Home Perspectives Opinions Political movements must root out anti-Semitism from within

Political movements must root out anti-Semitism from within

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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and First Lady Melania Trump, centre, visit a memorial for the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting on Oct. 30. (Andrea Hanks/The White House)

Only right-wing Jews can excise anti-Semitism from the right and only left-wing Jews can excise it from the left. Yet even after the mass shooting in Pittsburgh, right-wing Jews continue to blame the left for anti-Semitism, while left-wing Jews continue to blame the right – and both sides imperil our safety.

But this is what happens when a community is relentlessly politicized. We see anti-Semitism oozing, in plain sight, out of that other political tribe, yet we fail to see identical anti-Semitism staring us in the face inside our own political tribe.

As a result, we live in unprecedented, unhealthy and unsafe times. Something is very wrong when we forget that anti-Semitism does not naturally belong on the right anymore than it does on the left. Rather, it fundamentally belongs to those who wish us ill.

So why can’t right-wing Jews attack anti-Semitism on the right with the same vigour as they do for anti-Semitism on the left, and vice versa?

It’s time to put an end to this tragic farce and simply state the obvious: there is anti-Semitism on the right. Pittsburgh shows us that it can be murderous and devastating. And there is anti-Semitism on the left. Gaza-bound flotillas show us the exact same thing.

Yet our politics have so overtaken us that we somehow trick ourselves into wilful ignorance regarding the anti-Semitism thriving in our political movements.

It’s time for a complete 180. We must stop calling out anti-Semitism on the other side of the political divide while ignoring it on our side. It’s cheap politics, and it’s dangerous, too.

So let’s see Jewish conservatives cease their fixation on left-wing anti-Semitism and instead attack the anti-Semitism of their own movement. Stand up to a president who says there are “very fine people on both sides” of Nazism. Call out politicians who pal around with white nationalists. Tell your parties that you won’t tolerate any connection whatsoever with Ezra Levant and his relentless machine of bigotry.

Let’s equally see Jewish liberals shift their focus from the American president, who thrives on their anger anyway. Instead, stand up to the overt Jew-hatred of Jeremy Corbyn. Call out politicians who pal around with Linda Sarsour, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the radical left. Tell your parties that you won’t tolerate any connection whatsoever with those who use antipathy towards Israel as a fig leaf to harm our community.

And mean it.

If there is one thing you can do after Pittsburgh to make our Jewish world safer, it’s to spend your political capital to take on those inside your own parties, movements and politicized communities who are soft on anti-Semitism – and take them on ferociously.

So clean up your own political houses before you attack the house across the street. Summon the courage to confront your own leaders. Demand zero tolerance from your own movements and parties.

And if you really care about containing anti-Semitism and not just scoring another political point for your side, trust the other side’s Jewish activists to take on anti-Semitism on that other side. Indeed, criticizing the other side’s anti-Semitism only enables those anti-Semites to claim that they are being persecuted for their political views, not exposed for their Jew-hatred.

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In this raw, terrifying, post-Pittsburgh moment, we have a solemn duty to turn our political focus sharply, intensely and vociferously inward.

Our political leaders need our feedback on the issue of anti-Semitism, and they need it from partisans they trust. When Jewish partisans fail to demand that their leaders stand up to this garbage, the extremists get more space to conduct their ugly business, and we get less space for our own peace and safety.

So let’s cease pretending that the problem is only in other political movements – since that just sets the stage for the next Pittsburgh – and let’s instead attack the enemy within.

Silence is acquiescence, and this is not a moment for silence.