Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism
Every few weeks, some political or national figure demands a national conversation about race. (Most recently, Senator Kamala Harris insisted, “We have not had these honest discussions about race.”)
What does a conversation about race mean? Invariably, an indictment of the fundamental unfairness of our country, the historical roots of racism in white supremacy, and the national guilt of white people.
Or, to put it more simply, why Senator Kamala Harris deserves to be in the White House.
We don’t have national conversations about anti-Semitism because the problem can’t be narrowed down to an easily blamed demographic. The Democrats invariably try to blame anti-Semitism on the usual suspects, white male Republicans living more than two hundred miles from a Starbucks, but the largest toll of violent anti-Semitic attacks tend to fall on New York City’s black neighborhoods.
There is no single demographic for anti-Semitism. It’s a bigotry blasted out by Farrakhan supporters in Crown Heights, but it’s also harbored by white Elizabeth Warren supporters in Chelsea. Rep. Ilhan Omar is an immigrant from Somalia, a country with no Jews, but picked up the bigotry from Arab Muslims. And some of the worst anti-Semites aren’t black or white, Muslim or Christian, they’re Jewish in origin.
Even on the internet, some of the most militant anti-Semitic figures came from Jewish families.
There’s also no easy root cause to blame it on, like slavery. The origins of anti-Semitism lie in the distant past. Its earliest example may be the biblical Pharaoh turning on the Jewish inhabitants of Egypt. Jews encompass race, religion and culture. And anti-Semitism also encompasses racism, religious hatred and cultural hostility. It’s why people of Jewish origin can be anti-Semitic, hating not themselves, but Jews.
Anti-Semitism defies easy origin theories or solutions. And those are the things that politics is based on.
Leftists try to reduce anti-Semitism to a problem of the white male majority. But even a casual glance at hate crimes statistics show that’s nonsense. The solution, diversity, seems to make anti-Semitism worse, not better. The growth areas for anti-Semitism are found in diverse urban areas and college campuses.
Nobody thinks that the Kamala Harris or Obama solution, electing a Jewish president, would work.
There’s no political solution to anti-Semitism. And it is capable of infecting any part of the Democrat base, no matter how privileged or enlightened, oppressed or intersectional, with no immunities. It has no obvious root cause that can be fixed with social policies like affirmative action. It stubbornly refuses to have its expressions be limited to the convenient ideological narratives of leftist social justice.
Is it any wonder that the Democrats don’t want to talk about anti-Semitism? But that’s a mistake because grappling with anti-Semitism would allow them to understand why their policies don’t work.
Anti-Semitism has been around for thousands of years. Its existence defies the comforting idea that we can just get rid of racism by having national conversations about it. Tribal hatreds are part of human nature. We can be better people. But we’ll never be so angelic that we will stop hating other people.
America is the least anti-Semitic, and also the least racist country in the world. That didn’t happen because of national conversations about race, but because we learned to value each other as people. There’s no sign that the constant public indictment of white people has made America more tolerant. Instead it deepened grievances, nurtured hatreds and brought division where there had been unity.
Immigrants are more likely to be anti-Semitic than Americans. Rep. Omar’s defenders have acknowledged this in a backhanded way. What this really means is that America’s approach to racism, defusing it through natural coexistence, actually works. Immigrants don’t have anything to teach us about race. Americans have something to teach them about getting along with different people.
Lefties insist on treating immigrants like Rep. Omar as being morally superior to us when it comes to racism because they come from minority groups. But, as Omar showed us, minorities, especially when emigrating from majoritarian societies, are morally inferior to us when it comes to prejudices.
Democrats try to reduce bigotry to a majoritarian prejudice, but minorities can hate majorities. And minorities (and majorities) can hate themselves. There are white people who hate white people and black people who hate black people. Bigotry spreads socially, but it can also grow in the humid darkness of the human soul. Social conditions make the transmission of racism more likely, but bad ideas can infect anyone. Forgetting that is the best possible vector for becoming infected by them.
