The American Jewish Establishment Has Failed to Grapple with the Threat of Anti-Semitism

Feb. 17 2020

When the White House released its plan for the creation of a Palestinian state that also gives due consideration to Israeli security, writes Seth Mandel, a number of major Jewish organizations rushed to condemn it. The self-styled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street lambasted the plan for being too pro-Israel, as did the Israel Policy Forum—founded in the 1990s at the behest of Yitzḥak Rabin. Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) responded equivocally. To Mandel, this attitude is only a symptom of a deeper problem:

What we are seeing is [that] American Jewish leaders fail to take seriously the rising tide of anti-Semitism that masquerades as “anti-Zionism”—and even the way progressive groups enable it.

Consider the story of the anti-Semitic crime spree in New York. . . . The media ignored the violence until there was blood in the streets; the organized Jewish world reacted like a deer in the headlights; non-Orthodox rabbis sneered at the ḥaredi community as it absorbed daily assaults; Jewish intellectuals pretended nothing was happening. [One journalist wrote that] far-right extremism “constitutes the paramount threat to American Jewish life today.” It was a line the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had been pushing hard as well.

But the renewed violence in the New York area wasn’t coming from white nationalists or alt-right poseurs. Many of the attacks caught on tape featured African-American suspects in outer-borough neighborhoods where religious Jews were framed as land-grabbing outsiders, with some residents telling interviewers they viewed Israel as the point of origin for these Jews. In Jersey City, the shooters were reportedly Black Hebrew Israelites, a kind of extreme black nationalist group, apparently motivated by a conspiracy theory that Jews pull the strings of the police to kill black people—a calumny that took original form as a claim that Israel was training U.S. cops to persecute minorities. “Israel” very quickly becomes “Jews.”

Following the October 2018 mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the Jerusalem Post asked the ADL whether it would finally drop its long-held opposition to federal security grants for synagogues and other houses of worship. The answer was no. The ADL, an official explained, was still opposed on constitutional grounds. In 2004, the [Reform movement’s] Religious Action Center put out a memo opposing security funding for Jewish institutions. It dropped its opposition [only] after the Pittsburgh shooting. The “constitutional” issues were a pretext to elevate liberal political stances over Jewish communal needs, but now appear not to be worth the public-relations headache.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: ADL, AIPAC, American Jewry, Anti-Semitism

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy