and Their Jewish Apologists
By Jonathan S.
most interesting thing about the current upsurge in left-wing anti-Semitism is
not so much the hate that is driving this trend as the impulse to tolerate or
even justify it on the part of some on the Jewish left.
the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, there is no way to go on
pretending that right-wing anti-Semitism isn’t alive and still presents a
deadly threat to Jews, even if the numbers of its adherents remain small and
marginalized in terms of their access to positions of influence or power. But
when faced with the increased visibility and influence of those willing to
openly advocate for the demonization and destruction of the one Jewish state on
the planet, the reaction from some on the left has been not so much to discount
this trend as to embrace it.
the unfortunate conclusion to be drawn from reactions to last week’s
controversy over now former CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill and his anti-Israel
tirade at the United Nations, as well as the open support for the
BDS movement on the part of two new Muslim-American members of Congress.
most prominent example of this trend is New York Times columnist
Michelle Goldberg. In
her latest column, she makes a straightforward argument for the proposition
that support for the elimination of the Jewish state is not only not anti-Semitic,
but also somehow more in keeping with the values of Diaspora Jews.
this argument is framed in terms that attempt to depict Israel’s left-wing
foes as advocates of liberal values, the opposite is the truth. Goldberg’s
stand is one that justifies a form of bias that is indistinguishable from
anti-Semitism. That she does so while depicting herself as a guardian of Jewish
values is utterly despicable.
argument has a precedent. Anti-Zionism was popular among some American Jews
prior to World War II. But if anti-Zionist groups like the American Council for
Judaism declined from mainstream status to a group of marginal cranks after the
Holocaust, it was because the overwhelming majority of American Jews were
capable of drawing obvious conclusions from historical events. They understood
that the Zionists were right about the necessity for a Jewish state in a world
where anti-Semitism was a virus capable of attaching itself to a variety of
a moment when Jew-hatred is on the rise, both in the Muslim world and the
streets of Western European cities, that basic truth remains unchallenged even
has become the stand-in for the stereotype of the homeless, despised Jew that
had long sustained such hate.
claims that opposing Jewish ethno-nationalism doesn’t make you a bigot. But
those who wish to deny the Jews the right to their own state, as well as the
right to live there in security—things they don’t seek to deny to other
ethno-religious groups in this fashion—are singling them out in the same way
anti-Semites have always done and are practicing a form of bias. And bias
against Jews is anti-Semitism.
why the BDS movement, which can now count among its adherents two new members of
Congress in Democratic Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, is not
interested in changing Israel’s policies so much as it wants no Israel at all,
and engages in anti-Semitic invective and violence to get its way.
to justify their stance and the notion that nice, liberal Diaspora Jews—as
opposed to those nasty Israeli Jews who remain determined to defend their state
against those who are still waging a century-old war on Zionism—should praise
them for it, Goldberg distorts three basic issues.
is that she gets the Israel-Palestine conflict dead wrong. The columnist claims
that the Israeli government’s foreclosure of a two-state solution via
settlements justifies the efforts of Palestinians to replace the Jewish state
with a secular alternative. Yet in order to come to that conclusion, you have to
forget the last 25 years of history during which the Palestinians have
repeatedly rejected offers of an independent state. They did so because they
were unwilling to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its
borders were drawn. Israelis also saw what happened when they withdrew every
soldier, settlement and settler from Gaza in 2005 and think that replicating the
terrorist state that now exists there in the West Bank would be suicidal
also wrong about Israel being antithetical to pluralist democracy. To the
contrary, though it is as imperfect as any democracy, Israel remains a
fundamentally liberal society based on the rule of law. Replacing it with a
binational state where Islamists would be empowered would not only destroy
democracy but also endanger millions of Jewish lives.
wrong is her notion that Israel’s attempts to forge relationships with Eastern
European states means that it supports anti-Semitism elsewhere. With so many
enemies, Jerusalem’s efforts to make friends in unlikely places in Europe, as
well as in Africa and Asia, are entirely understandable. But while some of those
regimes are problematic, the sad truth—as JNS’s Sean Savage points out in
analysis—is that it may be that Jews are safer in Eastern Europe than they
are in supposedly more enlightened Western Europe. Ironically, it was the
vicious anti-Semitism in Paris—the most liberal city in the world in the
1890s—that convinced Theodor Herzl of the necessity of creating a Jewish
Goldberg is really trying to do is replace the whole idea of Jewish peoplehood
with a loose universalism in which Jews will return to their old role of popular
victims, dependent on the good will of others. That conforms to Cynthia
Ozick’s line about “universalism being the parochialism of the Jews,” but
does nothing to advance liberal values or Jewish safety.
who fall into this trap are demonstrating their lack of understanding of more
than the realities of the Middle East conflict.
of Israel’s government isn’t anti-Semitic, but what those who rationalize a
cause that seeks to eliminate the one Jewish and democratic state on the planet
are also rationalizing a particularly noxious form of modern-day anti-Semitism.
That some do so in the name of Jewish values or liberalism from their prominent
perches in academia or at TheNew York Times doesn’t make them any
less abhorrent. Nor does it change the fact that their efforts will continue to
fail, as Israel, with the support of decent people, both Jewish and non-Jewish,
keeps going from strength to strength.