The most pro-Jewish speech Germans have heard in a while


I was invited to speak at the “Women’s March” (#FrauenMarsch) that took place on June 9, 2018 in Berlin, a march that is nothing like the anti-Trump “women’s march” in the US. This one speaks out forcefully against Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policies ever since attacks against women by Muslim migrants have made many German women feel vulnerable and unsafe. The March took on more urgent overtones with the recent rape and murder of a German-Jewish 14-year-old, #Susanna Feldmann (of blessed memory), at the hands of an Iraqi “refugee” with a criminal record.

Despite some warnings that “neo-Nazis” attend the march (which I discussed with the organizer, a Kurdish convert to Christianity, Leyla Bilge, who naturally rejects such people), I decided to stick to my guns. I’m too familiar with such smears, especially against healthy German nationalism (which doesn’t equate with Nazism just because it has the word “nationalism” in it). The people who I knew to be involved couldn’t despise Hitler more, and they have much sympathy for the Jewish people and Israel, especially in its struggles against Islam. Besides, I don’t believe in backing out of an accepted invitation, as too many people often do to Israel (like Natalie Portman), which then serves to play into the hands of bad people.

So I think what happened is this: I gave what may be the  most pro-Jewish speech that Germany has ever heard on its streets in recent times. I addressed all the haters whereever they may be. You can tell from the crowd’s reaction how much they appreciated my words, how far they are from the libels and smears. Many Germans were in tears by the time I was done. The speech has been published in German in Die Achse Des Guten.

Unfortunately, there are no subtitles on the speech, but you can follow with the English translation below the video.

 

I really wanted to give my speech in German. I wanted to tell you Germans: we are connected.

My friends laugh at me: the language that murdered 6 million Jews, including my grandparents’ families. Yes, that was a terrible part of your history, but I think we can get through this period. But we have to do it together. Jews and Germans. Israelis and Germans.

I was warned: there are antisemites at the Women’s March! “Neo-Nazis!” You’re using me as a Jewish Israeli woman to help you improve your image. So, let me say to every antisemite here: Stay here, listen to my speech until the end. And to the others: use me!

I was fortunate. Leyla didn’t tell me what I could or couldn’t say. She believes in freedom, especially freedom of speech and expression. It’s a pillar of a free society.

Maybe there are some people here who hate Jews, especially those in the counter-demonstration. What should we do? Build a fence? A poster that says: “No antisemites here”? That’s not a bad idea. Okay?

If it’s so important to prevent Jew-haters here, why did Chancellor Merkel accept so many anti-Semites into this country? Where was the fence at the border? Why didn’t the police check who was antisemitic and who wasn’t? Maybe it’s not so important for this government to prevent Jew-hatred. It just says so.

And now I’m here, in Berlin, in Germany, and I’m afraid because I’m Jewish. Because I’m a woman. Because I’m a critic of Islam.

Recent surveys show that most “refugees” bring with them Jew-hatred from their violent Islamic dictatorships. But when you say what I say, you’re a “Nazi”! Speaks against Islamic hatred of Israel and against the attacks on women and you are a “racist”! In what world do we live in?

If in Germany today friends of Israel and critics of Islam are called “Nazis”, then Germany has not learned anything important from its history.

I have an important message for Germany: Muslims are not Jews. Judaism is not Islam. They are opposites!

Judaism is in its essence a religion of freedom! Freedom from slavery. Judaism is the true religion of peace, not Islam. Judaism, just like women, have significantly shaped our civilized society. That is why Israel is a free country for Jews, non-Jews, and women.

Islam is a religion of submission, of religious tyranny. Therefore, there is no freedom, especially for Jews, non-Muslims, and women, in Arab Islamic countries. No wonder Hitler sympathized with Islam, and vice versa.

Today, we have the same problem. You and I. Israel and Germany. We’re very afraid of what other people say and think about us.

We are afraid to pronounce the word “Islam” and fight our enemies. We’re afraid people will call us “Nazis” and “racists.” We allowed this religion to divide us.

Our society in Israel was also once broken. The Oslo Accords and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 cut us in half. But too many Islamic terror victims have united us again. How many more attacks on women and victims of terrorism will it take for this country to reunite?

So, we need each other. We, the brave women and men. The women and men with no fear. The women and men who swim against the stream. The women and men who would have fought against the Nazis eighty years ago because we love freedom!

Back then, Germany destroyed itself by crossing the borders. Today, Germany is destroying itself by allowing undemocratic, antisemitic and anti-feminist people to cross over its border.

I’m here to tell you–me, a granddaughter of holocaust survivors– that you should take care of your beautiful country. It is not racist to protect your families, especially your women and girls, from harm.

Although Israel seems strong, my country and my people still have to fight for our lives. Maybe I’m a little jealous. Many don’t know how good they have it here while our suffering doesn’t end. It could be a paradise for women and Jews…

And I must ask you to help us. We need you Germans to protect us against antisemitism and Islamic violence, which today expresses itself as hatred of Israel.

