Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Anti-semitism is evil, whatever its source

RNS Anti-Semitism graphic by Tiffany McCallen. Click to view full size.

This Hanukkah, there is a new game that you can play with your friends and family.

”Who has a bigger problem with anti-semitism — the Right or the Left?”

Because everyone seems to be playing it.

It is really quite easy to play.

Simply look at the various varieties of Jew-hatred emanating from the end of the political spectrum that you disagree with, and argue that they are the most grievous offenders.

Actually, you probably already played this game when you were young.

It was called “twister.”

As in: the attempt to twist your body, and your mind, into uncomfortable contortions of rationalization.

Consider a recent article in the Forward by Dove Kent. He argues that the accusation of anti-semitism on both sides of the political and cultural divide is inappropriate, that the vituperation and violence coming from the right is far more threatening than that which comes from the left.

Consider:

“Anti-Semitism may appear in certain tangential strands of U.S. leftist ideology but it is certain not its animating force. Indeed it is almost universally understood to be antithetical to our social justice movements.”

In one sense, he is not wrong. The history of leftist ideology is spotted and stained with anti-semitic motivations. Check out the late, lamented Robert Wistrich on this. But, it has not been as dominant on the left as it has been on the right.

And yes, the sheer number of right wing extremist hate crimes and violence certainly dwarfs the number that have come from the left.

But, consider the words of the indefatigable Deborah Lipstadt.

For the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism from the left. From Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom to college campuses across America, the phenomenon is real, and it is dangerous. Yet, all too often, some Jews — both individuals and organizations — who inhabit the liberal or left end of the spectrum have tried to explain it away with the classic “yes/but” rationalization: “Yes, it’s wrong, but if only Israel would… then the anti-Semitism would disappear.” Maybe their fear of losing their left-wing bona fides blinded them to the fact that the only proper response to prejudice of any kind — anti-Semitism included — is unambiguous condemnation.

Deborah makes it clear: we need to condemn anti-semitism on all sides. Every manifestation of Jew-hatred is dangerous.

I will now suggest that, in some ways, the anti-semitism of the Left might actually be more dangerous, and more insidious, than that of the Right.

Really?

First, the anti-semitism of the left is rarely violent. It does not come in the form of miscreants carrying torches in the streets of Charlottesville. It does not come in the form of bullets fired in synagogues.

The violence is verbal, and often comes in the form of intellectual argument.

The problem? As we have seen, hateful ideologies and hateful words have a way of metasticizing into violent acts.

Second, the anti-semitism of the left rarely comes in the form of “I hate the Jews!” It usually comes out as “I hate, or have great difficulty, with Israel and Zionism.”

Want to have real fun at your Hanukkah party? Debate whether those sentiments are a form of anti-semitism or not.

My quick answer: if people want to criticize Israeli policies, go ahead — be my guest. Why should Israelis have all the fun?

But, when those critiques wander off into the suggestion that Israel should not exist, or should cease to exist (such as those of the now-jobless Mark Lamont Hill from CNN), then those critiques morph into anti-semitism.

The problem? This gives far left critics of Israel plausible deniability. “I don’t hate the Jews; I hate Israel.”

The bigger problem? Many of us buy that argument — forgetting, for a moment, that our “friends” have just succeeded in pulling off one of the greatest moves in anti-semitic ideology: separating the “good” Jews (the liberals and leftists) from the “bad” Jews (Israelis).

And, why?

The third reason why leftist anti-semitism is more insidious than its right wing version: It comes from people who are our social, intellectual, and cultural peers.

It comes from people whom we would normally want to like and admire — professors, college students (like those who daubed the office of a Columbia University Teachers College professor with swastikas), rock stars like Roger Waters, and British politicians.

And, once again, when those people criticize Israel and Zionism, we are far more reticent to criticize their criticisms.

Because, Netanyahu.

Forgetting, of course, that leftist criticisms of Israel and Zionism have never cared that much about who the current prime minister is.

For these reasons, the anti-semitism of the left comes in the form of a paper cut. You don’t even realize that you’ve been wounded until you see the tiny drops of blood.

Let me conclude with this historical reflection.

