews to Nazis and uses social media to package that hate as a geopolitical argument. Jew-haters on the left and Jew-haters on the right both enjoy quoting their First Amendment rights to defend their attacks on our union and both groups whine about being mistreated and oppressed when called out in the press or by the opposition.
Democratic Jews must denounce the antisemitism of the Zionism equals Nazism movement. Republican Jews need to pull their heads out of the sand and challenge the racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, anti-Islamism, and all-purpose hate speech that provides Trump’s populist ballast.
This is no time for moral equivalency. No Sarsour or Farrakhan has occupied a position of prominence in the Democratic party or been elected to public office — so far, we have no Democratic equivalent to Britain’s vile Jeremy Corbyn. And no high-ranking Democrat has ever sought to divide America like Trump; you have to reach back to the Dixiecrats who broke away from the Democratic party after 1948 to find levels of racial and religious intolerance that even lap at Trump’s ankles.
But hatred is hatred and cannot be left unanswered. As Jews, we have no choice but to call it out everywhere we see it, no matter our political allegiances, and fight it from every direction.
Bruce Stockler worked as a journalist for 20 years. He now works in corporate communications for the advertising industry in New York.