CNN announced this week that “Anti-Semitism never disappeared in Europe. It's alive and kicking.” The fact that this was a shocking revelation proves that there is a widespread and blatant lack of understanding when it comes to the depth and longevity of anti-Semitism.
This headline highlights the commonly held view that anti-Semitism is specific to Europe for which the horrors of World War 2 and The Holocaust were a brief blip of bigotry. Europe itself has a deep and dark history of discrimination, persecution, and violence toward Jews. Originating with the hatred of Jews during the Pre-Christian eras of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, it continued in the form of centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, resulting in the repeated expulsion and murder of Jews across Europe. While many think that anti-Semitism began in early 20th century Germany, the Nazis did not invent anti-Semitism. They simply capitalized on a deeply-rooted hatred.
The fact that CNN required a study of European nations to conclude that anti-Semitism is still “alive and kicking” shows a shocking ignorance of reality. Despite the defeat of Nazi Germany, anti-Semitic sentiment has existed across Europe. There has been a demonstrated increase in anti-Semitic attacks in countries like France and Germany in recent years, often associated with the increase of Muslim anti-Semitism following waves of immigration, or the rise of far-right political groups.
This headline is also indicative of a deeper problem. The issue is that mainstream acknowledgement of anti-Semitism is carefully selective in an attempt to limit it to the political Right. While anti-Semitism clearly exists in the far-Right, the reality is that it also exists in the mainstream Left.
Recent CNN headlines such as, “In 2008, there was hope. In 2018, there is hurt. This is America's state of hate,” and “Has anti-Semitism returned with a vengeance?” promote the notion that we can blame anti-Semitism on Donald Trump’s rhetoric. While Trump’s behavior concerning the anti-Semitic alt-right during his 2016 campaign was deplorable, his policies as president have been massively pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. Conversely, criticism of anti-Semitism within the Left is severely lacking.
While CNN discuss the “hope” that came with Obama, they willingly ignore the fact that Obama’s stance towards Iran made the despotic Islamic nation a regional superpower. This allowed them to continue funding terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah -- organizations whose prime goal is the expulsion and extermination of Jews.
The same willing ignorance is applied to other prominent members of the Left. The vocally anti-Semitic views of progressive thought-leaders such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib are dismissed. Blatant anti-Semites such as Keith Ellison, Linda Sarsour, and Louis Farrakhan are also afforded the same protections.
This attitude isn’t specific to the American Left. In the United Kingdom, Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faces continual criticism from both the Conservative Party and members of his own party for failing to combat anti-Semitism in his own ranks. Corbyn is vocally anti-Israel, with a long history of supporting anti-Semites. He attended a ceremony commemorating the orchestrators of the 1972 Munich massacre, has called Hamas and Hezbollah “his friends,” and even claimed (somewhat ironically) that British Jews don’t understand British irony. Despite these facts, he remains popular with his base, and may become Britain’s next Prime Minister.
The core issue which explains the willingness of the Left to ignore anti-Semitism is that most of this bigotry is thinly veiled, and thereby protected, as being anti-Israel. After centuries of ethnic or religious anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism is simply the next version of contemporary anti-Jewish sentiment.
To their credit, CNN made a positive step recently by firing Marc Lamont Hill for advocating for the expulsion or murder of Israeli Jews by repeating the Palestinian nationalist slogan: “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” However, this attitude must be applied consistently to have any long-term impact.
We can all agree that “obvious” forms of anti-Semitism are morally abhorrent, such as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, violent attacks on Jews in France or New York, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, or the vocal support of anti-Semitic political policies. Yet the true vehicle that keeps anti-Semitism alive is the protection of subtle or masked anti-Semitism:
- Calling Israel a racist, fascist, apartheid state while ignoring the blatant and continual human rights abuses of the surrounding Muslim nations is anti-Semitic.
- The media failing to condemn Palestinian organizations for targeting Israeli civilians with indiscriminate attacks launched from Palestinian schools and hospitals, while only reporting on the conflict when Israel responds defensively, is anti-Semitic.
- The fact that the United Nations Human Rights Council targeted Israel with 83 of their 97 resolutions between 2012 and 2015 is anti-Semitic.
- Using accusations of anti-Semitism as protection against legitimate criticism of prominent Jews such as George Soros is anti-Semitic, as it makes it easier to dismiss true anti-Semitism. It is also wrong to blindly reject specific and consistent criticism of Israeli policies as being immediately anti-Semitic.
- The selective use of anti-Semitism as a manipulative political tool of sympathy, regardless of political affiliation, is anti-Semitic.
It is also important to reject the use of anti-Semitism to drive further bigotry. An upsurge in Islamophobia has followed an increase of Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe. Bigotry should never excuse bigotry, and so-called retaliatory Islamophobic attacks are just as disgusting as the original acts of anti-Semitism.
If we, as a society, truly want to combat anti-Semitism, then we must fight it in all forms, rather than only focusing on blatant cases of violence, or cherry-picking instances based on geographic location or political affiliation. As long as anti-Semitism is permitted in mainstream political discourse, it will continue to thrive. Time for the Left and Right to put their shekels where their mouths are.