Some of my friends and colleagues are quick to dismiss, rationalize, or entirely ignore the Jew-hatred that comes from, say, Louis Farakkhan.

Why?

Because, they say, he is politically powerless.

This is a myopic position.

As Arthur Waskow said, decades ago, Jews have lived with a fear of the Tsar, and fear of the peasants. In many ways, the most dangerous manifestations of anti-semitism have come not from the powerful (who often tried to keep a lid on popular and populist manifestations of Jew-hatred), but from the powerless — especially those who have economic grievances to nurse. Consider the history of Eastern European anti-semitism.

As Hanukkah approaches, let us remember that anti-semitism is often subtle; masked in intellectual discourse; all too willing to exclude the “good” Jews from the “bad” Jews — and that, when it comes, it comes from all sides of society.

It is incumbent upon all of us to shatter the darkness with our light.

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

106 Comments

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  • I’ve never understood how a Christian could entertain anti-semitic views when Jesus himself was a Jew. Don’t they love Jesus?

  • A whole lot don’t realize that Jesus was a Jew. Have you seen the photos of Jesus in many Christian homes and Conservative churches? He has been de-ethnithicized.

  • The criticism goes both ways. I have seen on pages like these folks called anti-semitic for criticizing Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. Supporting the rights of the Palestinians to be treated fairly is NOT being anti-semitic. Anti-semitic is often thrown around as a way to avoid addressing legitimate issues.

  • Racist and uninformed comment. If you are able to get out of your local Starbucks and travel outside of the United States or Europe, you will notice icons or artwork of Christ and the Hoky Mother depicted as the local culture. Do a google search for Pete’s sake…
    But then again Susan, it’s always been about you.

  • You should check out the comments by Roy hobbs and Strongs-something-or-other. They have informed me in ways I couldn’t even begin to explain about how the Israelites and the jews were different people, some crap about edomites and adamites, Jesus wasn’t really a Jew and here’s the proof, and on and on and on and on. Like you-know-who, they are more than happy to provide citations that actually contradict what they say, all in the name of trying not to be called bigots, under the assumption that no one would actually read their citations.
    As Salkin says, its TWISTER, played on a grand scale.

  • Someday I’m going to pull this out and scan it for posting on a website that accepts photos, but I will describe it to you now.
    I bought it in Mexico nearly forty years ago. It’s a 3D wiggle picture close-up of a clearly bottle blond Jesus, bleeding with a crown of thorns, blue eyes, and all. As you wiggle the picture, his eyes open and close.
    It is really something. What, I don’t know.

  • Because I love this sort of stuff. It is kitschy and clueless beyond belief.
    I have always had an interest in religion and mythology, ever since I was a small child. I have a great collection of gods and demons, idols and masks. Every time I go to a Catholic country, I am always on the lookout for a St. Sebastian card or medallion, the Fair Athlete of Christ and the unofficial patron saint of gay men. I have a bunch.
    I did NOT buy the St. Sebastian I found in Mexico City the last time I was there. Talk about clueless and kitschy. It was a 16 inch statue, quite frankly and unabashedly homoerotic, and not the sort of thing I would want to display.

  • Well, you can, but the very best methods, involving either concrete overshoes or large pipe wrenches, are, generally speaking, illegal.

  • “……..depicted as the local culture.”

    Of course, as gods are a creation of man. Naturally, men make their gods in their own image and likeness.

  • I don’t drink coffee, never been in a starbucks and I have travelled to other countries–Europe, Australia, New Zealand.
    Now hos is talking about the pictures of Jesus in American homes all about me.

    Get over yourself Parker.

  • Can’t you come up with anything original to say. Is your intelligence so limited you have to repeat what I say? Grow Up Mr. Connelly.

  • Can’t you come up with anything original to say? Is your intelligence so limited you have to repeat “Grow Up” every time someone points out you’re being your self-important derogatory self again?

  • If there is hatred no one can compel people to like. It does not work that way.
    If criticizing anything Jewish is “hatred” then it is a form of control. Again it will fail.

  • It all depends on what one means when one says hatred, compel, and especially, “anything Jewish”.

