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You Can’t Shout Antisemitism When its Normalizers are Part of the Government

Antisemitism is becoming normalized in the United States at a frighteningly swift pace.
Afagen/Creative Commons
Afagen/Creative Commons
Dr. Tomer Persico is a Research Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute. He was the Koret Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish and Israel Studies at U.C. Berkeley, where he was also a Senior Research Scholar in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Dr. Persico is a social activist advocating for freedom of religion in Israel. A leading thinker about secularization, Jewish Renewal and forms of contemporary spirituality, Persico writes the most popular blog in Hebrew

Antisemitism is becoming normalized in the United States at a frighteningly swift pace. After Kanye West implied on Twitter that he was interested in killing the Jews, former President Donald Trump invited him to dinner, and hosted white supremacist Nick Fuentes at the same event. Then, during an interview with the conspiracist broadcaster Alex Jones, West insinuated that Jews are pedophiles and announced that he “loves Nazis” and also “likes Hitler.”

West’s explosion of antisemitism retrospectively illuminates the reckless conduct of the Trumpist right. Before Trump was elected, it was clear that he showed tolerance for antisemitism and also employed antisemitic stereotypes himself, but the populist right adopted a dismissive attitude towards this and carried on “warning” about the danger posed by Alexandira Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar.

Even when hate crimes against Jews increased on his watch, even when he said that some of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people,” even after the biggest terror attack against Jews in the United States, for Trump fans in Israel, the radical left and extremism on campuses remained the biggest danger.

The story is not just the blindness to the fact that antisemitism on the right is much more extensive and dangerous than the antisemitism on the left (which does indeed exist). Nor is it simply the importation and adoption of an entire antisemitic lexicon, of terms like “deep state” and “foreign money” and “globalist elite.” The story is the intellectual distortion caused by the occupation, and locating the aid to continue maintaining it in the midst of those who detest Jews the most.

A large part of the fight against “antisemitism from the left” is actually a fight against de-legitimation of the occupation, with every criticism of it immediately being labeled as antisemitism. Entire government departments are established to fight BDS, a failing, ineffective organization. At the same time, far-right  parties in places like Hungary, Poland, Austria and elsewhere are embraced, while overlooking their antisemitism considered the price that has to be paid in return for the Islamophobia they so generously offer and for their support for settlements.

But this price is paid in ongoing installments, which are currently taking the form of the right’s self-imposed silence in the face of the normalization of antisemitism. The populist right cannot come out and admit that Trump has always had trouble rejecting white supremacists and antisemites, or acknowledge that Trumpism pulled scoundrels and a skinhead rabble from the fringes to the center and afforded them a level of recognition far exceeding anything they have received before.

Deeper still, we are witnessing a reluctance to admit that the shift from a liberal right to a populist right is a danger to Jews throughout the world, as it is also a danger to Arabs, women and LGBT people here. The threat to the liberal order that comes with the rise of populism, that threatens the rights, status and prosperity of Jews in the same way that it threatens every other minority, is not admitted nor addressed because the coming Netanyahu coalition has adopted similar populism and is dismantling the liberal order here.

Ironically, the dismembering of liberal democracy and the movement toward autocratic government are becoming the only points of agreement between our populist right and the antisemites abroad. How loud could the outcry against antisemitism be, anyway, when we have homophobes and Kahanists sitting in the government?

In recent months, prominent Trumpists like Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Lauren Boebert have spoken out in favor of “Christian nationalism.” Boebert even said that the separation between religion and state should be eliminated and that “the church should direct the government.” The danger for Jews is clear, as is the resemblance to the ambitions of MKs from the Religious Zionism party and the ultra-Orthodox parties.

We are advancing toward a reality in which the anti-liberal right here will parallel the anti-liberal right there, and vice-versa, with the minorities in both places being the ones who will suffer. Here it will be mainly the Arabs, as well as women and the LGBT community. There it will be women, LGBT and Jews. The familiar declaration of the “shared values” we have with the United States will take on a new meaning. It will come at the expense of Israel’s commitment to Jews all over the world.

Originally published in Haaretz

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