By Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS
For those who think what Jews need is more official recognition of their heritage, it was a great afternoon. The White House celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month was a star-studded affair with the president, the first lady and second gentleman Doug Emhoff speaking, and also featured a performance with the stars of the Broadway play “Parade,” a musical about the Leo Frank case.
The point of the show was not just to flatter Jews with an event celebrating their month, thus giving them a slice of the minority entitlement pie. Biden used it to highlight his stand against antisemitism and as a preview of an administration plan scheduled to be released later this month that will reveal a new “national strategy” to deal with the problem.
But the title of the interagency group that is working on the issue says all anyone needs to know about how serious—meaning, not at all—the administration is about fighting antisemitism. Far from coming up with a solution to a rising tide of Jew-hatred in the United States, it’s likely that this administration, more than any of its predecessors, is actually making things worse.
Biden boasted about the White House task force on “antisemitism and Islamophobia” in his remarks at the Jewish Heritage Month, saying it represented a fulfillment of his own commitment to dealing with the problem. The president claims that it was the “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va., in the summer of 2017 that convinced him to run for president. But while his opposition to neo-Nazis is unexceptionable, his decision to link antisemitism with Islamophobia as being two problems of equal weight is telling.
Hatred of Muslims is as repugnant as the hatred of Jews. But the decision to link the two concerns is a function of Democratic Party politics.
Though he campaigned as the moderate, sane alternative to his main primary rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, his administration has conducted itself as if it is in thrall to the Democrats’ intersectional left-wing activist base. And that is why Biden’s task force chose to lump his response to antisemitism in with one about Islamophobia.
That was, at least in part, a response to the efforts of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to get the U.S. State Department to appoint an official to monitor Islamophobia in the same way that it has one to monitor antisemitism, a post that is currently filled by historian Deborah Lipstadt.
An ominous sign
While that request is, like the linking of the two by the White House, a seemingly anodyne gesture that recognizes a common fight against religious intolerance, it’s actually anything but. Of course, there is prejudice against Muslims in this country. But the problem is not just that Omar— a supporter of the anti-Israel BDS movement, an inveterate antisemite who has made headlines with her “all about the Benjamins” slur insinuating that Jews buy congressional support for Israel—has no standing to be talking about the subject. Most of what she considers Islamophobia are efforts to monitor and hold accountable radical Muslims who engage in antisemitism and support for Islamist terrorists.
It’s also based on the myth of a post-9/11 backlash against Muslims that continues to be accepted by the corporate media as fact rather than something that is largely unsupported by the data about hate crimes. In the last two decades, FBI statistics have consistently shown that Jews are the primary victims of religious bias, far outstripping those in which prejudice against Muslims is blamed.
But overblown or not, tying the two topics together is an ominous sign that whatever the White House ultimately produces about antisemitism will not be based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of the term. That’s because it mentions the demonization of Israel. And that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. So, if the White House is coming up with a response to Jew-hatred that incorporates the worldview of Omar—and the rest of the congressional squad and fellow progressive Democrats—then it’s unlikely to focus on the growing problem of left-wing antisemitism.
The whole point of Biden’s approach to antisemitism is to see it as solely a function of the threat from the extreme right, seen in Virginia, that so frightened the country with its evocation of the Nazis’ Nuremberg rallies, exhibited in the form of a few hundred hatemongers marching with tiki torches.
Opposing neo-Nazis is fine, but doing so takes no courage. Nor does it recognize that however vile and violent these people may be, they have no political support. That is not the case with anti-Zionists who sit in Congress and have an unfortunate amount of clout in Biden’s party and its progressive wing.
Just as important is the fact that far from setting an example of opposing the tropes of left-wing antisemitism, the Biden administration is itself a main supporter of its ideology and core beliefs.
The main source of the left’s delegitimization of Jews is the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as well as critical race theory (CRT) studies. DEI is a toxic force in contemporary America because by substituting the notion of equity—or equal outcomes—for equality, it maintains that equality and equal opportunity is not just attainable but also undesirable. In this way, race is seen as always trumping merit, something that works to destroy the primary method by which Jews gained acceptance in American society.
Along with the CRT belief that everyone must be primarily classified by race and ethnic group, rather than individuals, that sets up a permanent war of those who are labeled as the oppressed, and those who are designated as oppressors and beneficiaries of “white privilege.” And among those who fall into the latter categories are Jews and the State of Israel. In that way, DEI and CRT act not merely to embitter relations between the races but also grant a permission slip for antisemitism.
An administration that was serious about opposing all forms of antisemitism would have nothing to do with the likes of Omar and fellow “Squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Instead, they have become welcome guests at the White House and were even singled out recently for compliments by Biden.
It would also oppose efforts to impose DEI on the country. Again, Biden has taken up the cause of the woke catechism and made its promotion one of his chief priorities, forcing every government agency and department to submit its own DEI plan. That will substitute racial quotas for merit, something that always bodes ill for Jews.
It also lends legitimacy to those very forces that are pushing the hardest for BDS discrimination against Israel and its Jewish supporters. Indeed, underneath the push for official recognition of Jewish heritage is a desire to get in on the same intersectional victim racket that left-wing antisemites promote.
The sort of lip service given to the threat of antisemitism at the White House party is to be welcomed. But honoring Jewish heritage means nothing if, at the same time, the Biden administration is enabling and empowering the same forces that are seeking to legitimize left-wing antisemitism.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.