This Trump-inspired anti-Semitism sounds horrible. How many Jews have been slaughtered in this wave of hate? Oh, none. Well, how many Jews have been beat up? This article can’t find any examples of that either.
If America in 2016 is filled with anti-Semitism, then what was the Holocaust? Super duper bad anti-Semitism? The word “anti-Semitism” is losing all meaning.
Anti-Semitism is not a useful term. It is a euphemism. If you wish to be precise, say “anti-Jewish.” The challenge for ethnic activists is that the term “anti-Jewish” immediately introduces the idea that different groups have different interests and it is normal, natural and even healthy to have negative views of other groups. Just as some gentile hold anti-Jewish feelings, some Jews hold anti-gentile feelings. Most non-Muslims are not happy with the presence of Muslims in their country and most non-blacks try to avoid living around blacks.
Anti-Semitism is not a disease. It is not a mystery. It is a fact of life that different groups have different interests and when another group is threatening the well-being of your group, it is normal, natural and healthy to dislike that group.
The political identities of Jews and gentiles will never knit together for long because they are different peoples with different histories, different average IQs, different predispositions, different strengths and weaknesses, different norms, and different destinies.
It is a curious fact that in the Current Year, the Alt Right understands the Jews better than the Jews understand themselves. While legions of ersatz Larry Davids and Brooklyn-accented Californian soccer moms gather in the hallways of the ADL to issue hollow, self-abnegating proclamations that what it is to be a Jew is to be a refugee (1,2),it is only the purported anti-Semites who share the common sense of Herzl in recognizing that the Jews are “a people – one people” (3).
Richard Spencer took this point for granted when, at a recent press conference, he suggested that it would be an insult to call a Jew a European, for to call him a European would be to deny him his heritage (4). To call a Jew a European, on Spencer’s view, is to cut him off from his people, and to suggest that Jews will form a part of a future pan-European ethnostate is do an injustice to the destiny and struggle of the Jews as much as to the struggle and destiny of the Europeans.
Spencer’s view presupposes, of course, that Jewish identity cannot be an instance of European identity in the same way that French identity, for example, is. If this is right, then it must be the case that Jewish identity and European identity are in fact incompatible in such a way that to identify as a Jew is to link oneself to an entirely different people and history than the people and history to which one links oneself in identifying as a European.
There is good reason to think that Spencer is right on this count. To identify oneself as a Jew is to think of oneself as an historical heir to the kingdoms of David and Solomon; it is to think of oneself as kin to Judah Maccabeus, and as having a share in that same historical struggle for independence for which he is remembered; to identify as a Jew is to make the Six-Day War both one’s Thermopylae and one’s Gaugamela. To identify as a Jew is not, however, to think of oneself as kin to Charlemagne and Richard the Lionheart, nor is it to think of oneself as the heir to the dominions of Caesar and Pericles. To attempt to identify oneself both as a Jew and yet also with these hallmarks of European identity would be to identify with such a scattered and confused history that one’s own identity would indeed become incoherent.
This is more profound than the Politico essay.
Ben Wofford writes for Politico: “Like many Jewish families in America, the Reizes household has been deliberating in recent months what Donald Trump really thinks of them.”
That’s pathetic. Why would they care? Trump looks at Jews the way Jews look at non-Jews — how useful can they be.
“But millennial Jews and their juniors are another matter. Joelle’s children—ages 19, 14, and 12—have grown up during an unprecedented era of prosperity and assimilation for Jews in America, one in which the struggles endured by an earlier generation is understood as something closer to historical lore than present fact.”
How assimilated can they be if they still have a separate identity as Jews? Jews have been in Europe for more than a millennia and they still have a separate identity.
“They’ve been protected,” says the Reizes’ mother, “to help them to not feel like being Jewish isn’t different.”
As one American academic put it: “American Jews want to maintain a distinct identity and on the other hand want to be fully integrated into broader society and don’t want the distinctiveness to come at a price.”
As an internet commentator put it: “Anti-Semitism is as natural to Western civilization as anti-Christianity is to Jewish civilization, Islamic civilization and Japanese civilization.”
