Left’s identity politics are becoming curiouser and curiouser for Jews.
the one hand, prominent leftists like Marc Lamont Hill, Tamika Mallory, and
Linda Sarsour have no problem blowing on anti-Jewish dog whistles. On the other
hand, some of their hard left comrades, like Representative-elect Alexandra
Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and New York state Senator-elect Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn)
are going out of their way to embrace their Jewish roots — whether real or
can we explain these seemingly opposed phenomena? After all, these activists
share the belief at the core of identity politics that people are defined by
what they are, as opposed to what they do. And all of them oppose the Jewish
state because the identity politics commissars have determined that Israel is
irredeemably deplorable, and the vast majority of Jews are also deplorable
because they support Israel.
how can they embrace hatred of Zionist Jews and Israel, and publicize their
Jewishness at the same time? What gives?
answer is that their embrace of their Jewishness and their rejection of Jews and
Israel are two sides of the same anti-Jewish coin.
antisemitism of the likes of Mallory and Sarsour and Hill and their colleagues
isn’t hard to discern, even when they deny it.
Hill. On November 29, Hill gave a speech at
the UN where he effectively endorsed Palestinian terrorism against Israel
and called for Israel to be annihilated.
this end, Hill used two well understood euphemisms. He called for Israel’s
annihilation by ending his speech by stating the Palestine Liberation
Organization’s slogan for Israel’s destruction, “Free Palestine from the
river to the sea.” That is, the establishment of Palestine on all the
land Israel is located on – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
endorsed Palestinian terrorism against Israelis when he said, “We must promote
non-violence at every opportunity, but cannot endorse narrow politics that
shames Palestinians for resisting.”
is the euphemism for terrorism, universally recognized and used among the
Palestinians and their supporters.
a public outcry among Jewish groups caused CNN to fire Hill from his job as a
regular talking head, and demands were made for Temple University to fire him
from his position as a media professor, Hill apologized for his remarks and
insisted that he bears no ill will towards Jews and does not support the violent
annihilation of Israelis or terrorism against them.
his record tells a slightly more nuanced tale, to say the least.
Hill supports the
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. He has lionized
terrorists and called for them to be emulated. And he has publicly
embraced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, arguably the most
powerful anti-Semite in the United States.
the last issue, Hill claims that
he only met with Farrakhan to attack him for his anti-LGBT and anti-Jewish
prejudices, although he didn’t seem at all uncomfortable posing with Farrakhan
for a photo.As for Women’s March leaders Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and
Linda Sarsour, a recent
investigative report on the organization shows that Mallory and her
fellow Women’s March chairs have been open about their hatred for the Jewish
state and their opposition to permitting Jewish women to have a role in their
group’s leadership from the outset of their operations.
and her fellow Women’s March leaders openly
embrace Farrakhan. They have repeatedly gone out of their way not
to disavow their support for Farrakhan and his virulently anti-Jewish
positions even as their support for him has come under repeated scrutiny from
has arguably played the greatest role in mainstreaming Jew hatred on the left in
recent years. That hatred is most prominently expressed in the left’s
willingness to reject the human rights of Israeli Jews, including their right
not to be murdered by Palestinian terrorists. It is also expressed in the
left’s embrace of the view that American Jews have no right to support openly
Israel’s right to exist. Last month Sarsour implied that
Jews on the left who support Israel cannot be real progressives because their
true “allegiance” is to Israel.
other words, the antisemitism that Sarsour has been instrumental in spreading
— and which Mallory, Hill, Perez and many others express openly — is focused
on the Jewish state and Jews who support it.
brings us to Ocasio-Cortez and Salazar. Like their comrades, both
women have embraced harshly
anti-Israel positions. But on the face of it, their claims to Jewish
heritage seems to indicate that their positions do not stem from an underlying
animus towards Jews or Judaism.
they do. And to understand why they do, it is important to understand the nature
of the left’s antisemitism.
isn’t the antisemitism of the Nazis.
closest historical precedent to the identity-politics-rooted Jew-hatred on
today’s left is the Catholic Inquisition.
Inquisition, which began in the 12th century and lasted until the early
20th century, was directed towards abolishing anti-Catholic “heresy” in
all forms. In southern France, in Spain, and Portugal, the Inquisition was
largely directed against the Jews. Under its edicts, Jewish practice and
scholarship were officially curtailed and censored beginning in the mid-13th century.
The Inquisition culminated in the execution, expulsion or forced conversion of
the Jews of Spain and Portugal between 1371 and 1492.
the vast majority of Jews suffered massively under the Church’s official
persecution, there was one sort of “Jew” that prospered. The “good Jews”
were former Jews who converted to Christianity and used their status as former
Jews to lead the Church’s persecution of the Jews who refused to convert.
