THOUGHTLESS HEADLINES. US newspapers need to think deeply about headlines that have flirted with antisemitism.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In January 2017, radio show host Steve West made the following statement: “Looking back in history, unfortunately, Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany and who was behind it.”
The KCXL radio host had much more to say about Jews. He said that Jews were a cabal. He said that Jews harvest baby body parts. He said that Jews abuse children. He also said that Jews are now controlling the Republican Party.
Several days ago, Steve West won the Republican Party primary for a seat in the House of Representatives in Clay County in the state of Missouri, defeating three other contenders. He won hands down, garnering 49.5% of the votes. His second-place rival received only 24.4% of the vote. In November, he will face off with his Democratic Party opponent.
Some people see antisemites lurking behind every rock. Some blame antisemitism for every insult and slight. Those who subscribe to this perspective divide their world in two – there are enemies and there are friends. You are either a friend of the Jews or you are an enemy.
That, I believe, is taking it a step too far, but I have no doubt that antisemitism is alive and well. Witness Steve West and those people from the good state of Missouri who voted for him.
When asked about his statement by the Kansas City Star, West explained that his words were taken out of context. Then he went on to say that: “Jewish people can be beautiful people, but there’s ideologies associated with that that I don’t agree with ... Jews today are a remnant of the tribe of Judah that rejected Christ.”
In essence, West, who has also been criticized for making Islamophobic, homophobic and racist statements on his YouTube channel, argued that he was not an antisemite by proving that he was, beyond a reasonable doubt, extremely antisemitic.
West had every right in the world to put his name up during the primary, but the fact that he won the primary says more about the voters than it does about his ideology. The overwhelming plurality of Republican voters in Clay County voted for him – he was only 0.5% shy of a majority
Antisemitism exists in US politics. Some antisemites hide their point of view; others go public and are blatant and proud. The Ku Klux Klan fields a candidate for almost every presidential election, but almost no one votes for their candidate. Come November, hopefully, West will meet the same fate.
Until two generations ago, Jew hatred was not merely a talking point. Antisemitism and Jew hatred had power. It could kill and it did. Survival required Jews to unite against a common enemy. Today Americans are more likely to shrug it off, to let the Anti-Defamation League fight the battles. American Jewry has become complacent.
Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, argued that Jews needed to band together. He asserted, “We are a people! Our enemies have made us one!” For years antisemitism functioned as the backbone of Jewish communal ideology. It was an integral part of the historical narrative. The role it plays in our lives today is much diminished.
The proposal for a Jewish State in Uganda was, for Herzl, a quick fix, a place that would save Jews from persecution. He called it a nacht haven (night refuge), a place to save Jews from the pogroms they were experiencing. Pogroms are no more, but antisemitism still exists and it is on the rise.
Yet Diaspora Jewry is refusing to recognize the change that is taking place. The further Diaspora Jewry gets from the Holocaust, the more time that elapses, the greater the denial. It’s the good and the bad combined. Because Jews have a homeland, because Israel is not under the threat of destruction, Diaspora Jewry has let out a collective sigh of relief.
The fear of antisemitism should not be the only reason to connect to Israel and the Jewish people, but to not realize that Jewish unity will be one of the most important and effective weapons Jews have as protection against those who strike out and try to destroy or damage Jews and Israel is both naive and dangerous.
Steve West is out there and he does not stand alone.
The author, a political commentator, hosts the TV show
Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.
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