Ahead of marching into the Promised Land, Moses sends emissaries to plead with the king of Edom for safe passage through his land: “You know the hardships that have befallen us … that we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and that the Egyptians dealt harshly with us.” Some rabbis translate “dealt harshly with us,” as “made us seem harsh and bad” and comment that “to justify their cruel treatment of us, they proclaimed that we were evil and deserving of persecution” (“Etz Hayim: Torah & Commentary”).
Jew-hate is exploding. We knew of the antisemitism on the far right with its tiki torches and shouts of “Jews will not replace us!” We are deeply troubled to be confronted now with the violent face of the rising antisemitic progressive left.
Following the latest clash between Hamas and Israel, we are witnessing the eruption of antisemitic hostility overtaking the progressive social-media bubbles that spilled onto the streets, synagogues and restaurants where Jews were physically assaulted. Here we are again.
Deeply disturbing is how quickly the anti-Israel attacks turned the internet ablaze in a way we haven’t seen the left protesting China’s genocide of the Uyghur, Syria’s gassing of its own people, or the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas in Myanmar. We must ponder: Why the double-standard when it comes to Israel?
To be clear, myself, progressive Jews and progressive Israelis — nearly half of Israeli voters — all vehemently denounce and condemn the violations of human rights and abject oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government. The argument on the left that all Israelis are “evil” because of these policies is just as ridiculous as claiming that all Americans are “evil” because of the often-evil actions of our government. Did Trump’s actions make all Americans evil?
Attempting to offer, online, such nuanced perspective on the complexities of the conflict, is immediately met with seething ire, hatred and condemnation. In the seemingly complete abandonment of the progressive left’s own pluralistic values, American Jews are deemed guilty-by-association of the Israeli government’s policies and actions. One is labeled an evil Jewish Zionist colonizer, and our children are being called Jewish Nazis on Instagram. “They proclaimed that we were evil and deserving of persecution,” and the violence erupted on American streets.
American progressive Jews are alarmed at the rise of such radicalized antisemitism in our own caucus. We are concerned — amid vociferous accusations and demonization — with the striking silence and equivocation of the leaders of progressive causes, our natural allies. We need you now. We need you to speak up and denounce hate wherever it festers. There cannot be a “Jewish exception” to combating racism. We need one another — we always have and always will.
Read more of the June 30 - July 6, 2021 issue.