The Irony of Antisemites for Bernie

We shouldn't use Nazis as the standard for antisemitism

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

As the candidate who is both furthest left in the Democratic presidential field and least favorably-inclined toward Israel in his public statements, it would not inherently be surprising that Bernie Sanders has attracted the support of far-left political figures with a history of antisemitic comments and actions, including Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar, and Amer Zahr. It might seem surprising, however, because Sanders is Jewish, and one might think that (a) people with a history of antisemitic comments and actions are likely antisemitic; and (b) antisemites wouldn't endorse a Jewish candidate. Indeed, supporters of these Bernie endorsers have been quick to use their endorsements as evidence that they aren't antisemitic; after all, no antisemite would endorse a Jew for president. Right?

Wrong. The problem with this reasoning, and much of the discourse around antisemitism in general and on the far left in particular, is what one might call "the Nazi standard." In other words, to only recognize antisemitism when it resembles the most virulent, murderous version of antisemitism, that of the Nazis, a version that is outspoken and proud of its antisemitism, and considers Jews subhuman, beyond redemption, and marked for extinction.

But none of those things are necessary for antisemitism to exist. I try when discussing antisemitism (or other forms of racism) to distinguish it from "mere" prejudice. Someone might think that Jews are disproportionately cheap, or especially prone to being good at making money, or "clannish," without having any significant internal hostility to Jews, the way someone might believe that the Irish are prone to be drunkards, the Scots cheap, the Poles dull, and so forth, without evincing any significant hostility to them. It seems to me, though, that one or both of the following two things make someone antisemitic, and not just prejudiced: (1) one believes in anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, e.g., that Jews run the banks, control the government, etc.; or (2) one affirmatively wishes harm to Jewish people in general, though one almost always makes exceptions for "good" Jewish people (even leading German Nazis often had a favored Jewish acquaintance for whom they arranged an exit visa before the Holocaust began). You don't need to publicly acknowledge your antisemitism, nor, like the Nazis, consider Jews subhuman, beyond redemption, and marked for extinction.

Given those definitions of antisemitism, there is no particular reason that an antisemite couldn't support a Jewish candidate for president. If one believes in anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, for example that many or most of the world's Jews plot to control world governments to benefit Israel at the expense of their home countries, one can still believe that Sanders has shown himself to be an exception, that despite being Jewish he is not controlled (unlike many Gentile politicians!) by the "Jewish lobby." And if one wishes harm to the Jewish people, one can make an exception for a "good Jew" like Sanders–especially if one believes he is more likely to create or allow harm to other Jewish people than his presidential rivals.

Sure, a literal Nazi almost certainly wouldn't support someone of ethnic Jewish heritage, much less a self-identified Jew, for president under any circumstances. But literal Nazis are only a small fraction of the world's antisemites. One can, I assume, imagine circumstances under which some racists would support a black candidate over a white candidate, a misogynist a woman over a man, or a homophobe a homosexual over a heterosexual–especially if they endorsed policies that seemed more harmful to blacks, women, or homosexuals, respectively compared to their rivals. Similarly, once we recognize that one doesn't have to be a Nazi to be an antisemite, it's perhaps ironic, but not otherwise remarkable, that antisemites would support a Jew.

I should also note that a friend of mine has proposed a more cynical explanation for why Sarsour et al. have endorsed Bernie despite being antisemites. His theory is that they know he won't win, but since Bernie is both a mainstream candidate and a Jew, the fact that he is accepting their endorsement and indeed using some of them as campaign surrogates gives them both mainstream credibility and a megaphone for the course of the campaign, while hopefully blunting charges of antisemitism, at zero cost. I can't say this is definitely wrong, but it's not necessary to explain the endorsers' actions; even if they really, really want Bernie to be president and think he has a real chance, that doesn't conflict with the notion that they are antisemites.

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  1. I would say that particularly with anti-semetic conceptions of Israel, there is a sense that Jews are OK as a subdued and harmless minority but are fundamentally dangerous and illegitimate exercising sovereignty and self-determination in their own country. I’d say a larger portion of the anti-Israel community doesn’t reach full Sarsour-level conspiracy mongering, but still sees Jews as only being legitimate in certain constrained circumstances.

