October 19, 2019

Who’s an anti-Semite?

The Jewish left has been calling conservatives “anti-Semites” — not to mention “fascists” and “racists” — for as long as I have been alive.Yet, outside of the Muslim world, virtually all anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred comes from the left. Of course, to most left-wing (as opposed to liberal) Jews, Israel-hatred is not the same as anti-Semitism. One can even help those who wish to destroy Israel — through supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, for example — and still be honored by Jewish institutions. Two local examples: Ed Asner was just given a lifetime achievement award at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. and Cornel West was invited by the UCLA Department of Jewish Studies to give a keynote address.

But no matter how destructive the left is — not only to Jews and Israel, but to civilized society as demonstrated by the intolerance and violence at our left-wing universities — it’s the right that frightens most American Jews.

Which brings me to an advertisement in the May 12 edition of the Jewish Journal by a Jewish leftist attacking Ann Coulter as an anti-Semite and me for defending her against that charge.

I don’t know what prompted the ad, since none of the allegations against Coulter is recent. The issue is gone and largely forgotten. My best guess is that precisely because there is so much Israel- and Jew-hatred emanating from the left, the man who took out the ad felt it necessary to find a prominent right-wing example of anti-Semitism. And since it is so rare, he revived the Coulter issue.

The irony is that even if Ann Coulter were an anti-Semite, this lone voice would hardly come close to matching the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism coming from the left that permeate Western universities, intellectual life and the media.

But even that irony doesn’t apply, since Ann Coulter is strongly pro-Israel. But, again, neither matters to most Jews on the left, since, as far as these Jews are concerned, being pro-Israel doesn’t make you a friend of the Jews and being anti-Israel doesn’t make you an enemy of the Jews.

Now, to the charges.

During the course of the second Republican presidential debate, Ann Coulter, tweeted: “How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?”

Her explanation was that she was frustrated with the candidates’ remarks that concentrated on things nearly all Republicans agree on — admiration of Ronald Reagan, opposition to abortion and support for Israel — while ignoring what she considers America’s biggest domestic problem: illegal immigration. She regarded the candidates’ remarks as “pandering” to various Republican constituencies and tweeted out a series of critical and angry comments, including the one about Jews.

If all non-Jews were as anti-Semitic as Ann Coulter, we Jews would be living in a Jewish utopia, a world without enemies.

She was condemned by Republicans — myself included — and Democrats for the tweet. It was wrong, and it damaged, at least temporarily, Republican and conservative supporters of Israel. But as I wrote at the time in a piece published by both The Jerusalem Post and the Forward, Ann Coulter is not an anti-Semite. She constantly has defended Jews and Israel. Every mention of Jews or Israel I’ve read in any of her books is a spirited defense of Jews and Israel, or an attack on those who attack Jews and Israel. I should add, for the record, that she has been to my home twice for Shabbat dinner.

If all non-Jews were as anti-Semitic as Ann Coulter, we Jews would be living in a Jewish utopia, a world without enemies.

Those Jews, like the ad writer, who label her an anti-Semite point to that 2015 tweet and to something she said in a 2007 interview with Jewish TV personality Donny Deutsch. She said that America (and presumably the world) would be better if everybody were a Christian.

Deutsch asked if that meant all Jews should become Christian. Coulter said yes, and Deutsch was offended. He was further offended when she labeled Christians and Jews who became Christians as “perfected Jews.”

But those are hardly anti-Semitic sentiments. Believing the world would be better if everyone were a Christian hardly renders one a bigot, let alone a Jew-hater. Don’t progressives believe the world would be better if everyone were a progressive?

And why is the belief that Jews who become Christian are “perfected Jews” anti-Semitic? Why is that different from a Jew believing that a Christian or anyone else who converts to Judaism becomes a member of the Chosen People? Or from Orthodox Jews who believe that Christianity is idol worship? I don’t agree with that view, but that hardly makes Orthodox Jews Christian-haters. I know a prominent Orthodox rabbi who thinks Christianity is idol worship and who works constantly with evangelical Christians whom he adores.

We need to be very careful before labeling people anti-Semites. This is especially so with regard to Christians who believe that the only way to salvation is through belief in Christ. The fact is that the Jews’ and Israel’s best friends in America are largely those evangelical Christians who believe that only faith in Jesus saves.

In addition, epithets are not always a good indicator of who our enemies are. Harry S. Truman wrote home when he visited New York City that he was in “Kike-town” and wrote very disparaging things about the Jews in his diary. Yet, as president, he became the man who had America recognize the newly formed State of Israel within minutes of its declaration of independence — against the advice of his entire State Department.

When Hillary Clinton was accused of calling a campaign aide a “f—ing Jew bastard” — an account attested to by three witnesses — I wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal defending her against the charge of anti-Semitism. Unlike the ad writer who, like so many others on the left, smears ideological opponents, I defended Hillary Clinton, even though I have no respect for her. I defended Clinton because it was the right thing to do. And because if Jews cry wolf by calling virtually every opponent an anti-Semite, when the real anti-Semites come, no one will take us seriously.

And one more thought: With our universities more hostile to identifying Jews than at any time in American history, with many young Jews fearing to wear a Star of David or a yarmulke on more and more left-wing campuses, a Jew looks pretty foolish taking out an ad in a Jewish publication to attack Ann Coulter and Dennis Prager.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).