What the Rush to Defend Farrakhan Reveals about Left-Wing Anti-Semitism and “Israel Criticism”

March 6 2018

On February 25, the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, delivered a three-hour speech in which he engaged in the naked anti-Semitism that has come to be his trademark. Among those in attendance was Tamika Mallory, a leader of the 2017 Women’s March, who has posted pictures of herself with Farrakhan and praised him on numerous occasions. Mallory was quickly criticized for her association with Farrakhan, but rather than distancing herself from him, or at least from his rantings about Jews, she stuck fast in her support, and was defended by some of her fellow Women’s March leaders. David Schraub comments:

This oddity—defiant refusal to concede any ground on the anti-Semitism count, coupled with no attempt to . . . rationalize the anti-Semitic content [of Farrakhan’s remarks]—demands explanation. My hypothesis is [that] leftists don’t like thinking about anti-Semitism in their own ranks. At the same time, they’d never admit this is so. Fortunately, most anti-Semitism controversies that implicate the left relate to Israel in some fashion, and so [apologists] can respond with their favorite chestnut: “criticism of Israel isn’t anti-Semitic.” On its face, this response assures the audience that [these apologists] do care about anti-Semitism (the “real” anti-Semitism), but that the case at hand doesn’t count as such. (That it never seems to count as such is suspicious in its own right. But leave that aside.)

But Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism isn’t really tied to Israel. Which means that the stand-by response won’t work. And these leftists are left flummoxed, because they don’t really have another thought on anti-Semitism beyond “criticism of Israel isn’t [anti-Semitic].” Forced into a situation where it seems necessary to say something else, they find themselves at a loss. Suddenly, they can’t play their get-out-of-talking-about-anti-Semitism-free card.

And this is revealing. If the problem really were Israel, the Farrakhan case shouldn’t present any difficulty. But if the problem is that these leftists just don’t want to have to reckon with anti-Semitism in their community (and Israel is a convenient but ultimately epiphenomenal factor), then Farrakhan presents a huge problem.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Leftism, Louis Farrakhan, Politics & Current Affairs

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war