    I’d say that this kind of thinking is probably not-unrelated to why we see more tolerance of open forms of antisemitism against chasidic/orthodox communities (I’m thinking of a lot of the greater-NYC area politics but also the hububs about putting up eruvs in all sorts of places). Jews living distinctly, using their voting strength to obtain their preferred political outcomes, making the community look different, etc is seen as illegitimate and dangerous.

    If you want to do full whataboutism, there’s a kind of an inverted form of this in white-nationalist circles, where Jews are OK in their own Jewish country but a dangerous and malign influence in the United States.

    1. I agree. I think that what you are saying is also consistent with the notion that many will rush to mourn the killing of Jews, but only once they are dead.

    2. I would say that particularly with anti-semetic conceptions of Israel, there is a sense that Jews are OK as a subdued and harmless minority but are fundamentally dangerous and illegitimate exercising sovereignty and self-determination in their own country.

      Though this is almost precisely the opposite of Hitler’s conception. Which was that Jews were a contamination, a germ infecting the body of the Volk from within.

      Hence the original pre-war policy was consistent with the treatment of a disease, isolation from the German body, and expulsion. Jews in their own country isolated from the Volk and far enough away to not be a contamination risk would be much less dangerous than Jews in Germany.

      The Final Solution – extermination – was only adopted later. And it was consistent with the treatment of others who were also infecting and weakening the German body – the physically and mentally handicapped, who started off being sterilised, and then got exterminated.

      So the last thing Hitler would have been happy with was “a subdued and harmless [Jewish] minority” – that’s not what you do with a disease carriers. You expel them, and if that’s not effective enough, you kill them and burn the bodies.

  2. But what about the Yale “hate crime” hoax!?

  3. It seems to me, though, that one or both of the following two things make someone antisemitic, and not just prejudiced: (1) one believes in anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, e.g., that Jews run the banks, control the government, etc.; or (2) one affirmatively wishes harm to Jewish people in general,..

    I agree with your point about the Nazi standard, but I think this standard is too demanding. Consider, for example, an employer who declines to hire Jews out of a personal dislike, a prejudice if you will. Should that employer not be considered an anti-Semite?

    Another way to say this is that I don’t quite see the value of the distinction you are making between anti-Jewish prejudice and anti-semitism.

  4. Oh – look another article on anti-semitism by Bagdad Bernstein.

    Criticism of the government and military policies of the government of the State of Israel is not anti-semitism. But I suspect Bagdad Bernstein gets off when ever Netanyahu embezzles additional US Taxpayer dollars or when a member of the Israel military murders another child. Again.

    1. An obvious sure sign of someone *NOT BEING THE LEAST BIT ANTISEMITIC* is that any time someone raises the issue of domestic antisemitism in the United States, he only wants to talk about alleged Israeli misbehavior, because *THERE IS NOTHING THE LEAST BIT ANTISEMITIC* about trying to deflect discussions about antisemitism into discussions of what bad things the Israeli government allegedly does.

      1. Don’t yell at someone cause you want to deflect the blood on your hands. But nice try, I see why Reason hired you, pout more. You’ll get along here. Writing weak sauce articles is par for the course around here.

      2. Your argument that an antisemite could endorse Bernie Sanders for President is obviously valid.

        But it leads me to wonder whether you consider Bernie Sanders himself an antisemite and if so, why?

        1. I think Bernie very much wants to be president, and he thinks shoring up his base on the left is the way to do it.

          1. I’d say it’s a combination of things.

            1. As noted, Bernie wants to be president and the left is his base.

            2. Bernie, who I take at face value as supporting Israel’s right to exit, still wants to move US policy in a less pro-Israel direction (or at least make US support more conditional on some kind of two-state solution) and will find common cause with people who are anti-Israel.

            3. Bernie as a lefty, is inclined to see leftwing attacks on Israel, many of which veer into legitimate anti-semitism, in the most charitable light.

            There were a lot of people who assumed Trump, as a wealthy and urbane new yorker, didn’t personally agree with the white nationalist elements in his base, and maybe he didn’t? But people need to take seriously who leaders elevate in their political movements and not get too caught up speculating about the hearts of the leaders .

            1. By “legitimate anti-semitism” I mean real anti-semitism, not that the anti-semitism is legitimate.

      3. David, from where I sit, why are you the guy who decides who is doing the deflecting? Sometimes I see it your way. More often, it looks to me like discussions of bad things the Israeli government allegedly does are getting deflected by folks alleging antisemitism. I see you as a frequent flyer on that route.