I am not so religious, but I believe in this statement: Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed, whoever curses Israel will be cursed. And let me add: Whoever blesses women will be blessed, whoever curses women will be cursed.

Germany has a choice again. The blessing or the curse. Will Germany stand with Jews, women and a free Israel? Or with Islam, which oppresses Jews and women. Which one will it choose?

Please, don’t fail me. But most of all, don’t fail yourselves. Not again.

This is your brain on Trump


Locals react as President Donald Trump arrives at a rally in Huntington, West Va., on Aug. 3. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Do you ever find yourself wondering what the story is with those thrilled faces behind Donald Trump at his rallies?

Unlike us, they’re not spies in a house of horrors.

That sea of Make America Great Again hats doesn’t give them the creeps. When Trump cues them, as he did in Phoenix on Aug. 22, to jeer John McCain, no ambivalence about belittling a war hero battling brain cancer tempers their contempt. When Trump whines and whinges about the coverage his Charlottesville rant got, they realize, and don’t care, that he’s rewriting what he said — they heard him confer moral equivalence on neo-Nazis and anti-Nazis. But his act entertains them, and their complicity in his edits adds a perverse pleasure to the press hatred he rouses in them.

Who are these people?

They can’t all be the 9% of Americans who believe that holding white supremacist or neo-Nazi views is acceptable.

But there’s a decent chance they’re among the 62 percent of Trump voters who think millions of illegal votes won Hillary Clinton the popular vote; the 54 percent of his voters who say the most oppressed religious group in America is Christian; the 52 percent who believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya; the 46 percent who believe Clinton ran a satanic child-sex ring in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor; the 45 percent who say the racial group facing the most discrimination in America is white people; and the 40 percent whose main source of news is Fox News.

I get that Trump’s base feels marginalized, left behind by a minimum-wage economy, powerless to control their futures, dissed by urban elites. I know why they’re fed up with partisan gridlock (I am, too); I see why they’d favor a business brand over a political name as president. They’re disgusted by the corruption in Washington (ditto); no wonder they’re drawn to a bull who’d break some china and a bully who’d break some heads.

But after seven months of lying, sleaziness, impulsiveness, laziness, vengeance, arrogance, ineptness, ignorance, nepotism, self-love and Putin love, how can 3 out of 4 Republican voters still be sticking with him? How come those faces I see on TV don’t see the nightmare I see? (I don’t mean that bizarre “Blacks for Trump” guy; I mean the rest of them.)

That’s what I’m wrestling with. Here’s what I got:

It’s not because they’re stupid. It’s because they’re human. It’s not because they’re so different from me. It’s because they’re so much like me.

But here’s what makes that hard to swallow: I can’t muster the humility to believe we’re both wrong, and I can’t summon the relativism to believe we’re both right. But believing that I’m right and they’re wrong, as I do, gets me laughably crosswise with everything I know about human cognition.

Homo sapiens have refined a method of study and understanding — science — that’s reaped powerful knowledge about the world. But the more we’ve used science to study ourselves, to probe the neurobiology of how we think and what we feel, the more inescapable it’s become that “rational” is too flattering a term to describe what makes humans tick, even when we’re at our best.

It’s not pretty to admit, but no matter how practiced we are at critical thinking, how hip we are to the social construction of reality, how savvy we are about manipulation and framing, we still conflate what we want to be true with what actually is true. Our minds unconsciously invent retroactive rationales — we reverse-engineer justifications — for what our bodies already have made us think, say and do. What we call reason turns out to be a byproduct of our addiction to feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Human cognition is a captive of confirmation bias: We seek out and believe information that reinforces what people like us already believe. Confronted by evidence that contradicts what we think, we double down; confronted by chance, we confect necessity. Instead of changing our minds, we tell ourselves stories and cling fast to our tribal identities. A universe that’s run by luck is terrifying, but a good narrative imposes causality on randomness, finds patterns in chaos and purpose in lives. Our hunger for knowledge isn’t as strong as our yearning to belong, to defeat fear and loneliness with affiliation and family. We may call the baskets into which we sort facts “true” and “false,” but at bottom they’re euphemisms for “us” and “other.”

And yet my awareness of the limitations of logic, my appreciation for the ways human hardwiring privileges feelings over facts — they don’t inoculate me from maintaining that Trump is objectively unfit for office. I can’t let neuroscience discount my claim to truth-value: I don’t think calling Trump a liar illustrates confirmation bias at work. The reason the people I see at Trump rallies on my TV screen believe the psychopath at the podium is telling the truth may well be their membership in Tribe Trump. That explanation may nudge my empathy for them upward, but it doesn’t dampen my conviction that I’m right and they’re wrong, and it doesn’t make their belief in the falsehoods he spews any less scary.

Science may be humbling, but humility doesn’t make me feel like a dope when I call out dopiness when I see it.