  • There are 2 parts to it
    Jesus was a Jew
    Jesus is God
    the first part is accepted by Jews. the second part is rejected.

  • Some examples:
    -Since 2000 America has spent 5.9 Trillion dollars on wars in the ME. They are for Israel. There is a Jewish angle to this. In the meantime China spent billions (not Trillions) expanding her business Empire. Now we are in an economic war that we are losing .
    -Censorship on World War 2 and especially on the European Arena. That is purely a Jewish issue.
    -European Jewish history to Russian Jewish history – extreme censorship.
    -British Empire and her banking system.

  • That is because the image of Christ did not happen till many centuries after the 1st century. Early Christianity portrayed Christ in symbols. such as the fish, cross, sandals. etc.

  • As I said, it all depends on what you mean by “anything Jewish”. Thank you for clarifying. You mean exactly what I thought you meant.

    Wars in the Middle East are for Israel? I was unaware that the Hebrew translation of oil was Israel.

    Banking system? I was unaware that the Hebrew translation ofmoney was Jews.

    And so on..

  • Pretty Anglo travel itinerary. No wonder you made the silly comment you did.
    Maybe before you comment on icons again, you should probably get out of the English empire.

  • I heard on the news that some European Jews want the Gospel labeled as Antisemitic. Does that mean Jesus Christ is Antisemitic? Jews who spoke against other Jews have been accused of that term. So is The Gospel Antisemitic?

  • “HOLY WARNING Jewish group demands the Bible and Koran use ‘trigger warnings’ to highlight anti-Semitic passages in bid to combat attacks against Jews”
    European Jewish Congress

  • You have a strange way of looking at things. If you are going to bring up Hebrew then lets discuss the Talmud.

  • That is an excellent question. Now if we are allowed to share our opinions without being labeled “antisemite” that would make a world of difference.

  • Thanks.

    The quote by the Islamic studies professor is pretty on-the-money: “He said: ‘If someone wants to get involved in antisemitism or anti-Islamic behaviour, they will do it whether or not you add warnings and footnotes.’ “

    The point of the suggested warnings is, I think, to lessen the probability of people taking an anti-semitic or anti-Islamic reading out of ignorance. Those of a mind to do so will. The actual doctrines of their religions won’t matter much.

  • tsk tsk. It would be like reliving the “Trial of the Talmud” again 🙂 I can play the role of Nicolas Donin.

  • “Since 2000 America has spent 5.9 Trillion dollars on wars in the ME. They are for Israel. There is a Jewish angle to this.”

    Israel had very little to do with any of these wars, hence why Israeli officials including the prime minister at the time consistently told Bush that invading Iraq was a bad idea. And when you start claiming that all ‘Jews’ as a collective are in any way responsible for these wars, you are being anti-Semitic.

    “Censorship on World War 2 and especially on the European Arena. That is purely a Jewish issue.”

    Please stop beating around the bush and tell us exactly what you mean by this. I suspect I know, but I’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

  • Okay. then explain the words of Christ. This is what Christ said to the Rabbis, which cast a reflection on all Jews:
    “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44
    So if Jesus Christ who is God, said that of the Jews and that statement is Antisemitic, which it should be, would you tell God to recant that statement?
    If God has to recant that statement then you are stating that the Jews are above Christ. I think not.
    Would you call Jesus Christ an Antisemite?
    I am getting a bit tired in which people like you are quick to attack commenters with a label equal if not worse than being called the N word, simply because you can. I putting you on the spot to choose between Christ and your political correctness

  • That’s a lot of bluster. Unfortunately I couldn’t care less what the bible or any other so called “Holy book” says. The idea that all Jews are responsible for what a couple of rabbis did over 2000 years ago is pretty monstrous.

    Why don’t you stop playing silly games and explain precisely what you meant by “Censorship on World War 2 and especially on the European Arena. That is purely a Jewish issue.”?

