Left-wing or right-wing antisemitism: A dangerous debate - opinion

If you care about the rise in antisemitism, bigotry and hatred, there should be no debate and it shouldn't matter which way they lean politically.

 RABBIS GATHER to pose for a group photo in front of the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, on Sunday. A Lubavitcher Hassid in Brooklyn has no control over the policy decisions of the Israeli government (photo credit: David Dee Delgado/Reuters)
RABBIS GATHER to pose for a group photo in front of the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, on Sunday. A Lubavitcher Hassid in Brooklyn has no control over the policy decisions of the Israeli government
(photo credit: David Dee Delgado/Reuters)

There has been a sharp rise in antisemitism in the United States. It’s not yet Europe but the trend line is very disturbing for the American Jewish community. As antisemitism has increased, there has been an ongoing debate about whether antisemitism described as right-wing or left-wing is worse. This debate itself is extremely dangerous.

What exactly are we debating? Does it matter if an antisemite is white, black, Christian, Muslim, a Trump voter or a Squad supporter? If anyone attacks Jews, verbally or physically, they should be condemned. The only reason to debate which is worse is to try and minimize or justify the antisemitism coming from your side of the spectrum.

An anti-Israel group on campus pushed to exclude Zionists from the public square. “But what about what Donald Trump said about Jews and Israel? The Right is the real problem, not my side.”

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene made an egregious comment about Jews. “But what about what Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said? See, it’s really the Left to worry about.”

It shouldn't matter which party they vote for

American and Israeli Jews [Illustrative] (credit: REUTERS)American and Israeli Jews [Illustrative] (credit: REUTERS)

If you care about the Jewish community, if you care about bigotry and hatred, there should be no ambiguity, there should be no debate and it shouldn’t matter if the bigot in question votes for the same party as you.

In fact, you should be more offended by antisemitism coming from your side. You should be more disgusted that someone otherwise aligned with you is a racist than someone otherwise opposed to you. And you should make that clear, publicly, without reservation or qualification.

It is much more powerful when a progressive denounces a progressive’s hate than when they condemn a conservative. Rather than minimize the antisemitism in your camp, call it out and eviscerate it.

Both the Right and the Left should make clear that antisemitism has no place in the conservative or progressive movements. Condemn the other side every chance you get, but if you don’t also deny the hatred in your backyard even a drop of oxygen, you are doing nothing to fight antisemitism. You are encouraging it.

Israel is often used as an excuse for antisemitism, and it is just that, an excuse. Even if every wild lie told about Israel were true, why would that justify antisemitism? A Lubavitcher Hassid in Brooklyn and a Reform Jew in San Francisco have at least two things in common: 1. They are Jews; and 2. They have no control over the policy decisions of the Israeli government.

Antisemites will use whatever excuse they can to justify targeting Jews. If they can point to an Israeli policy, they might. If not, they’ll make something up.

AFTER THE latest Israeli elections, there has been concern that the rise of far-right candidates, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, will lead to a rise in antisemitism. There is no reason to believe this is true. I have no interest in defending Ben-Gvir’s statements, many of which are indefensible, but the notion that he and Bezalel Smotrich leading a party that won around 10% of the vote somehow causes hatred of Jews in the US is ridiculous.

Antisemitism is an evil that goes back over 2,000 years. It is not rooted in current Israeli voting patterns.

Over the last 18 months, Israel had a government that included six ministers from the furthest Left parties on the spectrum (Meretz and Labor) and included the Arab-Islamist party Ra’am. Did antisemitism suddenly plummet? No, antisemitism rose. This had nothing to do with Israel having a broad government either, it simply had no effect. Even attitudes towards Israel itself saw no real change.

Those who hated Israel under a center-right government hated Israel under a center-left government and will continue to hate Israel under a right-wing government. They hate Israel because it is the Jewish state, it does not matter if Israeli Jews are moderates, socialists or fascists, only that they are Jews.

Additionally, if political trends in someone’s ancestral homeland somehow cause a spike in racist attacks, why haven’t we heard about attacks on French Americans as Marine Le Pen rose in popularity or people avoiding pizzerias because Georgia Meloni is the prime minister of Italy? Not only have no attacks occurred but there hasn’t been even the slightest concern they might.

If you believe antisemitic stereotypes or that Jews are any less worthy of safety, respect and self-determination, you are a bigot, no matter what else you can claim.

You can be supportive of Israel for any number of reasons and still be an antisemite.

You can agree with the majority of American Jews on 90% of issues and claim thousands of Jewish supporters and still be an antisemite.

If you don’t believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state, you are an antisemite even if you have Jewish friends, family or otherwise appreciate Jewish culture.

If you’re committed to combating hatred and bigotry only when it’s politically convenient, leave fighting antisemitism to others – criticizing the other side while ignoring or rationalizing antisemitism on your side does more harm than good.

If you are a true friend of the Jewish people and find bigotry and racism vile no matter the source, speak up and make clear that the only tolerable level of hatred amongst your friends and allies is zero.

The writer is a publishing adjunct with The MirYam Institute. He is a former foreign policy adviser to then-minister Tzachi Hanegbi.