Feeding antisemitism

There were an estimated 2,700 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism directed against American Jews in 2021. America’s small Jewish community endures nearly two-thirds of all anti-religious hate crimes annually.

In this age of outrage, the once-clear distinction between the left-leaning Jew-hatred of the salon and the right-leaning Jew-hatred of the street may be breaking down.

The broad-based repudiation of Ye, the bigot formerly known as Kanye West, is well-deserved, most welcome, but misleading. Jew-hatred is nowhere close to being vanquished, even though West lost friends, fans, endorsement deals and his billionaire status. In fact, all the virtue-signaling around the Kanye West and Kyrie Irving denunciations risk distracting Jews and non-Jews from the spread of more insidious and violent expressions of Jew-hatred.

And while the Twitter-verse and corporate America denounced Ye, American society overlooked what the Odessa-born Zionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky called the more entrenched “antisemitism of things.”

There is no stupider debate in the American Jewish community today than the one asking “which is worse, right-wing Jew-hatred or left-wing Jew-hatred?” It’s like debating whether you would rather be run over by a truck or killed by poison. All forms of Jew-hatred are unacceptable.

Over the millennia, antisemites have attacked Jews for fitting in and standing out, as too capitalist and too Marxist, too universalistic and too nationalistic, too deferential and too aggressive. Some blame Jews for all that is wrong with society; others blame Jews for all that society believes is wrong with the world.

Today, the children of Abraham and Sarah perform an important service for a divided America: the far right and left share at least one nemesis—Jews. That both are equally contemptible doesn’t mean that right-wing and left-wing Jew-hatred are the same.

Right-wing Jew-hatred is the antisemitism of the street. It’s usually more thuggish, more violent, more brazen. Today’s Jew-hatred from the left lurks under the radar—or behind a mask of social-justice talk. It’s far more subtle, insidious and disturbing because it comes with mortar boards, tweed jackets and hipster tattoos.

Hate breeds hate. Like all thought-viruses, Jew-hatred fuels other bigotries and respects no boundaries. Progressive antisemitism may begin with Zionophobia, disdaining Israel as too conservative; right-wing antisemitism may begin with Judaeophobia, disdaining Jews as too liberal. But, feasting on millennia of the same misanthropy, the same lies, they meet in exaggerations about Jewish money, power and evil.

These prejudices must be fought simultaneously, with partisans cleaning their own camps.

But the haters are both ever louder and ever-more subtle. Without a united, multi-pronged front, glued together by zero tolerance for the Jew-hatred of the street and the salon, this Jew-hatred of the sewer will get more toxic, will spill over more broadly, and become harder to combat.

Brian Goldenfeld
Oak Park