Jeremy Slevin, a senior communications strategist for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, ignited a Twitter storm last week with a tweet that stated, eight times, “Anti-semitism is a right-wing force.”
Perhaps there is more strategy in Slevin’s remarks than might appear in a Twitter food fight. His tweet came on the closing day of the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took Slevin’s boss to task for recent tweets of her own, saying:
“Despite what they claim, they do not merely criticize the policies of the Israeli government…they spew venom that has long been directed at the Jewish people. Again, the Jews are cast as a force for evil. Again, the Jews are charged with disloyalty. Again, the Jews are said to have too much influence, too much power, too much money.…take it from this Benjamin, it’s not all about the Benjamins.”
The comment was an unmistakable reference to a February tweet, when Omar wrote, “it’s all about the Benjamins baby,” suggesting that American political support of Israel is all about campaign contributions. Though she later apologized, she tweeted again in early March that she should “not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country…”
Amidst the ensuing controversy, HuffPost foreign affairs reporter Akbar Shahid Ahmed pointed out why her comment was so offensive: “suggesting that members of a religious or ethnic minority are guilty of dual loyalty is an inherently bigoted and dangerous charge.”
George Mason professor David Bernstein addressed Slevin’s Twitter strategy, saying that the goal was to imply that the Congresswoman “is not right-wing, so she can't be antisemitic. This is the sort of crap American Jews are going to deal with as the Dems lurch toward Corbynization.”
Corbynization is a reference to Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, who has been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to flourish and become institutionalized in the Labour Party. "For a Party that once committed to pursue a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect, it has changed beyond recognition," the seven leaders said as they resigned from the party in February. "Today, visceral hatreds of other people, views and opinions are commonplace in and around the Labour Party."
Representative Omar, a rising star in the American progressive movement, has come to embody this rhetoric in the United States. But she is hardly the first. While many in the Democratic Party leadership denounced Omar’s tweets before and at the AIPAC Conference, the anti-Semitic trend she represents has been growing among progressive leaders.
In 2017, Jewish supporters of LGBT rights were booted out of a Chicago “Dyke March” because they waved rainbow flags emblazoned with a Star of David.
Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the Women’s March, has stated that their movement has no room for Zionists, and that one could not be both a feminist and a Zionist — in favor of a Jewish nation — at the same time. Late last year, she blamed Israel for the killing of unarmed blacks in the U.S. Sarsour’s fellow Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory has also peddled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, suggesting that “white Jews…uphold white supremacy” and were behind the slave trade. Both Sarsour and Mallory have also famously refused to distance themselves from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spews such anti-Semitic hate such as, “The powerful Jews are my enemy,” “Don’t you forget when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever.”
Black Lives Matter, another partner in the intersectional coalition, accuses Israel of carrying out genocide and views Zionism as equivalent to white supremacy.
Although right-wing anti-Semitism has been more lethal to Jews in recent history, that does not erase the dangers that bigotry can pose from both sides of the political spectrum.
The painting of American support for Israel as the result of conniving, manipulative Jews echoes an anti-Semitism that is blind to left/right politics. It stigmatizes the political participation of Jewish people and slides toward the dangerous next step of excluding them from public life.
The continued de-legitimization of the State of Israel, founded as a safe haven for Jews all over the world, poses a severe threat to the long-term safety and security of the global Jewish community. And portraying Jews as a “privileged” community erases the history of anti-Jewish persecution and discrimination, making the resurgence of both more likely.
It is time to recognize that anti-Semitism is not just a right-wing phenomenon — it is also an ideological feature of the progressive left. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force. Anti-semitism is a non-partisan force.
Russell Shalev is currently editor-at-large of the J'accuse Coalition for Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, and serves as an articling clerk at the international law department at one of the top firms in Tel Aviv. He holds a BA in political science from McGill University as well as an MA in Middle Eastern studies and an LLB (Common Law) from Bar Ilan University. An avid reader and a whiskey enthusiast, Russell lives in Givat Shmuel with his wife and daughter. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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