‘Wokeism’ Energizes Antisemitism
Antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred, has been on the rise in America in recent years.
Just last week, a group of Jews was targeted yet again on the streets of New York when a minivan hit the group and drove off. Last Saturday, an orthodox Jewish man walking in Queens, New York was attacked by a man who kicked him and yelled antisemitic slurs. In March, a man slashed a Hasidic mother, father, and their baby with a knife.
Antisemitism is not limited to one part of the ideological spectrum. The shootings two years ago at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and California’s Chabad of Poway were carried out by right-wing extremists.
But the roots of left-wing antisemitism, for example, pose their own challenges. An IPT documentary detailing leftist antisemitism pointed out that it is often tolerated, excused, or goes unnoticed in progressive spaces because those who express such views often claim they are critical of Israeli policy only, not Jews or Judaism.
“On the left, individuals engage in antisemitism most when they talk about Israel – they do it in ways that demonize, delegitimize, or hold Israel to a higher standard,” noted Ali Rosenblatt in a Brandeis Center book review of David Hirsh’s “Contemporary Left Antisemitism.” “Should anybody speak out and call it what it is, antisemitic, the accuser is then discredited and accused of ‘bad faith’ and trying to ‘silence criticism against Israel.'”
US Rep. Ilhan Omar, for example, has made antisemitic statements asserting that Israel has hypnotized the world, that Jewish money and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have driven criticism of past comments by her and fellow US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and that Jews have pledged allegiance to a foreign country – Israel.
Similarly, the Women’s March has been embroiled in its own antisemitism controversies. Its leaders have long histories of making antisemitic statements, and have failed to condemn notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan.
And in 2016, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) released a policy platform that included an inflammatory and deeply anti-Zionist policy brief which brought forth a historical and lopsided version of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In recent years, there has been a merging of far-left “wokeism,” anti-Israel, and radical Islamist ideologies. These dangerous belief systems are coming together to evolve into a powerful antisemitic union.
“Wokeism,” which has helped fuel ideas like defund the police and Black Lives Matter, have seemingly added one more notable social movement to the list, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). BDS has emerged as part of a new left-wing, anti-Jewish coalition that seeks the destruction of the state of Israel. “No Palestinian — rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian — will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine,” BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has said.
An early draft of the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) described BDS as a “freedom movement,” while simultaneously describing the establishment of the State of Israel as the “Naqba,” or catastrophe in Arabic.
While later drafts of the ESMC erased mentions of BDS, an uphill battle still lies ahead. Former advisory committee members are lobbying individual public school districts to vote on a resolution supporting the ESMC’s rejected first draft.
“Some of the original drafters even published the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute to further promote the main elements of the rejected first draft and offer their educational expertise in implementing the ‘liberated’ curriculum in school,” Rossman-Benjamin wrote in the Jewish Journal. “While the group has not ‘officially’ revealed their final curriculum, their website links to a 19-page Glossary, which essentially reiterates that of the highly controversial original ESMC draft.” The ESMC’s first draft’s definition of BDS was included and more than 20 California school districts allegedly adopted the resolution, Rossman-Benjamin said.
Wokeism must not be ignored.
Protesters chanted “Israel, we know you, you murder children, too,” at a Black Lives Matter rally in Washington, D.C. last July. The leader of the march also argued that the Palestinian and Black Lives Matter movements are intrinsically connected.
Earlier this month, Barghouti described intersectionality as an indispensable component linking different forms of oppression.
“Based on its inclusive and progressive principles, the BDS movement has established and nourished bonds of mutual solidarity with movements defending the rights of refugees, immigrants, blacks, women, workers, indigenous nations, LGBTQI communities, and ethnic and religious minorities,” he said on April 21.”[The BDS National Committee] endorsed Black Lives Matter’s fight against white supremacy and its demands for reparations and ending systemic racism.”
Left unchecked, wokeism will rapidly expand and drive a global agenda. Some European countries are also questioning and closely monitoring the merging of wokeism and anti-Zionism.
Last June, a European Court ruled that France violated free speech rights of pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS activists whose campaigning to boycott Israeli goods led to convictions for incitement.
But the fight continues.
In 2019, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning BDS. House Resolution 246 points out that BDS “is a campaign that does not favor a two-state solution and that seeks to exclude the State of Israel and the Israeli people from the economic, cultural, and academic life of the rest of the world … in contrast to protest movements that have sought racial justice and social change, the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel is not about promoting coexistence, civil rights, and political reconciliation but about questioning and undermining the very legitimacy of the country and its people.”
It passed 398-17.
Another major blow to the BDS movement was the US State Department’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. After its adoption, progressive Jewish groups including J Street, the New Israel Fund and T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights) came out against the definition.
The IHRA definition says that antisemitism in part is the accusation that Jews are more loyal to Israel, that denying Jews their right to self-determination, and that applying double standards to Israel is in fact antisemitic. In addition, it specifically mentions criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country is not regarded as antisemitic.
“BDS was built on the foundations and legacy of the Arab Boycott of Israel, initiated as a boycott of the pre-state Yishuv by the Arab League in 1945,” wrote Luke Akehurst in The Times of Israel. “With key Arab states now formally embracing trade and diplomatic deals with Israel, it looks ridiculous and out of touch with reality of the region or Arab opinion for radicals in Europe and North America to continue to pursue a boycott policy.”
Despite all the progress made against the BDS movement, these gains should not be taken for granted. The anti-Israel lobby isn’t going away. And the most vulnerable area for Israel is its continued integration into the international community. Wokeism is the perfect platform anti-Israel activists can use to attack Israel.
“Antisemitism is a common denominator among hate groups and dictatorial regimes,” Sara Carter and James Carafano wrote in the Daily Signal. “The rise of antisemitism is only gathering speed in the current climate of radical extremism in the US and across the free world, under the perverse guise of ‘social justice.'”
Ambassador Pete Hoekstra (retired) is a Senior Fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Ariel Behar is an IPT research analyst.
This article was originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.