OpinionColumn

Shielding certain antisemites

This is no way to combat antisemitism.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Credit: Nate Gowdy Photography via Wikimedia Commons.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Credit: Nate Gowdy Photography via Wikimedia Commons.
Farley Weiss and Leonard Grunstein
Farley Weiss and Leonard Grunstein are authors of the new book Because It’s Just and Right: The Untold Back-Story of the U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) recently called Israel a racist state. This is an antisemitic statement clearly covered under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition of antisemitism.

Many of Jayapal’s Democratic colleagues in Congress criticized her statement and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution stating that Israel is neither a racist nor an apartheid state. Only nine congresspeople voted against the resolution.

Yet Jayapal has faced no tangible consequences for her overt antisemitism. She was not the only one. Indeed, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) not only voted against the resolution but slurred Israel with the apartheid libel, again without consequence.

It appears that there is a protected class on the left that is exempt from responsibility when it embraces the mutating virus of antisemitism.

George Soros, one of the leading funders of left-wing organizations connected to the Democratic party, seeks to delegitimize Israel through his various foundations and organizations. He also appears to be a member of this protected group.

For example, Soros maxed out in his contributions to Jayapal’s reelection campaign. His foundations paid Tlaib $139,873 in 2016 and $85,307 in 2017. He delivered a staggering $100 million to the NGO Human Rights Watch, despite its efforts to brand Israel an apartheid state.

Soros has also been defended by those ostensibly dedicated to fighting antisemitism. Israeli Diaspora Minister Amichai Chilki recently said, “Criticism of Soros, who finances the most hostile organizations to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, is anything but antisemitism—quite the opposite.”

U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt jumped to Soros’s defense. She tweeted, “Irrespective of how one feels about George Soros’s politics or policies, it is entirely disingenuous to deny that many ad hominem attacks on him rely on classic antisemitic tropes and rhetoric.”

The ADL has claimed that criticism of Soros and his political influence is antisemitism because the Hungarian native survived the Nazi occupation and is of Jewish descent.

This defense is particularly ironic, because Soros has explicitly stated that he feels no guilt for collaborating with the Nazis in their efforts to steal Jewish property. He told “60 Minutes” that if he hadn’t done it, someone else would have. The property was going to be taken anyway and, in any case, he did not take it for himself. However, as the Nuremberg trials made clear, “just following orders” is not an acceptable defense when orders are illegal and immoral.

The Soros exemption is puzzling. Can a Jew hate other Jews? The answer is yes. Can that animus be directed against the Jewish people as a whole? The answer is yes. Is hating the Jewish people as a whole the essence of antisemitism? The answer is most assuredly yes. Is supporting the destruction of the Jewish state antisemitic? Again, yes. So are euphemisms like “BDS,” “anti-Zionism” and “Free Palestine,” all of which are nothing more than calls to eliminate Israel, which is home to approximately seven million Jews. 

Is criticizing Soros for his support of various left-wing political causes antisemitic when the word “Jew” or antisemitic tropes are not used? Absolutely not.

The IHRA definition is an invaluable tool in identifying Jew-hatred. One of its examples of antisemitism is “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” Very few critics of Soros have claimed he is more loyal to Israel or the priorities of Jews worldwide than to his own nation. On the contrary, the evidence that his loyalty is to those who hate Israel and the Jews is overwhelming.

Co-author Leonard Grunstein’s mother was a Holocaust survivor. One of her uncles was involuntarily placed on the Judenrat, an administrative council set up by the Nazi authorities in the Jewish ghettos. The appointment was extremely short-lived. On her uncle’s first day, a German officer demanded he provide able-bodied laborers. He complied. The next day he was asked for more. His suspicions raised, he replied: Return the first group before I provide you with another. The German officer summarily executed him.

The sordid history of antisemitism is replete with such Jewish heroes who bravely faced their desperate circumstances, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Some of them even managed to save others from a terrible fate. For example, Len’s own father and father-in-law, both Auschwitz survivors, somehow managed to save food and share it with others in the camp.

Len has heard stories like this from survivors many times. Throughout Jewish history, including during the Holocaust, there were very few Jewish villains who turned on their brethren like Soros.

Today, we mostly try to ignore such villains. But sometimes their malign activities are so outrageous and destructive that they cannot be ignored. Often, however, calling out the villains is frustrated by those who, out of naiveté or ideology, assert that it is impossible for a Jew to be an antisemite.

Moreover, those who do call out an antisemitic offender who happens to be Jewish may themselves be accused of antisemitism. But exempting a particular class or individual from criticism is not only hypocritical, it’s self-defeating.

We cannot afford to be naïve or complacent. The fight against antisemitism requires clarity. It should not be frustrated by ambiguous definitions that serve no useful function other than to provide an exemption to those like Soros.

It’s time to adopt the IHRA definition in full, without reservations. Let’s end Jew-hatred once and for all.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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