most prominent of these “good Jews” was Pablo Cristiani. Born a Jew in the
early 13th century, Cristiani converted to Catholicism. In 1263, Cristiani
was a Dominican friar. Acting under the protection of Raymond de Penyafort, he
first tried to forcibly convert the Jews of Provence. When he failed in his
mission, he traveled to Spain. There he convinced King James I of Aragon to host
a disputation, or debate between himself and the leading rabbi of Spain, Moses
ben Nachman, better known as the Ramban or Nachmanides. The purpose of what
became known as the Disputation
of Barcelona was for the two men to debate whether or not the Jewish
Talmud, or Oral law, endorsed Christianity as the true faith. Cristiani’s idea
was that if the Ramban lost the disputation, he would convert to Christianity
and the rest of the Jews of Spain would follow him either forcibly or
the event, the Ramban did not convert, and King James recognized that the
Ramban’s arguments were more convincing than Cristiani’s were. But the
Ramban’s non-defeat brought no relief to the Jews of Spain. The King expelled
the Ramban from Spain and required the Jews to host Cristiani in their
communities and answer his attacks on the Talmud. They were also required to pay
these efforts also failed to bring the Jews to Catholicism, Cristiani returned
to France. He convinced Pope Clement IV that the problem with the Jews was
rooted in the Talmud. Cristiani convinced the pope to censor the Talmud. His
efforts caused European editions of the Talmud to be censored for the next 500
Cristiani wasn’t done sticking it to the Jews. In 1269, Cristiani convinced
King Louis IX of France to force Jews to wear badges marking them as Jews.
Jews like Cristiani were important for the Church because they served as
“Jewish” denouncers. As former Jews, who embraced the teachings of the
Church, they legitimized the Church’s persecution of the remaining Jews. They
were supposedly in a position to know – as former Jews – that the Church was
right and their fellow Jews were wrong.
brings us to Ocasio-Cortez and Salazar. What possesses them to identify as Jews
even as they denounce Israel?
Ocasio-Cortez, it’s hard to know whether her actions stem from awareness of
the significance of what she is doing, or whether she is simply repeating
leftist catechisms. But what made her move suggestive of less-than-friendly
intent towards the Jewish community writ large was the venue in which she chose
to announce her Jewish heritage.
made her remarks at a Chanukah party hosted by the far-left Jews for Racial and
Economic Equality (JFREJ). The
group views itself as a Jewish member of the far-left and embraces identity
politics. When the Black Lives Matter movement’s published its virulently
statement — which accuses Israel of committing “genocide” against
the Palestinians, refers to Israel as an “apartheid state,” and endorses a
full economic boycott of Israel — Jewish and Jewish groups across the
political spectrum condemned the move. JFREJ defended it.
his defense of the platform, JFERL leader Leo Ferguson accused “white
Jews” of being insensitive to anti-black racism and effectively blamed them
for Black Lives Matter’s official embrace of Jew-hatred.
whose membership overlaps with
that of the virulently anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace, later honored Linda
decision to announce her claims to Jewish ancestry to an audience of Jews who
are far outside of mainstream Jewish opinion in America signaled that her
affinity with Jews was located in this outlier group.
where Ocasio-Cortez’s move was merely suggestive of prejudice, Salazar’s use
of Jewish identity was a clear example of it.
years leading up to her run for the New York State Senate, Julia Salazar made
her ”Judaism” the
core of her political identity. But as Tablet magazine revealed last
summer, Salazar’s Judaism is largely imagined. When Salazar began her
undergraduate career at Columbia University in 2011 she was an evangelical
Christian Zionist and pro-life activist. She underwent a transformation in late
that time, Salazar moved
from being an outspokenly Christian pro-Israel advocate and nominal
founder of the Columbia chapter of Christians United for Israel, to being a
radical anti-Israel activist who insisted that she was attacking Israel as a
graduating from college, Salazar, now a self-identified progressive Jewish
activist, worked for JFERL and other radical Jewish groups. She edited and wrote
for Jewish anti-Israel websites – as a Jew.
Tablet published its exposé of her self-styled Judaism, rather than own up to
her dishonesty, Salazar attacked the messenger.
“I virtually never speak publicly about my religion [Judaism] unless media
explicitly ask me about it. And that’s largely because I don’t enjoy
subjecting myself to Tablet-esque race science, as a person from a mixed
also effectively denounced Jewish religious law and practice, which require a
person to either have a Jewish mother or convert to Judaism in order to become a
Jew, by saying
derisively, “I’m not running for Chief Rabbi here.”
radical Jewish anti-Israel activists raced to support Salazar and her belittlement of
Jewish law and practice. Writing at
the far left Forward, Lianna Petruzzi, from the anti-Zionist IfNotNow group,
attacked the Jewish community and Jewish religious practice and belief for
daring to note that Salazar, whose parents are Catholic and who apparently never
converted to Judaism, is not actually Jewish. Petruzzi’s organization agitates for
the American Jewish community to abandon its support for Israel insisted that
the Jews were persecuting Salazar because she doesn’t support Israel.
to the Tablet report, Salazar’s last place of employment before entering
politics was JFERL, where she worked as an organizer. It was during her time at
JFERL that the group gave its prize to Sarsour.
then, brings us to the meeting point between Sarsour, Hill, Mallory, Ocasio-Cortez,
and Salazar. Like their ideological predecessors in the Inquisition, they are
united in their hostility towards “bad Jews” who maintain the convictions of
the vast majority of the Jewish people.
In the Middle Ages, those convictions related to the Torah. Today, those convictions relate to support for the Jewish state. And like their predecessors in the Middle Ages, they see Jews who denounce Jews and the Jewish state as “good Jews.”