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Why Is Anti-Semitism So Easy to Forgive?

Anti-Semitism appears to be the one bigotry immune to cancellation.
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July 13, 2020
People participate in a Jewish solidarity march on January 5, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

The guardrails on anti-Semitism seem to have fallen off. This has been an unforgettable week for Jew-hatred — and even Jewish self-hatred.

And those who spoke ill-advisably had perfect alibis. The indignation of Black people is now acceptably overdue. Meanwhile, Jewish Americans are undergoing a severe case of uber white privilege. A tipping point of feverish anti-Semitism has arrived — just in time for summer.

DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles took to Instagram to quote Adolf Hitler, although Hitler never actually said what was attributed to him. He then quoted one of Louis Farrakhan’s, the leader of the Nation of Islam, rants against Jews. Separately, his teammate, Malik Jackson (no relation), posted that DeSean Jackson was “speaking the truth” and called Farrakhan “honorable.”

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson (no relation) similarly used Instagram to declare that DeSean Jackson was “speaking the truth” and that the Rothschild family “owns all the banks.” Later on, he appeared on a livestream with Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe in which he withdrew some of his comments, although he refused to disavow Farrakhan.

Actor Nick Cannon was revealed to have unleashed a doozy of anti-Semitic invective in a 2019 episode on his YouTube talk show in which he perpetuated the myth of a global conspiracy comprised of Zionists and Rothschilds. And, of course, he praised Farrakhan.

Rapper Ice Cube tweeted an image of six Jewish men playing a game of Monopoly on the backs of Black men. The board was covered with money.

Not to be outdone, at least one Jew felt compelled to weigh in. Comedian and actor Chelsea Handler posted video of Farrakhan on her Instagram, commenting that she benefited from his words. Farrakhan actually thanked Handler in a later speech, then demonized “Satanic Jews,” eulogized Hitler and blamed the Cuban Jews of Florida for the coronavirus.

Handler defended herself by stating that Hitler and Farrakhan were distinguishable: Hitler, after all, actually killed Jews; Farrakhan only wants to. She finally said that if anyone has a problem with the post (a group that would include Holocaust survivors), they can “f**k off.”

Nice.

Each of these anti-Semitic offenders, except for Cannon, responded to the social media backlash they received, apologizing in the fashion of the times by deleting their posts. DeSean Jackson clarified that his earlier post was “Taken in the wrong way.”

In what other way can admiring Farrakhan be taken? However, Jackson did agree to visit Auschwitz, accompanied by a Holocaust survivor.

Anti-Semitism appears to be the one bigotry immune to cancellation.

We are living in a new “woke world,” where anti-Semitism is causally treated either as a joke or as wholly deserved. Intersectional overseers have determined Jews are disqualified from receiving the same protections as other minorities. Despite their paltry numbers and dreary history, Jews have, in fact, been stripped of minority status.

Consider this: What would happen if a rabblerousing rabbi from Fairfax or Williamsburg, N.Y., used racist language in a sermon about Black people? And if later, he stumbled upon words of bigotry Handler found enlightening? Would she have posted video of the rabbi? Would actress Jessica Chastain, who followed Handler’s lead with Farrakhan, have done the same? Would celebrity friends Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner and Michelle Pfeiffer “liked” their posts?

I know this for sure: Nearly every Jew would repudiate the rabbi’s words — but that wouldn’t have insulated them from being held collectively responsible for those words at their inception.

And why is Farrakhan, 87, still relevant in an era defined by its oversensitivity to prejudice — unless anti-Semitism no longer counts as prejudice? The Anti-Defamation League published a dirty laundry-list of Farrakhan’s finest anti-Semitic moments over 30 years: Jews are “termites” who worship in a “Synagogue of Satan”; are “responsible for all of Hollywood’s filth and degenerate behavior”; once “owned a lot of plantations”; are “master deceivers” who “control banks and the media”; and are the “enemies of Jesus” with “no connection to the Holy Land.”

This is the same man who holds women and gays in similar contempt. Why, then, would one of the organizers of the Women’s March, a Black woman, refuse to condemn him?

The number of Farrakhan apologists is long and disturbing. He has become a nasty habit some Black people can’t seem to quit, with an increasingly creepy influence despite the fact that a very small percentage of Black Americans identify themselves as Muslim, compared with the majority, who are Christian.

Why is this guy still hanging around? He’s not just some crazy old uncle in an upstairs attic. He is a bigot with a national pulpit. Why is he excused in ways even actor-director Mel Gibson is not?

Civil society is deteriorating. Racial justice should be primary, but so, too, should the reciprocal obligation of mutual respect.

Anti-Semitism appears to be the one bigotry immune to cancellation.

No other prejudice would be permitted such a long rope of casual acceptance. The stubbornness of anti-Semitic tropes doesn’t account for it. The new sin of whiteness, wealth and privilege no doubt plays a part. It places the burden on Jews to no longer take this ancient prejudice so personally. Centuries of murderous anti-Semitism is expected to be forgotten, collapsed into a faraway footnote.

We are left with a political correctness that allows anti-Semitism to have become mainstream. The world’s oldest prejudice is now, bizarrely, a social nicety.

In 2019, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) recited a litany of anti-Semitic canards and slurs that, apparently, did not warrant a congressional rebuke. In the same year, however, Congress sanctioned Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for his racist remarks.

On some university campuses, the Holocaust is trivialized as mere “white-on-white crime,” unworthy of academic study. Black Lives Matter, which most American Jews support for noble reasons, continues to carry a torch for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and spouts blood libels against the Israel Defense Forces.

Racism and anti-Semitism are operating on different levels of social respectability. From a charge of racism, there is no redemption. Anti-Semitism, however, now is a hatred without limits. Almost no Jew-hatred is beyond the pale.


Thane Rosenbaum, a novelist, essayist and law professor, is the author of the post-Holocaust trilogy “The Golems of Gotham,” “Second Hand Smoke” and “Elijah Visible.” His most recent book is “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”

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