        1. There is a very disturbing tic among people on the left to try to deflect any conversation about antisemitism on the left to israel. My post isn’t about Israel or criticism thereof. There a similar tic on the right to deflect any concern about antisemitism on the right to whether the individual or group in question is pro-Israel. So let’s be clear: a claim that someone on the left is antisemitic needs to be judged on its merits. That antisemitism may or may not be manifest in a context related to Israel, but if it happens to be, one can’t deflect charges of antisemitism about, say, Israel falsely being alleged to harvest Palestinian organs by claiming that because it’s critical of Israel it can’t be antisemitic. OTOH, if someone on the right is being criticized for antisemitism, the fact that he has expressed support for Israel isn’t a good answer. True, someone who supports Israel is unlikely to fit in the category of someone who wishes harm on Jews in general, but still can believe in antisemitic conspiracy theories, and of course can easily still be prejudiced (which I tried to distinguish from antisemitism, but in public discourse is generally treated as the same).

        2. Think of it this way, Steve. If I said, “a bunch of racists are supporting Trump,” and your response was, “but what about the crimes committed by Mugabe in Zimbabwe,” or, for that matter, “but what about black on black crime in the US,” someone may think that you are not taking racism very seriously.

    2. The short version of Professor Bernstein’s thesis is that appending “and some of them, I suppose, are good people” does not negate the bigotry of the first clause. Trotting out Israel to justify antisemitic tropes is no different than Trump trotting out victims of immigrant crime to justify bigotry. If you don’t realize that, then you, along with all the other folks, right and left, who claim it is the other side that is more bigoted, are part of the problem. I have no interest in the metrics. The cynical political decision to tolerate, fan and harness bias for political goals by the otherwise pure of heart is always deadly. Physicians, heal thyself.

      1. Do you think it is possible for a Gentile to be strongly critical of the current Israeli government without being an antisemite? Or is any criticism of Israeli governance necessarily a justification of antisemitic tropes?

        1. I am extremely critical of the current Israeli government and governance. Nentanyahu is corrupt and leading Israel down the wrong path. I have always been against the settlements. I am for unilateral disengagement and dismantlement of the settlements. Two states is the only solution. Anybody can say that and not be antisemitic. (And “Gentile”? Do you mean non-Mormons?) Hamas’ charter calls for genocide against all Jews. That is antisemitic. Claiming Jews ritually drink Christian blood…that is antisemitic. Claiming that Jews somehow control the world’s or this nation’s politics…that is antisemitic. Claiming that Jews are loyal to Israel rather than the country in which they are citizens…that is antisemitic. Claiming that Jews should be judged by Israel’s or Soros’ or Adelson’s politics or actions…that is antisemitic. So, the answer is it is pretty easy to be strongly critical of the current Israeli government without antisemitism. Just criticize it the way you criticize any other government.

      2. One of the good ones is a trope in all bigotry, not specifically antisemitism.

  5. The Left has a big problem with bigotry. Unlike the right though the press generally gives them a pass. If it were a bunch of republicans that composed “the squad” there would be a hit piece on them being hate mongers every single day. But, if you are far left, you can trash jews, asians, and white people all day long in the name of “progress”.

    1. Despite some hyperbolic flourishes, I’d grade this comment “Mostly True.” Which is noteworthy since I generally find your comments tribally deranged. So… baby steps.

  6. In previous discussions of racism—not involving Jews—I have tried to emphasize the role of the, “ism,” on the end of the word. That suffix implies organization, systematization, program, and action. I have suggested that in cases where that part of the meaning does not apply, the use of the term, “racism,” ought to be restrained or eliminated.

    Without a showing of organized conduct to the detriment of targeted minorities, someone who accuses racism is left with the impossible task of reading the innermost stirrings of the heart, in another person who may or may not be a bigot, but who is not acting as a racist. It is thus reckless to take the next step, and label such a person a racist, when no such conduct is in evidence. The accusation could be made against a person who is troubled by bigotry, regards it as sin, and is conscientiously striving to keep his inner trouble from affecting others.

