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Stopping antisemitism needs more than a successful rally

The “March for Israel” in Washington, D.C., was a great response to pro-Hamas mobs. But ending the source of a rising tide of Jew-hatred requires opposing the woke ideology that created it.

Nearly 300,000 people attended the "March for Israel" rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Shay Shohat/Flash90.
Nearly 300,000 people attended the "March for Israel" rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Shay Shohat/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

After the Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7, followed by more than a month of antisemitic rallies and incidents including violence against Jews on the streets of American cities and on college campuses, American Jewry needed a feel-good moment. And that is exactly what the Nov. 14 “March for Israel” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., provided.

Attended by as many as 300,000 people, the rally was the largest pro-Israel event in American history and offered a contrast to the smaller anti-Israel mass protest that took place in Washington the previous week, held to show support for a ceasefire that would allow Hamas to get away with mass murder and its modus operandi of wiping Israel from the map. Unlike that event, by all accounts, there was no violence, vandalism, arrests, thuggish wearing of masks to conceal the identities of the attendees, anti-Americanism or chants for the mass slaughter of other groups. The presence of leaders on both sides of the aisle—congressional Democrats and Republicans—as well as a representative of the Biden administration also showed that Israel and the Jewish community retain the support of America’s political establishment, even if that’s no longer true for a considerable segment of the Democrats, including its future leaders.

Though the rally provided a powerful example of the strength of the pro-Israel community and the refusal of Jews to be silent in the face of antisemitism, by itself it is an insufficient response to a much larger problem. Unless Jews and supporters of Israel of all faiths attack the source of the surge in Jew-hatred, the rally will have accomplished nothing.

What’s needed are not just expressions of solidarity with the Jewish state, calls for the return of the hostages or even the necessary opposition to calls for a ceasefire to the military operation begun by Israel following the mass murders of its citizens. The only way to deal with the rising tide of Jew-hatred is a concerted effort to roll back the conquest of American institutions by toxic theories about intersectionality and critical race theory, which have provided a permission slip to the post-Oct. 7 surge in antisemitism.

At no point in living memory have Jews felt as vulnerable and isolated as they have been in the last weeks as mobs in cities and at the country’s elite academic institutions rallied in favor of the Hamas slogan “from the river to the sea.” That means wiping Israel off the map and the genocide of its population. This shocking response of the political left and Muslim Americans to the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust created a massive uptick in violence against Jews, along with the demonization of the one Jewish state on the planet. This animus has made itself felt in a variety of ways including the fact that certain bus drivers refused to drive Jewish rally-goers to the march site.

Yet acknowledging this reality requires an understanding of what could possibly have created a constituency for Hamas and its genocidal goals. Why do leftists bear such animus for Israel—which, by contrast, is a bastion of the liberal societal values they purportedly uphold, as well as a remarkable success story in settling displaced Jewish refugees from around the world? Add to that its enormous contributions to science and technology that have been sought internationally, including by Arab countries. And how could such a vile, regressive movement as Hamas, coupled with other variants of Palestinian nationalism and Islamist ideology that stand in opposition to everything that American progressives claim to hold dear, such as the rights of women and gays, become a cause embraced by the American left?

The answer lies in the ideological left’s war on the West that has promulgated ideas like intersectionality that falsely analogizes the Palestinian war on Israel’s existence to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Toxic ideas like critical race theory (CRT) that divide humanity into two perpetually warring groups—oppressors and victims defined solely by race and ethnic origin—have led to the widespread belief among left-wingers in the myth that Israel and the Jews are “white” oppressors of Palestinian people of color.

In the face of such ideological determinism, Israel’s achievements or even the fact that it remains the one true democracy in the Middle East—and its foes advocates of a disturbing mix of Islamism and fascist authoritarianism that has revived a Nazi-style belief in the genocide of the Jews—become meaningless details to be ignored and/or shoved aside in order to focus on the broader goal of intersectional victory against white Jewish oppressors.

By inaccurately defining all of Israel—and not just Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem—as a “colonial” enterprise could so many academics and the generation that has been indoctrinated in their neo-Marxist lies about the world be led to believe that the one Jewish state has no right to exist. The lunacy required to believe that Islamist terror is part of a necessary process to “de-colonize” the world is entirely dependent on a willingness to swallow the CRT mindset that erases the fact that the Jews are the indigenous people of the land of Israel. Only the left’s war on the West could allow the obliteration of Jewish rights and history necessary for the belief that Israel, alone among all the nations, is the one country on the planet that must be destroyed.

Yet sadly, much of the organized Jewish community, including many of the groups that helped organize the rally for Israel and against antisemitism, has acquiesced in or even aided the left’s long march to foist such lies on American society.

Desperate to stay in sync with their traditional liberal allies, as well as groups purporting to represent minority groups, organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the liberal religious movements failed to defend the interests of the Jewish community and that of American society in general. They not only endorsed the antisemitic Black Lives Matter movement but also the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) that is an integral part of the new secular leftist religion being imposed on the country. Indeed, the ADL even incorporated some of the same toxic ideas about “white privilege” that are used against Jews and Israel in its “No Place for Hate” educational programs.

Every Jewish group that upholds the DEI mantra that is antithetical to equality is both undermining Jewish rights and empowering a movement that has provided the ideological foundation for the hatred for Israel and the Jews on display on the streets and on campuses since Oct. 7. As Bari Weiss recently wrote in The Free Press, DEI does nothing to advance minority rights. Rather, it is a power play by the hard left that threatens Jews as well as American liberty.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was correct this week to declare that the response to Oct. 7 must be rooted in policy and law. But his advocacy for enshrining the Biden administration’s national strategy to counter antisemitism into law by Congress is profoundly mistaken. Biden’s proposal didn’t unequivocally endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism that rightly labels anti-Zionism as antisemitism.

It also reflected the obsession of liberals with far-right extremist loathing of the Jewish people. While right-wing antisemitism exists, it lacks the power of the left-wing variety seen on display during the war on Hamas. The mainstreaming of Jew-hatred is now primarily a leftist problem and a strategy that ignores the need to abolish the DEI bureaucracies that are legitimizing antisemitism will do more harm than good.

The rally for Israel proved a strong political statement and comforted a community desperately in need of reassurance in the face of an aggressive antisemitic movement that can count on the support of much of the corporate mainstream media and academia. But until the intersectional lies are driven back to the fever swamps of American political life where they belong, leftist antisemitism will continue to flourish. Only by banning CRT from the classrooms and firing the woke DEI commissars proliferating throughout the worlds of politics, business and the arts can we begin the process by which American Jews and Israel will be made safer.

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

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