In the wake of the Pittsburgh massacre, the presidential adviser Kelyanne Conway spoke in an interview about “anti-religiosity,” while Columbia University sent a statement to its students that lamented “violence in our nation’s houses of worship” without using the word “Jews” or “anti-Semitism.” Such reactions to the murder of Jews, writes Yair Rosenberg, are all too common on both ends of the political spectrum and ought to be resisted:
The instinct to universalize anti-Semitic acts has many motives—some quite understandable, others more [sinister]. Well-meaning non-Jews often seek to draw universal lessons against intolerance from acts of anti-Semitic violence. Others want to make [these] incidents accessible and relevant for a broader, non-Jewish audience in an attempt to evoke empathy for the victims, and do so by trying to equate the persecution of Jews with forms of oppression faced by non-Jews.
Often, however, there are darker impulses at work. On the far right, attempts to deny that Jews were the primary target of the Holocaust are typically part of an effort to evade responsibility for the Holocaust itself. Thus, in 2014, over the livid protests of Jews there and around the world, Hungary erected a Holocaust monument that cast all Hungarians as “the victims of the German occupation,” even though Hungary’s leaders and population assisted the Nazis in deporting the country’s nearly 500,000 Jews. . . . In this way, the Holocaust is recast as an ecumenical crime, with Jews as its incidental victims.
On the far left, meanwhile, dropping Jews from discussions of anti-Semitism frequently results from an inability or unwillingness to recognize the reality and seriousness of the anti-Jewish threat. . . . After Pittsburgh, one local [British] Labor-party organization even deliberately removed a commitment to combat anti-Semitism from its condolence statement. In this progressive conception, Jews are dismissed as a group of privileged whites whose oppression need not be prioritized or “centered,” if it even exists anymore. When anti-Semites declare that “all Jews must die,” such people declare that we must change the subject.
Whether the motives are pure or impure, the result is the same: after deadly anti-Semitism strikes, Jews are expunged as inconvenient accessories to their own execution.