    Conversely, if the, “ism,” test is accepted, everyone should insist that whoever acts to systematize the detriment of a targeted minority be regarded as a racist—and that without regard to whatever the state of their hearts may be with regard to bigotry. It should never be permitted—while someone is practicing to organize society to the disadvantage of a particular group—to let that escape criticism on the basis of alternative motives for that conduct. Not, anyway, if the conduct is objectively racist in its intended outcome.

    To insist on the rules above is nothing more than to say that even legitimate motives for achieving otherwise legitimate goals must be foregone, if the outcome of the chosen means will systematically harm otherwise identifiable social sub-groups. If you have a legitimate goal in mind, you have to exclude from your choice of means those which systematically work to the detriment of minority groups. If the goal you seek is one which by itself works that kind of disadvantage, then you are stuck—it is a racist goal, regardless of the means and motives of whoever advances it, and an anti-racist or non-racist cannot pursue it. Anyone who does pursue it is advancing racism, and deserves to be regarded and called out as a racist.

    I suggest that applying tests of those sorts, and avoiding speculation about what lies in people’s hearts, would bring needed clarity to Bernstein’s frequent posts involving Israel and antisemitism. Some of the the changes would advantage Bernstein’s arguments. Some would go against them. Everything would be less muddled.

  7. I think there are two basic reasons why one might oppose what might currently be considered “Jewish” interests. One is opposition to current Israeli policies and/or favoring the land claims of Palestinian Arabs over the land claims of Israeli Jews for whatever reason. It is, after all, a land dispute.

    A second, although somewhat limited and local, is opposition to organized efforts to funnel money towards Jewish projects and Interests. In various parts of the New York Metropolitan area, such as East Ramapo and the area around Kiryas Joel, there are various reports of organized diversion of school funds to yeshivas, people who engage in religious studies full time with welfare as a way of life, ignoring or taking over zoning codes to build maximal houses for large families, etc. There are reasons why people might object to such things.

    1. If “favoring the land claims of Palestinian Arabs” in practice means that one is utterly indifferent to the fate of the almost-7 million Jews who live in Israel, in a way that one would not be indifferent to the fate of other people, because the Jews, and not other people who live under governments that have done real and imagined bad things, are not deemed worthy of such concern, then it’s hard to defend such a person from charges of antisemitism.

      As for the NY area communities, the one “tell” in any such discussions is whether the opponents will acknowledge in the course of their opposition that ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, by sending their kids to private schools, relieve a huge potential burden on property taxes. People will note that the Haredim will vote against school bonds, making them “enemies of the public school” but won’t note that by keeping their kids in private school while still paying property taxes, overall they are doing a great favor to the school budget–and won’t acknowledge it as a mitigating factor even if you point it out directly. At that point, it goes from debatable opposition to unreasoning hostility.

      1. In my state a decade or more ago, they passed a law letting a student take 50% of their state money with them to private schools. This was screamed at as hostility to public schools.

        That’s right. Public schools got a half of a student billet to do nothing instead of a full one to do nothing. This was the “outrage”.

        1. Public schools are a public good, they are not a government acting in a fee-for-service capacity.

          1. The public schools acting in a fee for service capacity would be an improvement.

          2. Public schools are certainly not a public good in the economic sense, since they are neither “non excludable” nor “non rivalrous.” (There may be education related things – such as internet delivered lectures a la Khan Academy that are non-rivalrous, but that’s not particular to government financed lectures.)

            If by “public good” you mean simply “of benefit to the public” then so is publicly financed privately supplied education, a la voucher.

            But I suspect you mean no more than “public good = something provided by a government owned production facility” which rather sucks any notion of inherent social usefulness from the concept. Soviet supermarkets were not very useful.

            In reality, there is nothing at all about schooling that gives the government – or even a large private supplier – any competitive advantage against smaller private suppliers. There aren’t any large economies of scale, once you get to the size of one school.

            The main argument for public schools is that they can be used as instruments of politically determined social control. That is also the main argument against public schools.

        2. Krayt, it was hostility to public schools. That is what the charter schools movement is about—hostility to public schools.

          Publicly funding that movement is about publicly funding hostility to public schools. The sorry reality is that what the nation gets for funding the charter movement, after you take the net-nothing the charter schools have delivered, and combine it with degradation of the public schools from loss of funding, is less than the nation had before.

