My friend and the co-founder of the Jewish Studies Zionist Network, Professor Jarrod Tanny points out that whereas rightist antisemitism is a fringe element on the right of the North American political spectrum, leftist antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism is steadily advancing into mainstream academic and political discourse. For this reason, he warns that Jewish organizations should be even more concerned and alert about leftist antisemitism than about rightist antisemitism.
I fully share Professor Tanny’s assessment, yet would like to add another reason why leftist antisemitism is even more disgraceful than rightist antisemitism: If American conservatives, let us imagine, were to become hostile to the Jewish community, they would be immoral, but not really ungrateful. For deep sociological, historical and cultural reasons many – if not most – of today’s American Jews, in contrast to their early history in the USA, have made it a point of principle to base and define their Jewishness in opposition to conservative Christian values. This attitude is mirrored in the fact that historically, heavily Jewish milieus such as Hollywood or Broadway promoted progressive values far more enthusiastically than conservative ones.
The converse of this reality is the enormous debt that leftists and progressives owe the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations and activists made a decisive contribution to the success of the Civil Rights movement, the Gay Liberation movement and the movement to liberalize abortion laws. In other words, without the presence and influence of Jewish souls and minds, America today might not have given birth to the woke revolution.
In other words, leftist antisemitism in America is a stab in the back with few precedents in Jewish history. The only historical precedent that comes to mind are the Racial Laws enacted against Italian Jews by Mussolini in 1938 to impress his buddy Adolf. These anti-Semitic laws were enacted despite the loyal services of most Italian Jews to Italian nationalism and even to Italian Fascism.
The irony of this disgraceful antisemitism is that most American leftists fail to realize that their anti-Zionism, serves the most reactionary and anti-progressive forces in the Middle East. Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East who are genuine admirers of progressive values tend to sympathize with Israel and its enfranchisement of women, gays and ethnic and religious minorities. Although they often criticize Israeli policies and advocate Palestinian Arab statehood, their criticism of Israeli doesn’t falsely demonize Israel as a genocidal, racist state that seeks to destroy the lives and livelihoods of Palestinian Arabs.
Are these Muslim and Arab partisans of liberalism in the Middle East blinded by “propaganda” they view on Fox News or read on Israel National News?! No, they just know that Israel’s enemies in the region, be they Baathists, Islamists, Fatah and FPLP activists are looking forward to stifling progressive values and destroying democracy in the Middle East even more eagerly than they are looking forward to destroying Israel. Therefore, even though they may not be Zionists out of enthusiasm, they certainly view the State and institutions of Israel as a strategic ally of human rights and progress in the region.
The basic reasons leftists in America and in Europe make common cause with Israel’s enemy are therefore not shared ethical or political goals, but something far more sinister: Loathing for everything they imagine the Western social order stands for:
In the warped imagination of leftists, this includes capitalism which in their eyes enables racism and white/Jewish privilege; traditional family and gender roles which as vestiges of “Biblical mythology” supposedly perpetuate patriarchy, misogyny and homo- and transphobia in the world. Finally, the rule of law and democracy empowers “deplorables” or “chakchaks” at the expense of the intelligentsia and NGO activists to whom we should entrust the mission of saving the world.
In other words, leftists hate Jews, Judaism and Zionism because the classical liberal order in the West advances the values that Jewish culture and civilization have historically promoted: meritocracy, family values and the moral and political accountability of the powerful.
It is for this reason, that Jewish communities, particularly in America, should reconsider their progressive sympathies. Progressives in our day and age not only oppose Jewish interests due to their hostility to Israel and Zionism; they oppose the very foundations of a social and political order that allowed a hitherto despised and persecuted minority to put its talents to the service of society and attain respectability and influence through intelligence and hard work.
Progressives, by having become hostile to merit and meritocracy, are thus openly anti-Semitic. Although they might insist that their rants against Jewish privilege and Zionism are motivated by care and concern for oppressed communities, these rants merely express their disdain for genuine justice and progress.
Rafael Castro is a Noahide Italian-Colombian graduate of Yale and Hebrew University who teaches English and Social Studies in Berlin. He is happy to receive emails at firstname.lastname@example.org