An Unjustified Panic over Anti-Semitism

March 13 2017

David Bernstein considers the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents, and the heated response from the Jewish community—and communal leaders in particular—and calls for greater caution:

I’ve been rather taken aback by the panic in the Jewish community over American anti-Semitism since Donald Trump won the election. . . . [T]he fear is drastically out of proportion to the threat; no bombs have been found, and there are no indications that there is any real physical threat to Jews. By contrast, in the past decade or so there have been actual murders at a Jewish community center (JCC) and a Jewish federation office without precipitating such panic.

It seems that much of the panic is in fact due to President Trump, with the JCC threats seen as a potential first sign of the deteriorating status of American Jews. While Jews are the most-liked religious group in the United Sates [according to a recent survey], some degree of trepidation is not unreasonable. . . . Yet, just looking at my Facebook feed, the origins of the fear bear only a tangential relationship to the actual Trump campaign. . . . There is also a general sense among Jews, at least liberal Jews, that Trump’s supporters are significantly more anti-Semitic than the public at large. I have many times asked for empirical evidence that supports this proposition, and have so far come up empty. I don’t rule out the possibility that it’s true, but there doesn’t seem to be any . . . evidence supporting it. . . .

[One] group that has had a strong incentive to exaggerate the present threat of right-wing anti-Semitism is Jewish progressive activists. For the past decade or so, leftist Jews have increasingly found themselves excluded from progressive coalitions that not only take very harsh anti-Israel lines but also have refused to take seriously anti-Semitism in their midst, suggesting that allegations of such anti-Semitism are mere covers for the “privilege” of “white Zionists.” So long as the problem of American anti-Semitism was largely associated with anti-Zionism and far-left politics more generally, Jews were not permitted to be part of a coalition of the marginalized. Lo and behold, along comes Trump, and left-wing Jewish activists are portraying Jews as one of the many groups threatened by him.

(Bernstein has responded to critics of this argument here.)

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More about: American Jewry, American politics, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump, Jewish World

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times