The Survival Guide for American Jews

No one is standing up for Jews. The allure of the Squad is irresistible to a rainbow coalition where Jews of any stripe or color are unwelcome.
June 22, 2021
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images, modified

Occasionally, this essay is written as a public service announcement for Jews. It’s my way of giving back.

You’re welcome.

Let’s call this one: “The Survival Guide for American Jews—Democrats, that Means You!”

Now is actually a propitious, if not outright urgent, time for a cautionary tale for the tribal, some advice for the timid, and a buyer beware for voters—especially for Jewish Democrats. (This is recommended reading for Jewish Republicans, too, with bipartisan health and sanity benefits—regardless of party affiliation.)

With Jews being beaten in the street, threatened with rape, set aflame, pelted with eggs, cursed at, chased down in cars, their storefronts ransacked, synagogues vandalized, diners hassled, and with trepidations about venturing outside, this is a pulse-taking moment for American Jewry.

The palpitations are, well, palpable.

The beloved Democratic Party, in which over 70% of Jews are registered voters, is gradually forsaking them for other political agendas and, as a sign of the times, more fashionable constituencies. The heartbeat of the party has turned progressive, or democratic socialist, or race-conscious autocratic, or whatever Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Squad say it is.

It’s not clear whether progressives now make up a critical mass of the party. Even if not officially in charge, they sure are making the most noise, generating the tweets, and dominating the news cycle. As partisan outliers, their outsized influence over Democratic messaging cannot be denied. Progressives have captured the left-of-center conversation and stand ready to shove moderates out.

The Party of FDR is now the party of BLM. Those who don’t openly ascribe to the new racial politics live in terror of the tweeting hoard. A sturdy plank of that politics has a decidedly anti-Israel bias, and very little affection for, and room for inclusion of, Jews.

The Party of FDR is now the party of BLM.

Great Britain experienced similar ideological confusions with then Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who appeared alongside Hamas leaders, treating them as heads of state and referring to them as friends. He also never missed an opportunity to characterize an antisemitic slur as a harmless Jewish joke. Eventually, it all proved too much for liberal Jewish lawmakers. Seven defected from the Labour Party and formed their own.

Don’t expect the same reaction from the 25 Jewish members of Congress. In response to the Squad’s antisemite-in-chief, Ilhan Omar’s, recent conflation of the Taliban, Hamas, the United States and Israel into one morally equivalent global menace, fewer than half of the Jewish congresspersons signed a letter requesting that Omar clarify her tweet. They didn’t denounce or condemn her words. They just requested a clarification. The remaining 13, who couldn’t even sign on to that, are still hiding in their offices.

The Jewish spine is now, officially, tapped out.

Omar’s tweets were by no means the first time she traded in antisemitic tropes. She’s quite accomplished at it, always culminating in, “Oops! I did it again.” Until she does it again.

Meanwhile, congressional Democratic leaders refuse to censure her, or remove her from the House Foreign Relations Committee, an assignment wholly inappropriate for an antisemite who openly despises America’s lone democratic ally in the Middle East. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi yet again took no action after Omar’s recent Jew-hating remarks. She was satisfied that Omar clarified her remarks, stating that she had “a point she wanted to make, and she had a right to make that point.”

Why is “clarification” seemingly the only punishment of choice for Democratic politicians? Did her words really need further clarity? She wrote that Israel has committed “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and “unthinkable atrocities.” Along with America, it stands in the same culpable position as genocidal terrorists.

Where’s the ambiguity? The Speaker should know by now that hating Jews is Omar’s jam.

A full-throated declaration of support for Israel and repudiation of Omar’s false and irresponsible mischief with moral relativism was the least that should have been expected. Omar should also have been censured. What makes her antisemitism less odious than Congressman Steve King’s racism, which resulted in a censure resolution and the stripping of all his committee assignments?

Why is a lawmaker who labels a nation with Arab Supreme Court Justices and an Ethiopian Miss Israel an “apartheid state,” given such a plumb foreign policy assignment?

The Squad members know they have “Get Out of Jail Free” cards, making them impervious to charges of antisemitism and anti-Zionism—and not because the police are being defunded. The cards are for them, alone—stacks of them. Blood libels available for repeating, dressed up in the best intersectional finery of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory.

And the Democratic Party won’t dare reprimand them.

Many believe that the recent violence against American Jews was precipitated by the Squad’s antisemitic tweets and the silence that followed from the political class.

The Biden White House wasn’t that much more vocal in support of those beleaguered Jewish communities. More of the same tacit acceptance of bigotry against white people. Is it too soon to consider whether we can make room for a new term of art: Black privilege—immunity from embarrassment and blame? To violate or challenge the privilege is to court accusations of racism and Islamophobia.

There aren’t many places for moderate Democrats to turn. There are no dynamic, intellectually honest and liberal-minded Senators like Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan anymore. The Congressional Black Caucus has also shown little to no support for Israel and the convenient scapegoat that is Jewish America.

There aren’t many places for moderate Democrats to turn.

Jews linked arms with African Americans during the civil rights era. And Jews marched beside the protestors at last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations. All that solidarity brought them little goodwill.

No one is standing up for Jews. The allure of the Squad is irresistible to a rainbow coalition where Jews of any stripe or color are unwelcome.

So cut and run? But where to? Registering as Independents would be very lonely. Might as well call it the Wandering Jews Party. It’s best to have ideological partners. Who will take liberal Jews in? They are no longer “tired” and “poor,” but they may end up as a huddled mass yearning for some political refuge. The Republican Party’s social conservative inclinations are, for many Jews, a dead end. There are Jewish Democrats who would rather die than vote for a Republican.

Let’s hope they don’t have to.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He has written numerous works of fiction and nonfiction and hundreds of essays in major national and global publications. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio and appears on cable TV news programs. His most recent book is entitled “Saving Free Speech . . . from Itself.”

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