The world has always had people with a wide variety of opinions, and indeed, a wide variety of hatreds. Antisemitism, the oldest of human hatreds, is no different, and has taken on new forms in modern times.
For thousands of years, Jews were persecuted as “the Other.” They were viewed suspiciously as foreigners by lay-people and demonized for not believing in the preferred prophets by religious leaders. Some countries simply took advantage of the small, weak status of Jews, and engaged in “practical antisemitism” for financial reasons – either to seize their property or to get out of debt which was owed to Jews.
The historic antisemitism was shepherded by popes and kings, local townspeople and crusaders. The manifestation of the hatred was murder and expulsion.
The slaughter of Jews was common in Europe and Russia for hundreds of years, and often rationalized by manufactured excuses (such as blood libels) and effected via torture. The expulsion and “ghetto-ization” of Jews was another means to rid communities of these unwanted Jews.
This was – and continues to be – the nature of right-wing antisemitism: the hatred for the foreigner/ the Other. It continues to exist as people and governments do not internalized that their Jewish neighbors are indeed, their neighbors, and entitled to every protection and rights of citizenship like everyone else.
Left-wing antisemitism is a newer phenomenon. As part of the liberal camp, the alt-left began with a broad humanistic view of the world. People of all races and religions were welcomed and embraced. Humankind bound all of us together. It was a world vision encapsulated in John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” in which divisions and borders – literal and figurative – ceased to exist. The common collective would live in global harmony.
Such a vision would naturally lead one to conclude that antisemitism is antithetical to such construct. A “brotherhood of man” cannot hate anyone. But time has proven the premise untrue.
The far left-wing of the liberal camp believes that everyone must adhere to their philosophy. ALL national borders, ALL religions, ALL differences based on money or class must be eradicated. Society must be re-imagined and flattened. Man-made artificial differences must be stripped away, so we can embrace our God-given differences such as race and gender. The far left has a quest and insistence on an imagined universal natural order and the shunning of any particular human order.
And so begets left-wing antisemitism.
- While right-wing anti-Semites hate Jews for not believing in Jesus, the left-wing anti-Semites hate Jews for believing in religion.
- While right-wing anti-Semites will pass laws banning circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals to get rid of Jews, the left-wing will implement the same policies out of secular, humanistic concerns.
- While right-wing anti-Semites don’t want Jews to live in their country, the left-wing anti-Semites don’t want Jews to have a country (Israel).
- While right-wing anti-Semites will actively murder Jews, the left-wing anti-Semites refuse to protect Jews (read article about how left-wing gay activists fight against providing police protection for Jewish day schools).
The alt-left dislikes Jews for holding on to their particular identity and hates Zionists for holding on to their particular history and heritage. Only a Jew that embraces the universal and sheds the particular (like non-Orthodox Jewish liberals) have a place in their left-wing fringe world.
The Silent Majority?
Today, Jews are caught between two growing and angry mobs on the extremes. They know the history of what the right-wing will do if it obtains power, and are intelligent enough to see the how the left-wing will strip their identities completely.
When liberals attacked President Trump for saying that there were good people on both sides of the Charlottesville, VA neo-Nazi march and protest in August 2017, they were correct in remonstrating him that there is no good in people who shout “Jews will not replace us.” But the alt-left was wrong in thinking that using violence as appropriate. Jews seek a peaceful place to pursue life, liberty and happiness. They do not want any violence and will not embrace the vision of either the alt-right or alt-left. One side vilifying the other wins no Jewish converts; Jews are wary of both extremist sides.
How can people reverse the trend and bring people back to the silent – and peaceful – middle? What can stop the Democratic Party from being hijacked by liberals who are becoming more and more extremist? How can the Republican Party – already shrinking – stop from sliding to the alt-right?
There are a number of ideas which have bandied about beyond the scope of this article, which include changing the electoral primary system which tends to feed the extremist base, to firmly establishing and protecting laws to protect individual liberties.
In the day-to-day, it is challenging to live as an open and proud Jew and Zionist in much of the world, for fear of being attacked by both the far-right and the far-left. For people who care about antisemitism, fight the extremists on BOTH sides. Never vote for fringe candidates and do not give them forums.
And do not follow the footsteps of either the alt-left or alt-right: Respect every particular and shun the enforced universal.
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