Participants in last summer’s congress of the Democratic Socialists of America, after passing a resolution to boycott Israel, began chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” A week later, neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right gathered in Charlottesville, where they chanted “Jews will not replace us.” Taking these two events as his points of departure, James Kirchick describes the emergence of anti-Semitism from out of the extremes of American politics and toward the mainstream, and the inability of the more moderate left to see more than one side of the equation:
The sheer bluntness of far-right anti-Semitism makes it easier to identify and stigmatize as beyond the pale; individuals like David Duke and the hosts of the Daily Shoah podcast make no pretense of residing within the mainstream of American political debate. But the humanist appeals of the far left, whose every libel against the Jewish state is paired with a righteous invocation of “justice” for the Palestinian people, invariably trigger repetitive and esoteric debates over whether this or that article, allusion, allegory, statement, policy, or political initiative is anti-Semitic or just critical of Israel.
What this difference in self-definition means is that there is rarely, if ever, any argument about the substantive nature of right-wing anti-Semitism, while the very existence of left-wing anti-Semitism is widely doubted and almost always indignantly denied by those accused of practicing it. . . .
This past election, one could not help noticing how the media seemingly discovered anti-Semitism when it emanated from the right, and then only when its targets were Jews on the left. It was enough to make one ask where they had been when left-wing anti-Semitism had been a more serious and pervasive problem.
From at least 1996 (the year Pat Buchanan made his last serious attempt at securing the GOP presidential nomination) to 2016 (when the Republican presidential nominee did more to earn the support of white supremacists and neo-Nazis than any of his predecessors), anti-Semitism was primarily a preserve of the American left. In that two-decade period—spanning from the collapse of the Oslo Accords and the second intifada to the rancorous debate over the Iraq War and the obsession with “neocons,” to the presidency of Barack Obama and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—anti-Israel attitudes and anti-Semitic conspiracy [theories] made unprecedented inroads into respectable precincts of the American academy, the liberal intelligentsia, and the Democratic party.
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