First the Jews became whites; then the whites became Jews.
The Left and Right must denounce the rising threat of antisemitism.
The worst thing about the aftermath of Donald Trump’s repast last month with two open anti-Semites—Kanye West and Nick Fuentes—was not the predictable liberal outrage and conservative cowardice, but how the incident has been accepted as part of normal discourse.
In an era where even the slightest deviation from the received norm on gender or race issues engenders immediate invective and cancellation, antisemitism, the oldest and most persistent of racial prejudices, is increasingly being normalized. The intolerable is becoming tolerated, just another part of the cacophony that has replace the once more civil tones of American politics.
This legitimization of what was once outrageous is evident in the GOP response to Trump’s bizarre dinner guests. To say the least, the conservative response has not exactly been met with a GOP profile in courage. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, former vice president Pence, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Louisiana’s Senator Bill Cassidy and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie—as well as the remaining Jewish Trump supporters—specifically said that antisemitism has no place in the Republican Party, but most GOP members seem to be unable to bring themselves to denounce the latest outrage.
Some, like North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, simply expressed exasperation for what seems sloppy staff work. Most of the party still cowers from the glare of the former president. Pivotal figures like incoming House speaker Kevin McCarthy and Florida’s Ron DeSantis have muted their objections for political reasons, in large part not to offend the remaining Trumpista base.
To be sure, the progressives—the White House seems anxious to use Trump’s dinner as a way to put a progressive spin on antisemitism—are not exactly covering themselves with glory. Even Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has a history, as a spokesperson for MoveOn, of anti-Israel sentiments, and other nominees also have a record of attacking Jewish “money and influence.” Democrat-dominated groups like the Anti-Defamation League of course rail against right-wing hate groups but seem reluctant to take on liberal anti-Semites like Al Sharpton and Ilhan Omar. As the Jewish magazine Tablet suggests, their mission to combat anti-Semitism continues to be shape by their predictably progressive bias.
Three Faces of Antisemitism
Rather than be exiled to the lunatic fringe, antisemitism is becoming just another, normalized meme in our increasingly ugly politics. It even has taken on three distinct forms. The first, and most heavily covered by the media, comes from militant white racists, still largely unchallenged by Republican leaders.
The second, largely ignored, comes from the Left. The progressives and their media allies have had a field day with Trump’s nauseating repast but they are far less interested in combating anti-Semitism from progressives. This was evident in 2020, when the ADL and many mainstream Jewish groups openly embraced the anti-Israel Black Lives Matter, even while CEO Jonathan Greenblatt acknowledged the hateful views of many of BLMs supporters. Greenblatt, like most Democrats, has genuflected towards Al Sharpton, a past dealer in anti-Semitic calumnies.
The third and perhaps the most disturbing face of antisemitism is neither left or right, but essentially black. This reflects the recrudescence of a dormant but persistent hostility that has characterized a century of relations between two prominent minority groups. African American communities, according to surveys, are the least admiring of Jews of all ethnic groups while many of their most prominent leaders—Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton—have all embraced, without much criticism, antisemitic tropes more recently adopted by such high-profile black celebrities as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. West, styling himself now as “Ye,” has now gone beyond the standard viciousness of typical antisemitic rhetoric, openly enthusing over Hitler and the Nazis, insisting that the Holocaust didn’t happen, demanding that Jews labor for Christians, and announcing that he refuses to judge individual Jews on a neutral basis, separate from the devilry he ascribes to Jewry as a whole.
The rise of the new antisemitism brings us back to uglier times, notably the 1930s when conspiracy theories about Jewish power gained enormous sway across the political spectrum. Historian Eric Weitz traces the acceptance of antisemitism to what he calls the “proletarianization of the middle class,” the drop in status and security among ordinary Europeans. As in the thirties, a persistently weak economy and the shrinkage of the middle class engendered a racialist populism not only in Germany but also in European countries from Spain to the United Kingdom. It also surfaced in America with the rise of figures like Father Coughlin, the original “America Firsters” who rallied behind Charles Lindbergh, and the ferociously anti-Jewish tycoon Henry Ford.
Today, what the German social democrat August Bebel once labeled “the socialism of fools” is catching on again. Roughly one in four Europeans are hostile to Jews, a sentiment embraced widely in Poland, Greece, Belgium, and Hungary. Alexander Gauland, one of the leaders of Germany’s AfD, called the Nazi Holocaust “a speck of birdshit in 1,000 years of glorious German history.” Though Gauland’s rhetoric may appear shocking coming from a public figure, it comports with the views of a significant segment of the German public. Just over half of Germans now believe that Jews overplay the Holocaust, according to 2015 ADL survey, while a third blame Jews themselves for rising antisemitism.
A tenet of white supremacist paranoid thought—if it can be so dignified—is that the Jews are the originators of a plot to reduce the white population of America to a minority and replace them with immigrants from the Third World. Deranged radicals chanting “Jews will not replace us,” as well as the synagogue assassins in Pittsburgh and Poway, have been inspired by this belief. Nick Fuentes is a major proponent of the theory, which he espoused at his February, 2022 America First Political Action Conference; Republican representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar made appearances at the event.