For younger Jews in the United States, that era has suddenly passed. The early months of 2016 brought in a strange tide of online hate speech aimed largely at Jewish journalists who had published articles critical of Trump or his campaign, with all the old ugly epithets on display. Then in July Trump’s Twitter account posted an image of a six-pointed star next to a picture of Hillary Clinton, with a pile of money in the background. Though he deleted the tweet, afterward Trump walked up to a brightly lit podium and defended the image, bellowing that the Jewish star was not a Jewish star. A dim reality descended on American Jews. Yes: Trump had broadcast the message of a neo-Nazi without apology.
A whole era for American Jews has passed in 2016? Really? I don’t know any American Jews living in fear for their lives because they are Jewish. Jews are as powerful and influential in America today as they have ever been.
How soon is too soon to brush the cobwebs away from an ancient alarm bell? The father, Ofer Reizes, a soft-spoken man of Israeli heritage, wants to discern the source before issuing labels. “My reservation with how anti-Semitic Mr. Trump really is that he’s playing a game, a very effective game,” he says. His wife prods back: “I don’t care if he’s playing a game or not.” “It’s just part of his campaign, is my point,” Mr. Reizes retorts in plaintive, be-understanding tone. “It’s the people he’s riling up.” There’s a pause, as his wife quietly considers this. “When David Duke thinks he’s the best thing ever,” she intones slowly, “it doesn’t matter what he feels in his heart.”
But while his parents deliberate, it’s 19-year-old Zach Reizes who is most firm in his views. “What Trump has brought to the surface is, in many ways, the first blatant anti-Semitic experience for the vast majority of American millennials,” says Zach, an angular and handsome sophomore at Ohio University. On campus, he’s active both with AIPAC, the right-of-center bulwark of Jewish politics, and J-Street, it’s younger and left-leaning rival. “My little sister,” he adds, thinks that Trump “is the Haman of the Purim story.”
If Trump is the Haman of the Purim story, then Trump and his family and supporters should fear that they will be slaughtered by Jews.
Zach has launched more than words. Last March, when AIPAC invited Trump to its annual conference, Reizes wrote an open letter to AIPAC, cautioning that the organization risked countenancing bigotry by inviting Trump to speak,. “Your organization has…taught me to speak up for myself and for my values,” Reizes wrote. “My fellow students and I must sit quietly in tacit support of a man who speaks against every value I hold close.” The letter became well circulated in Jewish media; a representative from AIPAC contacted Reizes to make amends.
Make amends to this delicate snowflake Zach Reizes? How precious. How darling. How sweet. How tender.
Trump speaks against every value Zach Reizes holds close? Trump supports immigration restriction and free speech expansion. Trump is the American Netanyahu. Zach finds that offensive? He’s offended that America may be getting a president who’s as nationalistic as Bibi Netanyahu?
Reizes’ AIPAC letter was an illuminating moment in the tangled world of Jewish politics, where anti-Semitism is a topic traditionally lectured from right to left, from older to younger. But Trump’s success—and a white nationalist subculture blooming like algae in the Internet’s unlighted depths—has turned millennial Jews into the new expositors of anti-Semitism at the dinner table: Quietly explaining Pepe the Frog, opaque Twitter memes and dyspeptic forums like Stormfront to frozen audiences of parents and grandparents. It’s thrust young Jews into long-buried questions of assimilation and political position, whiteness and privilege. And it’s heightened a divide between young and old, left and right: Progressive young Jews learning to form the words “anti-Semitism,” often for the first time—even while they take umbrage at their right-leaning scolds who, now into October, have kept up a deafening silence on the topic of Trump.
So now it is young Jews who are lecturing old Jews about the dangers of anti-Semitism? All the young Jews I know (they are all Orthodox) are pro-Trump.
Presidential politics has never been entirely immune from this disease, a history for which Irving and contemporaries were present, but the millennial class under 35 was not. In 1935, FDR spoke of “dirty Jewish tricks” to describe a tax maneuver by the New York Times, and ribbed a sitting senator about the lack of “Jewish blood in our veins.” Harry Truman’s diary revealed not dissimilar sentiments. Rumors of Richard Nixon’s tirades chased his campaigns long before becoming president. After he won in 1968, White House tapes reveal a president speaking freely of Jewish cabals controlling the media and the IRS. He also included fairly straightforward instructions about his judicial nominees: “No Jews. Is that clear?” (It was.)
