On the March 17 broadcast of “The View,” co-host Meghan McCain, tearing up as she spoke, said, “ … my concern is, for some reason, anti-Semitism is something we let people forgive a lot easier than other forms of bigotry and racism. … And I think that’s something we really need to examine as a society. … I think that anti-Semitism is still sort of the last form of passable bigotry in America. … It’s why we, as Americans, seem to find more forgiveness in our heart for anti-Semitism than we do racism of any other kind.”
There has obviously been, in recent years, a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic attacks in America, entailing verbal assaults and defamation, desecration of property and physical attacks, including the murder of Jews in Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City and Monsey. And the attacks have come from all those segments of American society that target Jews: white supremacists and neo-Nazis, black supremacists, Islamists and elements of the far-left socialist/progressive camp.
White supremacists have been responsible for most of the murders and many other acts that figure in the recent proliferation of anti-Semitism in the United States, but they are not the perpetrators who receive the forgiveness of which McCain was speaking and about which she is rightly concerned. For while they are certainly dangerous and growing more so, they have not penetrated as widely into mainstream American society as the other promoters of Jew-hatred, and they remain broadly condemned in America.
No, it is the other purveyors of anti-Semitism—those spurred by black supremacism, Islamism, and far-left/progressive orthodoxy who are blithely forgiven by people who would forgive no other bigotry, and it is they who have established themselves widely on the American scene. Both perpetrators and forgivers can be found in academia—the major institutional source of anti-Semitism in America—and, of late, in Congress, the Biden administration, entertainment, professional sports, and the mass media and social media. Cheerleaders and apologists for Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semite with the largest following in America, include notables from virtually all of these groups.
It was the forgiveness extended to a media personality by colleagues and others in the wake of his spewing anti-Semitic invective that prompted McCain’s March 17 comments. McCain responded similarly, and with similar emotion, on “The View” in March 2019 to the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel outpourings of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), an indulgence in bigotry that likewise elicited much forgiveness from colleagues and others on the left. The Democrat congressional delegation refused to condemn her anti-Semitism or even name it, but instead voted for a bland condemnation of all bigotry. In the 2020 congressional primaries, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed both Omar and her fellow spewer of anti-Jewish tropes, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), over Democrat challengers not given to their bigotry.
At the Democrat convention in August 2020, places of honor were accorded to Jew-baiters and acolytes of Nation of Islam’s Farrakhan Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory. Farrakhan promoter Pastor Frederick Haynes was featured at the convention’s “Our Values” Black Caucus event. Imam Noman Hussain, notorious for inciting hatred of non-believers, particularly Jews, was similarly given a place of honor at the convention’s “Interfaith Welcome Service.”
Tamika Mallory was recently featured at the 2021 Grammy Awards, once again illustrating the penetration of non-white supremacist anti-Semites into mainstream culture.
President Joe Biden’s pick for senior director for Intelligence in the National Security Council, Maher Bitar, has called for Israel’s dissolution and has worked with groups supporting anti-Israel terror. Hady Amr, Biden’s choice for deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel-Palestine, has repeatedly urged an American rapprochement with the terrorist group Hamas, despite Hamas’s explicit dedication not only to the murder of all Israelis but of all Jews worldwide.
And that brings us to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL has for decades been largely silent, or forgiving, vis-à-vis anti-Semitism coming from sources other than the far-right—a pattern that has become even more blatant with the 2015 ascent of national director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, a former official in the Obama White House, to head of the organization.
Beyond its silence in the face of anti-Semitism emanating from groups and individuals not associated with white supremacy, the ADL has on various occasions lent its support to such groups and individuals. The Black Lives Matter organization has trafficked for years in anti-Semitism, whether calling for Israel’s annihilation or targeting synagogues and Jewish businesses during last year’s riots in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the ADL was the most prominent signer of a full-page Jewish ad in The New York Times in August 2020, backing BLM, with Greenblatt tweeting his pride in an earlier iteration of the pro-BLM statement. The ADL, in contorted defenses of BLM, has claimed that the group is loosely organized, and that anti-Jewish acts and statements are the work of peripheral figures. But, in fact, figures among the founders and current leaders of BLM have both voiced anti-Semitic vitriol and played a role in anti-Jewish acts.
New York Rev. Al Sharpton has repeatedly in the past engaged in anti-Semitic diatribes and instigated assaults on Jews, including an attack on a Jewish-owned business that ended in multiple deaths. Yet the ADL apparently had no qualms about partnering with Sharpton in his organizing a march last summer on Washington. While offering little in the way of calling out politicians on the left given to anti-Semitism, including Ilhan Omar, Greenblatt was quick to praise Omar for her partial distancing herself from one of her numerous anti-Jewish statements.
Certainly, the ADL has not been alone among Jewish groups in giving a pass to many of those purveying anti-Semitism in America. The list of organizations doing so—both mainstream bodies and those more marginal groups who make common cause with non-Jewish bodies that advocate Israel’s destruction and defame the American Jewish community—is long indeed. The Jewish pro-BLM ad in The New York Times had more than 600 institutional signers along with the ADL.
However, it is the ADL that the American Jewish community long looked to for leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism from whatever source, and it is therefore the ADL’s failure to provide that leadership that is most damaging to the community. At this time of increased anti-Semitism, American Jews desperately need leaders not given to gradations of response based on the perpetrator’s political affiliations. Our failed leadership in the ADL and beyond is an indulgence—a luxury the community can no longer afford. Rather, it requires, at the very least, figures capable of the centeredness, decency and moral outrage in the face of anti-Semitism exhibited by Meghan McCain.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian, and author of “The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.”
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.