  • It does matter because the Jewish Congress wants those passages in the Gospel marked as Antisemitic
    As for you whatever motivates your neurosis is not my problem. You are the one who decided to take my comment on Israel and world war 2 as some kind of Antisemitic slur. That is your problem.
    I as Catholic face articles and comments about the Catholic church, and read regularly of the open hostility towards Islam . Free speech allows that and I cannot personalize criticism made against the Pope or the Catholic Church even if I am a Catholic. I suggest you grow up and allow discussion of the role Israel is playing. Do not try censorship by accusation.

  • Today commenters live in fear because there isn’t a website or a forum that someone like you would pounce on innocent comments meant for political or whatever discussion being labeled as Antisemitic in a manner similar to a witch hunt.

  • That is explicitly written down in the Talmud. An Orthodox Jew would follow the laws of the Talmud and how they are to be enforced. That would define “Jewish behavior”
    Please show me where I am wrong before the commenter with the 6 pointed Star comes after me.

  • After reading the article again how does anyone criticize Israel today without being accused of antisemitism. This is most critical since America is committed to sending men and women to fight and die for Israel in an unending series of escalating wars in the Middle East
    How can we discuss that we have spent Trillions since 2000 in the Middle east because of the chaos Israel is causing? That region was stable till the formation of Israel in 1947. Now it is one of the most unstable places on the planet.
    It seems to me that We have to fight Israel’s wars but we cannot discuss it.

  • Nobody is attempting to ‘censor’ you – that’s just a typical example of your narcissism and victim complex . Whenever Catholics are collectively accused of secretly controlling the world and all other sorts of libels for 2000 years perhaps you’ll have a point.

  • There is a vast difference to challenging my content to accusing me. You accuse, you do not challenge. If you want a challenge then pick a subject from my comment make your point and I will address it.

  • Accusation of “Antisemitism” is extreme because it is connected to the Holocaust which we cannot discuss. the narrative of the Holocaust makes anyone who is accused of being an Antisemite “worse than Hitler”. You darn well know that.
    As for the Catholic church what I have read recently comments to shut it down. Bring the Catholic church down. That for me is far worse than anything I could have said or even meant. So are you up to a challenge or are you still itching to accuse?

  • You are so cowardly that you won’t defend your opinions when challenged, instead wallowing in self pity. You’re just a narcissist who ran his mouth off and can’t admit it. .

  • You are a two faced hypocrite hiding behind the Star of David. You could be just a provocateur pretending to be a Jew. who knows? so far you will not discuss the article or challenge my position on it. so you are the fake.

  • Whenever you make anti-Semitic statements you will be accused of anti-Semitism. There has been scholarship and discussion on the Holocaust for over 50 years. The idea that nobody can discuss it is another fabrication.

  • So. Can anyone Criticize Israel without being accused as an Anti whatever? Can we criticize the role of the ADL in DC? or the trillions spent in the ME? what are we allowed and what are we not allowed?

  • People do those things all the time. When you start insinuating that Jews control the United States or flirting with Holocaust denial then it becomes anti-Semitic.

  • I bet you live with your mom in the basement and this is your moment of power isn’t it? No one can debate the holocaust today. books that do are banned, youtubes are removed.

  • Not to police me. That goes against the First Amendment. This is America in case you forgot. Or maybe it is not and I will be censored. That would only confirm that America is run by the Jewish cabal.
    You have avoided my questions on Israel why?

  • Wow a “mom’s basement ” joke in 2018? What are you, 14? Please give an example of these books that are banned?

  • No person or group controls history. You need to learn that.
    Free speech allows me that liberty to claim Jews run America. Facts would cement my claim.
    Free speech allows me to claim that green men from Mars are controlling America. Facts may prove me otherwise
    But the point is I am allowed to make that claim. In a society where Pornography and graphic violence is allowed. In a society where anyone can deny the existence of God himself we can criticize Jews. Unless you are telling me that Jews are more important than God himself.

  • I worked with a writer (Columbus Falco) on translating “Two Hundred Years Together” into English because it is banned in English. No printed copy in English can be found. Mainly because Two Hundred Years Together covers Russian Jews and what they did to Russian Christians which in number and savagery was far worse than what German Christians did to Jews,
    That Translatiion was also taken out. It was called “Crucifixion of Russia’ Try again.

