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Islamist antisemitism is flying under the Jewish communal radar

New report details how Muslim hate groups have rebranded themselves as intersectional allies to Jewish left-wingers.

Executive vice president of the Orthodox Union Rabbi Moshe Hauer speaks at the FBI Newark, N.J., Field Office press conference launching its “Protecting Our Communities Together” national awareness campaign aimed at promoting the reporting of hate crimes and discrimination to federal authorities, on Aug. 18, 2021. Credit: FBI
Executive vice president of the Orthodox Union Rabbi Moshe Hauer speaks at the FBI Newark, N.J., Field Office press conference launching its “Protecting Our Communities Together” national awareness campaign aimed at promoting the reporting of hate crimes and discrimination to federal authorities, on Aug. 18, 2021. Credit: FBI
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

When far-right extremists attacked synagogues in Pittsburgh in 2018 and Poway, Calif., in 2019 with deadly results, these incidents generated the kind of fear among American Jews that had not been felt in living memory. Communities were galvanized into action to better protect Jewish institutions. More than that, these acts of domestic terrorism served to create a sense of genuine alarm about Jewish security in the United States that was felt even among people who rarely, if ever, walked into a house of worship.

But more than a year after another synagogue was attacked in Colleyville, Texas, in January 2022, the very different reaction to that crime is still worth thinking about.

Of course, the good news about Colleyville was that thankfully, no one died. The rabbi and the congregants had been trained to deal with such instances and were able to escape before the person holding them hostage was apprehended.

The main difference, however, was that the attacker in Texas was a Muslim extremist, not someone with views on the far right. So rather than draw conclusions about those who might have actually encouraged the crime—as actually was the case with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which had championed the cause of the convicted terrorist that the hostage-taker had wanted to be released—most American Jews and their mainstream groups carried on with business as usual.

That’s a huge mistake and, as a new report about Islamist antisemitism in the United State recently published by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) details, Jews need to understand that they’ve been largely ignoring a major source of Jew-hatred. Compiled by scholar Yehudit Barsky, a veteran researcher about the subject, and Ehud Rosen, it paints an alarming picture of more than just the extent of the antisemitism of Muslim groups. It also discusses the way such groups are being effectively mainstreamed because of the popularity of intersectionality, that fashionable woke belief that all oppressed groups are connected.

Thanks to the acceptance of critical race theory ideology, American liberals who rightly worry that contradicting any idea connected to the Black Lives Matter movement will lead to false accusations of racism are increasingly willing to believe that Muslims dedicated to Israel’s destruction are morally equivalent to the cause of promoting civil rights in the United States. Under the influence of toxic myths like “white privilege,” Islamists can claim to be fellow “people of color” and therefore members of a victim class, while Jews and Israel are dishonestly labeled as oppressors.

What Barsky calls a dangerous “red-green alliance” has caused not just mainstream liberals, but many Jews, to downplay Islamist Jew-hatred even as they are overhyping the threat from the right.

The right-wing threat 

In the aftermath of Pittsburgh and Poway, the notion that hate-filled, armed right-wingers were seeking to harm Jews stopped being theoretical and began to be felt as a genuine threat to American Jewish life. It reinforced most Jews’ pre-existing assumptions that the main antisemitic threat came from the right. This served as an excuse for many liberal Jewish groups to connect the dots between the deranged gunmen in both cases to mainstream American political conservatives and, of course, the man they hated most: then-President Donald Trump.

The political fallout from that effort to smear political opponents by tying them to terrorists they had nothing to do with continues to be felt. But with each passing year, more Jews have come to realize that while the threat of violence from the far right is real, the forces that are actually mainstreaming antisemitism are on the other end of the political spectrum. The intersectional left, which seeks to falsely delegitimize Zionism and Israel as the product of “white privilege” has become part of mainstream discourse as it migrated from college campuses to popular culture, the media and even the halls of Congress.

Though many liberals have been reluctant to view antisemitism as something that can arise on both sides of the aisle, the realization that the BDS movement and other anti-Zionist agitation is expressed in the tropes of traditional Jew-hatred is telling. And whereas the antisemitic far right is politically isolated, the growing influence of progressives and the congressional “Squad” within the Democratic Party cannot be ignored. Indeed, even someone as determined to demonize political conservatives as Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt recently gave a speech emphasizing the fact that anti-Zionism is antisemitism and barely mentioned Trump.

That’s a sign, however belated and faint, of communal sanity. Still, there’s one element of American antisemitism that continues to fly under the communal radar: the virulent Jew-hatred promoted by Muslim extremists.

The Islamist movement in the United States remains something of an unknown for most American Jews, and the reasons for that are not hard to discover. Most American Jewish groups are committed to the principle of interfaith dialogue with an almost religious fervor. As a result, they are loath to acknowledge that a major segment of another faith group they see as a fellow religious minority with whom they ought to be friends is ideologically committed to a worldview in which Jews are a despised enemy.

So, it was not terribly surprising that the reaction to Colleyville from most Jews was very different from the way they felt about Pittsburgh and Poway.

But Barsky’s report puts into focus the problem with thinking this way.

Myths about hate crimes

Though mainstream media outlets have continued to treat the idea of a post-9/11 backlash against Muslims in the United States as an established fact, FBI hate-crime statistics have consistently shown that over the course of the last two decades, the vast majority of religion-based hate crimes have been directed at Jews. Indeed, in recent years, the levels of anti-Muslim crimes have declined.

More importantly, Jewish groups are still treating groups like CAIR as acceptable partners for dialogue. That’s true even though it has been doing its best to intimidate Jewish groups into backing down from monitoring Islamist antisemitism.

Using the language of intersectionality they have positioned themselves as the representatives of a group that is under attack. Part of this is a campaign to raise awareness of what they consider a rising tide of Islamophobia. That’s something that is guaranteed to appeal to the sensibilities of liberal Jews, who are keen to ally themselves with another faith that suffers discrimination.

But while prejudice against Muslims can be real, most of what is usually characterized as Islamophobia is actually merely accurate reporting about Muslim support for extremists and prejudice against Jews. Talk of Islamophobia is, for the most part, merely a scam intended to divert attention from Islamist hate, as well as their groups’ willingness to rationalize terrorism as long as the victims are Israeli Jews.

This was made clear in May 2021 when Israeli efforts to fend off attacks from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists based in the Gaza Strip led to Muslim violence against Jews in the streets of American and international cities.

The INSS report notes that research shows that while American Muslims are more likely to show antisemitic attitudes than other Americans, they also don’t believe groups like CAIR or the similarly toxic US Council of Muslim Organizations represent them.

Those groups dominate the public discourse about Islam in the United States. At the same time, the most prominent Muslims in politics are also the most extreme, like “Squad” members Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both of whom have engaged in prejudicial rhetoric about Jews and support the antisemitic BDS movement (and therefore aligned with Islamists rather than moderates within that community).

As the INSS report concludes, American Jews ought to be more careful about the identity of Muslim groups with whom they seek interfaith dialogue. Jewish community-relations councils throughout the United States still treat CAIR and other BDS supporters as legitimate partners, despite their complicity in terrorism (CAIR was founded as a political front for Hamas fundraisers and still treats those convicted of aiding terrorists as “political prisoners”) and antisemitism. So long as they ignore the way Muslim extremists are joining forces with the intersectional progressive left, they are failing to understand the source of some of the most potent threats to their communities.

No discussion of antisemitism in America should ignore the hate that Islamist groups are spreading. Yet despite the fact that most Jews say they are deeply worried about antisemitism, few seem to take the threat from home-grown Islamists seriously.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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