What Threatens American Jews? – WSJ


Editor’s note: In this Future View, students discuss anti-Semitism. Next week we’ll ask, “Are Asians discriminated against when they apply to America’s premier colleges?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Feb. 1. The best responses will be published that night.

Anti-Semitism exists on both the far right and far left, but tolerance for fringe anti-Semitism seems to be much higher in leftist circles. You’re not going to see

David Duke

or Richard Spencer featured on Fox News, but if you tune in to MSNBC, you have the misfortune of listening to Al Sharpton lecture about the recent anti-Semitic attack in Texas—even though Mr. Sharpton has a documented history of anti-Semitic comments.

No one tolerates anti-Semitism from the right. It is called out and condemned. The same cannot always be said of leftist anti-Semitism. Given that figures like Mr. Sharpton are routinely featured on mainstream liberal networks, it’s obvious that the side that proclaims itself concerned with compassion and tolerance is failing to live up to its own ideals.

—Natan Ehrenreich, Yeshiva University, political science

Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism

It’s terrifying how many people are able to hide their anti-Semitism behind a purported interest in social justice. The seemingly universal assumption is that if one generally supports progressive values, one must not be an anti-Semite. The anti-Zionist movement on the left is a prime example.

Especially in college environments, my experience is that people are reluctant to admit to being (or even consider themselves) Zionists because of what that title connotes in progressive spaces. If you are a Zionist, you are assumed to be anti-Palestinian, a colonialist, and to believe that the Israeli government does no wrong. But Zionism is simply a manifestation of Jewish longing for a homeland.

Being a Zionist means supporting the existence of a Jewish state, not automatically being anti-Palestinian. Being a Zionist is, at its core, an identity that supports Jewish self-determination. Why is that so intentionally warped and villainized by a movement that supports the self-determination of other minorities? Why are Jews the only minority barred from such things? Isn’t that anti-Semitic? Jew hatred exists on the right, but at least the right admits it.

—Eva Ingber, University of Pennsylvania, English

Unacknowledged Anti-Semitism

The answer to this question is simple: The most dangerous form of anti-Semitism in a democracy is one that succeeds in flying beneath the cultural radar. Like any contagious blight, anti-Semitism thrives in darkness. It gains traction and credence when the people at large ignore—consciously or unconsciously—the worrisome signals from purveyors of Jew-hatred.

Americans today, Jews especially, have long been on alert for anti-Semitism from the far right. The chilling specter of white-nationalist bigotry has been disinterred from its post-World War II grave across the West, and few Jews can forgive or forget the white-hooded rabble in Charlottesville, Va., howling, “Jews will not replace us.” Such naked hatred is widely identified and repudiated.

By contrast, anti-Semitism on the far left is cunningly insidious. It has mastered the art of self-concealment, generally within the pious and obfuscating rhetoric of decolonization and restitutional justice. It indignantly insists that its rabid hatred and demonization campaigns are aimed solely at the abstract concept of the Jewish State and not at any Jews in particular. It pretends that hysterical invective against Zionism and its global allies does not entail real-world consequences. It feigns innocence when its inexhaustible well of concern for every conceivable minority runs curiously dry in the face of the grievances of America’s most victimized religious minority.

Anti-Semitism on the far left is a greater danger today simply because it remains largely unacknowledged, and therefore escapes the deserving censure of good people everywhere.

—J.J. Kimche, Harvard University, Jewish studies

Not a Political Issue

Any study of human history would quickly show that anti-Semitism is a disease endemic to human nature that predates the political classification of right and left. Part of the issue in today’s fight against anti-Semitism is the need to use it as a political weapon to hurt the other side. The fact remains that anti-Semitism not only exists but has been rising at an alarming rate. Just a few years ago, I was able to attend prayers without worry. Today, my synagogue implements facial recognition technology to augment a security force that includes full-time guards and bullet-proof doors. The fact that these measures coincided with a rise in political polarization is no coincidence: questions such as this only make the problem worse.

—Sam Beyda, Columbia University, economics

The Hatred That Will Not Die

My great-grandparents perished in concentration camps, my parents fled the Soviet Union as Jewish refugees, and my childhood synagogue in Pittsburgh suffered a vicious, hate-fueled attack. Twenty-five years ago, my family was hopeful that the bigotry we faced would be a thing of the past. We were wrong.

Although emboldened in recent years by political rhetoric and online echo-chambers, the anti-Semitism of the alt-right is a familiar one. It is based in the white supremacy of the Nazi party, which itself traces back to pervasive stereotypes from the Middle Ages: stereotypes about Jews being greedy, exploitative or conniving.

But today American Jews find themselves beleaguered by the political left as well. The Democratic Party, a longtime bastion of American Jewry, has fallen victim to a different old stereotype, which conflates Judaism with allegiance to Israel. During the height of the recent Gaza conflict, a New York man was assaulted by pro-Palestinian activists for wearing a kippah. Anti-Semitic hate crimes spiked, many far-left politicians held their tongues, and thousands on


posted iterations of “Hitler was right.”

While the anti-Semitism of the alt-right dates back millennia, the bigotry of the left has made American Jews feel newly alone and helpless.

—Adam Barsouk, Jefferson University, medicine

The Threat of Collectivism

Blatant anti-Semitism in any sphere of life affronts human decency and imperils American Jews. With that said, anti-Semitism by the American left endangers Jews more because of the left’s collectivist tendencies.

The right typically values individuals and encourages personal political involvement. Mass right-wing movements buoyed by a populist or nationalist mentality do sporadically appear in the U.S., but the ideals of classical republicanism linger in both American hearts and foundational documents, like the U.S. Constitution. The left, meanwhile, readily features mass movements that overlook or actively discourage individual needs and desires. The individual under communist ideology, for example, becomes subsumed into the abstract will of the central government. This enables vast atrocity in a way that greater individualism doesn’t.

As a result, if an anti-Semitic movement were to gain prominence in America, the left’s depersonalizing nature makes it the worse threat. Convincing every conservative to work voluntarily toward anti-Semitic policies lacks plausibility. But convincing socialist sympathizers that one class of people should be, and can be, exploited for the greater good of mankind sounds less strange.

—Sydney Tone, Hillsdale College, English

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