Growing up, I was fairly apolitical, and when I started to care more about politics during college, I was more or less a progressive. My older brother, a political journalist who happens to be gay, was conservative. I would rag him constantly and tell him that he was associating with homophobes, often simplifying his perspective or those of other conservatives into a bite-sized idea that they were all inherently racist, homophobic, and hateful. You can imagine the irony of a straight man telling a gay man that he is a homophobe.
As the years have passed, so have my views. But I would say the single foremost reason that I feel “homeless” politically is because of the rampant rise in anti-Semitism amongst the political left and the tremendous double standard that has been set. Let me explain.
Growing up, I never felt very affected by anti-Semitism. I knew that it existed. My grandmother would always say “Anti-semitism is alive and well,” and we would all laugh at her as if she was paranoid and clinging to the past. Was I the brunt of anti-Semitic jokes? Absolutely. Throughout my childhood – and particularly in high school – I dealt with anti-Semitism often. But the reality is, I was never (to my knowledge) discriminated against, denied a loan, or assaulted physically on account of my being Jewish. That is certainly a privilege that I have as an “other” of sorts that is not true for some people of color or in the LGBT community.
But as it stands today at the age of 34, I am more terrified than ever. What has changed?
With the way our social and television media infrastructure is currently set up, it is best practice to engage in divisive sensationalism that generates clicks (and therefore dollars) than it is to be intellectually honest. Most people realize this by now, and it is precisely the reason why top networks like CNN are failing. But with that comes a certain narrative of what people should think and feel, and given our inherent desire for social acceptance, you end up with many people who will blindly follow an ideology even absent any evidence or proof that it is a worthwhile endeavor.
Here is an example. I certainly do not deny that there have been some police shootings of unarmed black men that have been horrific to watch. I have always been a proponent of social justice and I bear that out in my actions through various mentorship programs more so than I do through my words, because I think virtue signaling is an empty-handed way of being accepted by others, whereas doing good deeds actually makes other peoples’ lives better. It is no matter, because what I am about to say will still get me called a racist by a select few who read this. And that is this: every time someone is shot by a police officer does not mean it was unjustified. Last year, Jacob Blake was shot in the back by a police officer after illegally entering someone’s home, digitally raping someone, kidnapping their children, refusing police orders, and all while reaching for a knife. When he was shot, there was an uproar (predominantly from the political left) which led to a phone call from President Biden himself to wish him well. My point here is simple: it’s not all or nothing. Two things can be true at once: what happened to George Floyd was awful and should not have happened, but it does not mean that whenever someone with his skin color is shot that it is automatically wrong. But there is no talking people out of this.
With this radicalized approach that puts people on a hierarchy of oppression simply based on immutable traits about individuals, Jews have somehow emerged on the top of the proverbial pyramid. Why? They are (mostly) white, in the US at least, and tend to do relatively well compared to other social groups. We have seen a similar bias taking shape against Asian-Americans who actually outperform any other ethnic group in the US in terms of economic success, with some left-wing groups saying that Asians are now co-opting white privilege in their behaviors, which, not coincidentally involve placing massive emphasis on education as a cultural trait.
This idea that people are “doing too well” is the same idea that has plagued Jewish people throughout human history. Anti-Semitism is usually drawn about to make Jewish people a scapegoat. In Vichy France, it was the Jews who were “foreigners” and “rats” of a different bloodline whose sole purpose was to walk on the backs of others. Many conspiracy theories, like the Reptilian theory by David Icke (which literally suggests that many prominent Jews are lizard people trying to take over the world) have been embraced by famous authors like Alice Walker with little backlash.
But the aforementioned reasons are why our society at-large has seemed to turn its back on Jewish people. Quite simply, it’s not cool to support Jewish people any more. Their Holocaust was seventy some odd years ago – their suffering is no longer “en vogue.” Placing any attention on it is to distract from much more serious matters. And in a society where two things cannot be true at once, you cannot have white people who are oppressed in some way.
In the last few weeks, there have been about a dozen Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Coverage of this event was sparse, and what few outlets cared about it glossed over it in a somewhat partial way. Reuters’s headline was “Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian after Tel Aviv bar attack,” whereas Guardian’s was “Israeli forces kill Palestinian after Tel Aviv shooting leaves two dead.” Both headlines suggest Israel is at fault for its own people being killed. But the bigger issue is the lack of outcry from pretty much anyone during this whole fiasco. The same people who were ardently protesting for Palestine a year ago were nowhere to be found during these attacks. These are largely the same people who marched for Jacob Blake, so I know they are capable of caring, but they don’t. And before you say that what happened with Jacob Blake happened here whereas the other attacks are far away, I would respond by saying that the same is true for when bad things happen to Palestinians.
