Antisemitism is a feature of partisan extremism - opinion

'The fight against antisemitism must be apolitical because antisemitism is apolitical' says Liora Rez, Executive Director of StopAntisemitism.

 Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attends a pro-Palestinian protest in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 16, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/REBECCA COOK)
Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attends a pro-Palestinian protest in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/REBECCA COOK)

Far-left Democrats and far-right Republicans don’t agree on much, but both extremes have a disturbing affinity for antisemitism.

Consider Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on the extreme Right, a former StopAntisemitism Antisemite of the Week whose history of antisemitism includes sharing a video alleging that “Zionist supremacists” conspire to replace Europe’s White population with refugees.

Or Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on the extreme Left, who on multiple occasions has met with and praised terrorist sympathizers who celebrate murders of Jews.

These representatives are about as politically divergent as it’s possible to be, so how can they be in alignment on the world’s oldest hatred?

Horseshoe Theory” may provide answers. The theory posits that the political spectrum looks more like a horseshoe than a straight line, with the extremes closer to each other than they are to the center. Viewing politics through this lens helps make sense of why partisans on opposite sides sometimes take similar positions, albeit for different reasons. For example, the slogan “my body, my choice” has been employed both in support of abortion rights and in opposition to mask and vaccine mandates.

Applying Horseshoe Theory to antisemitism provides some frightening insights into where the two extremes converge - and where they separate.

Rep. Taylor Greene’s support of the Great Replacement Theory, along with her well-known belief in secret Jewish space lasers, typifies right-wing antisemitism. While generally quite supportive of Israel, she and her colleagues on the Republican fringe traffic in conspiracy theories of Jewish control, alleging that cabals plot to weaken America and advance progressive causes.

Some of her Congressional allies even openly associate with Nazi sympathizers. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), for example, has supported and appeared onstage with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, calling him a “patriot.”

Rep. Tlaib’s left-wing antisemitism, on the other hand, looks considerably different. She, along with “Squad” allies including Ilhan Omar (D-MN), couches her bigotry primarily in criticism of Israel’s right to exist.

As the internationally recognized IHRA definition of antisemitism makes clear, criticizing Israel is not antisemitic unless it involves double standards or antisemitic tropes. Sadly, those Representatives fail that test on both fronts.

Rep. Omar perpetuated the harmful stereotype that Jewish people are motivated by money when she said her colleagues’ support of Israel was “all about the Benjamins.”

She and Rep. Tlaib later shared an antisemitic cartoon alleging that Jews conspire with governments to silence critics of Israel by a cartoonist who competed in Iran’s yearly Holocaust Cartoon contest.

The entire Squad supports boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel for its supposed racism, but does not advocate for similar measures against countries with indisputably worse human rights records.

One side supports Israel while spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories; the other opposes Israel in overtly antisemitic terms. So where do these mirror images converge?

Neither partisan tribe can stay away from Holocaust equivalency. Though a lesser-known form of antisemitism, equivalency is no less pernicious than conspiracy theories; comparing the Holocaust to anything other than large-scale genocide offends every victim and survivor.

Marjorie Taylor Greene said that vaccine requirements were “exactly the type of abuse” that sent Jews to gas chambers, and her ally, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY), tweeted a picture making the same comparison. Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said migrant detention centers were directly analogous to Nazi concentration camps.

These comparisons serve only to reveal the ignorance of their proponents and minimize the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Amid sky-high partisanship, it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to antisemitism from one’s own party, but bigotry is dangerous no matter which side of the aisle it originates from. Both party leaders and constituents should hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and words.

The fight against antisemitism must be apolitical because antisemitism is apolitical. We have a collective responsibility to ensure our representatives are not motivated by hatred or distrust of Jews, no matter how that prejudice is expressed – or who expresses it.

Liora Rez is the Executive Director of StopAntisemitism, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to bringing justice to victims of antisemitism and holding perpetrators accountable.

This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Adam Milstein.