          You do have one good point. In your instance, the damage was half what it usually is. Not sure I see why that should reduce the outrage even a little.

          And by the way, pretty much everyone understands that at the family level, the charter movement is about hopes for better education for poor kids. But at the policy level, it is about a right-wing political attack on an institution—public education—which right wingers see as a hive of left-wing political opposition. As you undoubtedly know, the political purpose of the charter school movement is to weaken left-wing politics by weakening teachers’ unions.

          1. Well, yes, it’s hostility to the public schools, as distinct from the public being schooled. Hostility on the basis of the public schools being primarily indoctrination centers, and only secondarily schools. And thus being much more effective at indoctrination than education.

            And right wingers see public education as a hive of left-wing political opposition because it IS a hive of left-wing political opposition. You really think you could turn the government’s schools into indoctrination camps for the Democratic party, and they’d retain the support of Republicans?

            You seem to think you’re entitled to indoctrinate children into views their parents object to, and the parents should thank you for the privilege of over-paying for it.

            1. LOL.

              Do you know anyone who attends a public school?

            2. indoctrination camps

              You never cease to amaze.

      2. The political activities of Orthodox Jews are frequently discussed in a way that involved anti-semetic tropes, in which they are a singular nefarious whole, acting with malign intent-like the guy above calling the use of funds above as funneling money* to “Jewish Interests”

        *As it happens I strongly oppose the use of public funds for schools that do not provide their students with adequate secular education and more generally the practice in some communities of not providing students with an adequate secular education. But the victims are the kids in these communities.

      3. If “favoring the land claims of Palestinian Arabs” in practice means that one is utterly indifferent to the fate of the almost-7 million Jews who live in Israel, in a way that one would not be indifferent to the fate of other people, because the Jews, and not other people who live under governments that have done real and imagined bad things, are not deemed worthy of such concern, then it’s hard to defend such a person from charges of antisemitism.

        But it is entirely possible to be favorable to the land claims of Palestinians without such indifference.

        It is hardly antisemitic to say that Israel has behaved badly with respect to Palestinian claims and rights, and that any ultimate agreement needs to involve some withdrawal from land taken by force, especially if taken after the establishment of the State of Israel.

        1. No one reasonable would say that such views, as such, are antisemitic. But when you here people say, e.g., that they are in favor of a “one-state solution” and that this will mean Arab majority rule, and dismiss any concerns about what the fate of the Jewish minority will be by either suggesting that they are beyond moral concern because Zionism is so evil and they are beneficiaries of it, or suggesting that any such concern somehow reflects racism against Arabs and thus deflecting the concern entirely, one can reasonably believe that such people are entirely indifferent to the fate of almost half the world’s Jews–or worse, they want them to have a terrible fate.

          1. Sure, but do you think that Netanyahu and his supporters favor a two-state solution that respects the rights of the Palestinians, and offers them a viable state?

            I don’t, and I think the evidence of their behavior supports those doubts. Continual settlement expansion establishes “facts on the ground” that make it very difficult to believe a real two-state solution is possible, and to some degree I think that’s deliberate.

      4. The author, and many of the commenters are *totally* wrong in claiming that those politically criticising Israel and Zionism are anti-Semitic. Yes, anti-Semites might make such criticisms, but the criticisms are not in themselves anti-Semitic. The author and others are desperately in need of studying the history of Zionism, starting with the writings of Theodore Herzl in the 1890s. He blatantly planned to use the more wealthy European Jewish community in Europe to begin a campaign to take Palestine away from the Palestinians (which included some Jews) and form a Jewish state. This was decades before Hitler took power, making the Holocaust irrelevant in the Zionist struggle to steal Palestine. Everything else follows from the original plan and the Holocaust and other things which befell the world’s Jews, are just items to use opportunistically to justify the takeover of Palestine.

  8. Let’s call it “jew-washing”, the use of Jews to conceal anti-Semitism.

    1. A “beard” is a fake romantic partner used to disguise one’s sexual preference. Works even better for hiding anti-semitism.

