Politics & Policy

Progressive Jews, Wake Up

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
At pro-Hamas demonstrations in U.S cities in recent weeks, anti-Semitism rises up and is heard.

In the largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Chicago’s Petersen Park, residents last Saturday morning found anti-Semitic leaflets on their way to synagogue to observe the Sabbath. The leaflets threatened violence against the community unless Israel stopped the war with Gaza.

For those progressive Jews who have found solace in the myth that anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, the events across the globe of the last few weeks have been a rude and discomforting awakening. And so they turned to their final recourse, the belief that America was different.

Sure, there was a pogrom at a synagogue in Paris, but, well, that’s Paris. Muslims and their neo-fascist and leftist allies might walk through the streets of Germany shouting anti-Jewish slogans reminiscent of the Hitler Youth, but, well, that’s Germany.

Then came the pro-Hamas demonstrations in Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago.  

In San Francisco, if not for the police, some 30 pro-Israel protesters would have been brutalized by over 300 people demonstrating on behalf of the genocidal Hamas terrorists.

Sounds of a vicious, leftist anti-Semitism associated with anti-Zionism have long been audible in American society, but Jewish-community leaders, cut from leftist cloth, refused to acknowledge them. I have to wonder if those Jews pushed back on the streets of San Francisco by frenzied haters recognized some of their opponents from joint ventures on gun control, gay and lesbian rights, reproductive rights, and interfaith dialogues.  

Those who believe in women’s rights, gay rights, reproductive rights, and human rights have cast their lot with people whose culture violates the basic dignities of freedom. What explains that? Hatred!

Hatred is the great unifier. If you are going to hate anyone, hate Jews, because no one cares. When a naïve foreign-born student at the University of California, San Diego, put up a noose in the library, as a prank on her boyfriend, the administration called for a campus soul searching and held meetings, vigils, and teach-ins. Moved by the inadvertent crisis she caused, the student confessed. The administration, however, was unsatisfied and notified the FBI, calling for her to be charged with a hate crime, all for an act of naï​veté.

But just months later, on the same campus, Jumanah Imad Albahri, a member of the Muslim Student Association, publicly proclaimed her support for killing Jews. The UCSD administration took no action.

Slight the voluble sensitivities of any group on an American campus and you’ll be condemned to sensitivity training and endless bureaucratic harassment. But propose to kill the Jews and you’ll find that the Constitution will be wrapped around you tighter than a piece of cling wrap.

The palpable anti-Semitism visible in recent demonstrations here in the United States has caused some of our progressive community leaders to come out strongly for Israel, but in so doing, they have to showcase their progressive credentials, as if it is necessary to say, take me seriously because I too am a progressive and I support Israel.

Forgive me if I am not awed by progressive credentials, especially knowing that these are the people who helped put this administration in office. Why did the Federal Aviation Administration cancel flights to Tel Aviv, when flights to Ukraine, where a passenger plane actually was downed, continue? Flights to Damascus and Baghdad, active war zones, were never canceled. Why was the Jew-hating, Islamist Turkish president Recep Erdogan once one of President Barack Obama’s most trusted allies in the Middle East? The questions answer themselves.

As for progressivism, gay marriage is not worth putting the lives of 6 million Jews in the hands of an incompetent, indifferent president, whose cultural affinity is with Islam. His Jewish associations in Chicago’s Hyde Park were with rabbis who believed peace was more likely if Israel was on the receiving end of condemnation.

Progressive Democrats do not support Israel in this existential struggle, but the Republicans do. The reality is that progressive Jews are going to have to decide whether they are progressives or Jews, because the term “progressive Jew” is increasingly becoming an oxymoron.

The modern anti-Semitism that now concerns our progressive leaders is an outgrowth of the Left. It was Marx who wrote the vile “On the Jewish Question.” Hitler recruited from elements at the margins of Germany’s economy. There is a reason he called his movement National Socialism and infused it with an ideology of workers’ rights. The distinguished political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset has shown how Hitler’s electoral surge came from the liberal elements of Germany.

Progressive rabbis will probably organize a call for peace, but that is precisely what Israel does not need. Israel needs to destroy the Hamas tunnels, some of which are under Israeli schools and residences. They form part of the command-and-control apparatus of the terrorists. No nation-state can live with rockets and missiles falling from the skies and explosive-laden tunnels underneath its schools.

As for our progressive Jewish communal leaders, I will believe their commitment to Israel when they go to the next interfaith-council meeting and publicly confront their fellow progressives about their boycott-divestment-sanctions hypocrisy. I will have renewed faith in our community-defense groups when they confront the double standards on campus that protect every group but Jews-

In the meantime, their failure to do so only means that, increasingly, American Jews will have to start behaving and thinking like French Jews, because the bigotry of Islam and its leftist allies does not end at Europe’s coast.

— Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. He has served on the faculty of the University of California, Davis, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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