All this to say, many people who are anti-Israel are very clearly not anti-Israel for the right reasons. They lend their support to whatever cause earns them social acceptance, or in many cases, it is purely because they hate Jews. We know this, because much of the anti-Israel rhetoric that was applied last May actually led to a massive surge in anti-Semitic violence worldwide. Nazi flags were paraded in major Western cities. It may be true that criticizing Israel does not make someone anti-Semitic, but it is also true that many people who do criticize Israel are indeed anti-Semitic and that they use it as a shield for their real feelings.
Here are some examples of things people have said to me personally over the last few years. I really want to hammer this point home.
I was having a discussion with someone about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks that our southern border is akin to a “concentration camp.” Many Jewish people found this remark offensive, and for good reason. Now, never mind the fact that you do not hear from any of these people any more even though the situation at the southern border has only deteriorated since then. My point here is not to continue hammering home the reality that most of these people never even cared about the welfare of those people. What is worse is that someone responded to me by saying that I was “jealously guarding Holocaust comparisons.”
I want you to imagine the inference here. The insinuation is that I am jealous that another ethnic group (in this case, Latin Americans) could be as oppressed as Jews from the Holocaust. In other words, that I cling to the murder of half my ancestors as some sort of crutch that I get to use in debate. That I am happy about the outcome of six million murdered Jews. Can you imagine ever telling a black person to stop jealously guarding slavery comparisons? Someone else I know recently told me that he was “tired of the Holocaust trope when it comes to Jewish people.” I wonder if he would also tell Asians he is tired of the “anti-AAPI violence in the aftermath of COVID” trope? Probably not, but when it is socially acceptable to be racist against someone as long as they are white, you can get away with it.
This type of thinking has become mainstream. Despite the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East that treats women and the LGBT community with even a shred of decency, you cannot bring an Israeli flag to many LGBT events. At the Chicago dyke rally years ago, violence ensued when a few people had rainbow Israel flags. Oh, and by the way, the woke people who kicked them out of the march? They believe that Israel engages in something called “pinkwashing,” where it supports the LGBT community only to earn “brownie points” from the international community. Of course, they say this with zero evidence.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has both Jews and Arabs as elected leaders, or even amongst its population – period! In any other country in the Middle East, Jews have been exiled, and in most of those countries, you cannot get in with an Israeli passport. This is why my passport was not stamped when I visited Israel, and it is the same reason why Israel’s soccer team never qualifies for the World Cup. Why? Because the Arab countries will not let Jews on their soil, so they have to try to qualify via the much more challenging European division. All the while, woke people insist that Israel engages in a modern day apartheid. I struggle to understand how a country that is 20% Arab with elected Arab leaders engages in apartheid with the opposite not being true when Palestine and every other Arab country in the Middle East has 0% Jews.
But apartheid is not where they stop. Some people insist that Israel is no different than Nazi Germany. Imagine how offensive it would be to say, for example, that black people are like slavemasters, or that Japanese people are like the people who threw them in internment camps during World War II. Again, you can only get away with saying this type of thing if, culturally speaking, few enough people will actually do anything about it. And right now, when it comes to Jews, that is the case.
Princeton’s students recently rejected a referendum to engage in the racist Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Still, it garnered 44% of the vote, and more voted for it than voted against it (16% abstained). This is terrifying. Not long ago, these students protested outside the Campus Hillel. What do you think this implies? It implies that if you are Jewish, you are a Zionist. Why else protest outside of a temple? So we are clear here, not all Jews ardently support Israel, so all this protest actually accomplished was making Jewish people feel unsafe on campus. Can you imagine what kind of national reaction there would be if a bunch of white students protested outside a Black safe space on campus?
The BDS movement’s very existence is confounding. Literally right now as we speak, Russia is invading a sovereign country. China is helping Russia with that invasion while also committing genocide against Uighur Muslims. Their rap sheets go on and on, as do those of several dozens of countries across the world. There is a genocide in Yemen that our own government is complicit in. And yet the only country on the entire planet that the progressive left wants to sanction and divest from is Israel. You cannot make any of this make sense unless you accept the reality that there is a double standard. And I am terrified by it.
Very good piece. Very sad state of affairs. Thanks for bringing some well deserved sunshine to this issue for the many who don’t hear this perspective due to the dearth of media interest/coverage. As you point out, important info is suppressed due to media agendas. You may have a home though Jeff. Perhaps closer to Jamie’s neighborhood. Many (maybe most?) of us on this side of the continental divide feel very differently, and very positively, about Israel. I agree that the undeserved antipathy of so many is indeed shocking and concerning. Hopefully your post will prompt some introspection on the left. Thanks again for a great piece.