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

February 17, 2020 | Seth Mandel
About the author: Seth Mandel is the executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine.

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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