  • Before Crucifixion of Russia was banned it was selling very fast and most who were buying it were Professors and people from the Academia. the comments they left included the fact that this chapter of Western history remains blank and this book was essential in completing the Russian chapter of western history.

  • Although it repeats crede anti semitic sterotypes like the ones you are repeating, it was never banned in English. It’s not very hard to obtain a partial translation.

  • It honestly takes some nerve for the country responsible for the pogroms and protocols to act like they are somehow the victims of the Jews.

  • BS! That book is banned. Do not tell me the co author of “Crucifixion of Russia” that Solzhenitsyn’s book is not banned. What you are referring to are pdf files on the internet for NO publishing house will touch a book that writes about a horror worse than the Holocaust and carried out by Russian Jews.

  • How dare you try to make out the Russian Empire, which persecuted the Jews for centuries, as the victim of the Jews. That’s like saying black Americans committed ‘genocide’ against whites.

  • Okay
    “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

  • 1. The Pale of Settlement.
    2. The Pogroms, which were endorsed by the government.
    3. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was forged by the Tsarist secret police.
    4. Forced conscription.
    5. Attempted forced conversions.
    6. Blood libels as late as 1913.

  • Give examples of Russian persecutions, Dates places. Stop avoiding the subject since you brought it up

  • The Protocols of the Elders were created by Jews, not Russians.
    Pogroms were due to Jewish money lenders. They attacked the money lenders. The wisest thing would have been to have these loan sharks live outside of the Jewish community.
    Jews are meant to convert since old Judaism died with the destruction of the Temple. Christ is Yahweh
    St. Simon was sacrificed by the Jews. There were several court trials on that
    Segregating Heretics was part of the Christian world. Jews claim Christ is a false God and Christianity is a false faith while living in a Christian nation. What would you expect? Try again.

  • So, in short, you’re not actually denying that the Russian Empire persecuted Jews, but try to justify it. Nice.

  • Jews did that and 85% of the Bolsheviks were Jews. The method used to kill the family was gruesome.
    The mother was first shot in front of the children and the Czar
    then the children were shot in front of the Czar
    Finally the Czar was shot.
    one of them was a Jew from New York.

  • If ‘Jews’ did kill the Tsar, they would have been fully justified in doing so.

    “85% of the Bolsheviks were Jews.”

    An absurd exaggeration. Of the 15 members of the first Soviet Government, 11 were ethnic Russians (Milyutin, Yelizarov, Skvortsov, Lomov, Rykov, Lenin, Shlyapnikov, Nogin, Antonov-Ovseenko, Krylenko and Avilov), two Ukrainians (Lunacharsky and Dybenko), one Pole (Teodorovich), and only one Jew (Trotsky). According to the 1922 Bolshevik party census, 19,564 were Jews, (around 5%) and of the 417 members of the Central Committee and Presidium, 6% were Jews.

  • Ridiculous! Did you get those stats from the wiki which on these matters are highly biased? Read Two Hundred Years Together. I do not buy lies

  • Unlike you, I have actually been to the Soviet archives. I’ll take them over the numbers “Two Hundred Years Together” pulled out of its ass.

  • So you are a denier of the Jewish atrocities against Russian Christians. All you can do is deny. Does this accusation sound familiar?

  • You have heard that it has been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth! But I say unto you that you resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue you at the law and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also: And whoever shall compel you to go one mile, go with him two! Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you, turn him not away. You have heard that it has been said: You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy! But I say unto you: Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that spitefully use you and persecute you: That you may be the children of your Father, which is in Heaven, for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust! For if you love them that love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans do the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the publicans do so? Therefore, you be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect! (Matt 5:38-48)

  • The answer is not blowing in the wind. The answer is in Ecclesiastes, if you’ve got the time.

  • She thinks so. She’s a dominatrix. Does it in Hebrew, like Golda Mabovitch, Ayalet Shaked, and Sara Netanyahu. Imagine what that kind of snarling must sound like in a harsh vernacular like Hebrew!

  • Well poor dear, she cannot help who she is or how Hebrew sounds but if she wants to flirt with me she is going about it the wrong way.

  • That is sweet. In return I quote the Buddha:
    ““Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”