MARTY KAPLAN is the Norman Lear professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Why some Jews still support Trump


Illustration by Steve Greenberg

Watching President Donald Trump equivocate during his criticism of the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., many liberal Jews saw a new low for an administration they felt never occupied high moral ground in the first place.

But many of Trump’s most ardent Jewish supporters had an entirely different reaction, responding to his freewheeling commentary with little more than a shrug, as if to say, “What’s the big deal?” To them, criticizing Trump for a lack of moral clarity because he failed to single out neo-Nazis for condemnation was just another example of the liberal media and the Democratic establishment blowing his comments out of proportion.

“People were getting upset with him because he didn’t specifically say he hated Nazis,” said Warren Scheinin, a retired engineer in Redondo Beach. “He also didn’t mention that the sun rises in the east.”

For right-leaning Jews in the Southland like Scheinin, who have stood by the president so far, the media rather than Trump or even neo-Nazis pose the greatest threat to American democracy. To many Trump supporters, if Charlottesville mattered at all, it mattered far less than his promises to reverse the course of the previous administration at home and abroad, especially on difficult issues involving Israel, North Korea and immigration.

While it’s difficult to estimate the percentage of Jews who still support the president, it’s likely small. More than two-thirds didn’t vote for him in the 2016 election.

Among all Americans who cast ballots for Trump, however, many apparently continue to stand by him. A CBS News poll found that 67 percent of Republicans approved of his response to the violence in Charlottesville.

In a separate poll this month by Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., 41 percent of those surveyed expressed approval for the president. Of those, 61 percent said nothing he could do or fail to do would cause them to change their minds about him.

Steven Windmueller, a professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles who researches Jewish political sentiment, said it is difficult to measure how many Jews continue to enthusiastically support Trump rather than merely accept his leadership.

“For those who are in bed and comfortable with him, and even with his quirks and his inconsistencies, there’s little that will push them away from him,” Windmueller said. “But for those who are troubled by at least some of his statements and actions, I think they’re simply hoping for some way out of this nightmare.”

Windmueller pointed to a “credibility gap” between those who put their faith in Trump and those who trust mainstream media outlets.

“Whatever he said, the media would twist it,” said Alexandra Joans, 66, a property manager in Tarzana who supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican primaries but shifted her support to Trump once he became the nominee. “If he said today was Friday, they would say, ‘You’re a damned liar, you should be impeached.’ ”

President Donald Trump answers questions about his response to the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

Benjamin Nissanoff, 45, the founder of a line of body-care products who lives in West Los Angeles, said the media are quick to label Trump a Jew hater, but they didn’t criticize President Barack Obama when, in an interview with Vox, he did not denounce a 2015 attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris as anti-Semitic. (In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Obama said: “Anti-Semitic attacks like the recent terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris pose a threat that extends beyond the Jewish community.” However, he did not refer to anti-Semitism in the Vox interview.) 

“The media not only didn’t challenge [Obama] on it, they defended him against it,” Nisanoff said. “To me, that is almost an equivalent, analogous situation. Where this president, in my opinion, made a gaffe and — instead of defending him like they did for Obama — they went on offense and they attacked him for a poorly worded and phrased condemnation.”

For some Jewish voices that have defended Trump in the past or stayed silent while others attacked, the president’s comments on Charlottesville seemed to cross a line. But that put them out of lockstep with his base among conservative Jews.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who delivered the invocation at Trump’s inauguration ceremony in January, said he wished that Trump had been a more effective communicator at a time of crisis.

“If he was concerned there not be any violence at the demonstrations, he could have said, ‘I appeal to all Americans to obey the police and not violate any of the rules,’ ” Hier said. “But instead, he seemed to draw a moral equivalency between perpetrators and victims.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which praised the president when he appointed a diplomatic amateur, David Friedman, as ambassador to Israel, and withheld criticism when he failed to mention Jews in an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, spoke out against his Charlottesville comments.

“People were getting upset with him because he didn’t specifically say he hated Nazis. He also didn’t mention that the sun rises in the east.”

Responding to Trump’s assertion that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville protests, the group’s national chairman, Norm Coleman, a former U.S. senator from Minnesota, and Matt Brooks, its executive director, contradicted him in an Aug. 16 statement, saying, “There are no good Nazis and no good members of the [Ku Klux] Klan.

“We join with our political and religious brethren in calling upon President Trump to provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism,” they wrote.

But other Jewish Republicans saw nothing objectionable in the president’s comments, only the backlash that ensued. After the California Jewish Legislative Caucus, a group of 16 lawmakers in Sacramento, rebuked Trump for his comments, the only Republican member, State Sen. Jeff Stone of Riverside County, resigned from the caucus.

In an Aug. 17 statement, the caucus said Trump “gives voice to organizations steeped in an ideology of bigotry, hate and violence.” Stone fired back hours later with a statement of his own, saying the caucus “receives state resources to merely criticize our duly elected President.”

