Review: Antisemitism is Coming From All Sides of the Political Spectrum by Andria Spindel
New York Times writer and opinion editor, young, Jewish, Pittsburgh native, Bari Weiss, has achieved considerable celebrity for her recent book that addresses all the contributing ideologies, political isms and absurd claims of antisemites and Jew haters. Her writing is clear, concise, personal, and in only 206 pages of a relatively small sized book, she expresses what so many American and Canadian Jews feel-it most definitely could NOT happen here, BUT it is happening here. And when a massacre takes place in the middle class Jewish neighborhood in which Bari grew up, and at her own family synagogue in Pittsburgh, she must search for an explanation for the rising tide of antisemitism that is now upon the North American continent.
For some of us this is NOT NEW and was clearly portended by rates of antisemitism in Europe, by global jihadism, by mass immigration of people from countries that are traditionally and politically antisemitic, by unfettered political correctness that shunned talk of antisemitism while finding racism and discrimination in every corner of our society and then claimed Jews are white, privileged, colonialists, and not entitled to claimes of oppression and discrimination.
Weiss wakes up to the new world, one in which Jewish lives are treated as less than that of others, where death to Jews is chanted on the streets. She provides a crisp overview of the millennia of antisemitism that have preceded the current era. It is a good short, overview of the many ways in which such bigotry has taken form across the globe, across the generations, cultures, religions and societies, where Jews lived and even where they did not live. Weiss wakes up to the fact that antisemitism isn’t a phenomenon of only the Alt-right, but is now clearly embedded in and expressed by the so-called Progressive left. (So-called as its hard to understand the use of the word “progressive” in any context in which one addresses hate, discrimination, antisemitism, intolerance by liberals) The word progressive aptly applies to groups fighting for the equality of people of colour, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and poor people, but is a misnomer when those same champions blame Jews for the problems of these identified groups, dismiss antisemitism as a non-issue or worse, blame it on the Jews and of course, blame it on Israel.
To the “progressives”, it is justifiable to attack Israel, and still claim not to be antisemitic and even more absurd, to demand that Jews distance themselves from Israel if they wish to be included in the “progressive” camp. Weiss quotes those in the trenches of documenting and combatting antisemitism, as pointing out that antisemitism is being normalized. That the rate of attacks on Jews has increased dramatically, and that rates of racist/religiously motivated hate crimes are higher against Jews than against any other minority or identified community.
What will be shocking to many in the Jewish community, and thankfully is unmasked by Weiss, is that “antisemitism that originates on the left is far more subtle, and sophisticated (than antisemitism on the right). Its typically camouflaged in language of social justice and antiracism, of equality and liberation.” It claims to be objective criticism of Israel or “just Anti-Zionism” but it denies the Jewish people, and only theJewish people, the dignity and rights of a national identity that are granted to all other ethno-cultural groups. It denies Jewish history, international law, equates nationalism with racism in the case of Israel, and overlooks a long history of leftist antisemitism which is now stridently supported by the BDS movement that wants only one thing - the total destruction of Israel, the Jewish State.
Communism and Facism can’t be distinguished in their totalitarian hatred of the Jew! Today, the extreme left and extreme right hate Israel but differ in tactics as well as in allies. The Left has made common cause with Islamic antisemites. Weiss quotes many sources that track antisemitism across Europe and have documented the changes in European antisemitism due to the high rates of Muslim immigration. No surprise, that in mosques across Europe antisemitism is regularly preached, that death to Jews is encouraged by some Islamic leaders, that such hatred is more the norm than less.
To quote Weiss who concludes from the evidence: “ it is dangerous to be a Jew in Europe.”
Chapter 6, the last chapter, is not a panacea for solving the problem of antisemitism but it does provide some well conceived steps, strategies, tools for acting on this vicious, dangerous, anachronistic disease (my words). It offers some easy to follow and some challenging ideas, and it also offers some encouragement. Jews cannot do it alone, but Weiss commands that we remember, that each person can make a difference, and always has; we have a rich tradition of individual action, and now is the time for action.