By Jonathan S. Tobin/JNS.org
It isn’t easy for some Jewish liberals, but many of them are waking up to a world that doesn’t neatly conform to their existing prejudices.
The event that really set off the alarms took place last month when a gay pride parade expelled LGBT Jews who carried rainbow flags with a Star of David. The reason was that this symbol of the Jewish people offended the left-wing parade organizers who felt “triggered” by anything that reminded them of “racist” Israel and Zionism.
Much like the statements of Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian activist who is a leader of the anti-Trump “resistance,” that said Jews must choose between their support of Israel and feminism, the Chicago Dyke March organizers claimed the Jewish star made “people feel unsafe” at an event that they said was avowedly “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.
It didn’t matter that the overwhelming majority of American Jews support gay rights or even that the state of Israel is one of the world’s most gay-friendly nations. Nor are they interested in the fact that Palestinian LGBT individuals must either stay in the closet or flee to the Jewish state for their lives from a society where they are oppressed. That counts for nothing when weighed against “intersectionality,” which asserts the fight for gay rights is indivisible from the efforts of Arabs and Muslims to eradicate the one Jewish state on the planet that also happens to be the one democracy in the Middle East.
The one element that lends an element of logic to this ironic stand: anti-Semitism. To those who hate Jews, any inconsistency is permissible. But what makes this hard for many Jews to understand is that it doesn’t conform to their pre-existing worldview, in which enemies are on the right and allies are on the left.
We saw how that worked earlier this year when mainstream liberal Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League and others were quick to blame President Donald Trump for a surge in anti-Semitic incidents that mainly centered on a series of bomb threats at JCCs around the country. Trump’s views about immigration and volatile rhetoric were assumed to be the source of the trouble. But it turned out the culprits were a left-wing American writer and an Israeli teen with a mental health condition. Yet embarrassed liberals still refused to apologize.
That doesn’t mean right-wing anti-Semitism doesn’t exist. But the neat lines in which political foes must somehow always be anti-Semites, and sympathetic allies must be friends of the Jews, don’t exist except in the minds of liberals living in a dream world.
One such dreamer who may be slowly snapping out of it is ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, whose recent article in TIME magazine carries the headline, “Anti-Semitism is Creeping into Progressivism.” But to claim that it is “creeping” into the landscape of the political left is shockingly ignorant. It has been an integral part of it for decades.
Unfortunately, many decent liberals have turned a blind eye to left-wing anti-Zionist agitation that is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism. Those who say they wish to deny Jews statehood, the right of self-defense or the ability to live in peace in their homeland are practicing discrimination against Jews. This is the definition of anti-Semitism. And it is on the left, not the right, where support for such hatred, whether in the form of backing for the BDS movement or cultural boycotts, is growing.
It isn’t alt-right internet trolls who are orchestrating anti-Jewish protests like those of Sarsour or efforts to boycott Israeli plays at Lincoln Center, where the appearance of even the work of a critic of the Jewish state like David Grossman was enough to generate protest from mainstream artists. Nor is it Trump who is responsible for turning universities into places where Jewish students no longer feel safe to express their Jewish identity.
But unfortunately, all too many liberals would still rather believe Trump—their main political foe—is the real reason anti-Semitism is growing.
It’s long past time for the Jewish community to understand that its best allies in this struggle are conservative Christians with whom they disagree on social issues, while it is their alleged friends on the left who are preaching intolerance for Jews. That doesn’t obligate them to abandon their political principles, but they need to understand the world is a complicated place where Jewish safety can be endangered by solidarity with the left.
Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @Jonathans_tobin.