Scapegoating Jews for the problems in a society has always been a central feature of Jew-hatred.
Since well before the German agitator Wilhelm Marr first utilized the phrase “anti-Semitism” in the late 19th century (to make Jew-hatred sound race-based, scientific and academic), the formula for justifying anti-Semitism and inciting Jew-hatred has been to find what people hate, fear or are most upset about, and attach it to the Jewish people. Call it the “Jew-hatred incitement formula.”
In the Middle Ages, the Jews were blamed for the spread of the Bubonic Plague. They were accused of poisoning wells and breeding spiders and vermin to spread the disease among non-Jews. This led to ethnic cleansing and widespread attacks against Jews.
In Czarist Russia, deprivation and economic hardship were regularly blamed on Jews, often with deadly consequences. So common was the scapegoating of Jews that between 1880 and 1920, pogroms (riots aimed at massacring Jews) exploded over and over again. And while hard data about the numbers of casualties is hard to come by conservative estimates are that more than 100,000 Jews were murdered during this period, with at least three times as many being wounded.
Hitler and the Nazis took full advantage of the history of anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as of the Jew-hatred incitement formula, by blaming Jews for the Great Depression, Germany’s loss in World War I, the shortcomings of capitalism, and, with no concern for the apparent contradiction, the spread of communism.
Now, in the 21st century, the Holocaust has become distant history for many people, and the Jew-hatred incitement formula is once again being utilized as a political tool by Jew-haters, including, sadly, many members of the U.S. Congress.
Considering also the historic obsession with focusing hate on Israel, the only Jewish country, it should surprise no one that some of these representatives would use this formula to incite hatred of Israel. What should be surprising is that so many of their fellow Democrats have turned a blind eye to the anti-Semitism coming from members of their own party.
On May 13, in a speech before Congress, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) compared the Israeli army to “violent white supremacists.”
Not the Chinese Army, which rounds up Uyghur Muslims in the dark of night and takes them to slave-labor “re-education” camps. Not the Iranian security police, who literally hang homosexuals. Not the Pakistani army, which regularly beats and oppresses the Baloch people. No other countries were referenced by Pressley as a parallel to the horror and stain of Jim Crow racism—only the one Jewish state is shoehorned into that mendacious comparison.
Perhaps Pressley was inspired by fellow “Squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who just two days earlier, in a speech delivered in front of the State Department decrying Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire, claimed: “What they are doing to the Palestinians is what they are doing to our Black brothers and sisters here.”
Who are “they” in this statement? And how is it that Tlaib can claim that the Israeli response to Hamas firing rockets on Israel is connected to the struggles of black people in the United States?
The answer is that no one in the Democratic leadership challenged her effort to attach the one Jewish state to the more than 400 years of racism in America.
Later, on Aug. 1, in a speech at the 2021 Democratic Socialist of America National Convention, Tlaib took her use of the Jew-hatred incitement formula to the next level when she said:
“We also need to recognize, as I think about my family and Palestine that continue to live under military occupation and how that really interacts with this beautiful black city that I grew up in. … [Y]ou know, I always tell people cutting people off from water is violence, from Gaza to Detroit. And it’s a way to control people, to oppress people. And it’s those structures that we continue to fight against.”
It wasn’t enough that Tlaib attached legitimate water concerns in Michigan to fraudulent claims about Israel denying water to Palestinian Arabs—she took her speech to the Democratic Socialists yet another step further:
“I know that you all understand the structure that we’ve been living under right now is designed by those that exploit the rest of us for their own profit. I don’t care if it’s the issue around global human rights and our fight to free Palestine or to pushing back against those that don’t believe in the minimum wage or those that believe that people have a right to healthcare and so much more. And I tell people, those same people, that if you open the curtain and look behind the curtain, it’s the same people that make money and, yes, they do, off of racism, off of these broken policies. There is someone there making money, and you saw it!”
Appropriately, Tlaib gave this trope-laden speech in Detroit, where Henry Ford laid the groundwork with his infamous “International Jew” pamphlets, scapegoating Jews and deploying classic anti-Semitic tropes.
Three days later, on Aug. 4, another Squad member, Cori Bush, took the anti-Semitic baton from Tlaib, and in a speech before Congress invoked the Jew-hatred incitement formula to blame American aid to Israel for the crime, homelessness and poverty in her hometown of St. Louis. Not the $2 trillion the United States spent in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, including over $90 billion for the now-defunct Afghan Army. Not the $3 billion per year on average that the United States has provided to Egypt and Jordan since 1979. Not the near $35 billion that the United States spent just between 2016 and 2019 on maintaining its military presence in Japan and South Korea. Nor anything else in the annual federal expenditure of over $5 trillion.
According to Bush, out of the more than $5 trillion per year that the U.S. federal government spends, the only part responsible for the crime, homelessness and poverty in her congressional district is the part that goes toward America’s military aid package for Israel.
The irony is that unlike our aid packages to other countries, almost every dime of the U.S. aid package with Israel is spent in the U.S. on American-made products and benefits the United States in numerous other ways, including shared technological innovations. Blaming the less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the annual budget used in connection with the one Jewish state for domestic problems like homelessness, crime and poverty is a blatant use of the Jew-hatred incitement formula.
As with Pressley’s and Tlaib’s use of the formula, not a single Democratic leader stepped forward to rebuke, let alone formerly censure or sanction, Bush for her overt anti-Semitism. Instead, most of the Democratic Party leadership is silent in the face of this incitement to Jew-hatred.
When another Squad member, Rep Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), received well-deserved criticism for her use of anti-Semitic tropes—her “all about the Benjamins” or multiple “dual loyalty” claims, and her recent comparison of Israel to the Taliban (though she has been remarkably quiet about the Taliban lately)—the Democratic leadership in Congress quickly backed down from any effort to censure Omar for hate speech (in contrast with how the Republican leadership responded to Marjorie Taylor Green’s use of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories).
Even worse, Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi actually supported the dangerous deflection promoted by other Squad members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Bush, that people were criticizing Omar because of her gender, faith and ethnicity rather than her inflammatory words.
The math is clear. Not only is there a Jew-hatred incitement formula, but also there is a different formula for how Jew-haters are treated depending on whether their hate speech comes from the perceived left or right.
While David Duke is universally and rightly vilified for his Jew-hatred, Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Jewish remarks and conspiracy theories get a pass from many members of Congress and other so-called progressives, who refuse to criticize or distance themselves from him. A Republican congresswoman who promotes dangerous conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds is sanctioned almost immediately, while Squad members continue to get a pass for regularly employing anti-Semitic tropes and using the age-old Jew-hatred incitement formula to blame Israel and the Jews for problems including unclean water, homelessness, racism in America, police brutality and poverty.
The problem is that whether incitement comes from the left or the right, it always leads to violence against Jews. The political ideology of the person engaging in anti-Semitism should have no bearing on our response to it. When people believe Jews are the cause of their problems, violence against Jews will follow.
We often hear from many of the same progressives who defend the Squad that “silence is violence” or “silence is complicity.” They’re right. If only they would take their own words to heart when it comes to their own silence in the face of the consistent use of the Jew-hatred incitement formula. Hopefully, they will do so before the cancer of this incitement spreads any further.
Micha Danzig served in the Israeli army and is a former police officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD). An attorney, he is active with a number of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including StandWithUs, T.E.A.M. and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.