The Democrats are more likely to come down with a bad case of bigotry because of their own moral superiority. The more they insist on their own tolerance and categorize bigotry as a Republican problem, the more vulnerable they become to coming down with the virus of hatred while denying they have it.
Anti-Semitism is one of the more common leftist infections because it’s been around long enough to be mutable, adapting its memetic strain to any ideology or group, and because they don’t understand it.
Leftists believe that anti-Semitism is a bigotry of unsophisticated backwoods racists. And since they have a PhD, and a 500 square foot apartment above a Starbucks, they can’t be anti-Semites. They know exactly what bad people look like, they have spent most of their lives studying that very question (and identifying them as white male southerners) and everything they know says they aren’t the bad guys.
That’s not just true of anti-Semitism. But it is more obviously and inescapably true of anti-Semitism.
Democrats only want to fight bigotry that makes them look good. It’s why they inveigh against anti-black racism while celebrating anti-white racism. It’s also why anti-Semitism makes them so uncomfortable.
If anti-Semitism only existed on the other side, as they insist, they could wholeheartedly fight it. And if it existed only on their side, they could just as wholeheartedly defend and excuse it. But anti-Semitism transcends those neat lines leaving them with the troubling feeling that their worldview is wrong.
And so the Democrats can neither fully condemn nor excuse anti-Semitism. They try instead to live in a world where anti-Semitism only exists on the other side, only to be reminded rudely that it doesn’t.
Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic comments were one of many rude reminders, not only of the moral hazard of mainstreaming Islamists, and of the deeper rot of anti-Semitism among their new coalition of leftists and minority identitarians, but that the progressive understanding of the problem of bigotry is wrong.
Anti-Semitism demonstrates that bigotry can fester among minorities at least as much as majorities, that oppression can co-exist with privilege, and that national dialogues don’t make bigotry go away.
Leftists have fought their War on Racism through a narrow ideological lens. But ideology can just as easily incubate bigotry, as oppose it, based on its own biases and priorities. That is what the reaction to Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic comments are showed. Ideology is not an antidote to bigotry. Decency is.
Bigotry thrives in tribal environments. Ideological tribalism nurtured the anti-Semitism of the Nazis and the Communists in the last century just as it nurtures the tribal anti-Semitism of the identitarians, fanatics, supremacists, and conspiracy theorists of the extremist movements of the new century.
Ideological tribalism doesn’t just make a society more bigoted, it normalizes its existing bigotries.
The Democrats have been hijacked by ideological fanatics who extend the umbrella of their cause over their bigotries. That umbrella protected Rep. Omar as it has Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and many others.
The ideological umbrella did not invent Sharpton’s gutter anti-Semitism, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes”, no more than it invented Rep. Omar’s latest bigotry outbreak. What it does is normalize it by framing existing bigotries within the worldview of its political movement.
Leftists turned Sharpton’s anti-Semitism and Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitism into the outcry of the oppressed, normalizing and mainstreaming tribal bigotries into the bloodstream of a movement.
As long as the Democrats choose leftism over liberalism, and ideology over decency, the toxic strains of anti-Semitism within every one of their factions will meld with their movement. Each outcry about anti-Semitism will lead to a backlash that will mainstream those attitudes, as the response to Rep. Omar did.
That is what Rep. Omar has been doing, trolling Jews by deliberately provoking outrage that will force her movement to either disavow her or embrace her bigotry. Like her Islamic counterparts in UK’s Labour, Omar has gambled correctly that her political allies will choose anti-Semitism over apology.
The complaints by Jews about anti-Semitism will be used to justify anti-Semitic attitudes toward Jews. The best defense against accusations of anti-Semitism by a political movement that has come to understand that a sizable portion of its base will refuse to stop engaging in anti-Semitic behavior, is to embrace anti-Semitism. After failing to rebuke Rep. Omar, the Democrats have taken the first step.
When they have taken a few more, the Democrats will no longer be a party with an anti-Semitism problem, they will be an anti-Semitic party.