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It’s time for American Jewish dissidents to put politics aside

Jews who want to fight anti-Semitism must overcome the left-right divide and form a popular front against our enemies.

Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with police in a violent clash in Times Square during a pro-Israeli rally resulting in dozens of arrests, May 2021. Credit: Ron Adar/Shutterstock.
Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with police in a violent clash in Times Square during a pro-Israeli rally resulting in dozens of arrests, May 2021. Credit: Ron Adar/Shutterstock.
Benjamin Kerstein
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his work on Substack at No Delusions, No Despair. Purchase his books here.

In May 2021, Muslim-American anti-Semites backed by the far-left launched a pogrom across the United States that barely missed ending in a murder. Since then, the American Jewish establishment has mostly sat in stunned silence. The implications of this silence were clear: The pogrom had revealed that—contrary to anti-Semitic stereotypes and what its constituent organizations no doubt tell their donors—the American Jewish establishment is not all-powerful. It is, in fact, weak and impotent, with little or no political, media or moral influence.

Thankfully, however, a dissident movement is emerging, and American Jews are beginning to directly challenge the establishment in public and demand change. In a recent piece published by Newsweek, for example, the leaders of the new Jewish Leadership Project (JLP) spoke truth to power, castigating the establishment for collaborating with and enabling progressive and Muslim anti-Semites and calling on it to reprioritize the security of American Jews.

“American Jewish elites are betraying the American Jewish community and must be held accountable for their failures. The rest of us need to insist that the leaders fulfill their responsibility to the Jewish community, and to demand they do their jobs—or find new ones,” the piece concluded.

The JLP’s project is a worthy one, although its hopes are almost certain to be dashed. The American Jewish establishment is decadent and depraved, insulated from reality by money and privilege. Its accountability is non-existent. As a result, it will never acknowledge its failures or pay a price for them. The establishment is not a government and does not have to face the kind of no-confidence vote it would unquestionably lose in a landslide.

It seems, then, that the best strategy is not to denounce the establishment but to replace it. Those in the American Jewish community who dissent from the establishment’s policy of meek surrender should seek to form a new, more radical coalition to fight anti-Semitism.

The building blocks of such a dissident coalition already exist. The establishment may be decadent and depraved, but the grassroots are not. There is a new generation of Jewish activists rising on social media, on campus, in the activism world and elsewhere who are under no illusions about what American Jews are facing. They include a plethora of small but scrappy organizations like StandWithUs, Zioness and Students Supporting Israel, along with numerous social-media activists.

If all these dissidents came together, a powerful and effective opposition could easily be formed. However, there is a substantial obstacle to this unification: politics. JLP, for example, is clearly on the right, and while it is correct to attack the establishment for collaborating with anti-Semitic forces on the left and in the Muslim community, the fact remains that a great many American Jews who want to fight anti-Semitism are sympathetic to progressive politics. It is unfair to demand that they leave some of their most cherished beliefs at the door in order to join the struggle.

What the American Jewish community needs, in other words, is a popular front against anti-Semitism, from which no individual or group genuinely interested in fighting Jew- and Israel-hatred will be turned away.

This popular front could succeed if its members both left and right remember two things: First, anti-Semitism is a universal threat. It affects Jews of all political backgrounds. As a result, the Jews face a universal struggle. They are stuck with each other, whether they like it or not.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Jews must unite because our enemies are united. Anti-Semitism in the United States has managed to bring together a bizarre coalition of far-right white supremacists, far-left radicals and the Muslim-American community. The one thing—in many cases, the only thing—that unites these disparate factions is hating Jews and Israel.

To fight and defeat this intersectional anti-Semitism requires an intersectional anti-anti-Semitism. It is clear that this will not come from the current American Jewish establishment. As such, American Jews do not only need dissidents, they need a movement, and only the dissidents can create one. If they can overcome or at least tolerate their political divisions, such a movement will not only be possible, but inevitable.

Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his writing on Substack and his website. Follow him on Twitter @benj_kerstein.

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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