    2. Yeah, lets see how that catches on with the Jewish community generally.

      1. It already has. Google Jew-washing

        1. From the first page:
          On ‘Jew-Washing’ And BDS | Jewish Week

          ‘Jew-Washing’ Is Bad Practice and Phrase – The Forward
          The Disingenuity of “Jew-washing” – The Daily Beast
          The abuse of dissenting Jews is shameful | The Guardian
          NGO Monitor coins anti-Semitic slur: ‘Jew-washing’

          Ummm, I see a lot of entries…not a lot of support.

          1. The Forward piece actually praises the concept of “jewwashing” while disliking it awkwardness. Beyond that, if you are citing 972 mag and the Guardian for anything approaching mainstream Jewish or pro-Israel opinion, you are doing it wrong.

            1. I only surveyed the first page of my Google results that weren’t about washing rituals.

              Looking at further pages now that I’m home and free, It doesn’t seem to have taken off in America.
              And I’m not sure I expect it to, given the varying opinions my Jewish friends have of who is antisemitic and what counts. It’s just adding fuel to that fire.

              1. Be that as it may, in my social media feed, “Jewwashing” comes up all the time.

                1. I allow that in your particular circles it may have caught on. But your circles are in contrast to a decent amount of American Jews, I’d wager.
                  I don’t know that this is the same as it catching on more generally.

    3. Like, “He’s a big supporter of Israel, and his daughter is a convert to Judaism,” etc.

  9. “ It might seem surprising, however, because Sanders is Jewish, and one might think that (a) people with a history of antisemitic comments and actions are likely antisemitic; and (b) antisemites wouldn’t endorse a Jewish candidate…”

    Not surprising. The enemy of my enemy is my friend after all.

    1. > The enemy of my enemy is my friend after all.

      Ah, like the reason why Bernstein ignores, minimizes, or otherwise rationalizes away anti-Semitism on the right—because they also share his hostility to liberals and the left.

      1. To be fair, it’s relatively easy to minimize Antisemitism on the right, in as much as it IS minimal, and very much marginalized.

        1. Right, Brett. Marginalized.

          You’re delusional.

  10. These Jews are descendants of the Kapos… Hoping that no matter what horrible acts they commit, they will be sent to the ovens last…

    NEVER FORGET. NEVER AGAIN.

    1. Invoking the Holocaust to attack Jews with politics you don’t like? Oh, F-off with that.

  11. Not sure this is relevant, but a lot of Zionists were antisemites. Chesterton was an example. He wanted Jews to have their own state because he wanted them out of England.

  12. There’s an amusing exchange in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, between the art teacher (Teddy) and a seventeen year old pupil (Sandy) with whom he is having an affair :

    Sandy : Hey, Teddy, take me dancing.
    Teddy : Certainly not.
    Sandy : What a coward.
    Teddy : A man with a wife and six children plus a schoolgirl for a mistress can be called any number of rude names, but “coward” is not one of them.

    It was what came to mind when I read ;

    “the Poles dull”

    There are many things that you can call the Poles – “totally nuts” arrives on the tongue immediately without further prompting – but I don’t think “dull” is one of them.

  13. (even leading German Nazis often had a favored Jewish acquaintance for whom they arranged an exit visa before the Holocaust began)

    Hitler himself arranged Gestapo protection for Jewish doctor Eduard Bloch during the period between the Anschluss and the latter’s emigration to the United States.

  14. To paraphrase Woody Allen, Sanders would never want to belong to a club that he was a member of.

    1. I think the original was Groucko Marx, or maybe it’s an old vaudeville gag.
      It seriously predates Woody Allen.

  15. Seems like all Prof. Bernsteins posts these days about antisemitism are either minimizing it on the right or assuming it’s pervasive on the left.

    Antisemitism isn’t a partisan cudgel.

    1. It doesn’t take a lot of work to minimize it on the right, you know. To the extent you find it on the right it’s mostly in very marginalized groups.

      I don’t know of any significant figure on the right who has literally gotten people burned alive by leading anti-Semitic riots. And yet somehow Sharpton isn’t persona non grata on the left.

    2. I agree. Bernstein has always been something of a Jexodus advocate. That doesn’t exonerate his targets; it just explains why he picks them. I’m more impressed with people who police their own–like the internal pushback to Sansour in the woman’s march.

