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As he has done with just about every other issue, former President Donald Trump is sucking the oxygen out of any discussion on the antisemitism of rap star/fashion mogul Kanye West and his far-right allies. Rather than express remorse for his unfathomable dinner meeting at Mar-a-Lago with West, Holocaust-denier Nick Fuentes and fellow alt-right hater Milo Yiannopoulos, he characteristically refused to apologize.
The event, which provided the trio with publicity and a degree of legitimacy in circles where his whims are treated as indisputably rational, was itself deeply problematic. It was made worse, however, by the fact that the focus of the debate it engendered about the rising tide of antisemitism turned into one about Trump himself.
To some extent, this is justified. Some of his supporters predictably dismissed the controversy as the product of a setup or liberal media bias; others tried to find ways to condemn West and his friends without mentioning the host’s culpability.
Yet, as much as Trump deserves the drubbing he’s received, his involvement in the incident is unfortunate. This is not merely because it’s become embroiled in his effort to win back the White House in 2024. Nor does citing his exemplary, even historic, record on Israel, especially in comparison to the Democrats’ equivocal attitude toward the Jewish state, get us anywhere with respect to antisemitism.
Liberals and conservatives alike have been too busy either condemning or rationalizing his dinner with Kanye—and subsequent outrageous threat to suspend the Constitution in order to be declared the retroactive winner of the 2020 election—to notice the far bigger picture.
Had they been zooming out with a wider lens, they might have taken notice of the latest statistics put out by the New York City Police Department about hate crimes committed in November. The numbers show that attacks against Jews comprised 60% of the total, an increase of 125% over the previous month. And the 45 incidents that were reported (with most observers assuming that many more go unreported) amount to a Jew being attacked in the Big Apple on the average of once every 16 hours.
The vast majority of the assaults are carried out by African-Americans on Orthodox Jews. Others involve acts of anti-Zionist prejudice, such as the vandalizing of a Chabad vehicle with “Free Palestine” graffiti.
What this means is that the epidemic of anti-Jewish hate crimes, aptly described by Tablet Magazine in August as an “Open Season on Jews in New York City” has only gotten worse.
But why the main perpetrators are African-Americans also has to be addressed.
West’s maniacal utterances are not merely the ravings of a person with a mental-illness diagnosis. Rather, they are a form of hate that can be linked to the popularity of figures like the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and the intersectional ideology promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Both denounce Jews as white oppressors and Israel as an “apartheid state.”
But the press doesn’t seem interested in exploring how someone like West could wind up with alt-right trolls like Fuentes and Yiannopoulos in the latter’s faux campaign for president. Few, if any, in the mainstream media are aware of how comfortable Farrakhan is with members of the White Aryan Resistance group.
They also appear to have no knowledge of the bizarre alliance that existed between George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party, and the Nation of Islam and its leaders, Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, in the early 1960s, all of which was recounted recently by Rabbi Yisrael M. Eliashiv in his Magen Yehudi Substack.
Meanwhile, unlike Trump’s scandalous get-together with West, Fuentes and Yiannopoulos, meetings with Farrakhan, held by figures like former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are not viewed as toxic or disqualifying. Nor is the willingness of the Democratic Party to treat the BLM movement as sacrosanct and BDS supporters like House Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) as party rock stars, something for which its elected officials are asked by the press to condemn and disavow.
Seen in this light, President Joe Biden’s declaration, directed at Trump over his dinner with Kanye, that “silence is complicity,” was not so much a necessary call to action as it was a partisan potshot. He’s right that Trump’s silence about the vile hatred spouted by West, Fuentes and Yianopolous is deeply wrong. But his own praise of Tlaib and others who routinely spew antisemitic vitriol is more than hypocritical.
If Biden could tell Tlaib, in a speech in Dearborn, Mich., last spring, that, “I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and … thank you for being a fighter,” he has no standing to be calling out anyone, even Trump, for legitimizing antisemites.
It has become axiomatic that those on the right and the left have tunnel vision when it comes to hate and antisemitism. Liberals see only the antisemitism on the far-right, and concoct it in relation to mainstream conservatives—as is illustrated in their utterly duplicitous depiction of any criticism of leftist megadonor George Soros as evidence of antisemitic conspiracy mongering.
The left ignores the antisemitism that has been mainstreamed within the ranks of their favored political leaders in Congress. The lionizing of the progressive “Squad,” whose growing members demonize Israel and engage in intersectional stigmatizing of Jews, is the most prominent example of this behavior.
Just as bad, left-wing institutions like The New York Times not only won’t speak of the epidemic of black hate crimes against Jews, even when it is happening under their very noses, but can barely be forced to acknowledge it.
The same goes for many on the right, who come up with excuses for Trump’s doing the very things that they consider proof of bigotry when Biden and the Democrats are the offenders.
Were we as a society able to unite around the idea that antisemitism can’t be tolerated in any form or from anyone, our ability to respond effectively would be greatly increased. But, as long as many conservatives can’t be honest about what Trump has done, and black antisemitism remains a prohibited subject on the left, the chances of meeting the challenge are nonexistent.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.