Carol Greenwald of Maryland, co-founder of the grassroots group Jews Choose Trump, who supported him throughout the 2016 campaign, dismissed the criticism from organizations like the RJC.

“They’re a bunch of hypocrites,” she said. “They didn’t support Trump for a minute during the campaign.”

She sees the fallout from Trump’s Charlottesville remarks as part of a crusade by the media aimed at damaging the president.

“They ran out of the Russian collusion [story], that Trump is a traitor, because there’s obviously no evidence for it, and so they’re now trying to destroy his presidency by saying Trump’s a racist,” she said.

Scheinin also believes Democrats are running with the Charlottesville story to damage Trump.

“The only reason he’s being harassed about it is because the left loves to harass the president,” he said.

Counterdemonstrators attack a white supremacist during a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

 

The former Northrop Grumman engineer agreed with the president that both sides in Charlottesville were to blame for the violence.

“I don’t know why people are making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said of the media coverage. “If the counterprotesters hadn’t showed up, nobody would have been killed. It would have blown over.”

Like Joans, Greenwald and others interviewed for this story, Scheinin said he sees far-left groups such as antifa, known for its use of violence to intimidate conservative speakers and protesters, and Black Lives Matter, which has equated Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with genocide, as more of a threat to democracy and Jewish life in America than the far right.

“The skinheads don’t really bother me,” Joans said. “They’re useless to me. I worry about the left more because they’re the true fascists.”

For Trump stalwarts, the perception that violence and hatred are rampant on the left makes it easier to sympathize with the president’s suggestion that both sides of the Charlottesville rallies should be targeted for condemnation.

Estella Sneider

Estella Sneider, a celebrity psychologist who campaigned for Trump and appeared frequently on television to support him, disputed allegations that Trump is a racist or a xenophobe, pointing to his Orthodox Jewish daughter and son-in-law, foreign-born wife and Blacks he appointed to positions in his administration, such as White House communications aide Omarosa Manigault. “Why are people not seeing this?” Sneider said.

Sneider’s family on her father’s side was almost entirely annihilated by the Holocaust. She said she was nauseated by the Nazi symbols and chants at the torchlight march in Charlottesville. After watching Trump’s remarks, however, she was satisfied that he had unequivocally condemned the white supremacists.

“It would be unfair to lump every single Trump supporter into being white supremacists and white nationalists and neo-Nazis, in the same way it would be unfair to lump all liberal Democrats into being antifa,” she said. “Trump was right in saying that not everybody there was a neo-Nazi.”

Nissanoff, the son of a Holocaust survivor, said he was offended by comparisons between Charlottesville protestors who chanted “Jews will not replace us” and Nazis.

“The word ‘Nazi’ is such a powerful idea that to dilute it and start to equivocate with a bunch of losers who run around with tiki torches I think diminishes what a Nazi and Nazism really was,” he said.

In Los Angeles, members of the Israeli community continue to provide a source of Jewish support for Trump.

Ari Bussel, 51, who runs a liquor distributorship in Beverly Hills, was born in the United States but spent his childhood in Israel. He described himself as a proud Republican and said he felt Trump has not been given a chance to lead the country. He said Trump has been “vilified as the greatest Satan, the actual fulfillment of imaginary fears and baseless accusations.”

“As for the latest accusations,” Bussel added, “whatever the president would have said would not have satisfied some people and the American-Jewish leadership — exactly those who vocally and fiercely fought against his being elected.”

For Adi Levin, 47, a homemaker in Woodland Hills who emigrated from Israel in 2000, Trump’s support for Israel is more important than his record on race relations. She said the coverage of Charlottesville has been biased against the president.

“They like to criticize Trump and will continue doing so no matter what he’ll say or do,” she said. “I never heard them criticize Obama the same way, even though he never criticized or said anything about Muslim extremists.”

However, Levin said she wishes Trump would pick his words more carefully.

Cheston Mizel

“It’s obvious that the media doesn’t like him,” she said, “but I don’t think it will hurt to try and be more politically correct.”

The Orthodox community has been another source of pro-Trump sentiment in Los Angeles and beyond. For some of his observant supporters, Trump’s record on religious liberties and Israel far outweigh his handling of race relations.

Cheston Mizel, president of Mizel Financial Holdings and a congregant of Pico Shul, an Orthodox synagogue in Pico-Robertson, said the attention to Charlottesville and to other presidential controversies has distracted from Trump’s successes, including appointing the pro-Israel Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and nominating Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“While there are obviously things that are problematic about this presidency, Nikki Haley and Neil Gorsuch are two clear bright spots,” he said.

Rabbi Shimon Kraft, 58, owns the Mitzvah Store on Beverly Boulevard and goes to synagogue nearby at Congregation Kehilas Yaakov. He grew up in a liberal Democratic family in Kansas City, Mo., but in the 1980s, after meeting Ronald Reagan at a Kansas City Jewish country club where he was a lifeguard, he changed his party affiliation to Republican.

