On Friday, Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor of the Left-wing Jewish publication The Forward, tweeted her disappointment at the behavior of Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour. Sarsour, a longtime anti-Semite, issued a statement in support of Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar, who is herself an anti-Semite who supports boycott against Israel designed to destroy the Jewish State; in the past, she’s tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Sarsour, angry at Leftists who have called on Omar to recant, tore into “folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.”
This charge of dual loyalty is textbook anti-Semitism; it’s also wildly illogical, given that Left-leaning people are in favor of downplaying Left-wing anti-Semitism so as to promote the intersectional ideal (Ungar-Sargon’s piece on the topic is an incredible exercise in logical pretzling to avoid the obvious conclusion that Omar is a BDS supporter). Here was Ungar-Sargon tweeting her disappointment:
Herein lies the problem for those in the Jewish community who embrace intersectionality: the very tenets of intersectionality tend toward downplaying and pooh-poohing anti-Semitism. That’s because intersectionality posits that all inequality is the result of power hierarchies reflecting differential privilege of group identities. If one group is more powerful than another in some way, that’s because the group has benefitted from a power hierarchy. The intersectional coalition is directed at destroying the hierarchy, which is presumed to be based on maintenance of white, male, straight power.
This thinking is wrong and dangerous to boot. Certain inequalities are certainly based on past hierarchies of power, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect current hierarchies of power, nor does group identity trump individual identity and experience in a free country.
But this sort of thinking – attempting to explain all inequality by reference to the hidden workings of a nefariously powerful group – tends to cross over with anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is based around the assumption that a powerful cabal of Jews stand behind world events: they’re the communists and the capitalists, the nationalists and the internationalists, the globalists and the sectarians.
In areas where Jews are successful, then, anti-Semitism and intersectional theory often merge. Many Jews have white skin; many Jews are highly educated and wealthy; the state of Israel is disproportionately powerful. This means that in the intersectional hierarchy, Jews stand near the top when it comes to privilege. And this means that anti-Semitism is only objectionable when expressed by white supremacists – by members of a group even more privileged than the Jews. When anti-Semitism is expressed by others in the intersectional hierarchy, however, that’s not anti-Semitism at all: it’s just a normal form of intersectional thinking. Thus, Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism or Linda Sarsour’s anti-Semitism or Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism isn’t anti-Semitism at all, but the rage of an intersectional underdog taking on a more powerful group. Hence the disproportionate focus of the intersectional thinkers on Israel, the supposed evidence of the hierarchical power of the Jews.
Intersectional theory posits identity groups as the chief factor in determining morality. That sort of thinking has never cut in favor of Jews. And it doesn’t now, either. Pretending that Jews are part of the intersectional hierarchy is simply siding with the intersectional alligator, hoping that it eats the Jews last.