Eerily, the hatred of French Jews during the Dreyfus Affair foreshadowed the antisemitic slogans that now fill the American landscape.
Though hate-crimes against Jews appeared to spike during the recent Gaza hostilities, the escalation was actually part of an antisemitic trend that began more than a decade ago and steadily worsened with the complicity of politicians, academics, and journalists.
Long blamed exclusively on the political right by the liberal establishment, antisemitism today is being instigated on college campuses, in the press, and in the halls of Congress by progressives and radical Democrats who seized control of their party and hijacked its moral compass. Under the guise of cultural diversity, woke liberals are demonizing Jews and Israel with the same vehemence exploited in nineteenth-century France to falsely convict Alfred Dreyfus of treason and unleash the kind of racial antisemitism that would later fuel Nazi genocide.
The lone voice of reason then was Émile Zola, who penned the essay “J’accuse” (“I Accuse”) in defense of Dreyfus and French Jewry.
The current trend began during the Obama administration, when more than seven-thousand bias incidents and hate-crimes were reported, including vandalism, arson, and violent assaults against Jews and their institutions. Though President Obama did not call for these outrages, neither did he denounce the Jew-hatred that permeated his political base. He said nothing when antisemitism raged through college campuses and minority communities, he obfuscated his relationships with the likes of Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan, and he validated the odious Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) movement. He also extended White House hospitality to people with anti-Jewish baggage – including Al Sharpton, who logged more than sixty visits during Mr. Obama’s tenure.
When forced to address specific acts of antisemitism, Obama’s remarks were often restrained to the point of irrelevance. In addressing the deadly assault by Islamic terrorists on a Parisian kosher market in January 2015, for example, he characterized it as a “random attack” to obscure the Jewishness of the victims. Likewise, when he mentioned the subsequent Har Nof synagogue massacre, he did not acknowledge the terrorists’ antisemitic motivations and seemed to imply equivalence between the murder of Jewish worshippers and the deaths of Arabs killed while attacking Israelis. Conversely, he never missed an opportunity to downplay Muslim antisemitism, disparage former PM Netanyahu, or diminish Israel’s historical integrity.
His failure to condemn Jew-hatred within his political base or acknowledge the Jews’ ancestral connection to and presence in their homeland since time immemorial created fertile ground for antisemitism to flourish – and flourish it did. And the problem was subsequently exacerbated by Democratic ambivalence whenever progressives legitimized ancient slanders or radical mobs turned against Jews, their synagogues, schools, and businesses.
Despite his own culpability, Mr. Obama blamed Donald Trump for laying the groundwork for today’s antisemitism. There is a bright line between irony and dishonesty, however, and this revisionist claim certainly crossed it.
The reality is that Trump had a far better record of condemning antisemitism (and supporting Israel), as demonstrated by his remarks after the 2018 massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, which showed greater empathy for Jews and their history than was ever expressed by Obama. Within hours of that atrocity, President Trump tweeted: “All of America is in mourning over the mass murder of Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We pray for those who perished and their loved ones…” He further commented: “This was an anti-Semitic attack at its worst… [and] through the centuries the Jews have endured terrible persecution.”
Unlike his predecessor, Trump did not equivocate or analogize antisemitism to all other forms of bigotry. Nor did he conceal the victims’ Jewishness or usurp the incident as an opportunity to lecture about the evils of Islamophobia.
And how did Joe Biden and other Democrats react? They either attempted to blame Trump for the massacre or called it an act of “gun violence,” thereby masking the killer’s antisemitic intentions. In co-opting the Pittsburgh tragedy to promote partisan goals, moreover, they acted with calculated opportunism that should have offended decent people of all political persuasions.
Progressive Jew-hatred has become even more ubiquitous since the Obama days, as illustrated by the election of radical Democrats who spout antisemitic rhetoric without fear of meaningful reprimand. Over the last few years, members and fans of “the squad” in Congress have accused Jews of “hypnotizing” the world, being disloyal Americans, and controlling foreign policy and global finance. Instead of being disciplined by party leadership, however, Congressional radicals are rewarded with influential committee appointments and popular acceptance.
During the latest Gaza war instigated by Hamas, progressive Democrats falsely accused Israel of genocide for defending herself. They also incited anti-Jewish violence with inflammatory rhetoric, openly supported terrorist aggressors, and screamed about ending US aid to the Jewish State. Biden condemned the growing violence against Jews only when he could no longer avoid doing so; but his words were generic – and hollow for their failure to castigate those progressives whose hatred for Jews and Israel made it possible. And anyway, how could his admonitions be taken seriously considering his appointment of Israel-haters and BDS advocates to work in his administration?
In a questionable display a month or so ago, the New York Times published a frontpage article with the headline, “More Than 250 Dead, Mostly Civilians…,” implying that Israel killed hundreds of Arab civilians during the Gaza conflict (which Hamas started by shooting hundreds of missiles at Israeli men, women, and children). Intelligence reports, however, showed that approximately half the dead (and perhaps many more) were terrorist fighters; and that many civilian deaths were caused by misfired Hamas rockets. The Times issued a partial correction eleven days later stating it could not confirm the number of civilian deaths but saying nothing about the dubious credibility of casualty data provided by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
Such biased reporting resembles yellow journalism from the late nineteenth century, when journalists sacrificed objectivity for political and ideological sensationalism. And these lapses are not limited to mainstream venues but are employed by social media to promote bias and sow discord.
Despite their disingenuous denials, social media platforms provide safe harbor for classical antisemitism masquerading as social justice advocacy. Only in a morally warped media universe would it be possible for Google to hire a “diversity chief” who previously wrote that Jews have an “insatiable appetite for war and killing…” Or for Facebook to allow antisemitic posts while blocking pro-Israel messages for violating community standards. Or for the prevalence of hateful tweets to prompt the ADL to issue a report entitled, “Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter.”
The implications of such behavior are far-reaching, particularly as the media’s constitutional role of government watchdog erodes with its fawning adoration of progressive radicals. Instead of exposing them with critical reporting, the press validates their prejudices and excoriates their detractors. It seems ironic that words no longer seem to have objective meaning for a profession once based on the ability to communicate truth.
And perhaps it was such moral ambiguity that finally caused some Democrats to break rank.
When Congresswoman Ilhan Omar recently maligned Israel yet again – likening it (and the US) to Hamas and the Taliban – twelve Jewish Congressional Democrats responded with a letter asking her “to clarify her words…” Not the strongest of condemnations perhaps, but at least they said something. The question is why hostile rhetoric from party progressives was tolerated for more than two years before eliciting meaningful pushback. Moreover, of thirty-seven Jewish Democrats in Congress, why did only twelve speak out?
It could be that political partisans value party loyalty and ideology more than Jewish history and ancestral values, regardless of whether party doctrine denigrates Israel or legitimizes those who incite or rationalize antisemitism. Or maybe they are afraid to speak out.
Whatever the reason, we have seen this play before – and if Émile Zola were here today, he might well say, “J’accuse à nouveau.”
©Matthew Hausman. All rights reserved.