When the New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced that she would not attend a commemoration of the assassination of Yitzḥak Rabin, some American Jews were shocked or surprised that a Democratic politician wouldn’t want to participate in an event organized by liberal Jewish groups and dedicated to the memory of a hero of the Israeli left. But there is no reason to be surprised, writes Bari Weiss, and it was not “confusion” that led to Ocasio-Cortez’s decision:
The savvy politician had read the room and was sending a clear signal about who belongs in the new progressive coalition and who does not. The confusion—and there seems to be a good deal of it these days—is among American Jews who think that by submitting to ever-changing loyalty tests they can somehow maintain the old status quo and their place inside of it.
At the heart of the problem is a set of ideas known alternately as “anti-racism,” “critical race theory,” or simply “wokeness” that has penetrated educational institutions (from kindergarten through the university), the left wing of the Democratic party, and even the culture of major corporations. Its foremost proponent, Ibram X. Kendi, wishes to amend the Constitution to state that “racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals.” Weiss considers the potential effects of these proposed reforms on Jews:
To back up the amendment, [Kendi] proposes a Department of Anti-Racism. This department would have the power to investigate not just local governments but private businesses and would punish those “who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.” Imagine how such a department would view a Jewish day school that suggests that the Jews are God’s chosen people, let alone one that teaches Zionism.
It should go without saying that, for Jews, an ideology that contends, [as Kendi does], that there are no meaningful differences between cultures is not simply ridiculous—we have an obviously distinct history, tradition and religion that has been the source of both enormous tragedy as well as boundless gifts—but is also, as history has shown, lethal. By simply existing as ourselves, Jews undermine the vision of a world without difference. . . . This is no longer a fringe view.
It does not matter how progressive you are, how vegan or how gay, how much you want universal healthcare and pre-K and to end the drug war. To believe in the justness of the existence of the Jewish state—to believe in Jewish particularism at all—is to make yourself an enemy of this movement. . . . Jews who refuse to erase what makes us different will increasingly be defined as racists, often with the help of other Jews desperate to be accepted by the cool kids.
Of course, it appears to have been some of those Jewish “cool kids” who convinced Ocasio-Cortez not to attend the Rabin event in the first place.