Nixon’s became the last tenure of semi-public, anti-Semitic overtures—a political milestone that also demarked a moment of assimilation for American Jewry. By 1970, says Marjorie Feld, a professor who teaches Jewish American history, “American Jews obtained tremendous amounts of power, and they largely assimilated to mainstream American identities,” a development sped along by Jews considerable involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. But just as the political identities of Americans and Jews were knit together, says Feld, Jewish politics itself underwent an unraveling. The catalyst for both trends was the Six Day War in 1967, an event that simultaneously unleashed a rush of Jewish pride and birthed modern American Zionism—while cleaving a rift in Jewish sensibilities about privilege and existential risk that has never relented.
“Sixty-seven was a watershed year, because American Zionism became much more strident,” says Feld, who also referenced Torn at the Roots, a history of American Jewish politics by Michael Straub. It was, Feld says, a “conservative turn…that came at a high price”: A divide by the late sixties, one in which younger, socially progressive Jews, whose spiritual antecedent was the Civil Rights Movement, increasingly found themselves at odds with an older and right-leaning American Jewry politically moored to Israel. Central to the dichotomy were differing notions of which horizon to watch for the arrival of anti-Semitism: The left, like the American college campus, or the right—like the Trump campaign.
This is the warring dichotomy that white, assimilated Jewish children of the 1990s (including this author) have been dropped into as young adults. As a historic debate unfolds about privilege and race, largely on campus, progressive Jews play the role of allies, not the marginalized. Complicating matters is Israel itself: The burgeoning growth of the Boycott Divest Sanctions movement, and a diminishing generational attachment to the Jewish state. A recent Pew survey finds the number of millennials sympathetic to Palestine has grown from 9 percent to 27 since 2006; support for Israel fell from 51 percent to 43.
Such numbers have fed the encompassing fear of the Jewish right, whose worry over college campuses is boiling near the edge of panic—the culmination of a decades-long narrative that college campuses represent a the main spigot of anti-Israel programming. In 2002, Campus Watch was formed, a website that polices the political opinions of college professors and class offerings, ever alert for perceived anti-Israel leanings. A new project funded by Trump-supporter Sheldon Adelson, the Maccabee Task Force, is now writing grants to intervene on behalf of hapless students, ostensibly blind to the crisis around them. One grantee, “Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus,” is a campaign of campus provocateur David Horowitz. Horowitz used the funds to paper the campus of UCLA with posters that read “Jew Hater,” under the headshots of UCLA undergraduates. “Our goal is to change the younger generation from neutral, if not opposed to Israel, to support of Israel,” says Task Force director David Brog.
While Adelon’s Maccabee Task Force funds the hunt for anti-Semites, the pro-Israel pillars of the American right have remained silent on the gargantuan problem of Donald Trump. Young people have not overlooked the irony—a skepticism felt acutely by young people interviewed for this story. “What’s most shocking is…how silent the Jewish establishment has been in calling out Trump’s behavior,” Kaplan said. She later added, “The same people who told me that anti-Semitism was everywhere are now conspicuously silent on Trump. In some cases, they’re supporting Trump.”
Those organizations include the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and plausibly a litany of others in the constellation of Jewish advocacy. They have yet to distance, denounce, or in some cases meaningfully comment on Trump’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, even as the indecencies by the campaign pile up with deadening normalcy. (An AIPAC spokesman respectfully declined twice to comment; the RJC did not return the request.) Some have sought to strike a posture of concern: The AJC has condemned Trump’s calls for “riots,” but declined to mention Trump by name, and later offered a mushy response about as unhelpful as Trump’s non-denials and Kushner’s op-ed.
Jewish voters, who consistently vote Democratic, support Trump in numbers of around 19 percent, according to one poll, and 21 percent in Florida (compared to something closer to zero for African American respondents). Not since William Jennings Bryan in 1896 has a candidate united a coalition of American Zionists and a larger anti-Semitic constituency under the same umbrella, according to Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis. (Bryan interweaved his cross-of-gold populism with homilies of Jewish financial control—simultaneously supporting a Jewish homeland for biblical reasons.)
