A new antisemitic initiative called “The Mapping Project” aligned with the BDS movement in Boston names Jewish organizations, volunteer leaders and professional staff in an interactive map of “Zionist leaders and powerhouse NGOs.”
The group says its goal is to demonstrate that “institutional support for the colonization of Palestine is structurally tied to policing and systemic white supremacy here where we live, and to US imperialist projects in other countries.” It brazenly seeks to dismantle the entire Boston Jewish community. Understandably, Boston area Jewish leaders who have been specifically named on the map are nervous that they could be targets of further acts of hate and even violence.
According to Jeremy Burton of the Boston JCRC, the map was “amplified and praised on Twitter by the nonprofit activist group Massachusetts Peace Action.” In other words, The Mapping Project has already been validated by an important voice on the progressive left.
Without a doubt, The Mapping Project represents a disturbing escalation of antisemitic rhetoric, hate and intimidation coming from the anti-Israel, extreme left. Missing from all the condemnation, expressions of concern, and warnings, however, is a basic understanding of the underlying ideology that fuels left-wing antisemitism.
When the Jewish community counters extreme right-wing antisemitism, we look at the underlying ideology. When the ADL analyzes alt-right antisemitism, for example, the hate-monitoring organization states: “Alt right adherents identify with a range of different ideologies, all of which center on white identity. Many claim to be Identitarians, [who] espouse racism and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of their respective countries.” From this description, we get a clear sense of the ideology that animates this alt-right variant of antisemitism.
When the Jewish community counters extreme Muslim antisemitism, we look at the underlying Islamist ideology. For example, in 2006, Ken Stern, then with the American Jewish Committee, explained the ideological and religious roots of this distinct form of Jew-hatred: “The Koran paints Jews as wretched … Infidels who have merited God’s wrath.” Radical Islamists lift up particular texts and use them to promote a particular political agenda. Here again we get a sense of the roots of this variant of antisemitism. It didn’t come from nowhere.
There is a reason progressive antisemitism is on the march: The ideology at its root has grown by leaps and bounds.
Mainstream Jewish organization don’t speak of right-wing antisemitism or of Muslim antisemitism as if they are devoid of ideological derivatives, yet for some reason they tend to speak of progressive antisemitism as if there’s no animating ideology. There is a reason progressive antisemitism is on the march: The ideology at its root has grown by leaps and bounds.
Woke ideology is the foundation of The Mapping Project, and the consequence is the expansion of anti-Israelism and the rising isolation of Jewish groups on the progressive left. It’s an academic theory turned dogma that holds that oppression is embedded in society’s systems and structures, and that only those with “lived experience” — those whom progressives identify as oppressed — have standing to define it. What makes it an ideology rather than just another point of view is that its adherents condemn and rule out of all other explanations. Woke ideologues do not advance arguments about why the world is the way it is; they assert their theories with absolute certainty and maintain there are no other acceptable explanations.
When woke ideologues define precisely who has power and privilege based on the identity group, they are laying the groundwork for all manner of extreme claims that become harder and harder to counter. In these circumstances, radical anti-Israel groups have an easy time placing their cause into an intersectional hierarchy that defines who has power and who doesn’t. In the progressive matrix, Israel has power; the Palestinians don’t.
Groups like The Mapping Project feel very justified in naming Jewish groups because there’s no need to be nice to oppressors, and groups like Massachusetts Peace Action feel equally justified in amplifying their meanspirited intimidation of Jewish groups, who they see as complicit in white supremacy.
This is what happens when an ideology that insists on who has power and who doesn’t takes hold: Jews are inevitably branded as powerful and deemed complicit in injustice.
Some Jewish groups seem to have a hard time naming the ideological roots of progressive antisemitism for three reasons. They don’t want to offend donors and supporters who may buy into the ideology, they’ve adopted a moderate form of the ideology themselves, or they want to remain an influential voice in progressive circles in order to influence left-wing discourse. But the gig is up. Left-wing dogma, like right-wing dogma and extreme Muslim dogma, just generates more radical forms of dogma. The more the Jewish community embraces it, the more we become complicit in the very ideology that harms us.
It’s time that we discuss the growing threat of progressive antisemitism with intellectual and moral clarity and, in so doing, name the animating ideology. Until we expose the ideological roots, we won’t be truly opposing it.
David Bernstein is founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values (JILV.org) and author of the forthcoming book “Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidLBernstein.