November 19, 2018

The Politics of Evil

A green two-way street sign pointing to Liberal and Conservative, representing the two dominant political parties and ideologies in national and global politics

We have entered a new era: the politicization of evil. Evil has been weaponized to score political points. Evil is only recognized if the “other side” can be blamed for it. 

Before we even knew what fully happened in Pittsburgh — while the bodies of 11 worshippers were still on the synagogue floor — leftists were blaming the massacre on President Trump. Even more hideously, many were blaming Jews who had voted for Trump. Writer Julia Ioffe took it a step further: moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was the cause. 

But winner of the most despicable quote of all goes to Franklin Foer in The Atlantic: “Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.” 

Ioffe’s and Foer’s remarks prompted this response from Rabbi David Wolpe in Tablet: “How do people think this message will fall on the ears of those who fled from Iran, to be told that they are in fact guilty in the death of Pittsburgh’s Jews? Or — even more shamefully — on the ears of Judah Samet. Mr. Samet, a Holocaust survivor, escaped death by 4 minutes because he was a little late to shul. He is also a strong supporter of Trump. Frank, Julia: Would you stand before this 80-year-old man, not in a tweet or online piece, but face to face, and tell him he is responsible for the death of his friends, the people with whom he prays each Shabbat? Would you bar him from the shul where he almost died, again, at the hands of Jew haters? Really? And that would make us the righteous ones?”

The irony of leftist Jews, many of whom rarely step foot in a synagogue, blaming Trump, whose grandchildren are in Jewish day schools, cannot be overstated. More to the point, when there are terrorist attacks in Israel or Europe, you never hear from leftists — except to blame Israel. When a Pakistani Muslim recently beat an elderly Jewish man in Brooklyn, I didn’t hear a word from leftists. The next day, a young Black man in Crown Heights chased a Jewish man with a stick. Leftists were silent.

“No one is born with hate in his or her heart. You are taught to hate — but you choose to be evil. You also choose to engage in the politics of evil.”

There were 7,000 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. during the Obama era. Did you ever hear from leftists? But because the murderer this time was a white supremacist — because they think they can twist this against President Trump — leftists all of a sudden care about dead Jews. 

There is no question that some on the right have tried to downplay the alt-right. As we see, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are. It only takes one lunatic with a gun to slaughter 11 people. And if you are able to downplay this slaughter, if you are able to push out of your mind the fact that he fired an AR-15 at a 97-year-old woman, then you too are engaging in the politics of evil. 

No one is born evil. No one is born with hate in his or her heart. You are taught to hate — but you choose to be evil. You also choose to engage in the politics of evil. 

Right now, Jews have four sets of enemies: the alt-right, the alt-left, Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and Islamists. With his incessant hate speech against Jews, Farrakhan is actively inciting evil, and Democrats who have been unable to criticize him are engaging in the politics of evil.

Jeremy Corbyn and his followers in the British Labour Party actively engage in the politics of evil. Professors who teach their students to hate Jews and Israel engage in the politics of evil. Reporters and editors who misrepresent what is happening in Israel engage in the politics of evil.

We all need to stop and look at this horror without the buffer of politics. We all need to feel the pain of the nine families whose lives have been tragically upended by hate.

All of Israel is responsible for one another, the Talmud says. But just as important, an attack on Jews has always meant an attack on the Western values of truth, justice and freedom.

That’s what our four enemies have in common: they all hate Western values. Now is the time to unite over those values, not defame them.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.