The double standard has not escaped the Jewish left. In an open letter published in Haaretz last month, public intellectual and journalism professor Peter Beinart accused the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations of dodging the question of Trump. “Donald Trump is not a distraction. He is the thing our tradition teaches us to resist,” Beinart wrote. “In this season of national decision and Jewish self-reflection, please reflect on your silence.”
“The deafening silence [on Trump] is in proportion to how high they feel the stakes are,” says Feld. For one, Trump could become president—and the candidate has made it abundantly clear that his beliefs are dictated entirely by the identities of those who says nice things to him. But the other clear factor is Iran; as the New Yorker reports, Trump is planning to annihilate the Obama administration’s Iran Deal in the first days of office. “The fact that they are silent speaks to how desperate things have become. BDS is gaining momentum, and Sanders, even, is invoking some criticism of Israel,” says Feld. “They’re very anxious of what the Democratic party might offer them.”
Meanwhile, in Jewish politics, cats are for the moment chasing dogs as left-leaning groups chide their right-wing counterparts for failing to denounce anti-Semitism. This summer, a statement from 28 Jewish action groups, mostly on the left, called on Republican Jewish Coalition leader Matthew Brooks to denounce Donald Trump. In June, a protest organized in New York by the progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc saw young activists chanting “We’ve Seen This Before,” and hoisted signs that bore the slogan “Jews Reject Trump,” a tactic that shared more in common with Horowitz than the Jewish left. The group has since revamped the protest: Last week, Bend the Arc hosted protests across the country, and launched a new website, “We’ve Seen This Before,” featuring a video with harsh, if playful, warnings from a cast of grandparents.
“It’s a really important phenomenon,” says the New York protest’s organizer, Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc, which signed the petition. “This is a time when we would expect more of the Jewish right to be speaking out against anti-Semitism…and now we’re seeing the progressive side doing it.” Says Logan Beyroff, spokesman for J Street: “The continued silence of much of the institutional Jewish community on Trump’s candidacy only stands to substantiate claims that they don’t speak for the younger generation of Jews.”
The left has not missed a chance to radiate schadenfreude, a move that does not sit well with Alan Dershowtiz, the longtime expositor of American Jewish politics and famous gadfly of the campus left. “Jewish leaders are failing the shoe-on-the-other-foot test,” he told me over the summer, acknowledging the Jewish right had missed an opportunity. But he offered a more circumspect warning, one of a coming stalemate in which both the Jewish left and right “see anti-Semitism when it’s not there against their enemies, and they don’t see it when it is there, from their friends.” Dershowtiz added, “The issue of anti-Semitism is too important to be politicized—whether it’s a Democrat or Republican.”
But in this moment, the silence on anti-Semitism—at a juncture of world-historical importance, on an international stage—is a problem that afflicts only one side, not two. Millennial Jews have noticed. “A lot of Jews nailed Trump from the beginning,” says Feld, the historian. “If student don’t hear from the Jewish right on Trump, and soon, she adds, “there may be a be a price to pay in terms of their own longevity.”
…Even as they might march with Black Lives Matter or once lobbied for marriage equality, on campus, says Rabbinovich, “Anti-Semitism isn’t viewed as an important or valid form of prejudice.” Partly for this reason, Reizes suspects more Jewish students are leery of bringing up anti-Semitism, whether in class, on Twitter or in person. “Many of us don’t know how to tackle it,” says Reizes. “The inability to… to fight back against it comes from a few places,” he adds. “But I also think it comes from a hesitancy to maybe support Judaism because of Israel.”
It would be a mistake to blame BDS for this condition. More likely, efforts like Horowitz’s “Jew Haters” have done much to raise the political price of speaking out. “A lot of young Jews don’t have the vocabulary to talk about anti-Semitism, because most of the time the label is levelled against us and those we would align with—like those who called for acknowledging human rights of Palestinians,” says Kaplan. “That’s language we’ve separated ourselves from.” One Brown University senior told me “there’s no question” that Trump is peddling anti-Semitism. But there won’t be a “Jews Against Trump” rally at Brown any time soon. The charge of anti-Semitism, the senior said, would just “get caught in their throat, because there’s so much psychological baggage about grandma, and psychological baggage about being gas-lighted” by the far right.
