Thinking About Anti-Semitism

 

In the days following the murder rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue, I received several expressions of grief from friends who are committed Christians. One included in her note a verse from John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself . . .
any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

This largeness of spirit is what I have come to know and love in America. The incubus of anti-Semitism, so ineradicable and durable everywhere else in the world, has been gloriously and nearly miraculously minimized in the United States. Of course there were episodes. Leo Frank, a young factory manager, was lynched in Georgia in 1915. Henry Ford publicized the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Following Kristallnacht in 1938, radio preacher Father Coughlin told his large audience that the Jews had brought it on themselves. “Jewish persecution only followed after Christians first were persecuted.” The Ivy League and other institutions maintained Jewish quotas, and country clubs and sometimes whole neighborhoods were “restricted.”

But on the whole, and particularly since World War II, America has been a paradise for Jews. I’ve personally encountered more philo-Semitism than anti-Semitism. Is that idyll coming to an end?

During the 2016 presidential campaign, I was among the Jewish journalists who were rocked by a flood of anti-Semitic messages delivered primarily (though not exclusively) through Twitter. The first time I saw a cartoon of myself wearing a yellow Star of David patch and being ushered into an oven, I was almost physically sick. When such messages proliferated, I was forced to ask myself whether this sudden upsurge of naked Jew-hatred was something that had just crawled out from under rocks, or whether it had been there all along and I’d just been unaware of it? I quickly recovered from the shock, and became more and more convinced as time passed that these were not genuine expressions from actual individuals, but fakes or bots generated by Russian trolls or other menaces. That they abruptly ceased after the election tended to confirm this suspicion. Perhaps the Mueller investigation will shed more light on this.

An Anti-Defamation League report about anti-Semitic incidents in the past year has received a lot of attention. It suggested that anti-Semitic violence, threats, vandalism, and other harassment has increased by 57 percent in one year. Others have questioned these data (noting, for example, that it included dozens of bomb threats to Jewish community centers that turned out to have been committed by a mentally unstable Israeli). What no one denies is that Jews still top the list of targets for religious hate crimes (54.4 percent), far outstripping Muslims (24.5 percent), Catholics (3.1 percent), or Mormons (0.5 percent).

And yet: this country remains extraordinary in its attitudes. A counterbalance to the ADL report is a 2017 Pew survey. Asked about various religious groups on a feelings thermometer, Americans reported the warmest sentiments toward Jews. Catholics were second, followed by mainline Protestants. Evangelical Protestants were fourth. I know, I was surprised too. These data are consistent with findings from 2014, except that feelings toward all religious groups have grown warmer.

The Pittsburgh attack was the deadliest crime against American Jews in history. We no longer have the capacity in America to pull together and grieve. There have been too many mass shootings, and polarization has supplanted solidarity in too many hearts. Even among Jews, there is little common ground. Some are quick to blame President Trump for the demagogic tone he has brought to the presidency. Others respond that Trump is a great friend of Israel, has Jewish grandchildren, and has condemned the attack.

The whataboutism is dizzying and dangerous. Liberals tolerate Linda Sarsour and booed the mention of Jerusalem at the Democratic convention in 2012. They close their eyes to intimidation of Jewish and pro-Israel students on American campuses. And conservatives bristle at the suggestion that Trump’s demagogic language and sinister conspiracy-mongering could have anything to do with the actions of Cesar Sayoc or Robert Bowers.

The truth is that anti-Semitism is a sickness of both left and right and fair-minded people must always be especially alert to it among their own. Frank Field recently resigned from Britain’s Labour Party over the anti-Semitism of its leader. All honor to him. William F. Buckley set a standard when he excommunicated anti-Semites and John Birchers from the conservative movement. Today, Trump winks in their direction, and too many on the right forget their principles and salute smartly.

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  1. Hugh Member
    Hugh
    @Hugh

    For a minute there I thought you were going to say this was all Trump’s fault

    • #1
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Mona Charen: And conservatives bristle at the suggestion that Trump’s demagogic language and sinister conspiracy-mongering could have anything to do with the actions of Cesar Sayoc or Robert Bowers.

    Should they not?

    • #2
  3. Max Ledoux Admin
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    Donald Trump is the most pro-Israel, pro-Jewish president we’ve ever had.

    • #3
  4. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Donald Trump is the most pro-Israel, pro-Jewish president we’ve ever had.

    Well yeah, supporting Israel is just his way “winking” at the anti-semites. And when Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan allowed Palestinian terrorists (rather than Israel) to dictate what city we should treat as Israel’s capital, that was courageously standing up to anti-semitism, right?

    • #4
  5. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark
    @CharlesMark

    I am nauseated by the rush to pin this anti-Semitic atrocity on President Trump. The political opportunism is naked and blatant. Even worse are the psychotics who claim that Jews brought this on themselves. There is no shortage of those. Shame on every one of them. 

    What seems to be in very short supply – certainly in Ireland where I live- is any effort to put this appalling event in the context of historical and contemporary antisemitism,which existed long before there was a State of Israel. 

    I honestly don’t believe that there is any other form of racism or bigotry that would be treated with such equanimity. 

