Of Germs, Race and Newfangled Hatreds

Jew-hatred comes in many sizes, shapes, and colors—a vast cornucopia of contempt. It’s positively dizzying.
July 24, 2023
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images); Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Pick your brand of antisemitism. Go ahead. Nowadays there are plenty of varieties from which to choose. Jew-hatred comes in many sizes, shapes, and colors—a vast cornucopia of contempt. It’s positively dizzying.

If you despise Jews, this must be your heyday.

All the vintage expressions of antisemitism are still available—blood libels and the like, albeit in a form updated to make it more believable to imbeciles. A university professor received a book award for an unintelligible (I dare you to understand a single sentence) treatise (it’s not in any known language, so I hesitate to actually say “book”), in which she charges the Israeli Defense Forces with harvesting the organs of Palestinians, and alleges that Israel has stunted the growth of Palestinian children.

We’ve apparently come a long way from the days of yore when Jewish savagery was confined to kidnapping Christian children and using their blood to make matzo. (I prefer my bread of affliction flavorfully o-negative, in case you’re wondering.)

The moral crime of denial, and its attachments to antisemitism, has never had such a wide reach and easy adaptability. One can deny the Holocaust, Israel’s existence, the ancestral connection between Jews and the Holy Land, the Jewish right to self-determination, Jewish victimhood, the history of Jewish solidarity with African-Americans, and the very presence of antisemitism itself. All casually negated without any affinity for historical truth or common decency.

An underlying ideology doesn’t seem to matter either. Who has time to be particular? Those on the far left and far right agree on almost nothing other than their mutual hatred of Jews. Newfangled tropes, repackaged but easily recognizable, never go out of season.

That’s why a week in which a progressive congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal, can openly call Israel a “racist state,” and a viable presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., can suggest that Jews possess either some racial immunity to COVID-19, or perhaps were involved in engineering the virus so that they are impervious to its effects, is no real shocker.

Jayapal is a member in good standing of the Squad—self-described women of color who seemingly can’t refrain from repeating antisemitic canards and debasing Israel. She surely knew that, nowadays, any charge of racism summons the crushing wave of the cancellation culture. To libel a person as racist is akin to moral banishment. The punishment for Zionists is even worse, given that the endgame is to strip the Jewish state of its legitimacy and sovereignty.

It’s also a convenient way to recast one’s antisemitism as a call for human rights—”My hatred is toward Israel, and not the Jewish people.”—as if such a distinction is possible. The homeland and the people are inseparable—the ties biblical, and umbilical.

Jayapal was availing herself of a privilege—the moral authority of a person of color—to incriminate Israel as a racist state, and render a death sentence. She wasn’t just making an accusation; she was delivering a forgone conclusion. Her later apology did not disavow the finality.

It just so happens there is a new definition of antisemitism, adopted by nearly 40 nations, including the State Department of the United States, in which calling Israel a racist state, denying Jews the right to self-determination, and holding Israel to a standard expected of no other nation, is categorically antisemitic.

Progressives, apparently, prefer the older definition.

As for RFK Jr., he knows that a Palestinian assassinated his father on account of his support for Israel. Bobby Kennedy’s namesake is no antisemite. The son’s problem is that his endorsement of coronavirus falsehoods encapsulates all conspiracy theories, which often share one thing in common: Jews are at the epicenter, whether they involve financial collapses, world wars, 9/11, and, of course, pandemics of any kind.

It’s not just that Kennedy was wrong about a Jewish immunity to COVID. It’s that the mere mention of Jews and communicable diseases unleashed a whirlwind of historical associations, urban legends, rural superstitions, and dangerous stereotypes at a time when far too many Americans are conspiracy-minded, and their minds are already made up.

People will believe almost anything, especially if it involves Jews. “There were no Jews in the World Trade Center on 9/11.” “Jews financed the slave trade.” “Jews are disloyal and dodge military service.” Myth-making has never enjoyed such a robust market or attracted such warped alliances.

Why would feminists and LGBTQ groups march alongside Palestinians who embrace the Muslim Brotherhood, follow Sharia law, and have no compunction beheading women and torching homosexuals?  Women aren’t even permitted to learn to read or drive a car.

These are your chosen political partners?

Meanwhile, in Israel, women wear sleeveless dresses and serve as prime minister and supreme court justices. Homosexuals hold hands at Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade, the only one in the Middle East and the largest one in Asia.

Progressive Democrats are ostensibly advocating for the end of a democratic state and the creation of an oppressive one. It’s either insanity or antisemitism. My bet is on the latter.

So much for soft bigotries of diminished expectations. In a society that regards success as achievable only through racism, American Jews, who overachieved in the 20th century when meritocracy was viewed favorably, today are caught red-handed as putative racists.

Old habits linger, and then materialize anew. The Rothschild family’s diabolical hold on world finance still exists in the minds of many, even though the family is probably on food stamps by now. Those addicted to the scheming chatrooms on the internet attribute to all Jews the malfeasances of Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, and other circumcised scoundrels.

For them, Jews are always at the dashboard in their control over commerce, government, media, and Hollywood. Ironically, with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officers dictating so many decisions these days—from job offers to college admissions to cultural storylines—the presence of Jews in all of these power centers is rapidly diminishing. Soon the overrepresentation of Jews in many industries may become untrue.

Good luck convincing an implacable antisemite, however.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.” 

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.