The Jewish right has long pushed the message that we can’t talk of Israel without talking of anti-Semitism. Not without irony, then, have they gotten their wish: A generation of left-leaning Jews ready to speak publically against anti-Semitism, yet frozen by fear that it appears disingenuous to do so, convinced it’s viewed as code for Israel. Trump’s rhetoric may be unprecedented. But no one wants to join an inquisition that marks their hall mates as Jew Haters.
…Like other European ethnicities, the United States fashioned an immigration quota system during the interwar years that painted immigrant Jews as non-white, writes UCLA professor Karen Brodkin in her book, “How Jews Became White Folks.” Such notions endured up to the war, when nearly a thousand Jews fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the St. Louis were turned away, and a proposal to allow Jewish children to emigrate was swiftly quashed. But a different story developed in the post-war era—Jews “certainly took on whiteness by the sixties and seventies,” says Feld, the historian, a process as traceable in history texts as it is on Mad Men, where Jews slowly gain entry into the office setting. It was an assimilation so famously swift that Jewish American culture would soon be presented with the opposite moral dilemma—tested by the darker impulses of full assimilation. Even as Syrian refugees seek sanctuary aboard their own St. Louis, it is not purely coincidence that the chief architect of Donald Trump’s scheme to bar them—as well as banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans—is Stephen Miller, who is Jewish.
The question of Jewish whiteness is a theoretical dispute, not a real debate in this country. Nevertheless, it presents a thicket of social politics precarious enough to give even Ta-Nahesi Coates pause, and the disagreement among Jews runs deep. The debate owes a new twist to Trump. When two Jewish writers recently sparred over Jewish whiteness, Trump supporter David Duke rejoiced—proof that Jews were coming out as non-white. This election season has highlighted a grim paradox, one that underpins the confusion of millennials: An elder generation of Jews—old enough to remember the St. Louis—now shares something in common with David Duke and his white nationalists, two groups invested in prodding a younger generation to reconsider how white they really are. And an incipient alignment between Black Lives Matter and BDS on campus reflects, in part, the same principle that animates Stephen Miller—a modern assumption that Jews are entitled to the trappings of American white supremacy.
This divide between two Judaisms—splitscreen worlds of historical memory, privilege and whiteness—may never be bridged. If it can, millennials may be the ones who bridge it. In July, Jewish activist Carly Pildis penned an essay in Tablet Magazine, “I am Woke,” urging activists of the left to accept the reality of anti-Semitism into their sensibility of social justice, without Jews apologizing for Israel. “We are facing a wave of anger and violence against people of color not seen in my lifetime,” write Pildis. “The Jewish people are facing that, too, the anger, the violent rhetoric, the Trump supporters demanding Jewish reporters’ heads.”
Jewish money is going for Hillary 96-4 over Donald Trump, according to this 538 article.
* The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.
* Blood, language, religion, way of life, were what the Greeks had in common and what distinguished them from the Persians and other non-Greeks. Of all the objective elements which define civilizations, however, the most important usually is religion, as the Athenians emphasized. To a very large degree, the major civilizations in human history have been closely identified with the world’s great religions; and people who share ethnicity and language but differ in religion may slaughter each other, as happened in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, and the Subcontinent.
* Religion is a central defining characteristic of civilizations, and, as Christopher Dawson said, “the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest.” Of Weber’s five “world religions,” four—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism—are associated with major civilizations. The fifth, Buddhism, is not.
So, if we accept the idea that Western civilization and Islamic civilization are in conflict, what must we logically conclude from the three quotes provided?
The decline of the West is the direct result of the decline of Christianity in the West, both religious and institutional.
The growing power of Islam in the West cannot be halted by secularism, white nationalism, or any sub-civilization-level force.
The preservation of the West requires a revival of Christianity.
The preservation of the West requires the abandonment of some, though not all, secular values, beginning with the freedom of religion, that conflict with the restoration of Christianity