Politics & Policy

Time for Democrats to Address Their Anti-Semitism Problem

From left: Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib hold a news conference on Capitol Hill, July 15, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Last week, pro-Palestinian demonstrators trolled the streets of New York and Los Angeles to terrorize and attack Jews. Such outbreaks of violence, perpetrated under the guise of “anti-Zionism,” are commonplace in Europe and the Middle East. It would be an unmitigated tragedy if such political violence were to become the norm in the United States.

Anti-Jewish attacks did not spring forth in a vacuum. Increasingly, the American Left has gone beyond mere criticism of the Jewish State (of the sort that is made against other nations) and adopted the kind of virulent strain of anti-Israel rhetoric that was once mercifully relegated to far-left college campuses.

In this environment, Squad members Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib can falsely accuse Israel of being an “apartheid state” and of employing U.S. military aid to target civilians and children — a new spin on an old blood libel — and experience almost no rebuke from their own party.

The intense opprobrium saved for Israel, and spared authoritarian nations such as China and Iran, betrays the progressive left’s moral corruption. And rather than react in dismay, New York Times progressive columnist Michelle Goldberg lamented that attacks on Jews might undermine the Palestinian political cause. Rather than distance themselves from violence conducted by their allies, former Bernie Sanders surrogate Amer Zahr implored progressives in a video and tweet to “stop condemning anti-Semitism.” He said, “You are not helping. You are playing their games. It’s a distraction.” Instead, he urged followers to say, “Free Palestine — and nothing else!”

Zahr needn’t worry. Most progressive politicians who did bother denouncing the recent wave of violence against Jews diluted their rebukes by also condemning rising Islamophobia, creating the impression that advocates of both sides of the Israeli–Palestinian debate were engaging in violence — which is, needless to say, a myth.

There is little political upside for Democrats to call out the Squad. Polls show a party that has lurched leftward and become increasingly antagonistic towards the Jewish State. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently noted, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict feeds into many of the progressive left’s ideological biases: “the narrative of the oppressor versus the oppressed, of the coloniser versus the colonised, of the genocide perpetrator and system of supremacy.”

Those few Democrats who unapologetically defend Israel, such as Ritchie Torres, a freshman congressman representing New York’s 15th district, find themselves ostracized. “The moment I sent out a statement denouncing the terrorism of Hamas, I was swiftly demonized by extremists as a white supremacist, as a supporter of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide,” Torres told an audience at a recent United Jewish Appeal–sponsored event.

Surely, condemning those who instigate anti-Jewish violence should not undermine the cause of Palestinian statehood. And if it does, then there is something wrong with that cause.

After Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene recently made an ignorant and intellectually lazy historical analogy, comparing the campaign for vaccination passports to the Nazis’ forcing of Jews to wear “gold” stars, reporters began chasing down Republicans to get their reactions. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy and other members of the House leadership eventually issued statements condemning the Georgia congresswoman.

When it comes to Ilhan Omar and Co., where is Nancy Pelosi? Where is Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin? To this point, nowhere to be found. It is, of course, true that neither Left nor Right has a monopoly on anti-Semitism. These days, however, one party is increasingly under the sway of a noxious, all-encompassing hostility to the Jewish State.

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