    • #5
  6. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Let’s see Mona was it Trump that had his picture taken with  Louis Farrakhan and delivered a plane load of cash to Iran the arch  enemy of Israel ?

    • #6
  7. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Mona Charen: The truth is that anti-Semitism is a sickness of both left and right and fair-minded people must always be especially alert to it among their own. Frank Field recently resigned from Britain’s Labour Party over the anti-Semitism of its leader. All honor to him. William F. Buckley set a standard when he excommunicated anti-Semites and John Birchers from the conservative movement. Today, Trump winks in their direction, and too many on the right forget their principles and salute smartly.

    So, we shift from anti-Semitism as something that afflicts all sides to guy A who left the Labour Party because he objected to their anti-Semitism, to guy B who removed anti-Semites and John Birchers from his movement/magazine to guy C who has nothing whatever to do with anti-Semites. 

    Nothing. 

    Once again it’s ‘failure to denounce’. This is primitive witch-hunt stuff and should be beneath anyone who considers himself part of a modern society. 

    And really, all Mona had to do was not mention Trump at all and the meaning of her piece wouldn’t change. 

    But she hadda go there, had to trash Trump in a column that begins with talk of ‘largeness of spirit’ in Americans.  

     

    • #7
  8. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    So anti semitism is as much of a right wing thing as a left wing thing?  It’  been left wing, for the last almost century, if one consider the National Socialists and the fascists left wing which we should,   because they’re the party of centralized control, the corporate state, anti republicanism.   If someone is a skin head or Nazi here we call them right wing because our left does, but do they support freedom under the rule of law, the constitution, limited government, traditional values?  Not at all so if we consider conservatives as right then these human dregs aren’t of the right.  

    The centralizers in this country and in Europe have been of the left.  Neither are anti semitic here but it’s just a matter of how powerful we allow the centralized state to become. At some point all those stiff necked people, rooted in something besides state ideologies will have to be subdued.  When our right says patriotism, that national pride matters, we call them right wing, but that’s just a confusion brought on by the fact that our left was highly influenced by our enemies during the cold war. And because our role as global hegemon has had costs for large groups of Americans so they contrast it with “globalism”  It simply does not mean the same thing as Mussolini replacing the ideology of international socialism with the unifying demagogic power of nationalism he observed coming out of  WWI.  

    • #8
  9. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Moderator Note:

    Personal attack.

    Mona Charen: Today, Trump winks in their direction, and too many on the right forget their principles and salute smartly.

    She really is [redacted]. Link

    • #9
  10. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    Mona needed to write something that would point the finger at both sides, to find plenty of blame to go around, so that she has abundant rationalization for anti-Semitism.  The problem is, anti-Semitism is just not rational, it has neither rhyme nor reason, and Trump is certainly not the problem.

    Thank G-d there is a country called Israel.  Do you think that France at the time of Dreyfus or Germany before the rise of Hitler were any less enlightened than America is today?  Well, here’s a finger pointed at American Jews both on the left and on the right.  Leftist Jews tend to minimize or completely hide their Jewish identity, thinking there is safety in assimilating into the prevailing culture.  Rightist Jews hope that their flag waving will ingratiate them with patriotic Americans.  But anti-Semites do not distinguish between left and right.  Every time I hear Michael Medved say “America is the greatest country on G-d’s green earth,” I think to myself, gee, Mike, you’re a Jew who identifies with Israel; shouldn’t Israel take first place in your eyes or at least equal America in greatness?  But I get it, I get it, Mike, you are afraid of being accused of dual loyalty.

    Fact is, Trump will go down in history as a great man because he has been the friendliest President Israel has ever known.  Obama will go down in history as a pathetic loser;  it always happens to those who persecute Jews, cavort with anti-Semites. or embrace Israel’s enemies.

    • #10
  11. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Didn’t read–nor do I ever read anymore–Mona Charen. I have been proven correct too many times over the past several years. Every article this author pens finds a way to trash Donald Trump. He lives rent free, as the expression says, in the head of Mona Charon. She cannot escape. But I can! So I just read the few comments. That’s all she ever gets anymore, just a few. voilà! The comments show once more, Mona succombs, Trump’s magic is as strong as ever

    • #11
  12. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

     There’s a teeny tiny synagogue in the small town in upstate New York where I live, which announces its presence in big, bold, black letters.  I drive past it all the time, and have been doing so for several decades.  

     Only recently do I look at it, and worry.

     Progressivism implies anti-Semitism.  It is a dogma of their religion that different groups, ethnic or racial, cannot differ in abilities; so any performance differences found must be illicit:  cheating, discrimination.  But if they condemn all whites for their relative success, then among white groups they must doubly condemn Jews, as most successful of all.

     Since the rise of Donald Trump, and Mona Charen’s response to it, I’m rarely on the same page as she.   (In particular, I find it hard to forgive how she pandered to liberals in her New York Times op-ed, earlier this year.)   But she gets a tip of the hat from me for this:  

    These were not genuine expressions [of anti-Semitism] from actual individuals, but fakes or bots generated by Russian trolls or other menaces.  That they abruptly ceased after the election tended to confirm this suspicion.”

    • #12

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