Rabbi Shimon Kraft

Although he originally supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries, once Trump made it to the general election, Kraft’s choice was clear, he said: He voted to make America great again.

Asked whether he feels Trump has adequately denounced white supremacists, Kraft pulled out his iPhone and played a YouTube video of clips edited together to show Trump repeatedly denouncing white supremacist David Duke in various interviews with reporters.

“It was sufficient,” Kraft said of Trump’s response to Charlottesville. “Those who hate Trump could not accept his condemnation of the violent left.”

Ayala Or-El contributed to this article.

Antifa, Nazism and the opportunistic politics that divide us


White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Americans are more united than ever on issues of race and free speech.

So why the hell are we so divided?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist terror attack on anti-white supremacist protesters, the vast majority of Americans agreed on the following propositions: white supremacism is evil; neo-Nazism is evil; violence against peaceful protesters is evil, whether from left to right or vice versa.

Yet here we are, two weeks after the event, and the heat has not cooled.

That’s not thanks to serious disagreements among Americans. It’s thanks to political opportunism on all sides.

It’s easy to blame President Donald Trump for that reaction; his response to the Charlottesville attack was indeed deeply disturbing. It was disturbing for the president to initially blame “both sides” for the event, as though those counterprotesting white supremacism were moral equals of those protesting in its favor. It was more disturbing for the president to say there were “very fine people” at the neo-Nazi tiki torch march, and to add that he had no idea what the “alt-right” was.

Trump’s bizarre, horrifying response to the Charlottesville attacks would have justified criticism of him. I’ve been personally pointing out the president’s stubborn and unjustifiable unwillingness to condemn the alt-right for well over a year (I was the alt-right’s top journalistic target in 2016 on Twitter, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Such critiques would have been useful and welcome.

Instead, the mainstream left has politicized the situation through two particular strategies: first, labeling conservatives more broadly as neo-Nazi sympathizers; second, justifying violence from communist/anarchist antifa members.

The first strategy is old hat by now on the left. On college campuses, conservatives are regularly labeled beneficiaries of “white privilege” who merely seek to uphold their supremacy; anodyne political candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been hit with charges of racism from the left. Democrats routinely dog Republicans with the myth of the “Southern switch” — the notion that the Republicans and Democrats changed positions on civil rights after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to Republicans winning the South. (For the record, that theory is eminently untrue, and has been repeatedly debunked by election analysts ranging from Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics to Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.)

But that false conflation found a new outlet for the left in support for antifa (anti-fascism). Antifa is a violent group that has attacked protesters in Sacramento, Berkeley, Dallas, Boston and Charlottesville; it’s dedicated to the proposition that those it labels fascists must be fought physically. It’s not anti-fascist so much as anti-right-wing — it shut down a parade in Portland last year because Republican Party members were scheduled to march in that parade. Antifa’s violence in Boston two weeks after Charlottesville wasn’t directed at Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, but at police officers and normal free-speech advocates.

Yet many on the left have justified their behavior as a necessary counter to the white supremacists and alt-righters. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) justified the violence by appealing to the evils of the neo-Nazis. Professor N.D.B. Connolly of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that the time for nonviolence had ended — that it was time to “throw rocks.” Dartmouth University historian Mark Bray defended antifa by stating that the group makes an “ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late.”

This is appalling stuff unless the Nazis are actually getting violent. Words aren’t violence. A free society relies on that distinction to function properly — as Max Weber stated, the purpose of civilization is to hand over the role of protection of rights to a state that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Breaking that pact destroys the social fabric.

Now, most liberals — as opposed to leftists — don’t support antifa. Even Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced antifa’s tactics in Berkeley, for example. But in response to some on the left’s defense of antifa and their attempt to broaden the Nazi label to include large swaths of conservatives, too many people on the right have fallen into the trap of defending bad behavior of its own. Instead of disassociating clearly and universally from President Trump’s comments, the right has glommed onto the grain of truth embedded in them —  that antifa is violent — in order to shrug at the whole.

The result of all of this: the unanimity that existed regarding racism and violence has been shattered. And all so that political figures can make hay by castigating large groups of people who hate Nazism and violence.

Let’s restore the unanimity. Nazism is bad and unjustifiable. Violence against those who are not acting violently is bad and unjustifiable. That’s not whataboutism. That’s truth.

If we can’t agree on those basic principles, we’re not going to be able to share a country.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

What’s a bigger threat to Jews, left or right?


White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Who’s worse, the fanatics who want to kill us now or the extremists who want to kill us later? That was the question Jews locked onto this week, like two dogs playing tug of war with a sock. It’s entertaining until one of them loses a tooth.

The fight began after President Donald Trump equivocated in his condemnation of neo-Nazis and placed the blame for the violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., on both the alt-right and the people who came to protest them.