The Antisemitic Left
American Jews, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, generally reserve their public concern and fear for the far right, who more closely resemble historic persecutors from Czarist Russia and the Nazis. But, contrary to the notions backed by the ADL and their claque in the mainstream media, Jews face an arguably bigger, if perhaps less lethal threat—at least in terms of politics, culture and education—from the Left. Two decades ago the famous Nazi-hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld predicted that the main threat in the future would come from an alliance of Islamists and left-wing activists.
For many, the assault on Jews reflects a larger kulturkampf being waged against Western civilization; if Hitler saw the Jews as dangerous outsiders to European culture, the Left today blames them for being too influential in shaping continental values and ignoring Arab concerns. In Great Britain, for example, the former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn embraced the virulently anti-Jewish Hamas and attended ceremonies laying wreaths at the graves of such heroes as the terrorist killers at the 1992 Munich games.
The Left’s antisemitism is less crude but rests on a wider base of political opinion. Today barely half of Europeans think Israel has a right to exist. The generally middle class Green Parties, which have emerged as big winners in Germany and across the continent, tend to support the BDS movement, with aims to demonize and eliminate the Jewish state. The German Greens regularly label Israel an “apartheid” regime. Many European leftists favor the actual destruction of the Jewish state, itself likely to generate a new Holocaust.
Despite media tropes to the contrary, a detailed survey from the University of Oslo found that in Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, and France, most antisemitic violence comes from Muslims, including recent immigrants. Similarly, a poll of European Jews found that most incidents of antisemitism came from either Muslims or from the left; barely 13 percent traced it to right-wingers. Violence against Jews is worst in places like the migrant dominated suburbs of Paris or Malmo in Sweden.
We see a similar pattern emerging in the United States. Far right antisemites tend to be alienated left-behinds with little institutional influence, but their leftist counterparts thrive in the comfy confines of college campuses, including Harvard, where “third world” oriented academics push “disinvestment” from Israel. Student groups at the publicly funded University of California, Berkeley School of Law recently voted to ban any speakers or participants who “support Zionism.” This prohibition is not specific to panels related to the question of Zionism; it excludes, presumably, any Jew who refuses to denounce Israel. Their candidates also find home in the fiercely anti-Israel Democratic Socialists of America. Pitched merely as anti-Zionism, these same political warriors show their prejudice by targeting Israel and ignoring the depredations of far more repressive states as China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
This leftist antisemitism is now embedded in the Democratic caucus in Congress, largely in the progressive “squad.” Ilhan Omar’s pronouncements about Jews, about the power of money and their “dual loyalty,” have been tolerated by a party leadership intimidated by the rising Left.
Jews and African Americans once shared, and many still do, a common legacy of battling prejudice as well as a long and proud history of political alliance. But now, according to surveys, blacks are far more likely to share antisemitic sentiments in numbers resembling their historic enemies on the far right. Black people, albeit a minority, are far more likely than whites to embrace notions of exaggerated Jewish power and have repeatedly invited antisemitic speakers to colleges.
Perhaps most disturbingly, black leaders have, in a way unimagined among other ethnic groups, celebrated openly antisemitic figures from Malcom X to Jesse Jackson to Louis Farrakhan, who once denounced Judaism as a “gutter religion,” as well as Al Sharpton, the same man who led an openly anti-Jewish pogrom in Brooklyn.
Farrakhan appears to have been an inspiration for Kanye West’s descent into the grossest and more lethal anti-Semitism. West’s espousal of open antisemitism with the implication of violence—saying he planned to declare “deathcon 3 on Jewish people”—represents a cultural pandemic coming from someone with almost twice as many Twitter followers as there are Jews on the planet.
Ye’s voice and those of other major antisemitic black celebrities—Alice Walker, Kyrie Irving, and MSNBC’s Joy Reid—add legitimacy to black antisemitism for which there is no modern equivalent white counterpart. Such leaders provide a comfort zone for anti-Jewish activities on the streets. Groups like the Black Hebrew Israelites, who recently rallied in support of the antisemitic associations of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, and openly praised Hitler for murdering the “fake Jews,” do not get the treatment white nationalists might.
All of this is happening as crimes against Jews in New York have been rising for years. The NYPD reported 208 antisemitic hate crimes through September of this year—9 percent more than in all of 2018, and 41 percent more than all of 2017. Black people, not white nationalists, are committing a growing number of random attacks on both Asians and Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, a place where neo-Nazis are hardly thick on the ground.
Many whites, conservative and progressive alike, seem reluctant to attack West, while feeling more comfortable assaulting the likes of Nick Fuentes. But responding to antisemitism cannot be a matter of political preference or convenience. All political parties—and organizations like the ADL—need to address this challenge wherever it surfaces. There is no conservative or progressive way to oppose antisemitism; it has to be soundly rejected by anyone in the mainstream of contemporary politics, whatever the ideology or color of the perpetrator.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.