    3. I challenge you to find evidence that I assume antisemitism is “pervasive” on the left. I do, however, think it’s often tolerated, minimized or explained away when it surfaces on the left. Happens on the right, too, but given that the left’s identity is bound up with the claim that they are the force for anti-oppression, anti-racism, etc., it’s a glaring hypocrisy that antisemitism is treated so dismissively. Of course, from a certain perspective Jews are beneficiaries of white privilege and have a powerful state, so intersectionally shouldn’t be the subject of concern. But of course, this reflects incredible myopia, as well as a lack of understanding that anti-Jewish racism follows a different pattern than, say, anti-black racism, and (incredibly) fails to notice that being “white” and in a better socioeconomic position on average than their neighbors didn’t exactly protect the Jews of Europe from racism.

      1. I would agree with you that the left tolerates, minimizes &c. too much. As does every political faction from left to right, Dems to Reps, Greens to Libertarians.

        And they’re all hypocrites about it.

        But certainly you do imply it’s pervasive here. From your OP it looks like the default assumption when meeting someone on the left is that they are traffic ins antisemitism, if not that they are antisemetic themselves.

        I mean, just look at the responses you got – defensive from the left, and ‘yeah, the left has a huge bigotry problem’ from the right. Whether you mean it like that, it’s being perceived as a partisan statement about who needs to worry about antisemitism.

      2. Happens on the right, too,

        You would be more convincing, duvidel, if just once you put up a post dealing with right-wing antisemitism.

  16. I do think Prof. Bernstein brings up an interesting question about whether antisemitism has unique characteristics that separate it from other bigotry.

    Though I’m not particularly convinced by the OP that it does. Certainly bigots of all flavors can and do champion one of their targeted class as one of the good ones.

    1. But while other forms of racism typically rely on the target being inferior, antisemitism typically involves a conspiracy theory that Jews have acquired power and wealth through plotting against their neighbors, and need to be restrained because they will “take over” not because they are inferior. There is much more anti-black racism than antisemitism in the U.S., but much more concern among racists about Jewish political and economic *power* than re blacks.

      1. I believe that the tropes are not that Jews are in any way superior, its that they are Jews are morally inferior which opens doors to them that more wise or intelligent but patriotic and moral people cannot continence.

        But I do think your last sentence is spot on. I don’t know that it sets of antisemitism as more than a particular flavor of bigotry (i.e. no more distinct from anti-black racism than anti-black racism is distinct from anti-Asian racism), but it does have that particular fear of power trait.

      2. concern among racists about Jewish political and economic *power* than re blacks.

        And this is evidenced on the right by the attacks on Soros, by all the fine people chanting “the Jews will not replace us,” etc.

      3. antisemitism typically involves a conspiracy theory that Jews have acquired power and wealth through plotting against their neighbors,

        Often, but not always or, IMO, typically. Some antisemitism reflects views that Jews are “sharp,” in an unkind sense, in business practices, and other areas.

        Still, for an excellent example of what you are talking about see right-wing attacks on George Soros.

      4. It occurs to me that left-wing antisemitism may be more similar to medieval Christian antisemitism than the “race-science” antisemitism of the right. While they can be equally deadly (see the Crusades, Blood Libel, Pogroms etc), the former gave Jews the option to convert and join the fight against (or at least acquiesce in the oppression of) the Jews, but the latter find them genetically irredeemable. Of course the line is fuzzy. The conspiratorial notions and general prejudice, as well as sometimes visceral hostility, can be seen on both left and right, and, at least in some cases, there is cross-fertilization between left/right antisemitism.

  17. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Liberal Jews are not Jews. They’re liberals who dress their practice of liberalism in some religious garb.

  18. I think that assertions such as David’s concerning the appropriateness of his two criteria would be more amenable to useful analysis if they were stated in a race-agnostic way and justified by generic race-blind principles.

  19. I think this post was spot-on. I particularly like the point about the conspiracy component being something that separates antisemitism from run-of-the-mill prejudice. It’s a point I usually make but don’t see brought up very much, and I think it really sheds light on actual character of the frequent but-I’m-only-criticizing-Israel rhetorical tactic.

    The really disingenuous folks or bad actors intentionally use that as a form of motte-and-bailey argumentation, but I find there are also a lot of moderate-left folks in the US that do it unintentionally because they operate from a position of ignorance and receive talking point from people who are more extreme and/or fixated on Israel. I wouldn’t call those people antisemitic, though; they’re just not very good at thinking for themselves.

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