Trump’s insistence that there was blame on “many sides” and there were “good people on both sides” drew justifiable denunciation from a broad swath of the Jewish world. The nonpartisan Anti-Defamation League (yes, it’s nonpartisan), of course, condemned the president’s remarks. But so did Haskel Lookstein, the Orthodox rabbi who officiated at Ivanka Trump’s conversion, as well as the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

If there’s one thing most Jews can still manage to agree on, it’s that Nazis are bad.

But then came social media, and that’s where the fights broke out.

Yes, what Trump did was terrible, but the real danger to American Jews is the left, some people argued. It’s the antifa people, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and Black Lives Matter with its anti-Zionist platform who intimidate Jewish students on college campuses, shut down free speech for pro-Israel speakers, and in the case of BDS, work toward a world where Israel and the Palestinians can bloody each other in a Lebanon-circa-1982-style civil war. At this year’s Chicago SlutWalk, the leftist organizers refused to let Jews march under a banner showing the Star of David, a Jewish symbol that long predates the State of Israel. 

Yeah, the leftists shot back, but what about … Nazis? It’s the alt-right members who carry guns, threaten synagogues as they did in Charlottesville, chant “Jews will not replace us,” and far and away commit more violent attacks. To paraphrase Sally Field, they hate us, they really hate us.

This is how the arguments play out on Facebook, Instagram and, occasionally, as they say on Twitter, IRL — in real life.

Some debaters go straight to history, or at least to something they remember from the History Channel. The left gave us Stalin and Mao. The fascists gave us Hitler. The left aligned with Palestinian terrorists. The right gave us … Hitler.

The right says that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas can’t compare to an international movement like BDS. The left points out that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas is an exact description of the Nazi Party in 1921.

The right claims there’s something called the alt-left that is dangerously anti-Semitic. The left points out that Fox News host Sean Hannity invented the term “alt-left” to stoke fear, whereas a neo-Nazi created the word “alt-right” to rebrand his loathsome movement.

“There is no comparable side on the left to the alt-right,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on MSNBC this week.  “White supremacists amass with …  a nationalist agenda that pushes out minorities based on how you pray, who you love or where you’re from. So, it’s really not comparable.”

I’ve read the platforms of antifa groups online, and they all state they oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. That’s not a claim you find on DailyStormer.com. Having said that, I wouldn’t be shocked one day to find anti-fascists showing up to intimidate marchers at a pro-Israel rally. Leftist politicians in England like Jeremy Corbyn side with terrorists against Israel, and their sickness is infectious.

The bottom line is, after our initial almost-unity in condemning Trump’s remarks, we quickly split on which extreme should concern us more. Astonishingly, the Democrats in the debate tend to “objectively” consider the neo-Nazis a far worse threat, while the Republicans “objectively” conclude that the antifas and BDS-ers are the clear and present danger. People come in with their biases and leave with them intact. No minds are changed in the making of this debate.

Here’s what I think: We need to sleep with one eye open, sometimes the right one, sometimes the left one.

The far right and far left always circle back to meet each other under the same DSM entry for paranoia, conspiracy theories, violence and Jew hatred. The far left disguises anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. The far right disguises nothing: They hate Jews and the “Zios.”

These days, the far right has gotten a big blast of wind in its sails from our president (thanks for that) and the limp response from fellow Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who failed to stand up to him. Not to mention the Jews who serve or sometimes live with Trump. They only make things worse.

But winds shift. That means next time someone tries to convince you that all the danger blows from one direction, remind them that it doesn’t. The Jewish left needs to mind the left, and the Jewish right the right. Let’s work together to fight the fanatics and their enablers wherever, and whoever, they are.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

What you need to know about antifa, the group that fought white supremacists in Charlottesville


Protesters and counterprotesters clashing at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Is it OK to punch a Nazi in the face?

That’s the question animating much of the discussion of Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which quickly devolved into a brawl between rally-goers and a contingent of anti-fascist counterprotesters known as antifa. Following the clashes, a white supremacist rammed his car into the counterprotest, killing Heather Heyer, 32.

Leaders and activists across the spectrum — except President Donald Trump — have unequivocally condemned the racist, anti-Semitic rally. But they are divided on whether physically attacking white supremacists is justified simply because they are white supremacists.

Some have celebrated the antifa activists for standing up to hate. But others have condemned them alongside neo-Nazis for engaging in violence. And on Tuesday, Trump appeared to equate them with the rabble of white supremacists, branding antifa the “alt-left” and saying “there’s blame on both sides.”

Here’s what you need to know about antifa, the loose network that fights fascists on the streets.

Antifa was born from groups that fought the original fascists.

In 1934, Milwaukee police arrested three leftists who infiltrated a pro-Nazi meeting and began scuffling with supporters of Hitler. The leftists were part of a group of several hundred anti-fascists who entered the meeting, broke it up and pelted the keynote speaker with rotten eggs. The melee ended only after 100 police arrived to restore order.

