Monday, May 16th | 15 Iyyar 5782

October 12, 2021 2:34 pm

A New Tack for US Jews Fighting Antisemitism: The ‘You’re Dead to Me’ Strategy

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein


Pro-Israel activists face down disruptive protesters at a University of California Irvine event with Reservists on Duty, May 3, 2018. Photo: YouTube screenshot

By now, the failure of the American Jewish establishment should be manifest and self-evident. The pogrom that struck the Jewish community in May, including violence committed by Muslim-Americans and backed by left-wing antisemites, has proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Although the pogrom had been brewing for 20 years, and the threat was obvious to anyone not in a state of willful denial, the establishment did essentially nothing to prevent it, and still has shown no sign that it has learned its lesson or has any strategy for preventing the next one.

Put simply, the establishment had one job: to protect the American Jewish community from antisemitic violence. It has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it cannot and will not do so. As such, it has forfeited its justification to exist, and needs to be replaced as quickly as possible.

I have written previously about who should replace it: the younger and better generation of activists who are doing their best to fight antisemitism where they can, but have been marginalized and ignored by a geriatric and enervated establishment determined to protect its power and privilege. However, should the younger generation succeed in overthrowing this decadent establishment — and I believe they will — what strategy should they adopt in order to deal with the current emergency?

They have already taken the first step: to admit to what is happening. This step is all important, because an honest assessment of the situation reveals that violent antisemitism in America today is coming from three sources: those on the alt-right, with its familiar racist antisemitism; others on the progressive left, with its economic resentment of Jewish success and virulent hatred of Israel; and members of the Muslim community, who combine the hatreds of both right and left, along with a healthy dose of religious bigotry to go with it.

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The next step would be for the new establishment to examine the failures of their vanquished predecessors. The most glaring of these many failures is that the current establishment has dealt realistically with only one of those three sources of antisemitism — that of the right. Indeed, the establishment has fought right-wing antisemitism with considerable vigor and skill; but it has done so while effectively pretending that progressive and Muslim antisemitism do not exist. Worse still, it has collaborated with progressive and Muslim individuals and groups that hate them in order to fight antisemitism on the right. That the establishment has been repaid for this political and interfaith solidarity with hatred and violence is an irony that appears lost on them.

A new establishment must put an end to this. It must leverage what power the Jewish community possesses by making it clear that the progressive and Muslim communities can no longer take the Jews for granted; that they can no longer tolerate hatred of Jews in their ranks while remaining confident that no consequences will follow.

The strategy that a new establishment should adopt, then, is a “you’re dead to me” strategy. It should go to the progressive and Muslim communities and make it absolutely clear that until they start dealing effectively with antisemitism in their communities, they will get nothing from American Jews: no votes, no money, no political support, no interfaith solidarity, nothing. Let’s see how they do without us.

The “you’re dead to me” strategy should be coupled with another, positive strategy: a “we ourselves” strategy, according to which the various resources that have gone to progressive causes and interfaith efforts will be redirected to the Jewish community itself, to be used for everything from securing Jewish sites to forming self-defense groups to funding efforts to promote Jewish identity and pride. This is not only the right thing to do, it would also be a wonderfully ironic revenge: resources that once went to groups who tolerated or promoted Jew-hatred would now go help nurture and advance the very thing they hate.

Fortunately, we also have an excellent model of what these strategies might look like. When antisemites took over the UK Labour party, British Jews did the supremely difficult but ultimately sensible thing: they broke with the party many had seen as their natural home, cut off support for it, asserted their own rights and interests, embarked on a public campaign against left-wing and Muslim antisemitism, and were ultimately victorious. British antisemites now know they cannot kick the Jews around without the Jews kicking back. And this struggle also fostered a revival and renewal of Jewish identification and solidarity among many British Jews who had previously been indifferent to or alienated from their Judaism.

When the old American Jewish establishment inevitably falls, the better generation that replaces it should follow the example set by their British brothers and sisters. They should look at the situation honestly and realistically, draw the obvious conclusions, accept the threats they face, and not fear or hesitate to use the sword that the current establishment refuses to wield.

Benjamin Kerstein is a columnist and the Israel Correspondent for the Algemeiner. His website can be viewed here and his books purchased at

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