Today’s antifa (an abbreviation of “anti-fascist action”) sees itself as the ideological descendant of activists like these. Anti-fascist brawlers — many of them communists, socialists or anarchists — began organizing in the 1920s and ’30s to oppose the rising dictatorships in Italy, Germany and Spain through demonstrations and street fights. The groups re-emerged in Europe in the ’70s and ’80s to combat white supremacists and skinheads, and the idea migrated to America, where groups were originally known as “Anti-Racist Action.”

While it’s hard to pin down numbers on antifa in the United States, members and experts say the movement has boomed since Trump’s election. Mark Bray, a lecturer on human rights and politics at Dartmouth College, estimates that there are a couple hundred antifa chapters of varying sizes and levels of activity across the country.

“The threat posed by the ‘alt-right’ in the context of empowerment through Trump made a lot of people concerned about fascist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist violence,” said Bray, author of the forthcoming book “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” “They turned to the Antifa model as one option to resist it. The option of physically confronting these groups has spread among the left and been normalized.”

It has no formal organization or leadership structure.

Like the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, antifa has no institutional structure or unified plan of action. Much of its activism comes through informal collaboration around certain cities or regions, and individual members taking initiative. Separate Facebook pages exist, for example, for New York antifa, New York City antifa and Western New York antifa.

Long before antifa gets to physical altercations with the far right, members will attempt to prevent white supremacists from assembling or spreading their message. Bray said some antifa members will pressure white supremacists’ employers to fire them.

Daniel Sieradski, a Jewish antifa member who became involved following the presidential election in November, said he and other activists try to pressure venues to cancel white supremacist events, and only show up to counterprotest once that fails. (Sieradski formerly worked at JTA as the director of digital media.)

“I’ve always identified with the spirit of the movement, which is to challenge racists when they come into your community and try to incite hatred and violence,” Sieradski said. “Every effort is made to prevent the Nazis from showing up in the first place. Once they manage to do so, the demonstrations do not get violent until confrontations are provoked.”

Antifa tends to align with the left — and some members are anti-Zionists.

Because antifa is so loosely constructed, it has no formal ideological agenda beyond opposing fascism. But the movement has roots in left-wing movements like socialism or anarchism. Bray said that members may be part of other left-wing activist groups, like the Occupy movement, and subscribe to ideas popular in progressive circles.

The Torch Network, a group of antifa chapters, includes in its “points of unity” opposition to “all forms of oppression and exploitation.” That includes fighting “against racism, sexism, nativism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people.” The group is also pro-choice. Unlike the Black Lives Matter platform, it does not single out Israel or Zionism.

Bray said that while anti-Zionism is not a focus of antifa, many members tend to be anti-Zionist as part of their far-left activism. Anti-Racist Action groups, he said, had taken part in anti-Zionist events in the past.

Sieradski said, however, that Jews play a significant role in the movement because “we’re fighting Nazis and anti-Semitism is the prime ideological viewpoint of Nazis.”

Antifa has no problem with fighting Nazis …

Antifa has no qualms about scuffling with white supremacists. The group gained publicity in February when it physically fought alt-righters at the University of California, Berkeley, during a speech by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Tussles with the far right have followed at other events.

Sieradski said violence is a “last resort,” but added there is nothing wrong with responding to anti-Semitic or racist rhetoric with a punch. Those who are advocating ethnic cleansing deserve to be beaten up, he said, and showing white supremacists that their rallies will end with them being hurt will deter them from assembling.

“When Nazis are screaming epithets in our faces, should we just smile?” Sieradski asked. “They come into our towns and yell at us and threaten us and say they want to kill us. Should we take that sitting down because fascists deserve free speech, too? When someone is threatening you with an existential threat, you fight back. You don’t stand there and take it.”

Antifa members also reject the notion that the movement instigated the violence in Charlottesville or is as guilty as its white supremacist foes. Spencer Sunshine, who counterprotested at the Charlottesville rally and witnessed the deadly car ramming, said there certainly were fights, but there is no comparing antifa with the far right.

“Any equivalence between antifa and fascists is a complete lie,” he said. “We were not armed the way the fascists were, and certainly did not drive a car into crowds. It was a total Nazi rally.”

… but has been criticized for its violent tactics.

Antifa has garnered its share of liberal critics who say nothing — even neo-Nazism — justifies violence and the suppression of free speech. Critics also say that antifa’s violence draws attention to the far right and allows white supremacists to claim they are acting in self-defense.

“They’re troubling tactically because conservatives use antifa’s violence to justify — or at least distract from — the violence of white supremacists, as Trump did in his press conference,” the liberal Jewish essayist Peter Beinart wrote Wednesday in The Atlantic. “They’re troubling strategically because they allow white supremacists to depict themselves as victims being denied the right to freely assemble. And they’re troubling morally because antifa activists really do infringe upon that right.”

Following Saturday’s rally, Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted “Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke.”

Mark Pitcavage, an ADL senior researcher, said his group cannot condemn one side’s violence and condone the other. He added that the attention Charlottesville gained is also energizing the “alt-right” to hold more rallies.

“I don’t know how you can put together a calculus of violence where some sort of act of violence is unacceptable if one group does it but if another group commits it, that’s acceptable,” he said. “We’d just rather not see violence.”

But Pitcavage added that right-wing violence has been far more destructive than antifa’s, which to his knowledge has not led to any deaths. According to a 25-year study by the Cato Institute, nationalist and right-wing terrorists have killed about 10 times as many people since 1992 as left-wing terrorists, which may or may not include those who identify with antifa.

“That doesn’t mean that the sides are equal, the causes are equal,” he said. “It’s important to realize that their violence does in no way compare in numbers or severity to the far-rightist violence in the United States.”

Our president just asked us to be fair to white supremacists


President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

There was a moment in his “neo-Nazi, neo-Shmazi” news conference where you might have found yourself thinking, maybe President Trump is right.

On the narrow question of who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, a prosecutor might note that punches were thrown by white supremacists and left-wing activists, neo-Nazis and members of the Antifa resistance.

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” is how Trump put it in his news conference Tuesday in New York.

It’s the right answer if this is the question: “Who threw punches in Charlottesville?” But it is the wrong answer to every other question raised by the awful events of the past three days. Such as, “What is expected of an American president when hundreds of people representing a stew of racist and anti-Semitic ideologies gather in a public park in an American city?” And, “What do we expect of the leader of our government when young men in 2017 wave Nazi flags and chant ‘Jews will not replace us’ while one of their number kills a counterprotester using his car as a weapon?”

And one more: “When given the choice between a mob that defends segregation, slavery and the ideology of genocide, and a crowd that stands opposed to these things, which side do you choose?”

Trump stunned his critics not because he was waiting (uncharacteristically, one might add) for all the “facts” to make a statement, as he said at the news conference, but because he ignored the essential fact: Neo-Nazis, Klansman and other far-right ghouls had called for a rally, under the banner of “Unite the Right,” in an attempt to resurrect ideas that the United States had declared — on the battlefield, in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion — morally bankrupt and grotesquely un-American.

And the president of those United States declared that while such people were bad, they were perhaps no worse than those who came to oppose them. In fact, he was careful to point out, “You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.” But if there were “very fine people” who showed up in Charlottesville to “quietly” protest the removal of a Confederate statue, as Trump put it, they knew exactly what they were getting into. You can’t show up at an orgy and say you’re there just for the snacks. As the satirical newspaper The Onion put it in a headline that barely seemed satirical, “Trump Blasts Critics Who Judge Neo-Nazi Groups By Most Extreme Members.”

Trump may occasionally and reluctantly disavow them, but figures on the lunatic fringe appreciated the bone that they had been thrown.

“Really proud of him,” the white supremacist Richard Spencer said in a tweet. “He bucked the narrative of Alt-Right violence, and made a statement that is fair and down to earth.”

“Donald Trump: He Was Fair to White Supremacists” is quite the epitaph.

On Saturday morning, after the torchlight vigil, after the speech by David Duke and the anti-Semitic chants and the killing of a 32-year-old woman, no one outside of the “alt-right” was looking for fairness. They were seeking moral clarity — and they didn’t get it from the White House.

Some very fine people, including some Jews, are not convinced. They think Trump got it about right in noting that “many sides” are responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. They think it was important to point out that there were “vicious, hate-filled extremists,” as one Jewish leader put it, on both sides — that is, the neo-Nazi side and the protesters’ side, the Klan’s side and the anti-fascist side.

It is as if the lesson of Jewish history is moderation in the face of hatred, restraint when confronted by those who would kill us.

In his 2003 book “Nazis in Newark,” the historian Warren Grover recalled how a loose group calling themselves the Minutemen organized in order to crush the pro-Hitler activity proliferating in their backyard.

“Throughout the 1930s, the Minutemen consistently and effectively opposed Nazi activities in Newark and Northern New Jersey,” Grover wrote. “The fighting force included criminals and boxers who used fists, clubs, and baseball bats to counter the Nazi threat. Often just a rumor that the Minutemen had been sighted was enough to deter Newark’s Nazis from holding events.”

Plenty of Jews who remember the Minutemen consider them heroes — and even revere the memory of the gangster Abner “Longy” Zwillman, who aided them. Maybe we live in more rarefied times. Maybe today we’d call the anti-Nazi gangs “thugs” and “terrorists.” Maybe there’s a difference between standing up to neo-Nazis and actual Nazis. And maybe, to our credit, we understand that nonviolent resistance is the most principled and effective response to hatred and intolerance.

But if the Minutemen lacked a certain gentility, two things they didn’t lack: moral clarity and the courage of their convictions.

Trump was asked Tuesday whether white supremacists and their counterprotesters belong “on the same moral plane.”

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” our president said.

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