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Why Jews Are Confused

Assailed from two sides, American Jewry is having an acute crisis of identity.

Es iz schver tzu zein a yid. (It is hard to be a Jew.)

—Sholem Aleichem

From missiles falling on Tel Aviv and the assault on synagogues during last summer’s riots to mob violence on the streets of LA and New York, the sense of well-being among America’s Jews has been shattered. After decades of relentless social and political ascendency, Jews now face rising anti-Semitism in ways not encountered in over half a century. Attacked from the far right, as well as an increasingly vitriolic far left, Jews are pincered and suffering whiplash.

Amidst what Hoover Institution fellow and Somali immigrant Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes as a rampant rise of “tribalism,” anti-Semitism is becoming normalized in America. Yet in the face of this rising risk, Jews themselves are divided and deeply conflicted. The Jewish establishment has generally focused on white nationalists as the prime threat and, to be sure, lone racists have expressed their anti-Semitism lethally from Kansas City and Pittsburgh to Poway. To a people who have experienced centuries of persecution from the Tsarist regime to the Nazis and the Klan, the far right’s elevated profile fueled by the power of social media—if not the actual size of the white nationalist movement—is nevertheless terrifying.

Yet this is not the real measure, or even the bulk, of the threat. Groups like the Anti-Defamation League focus on Islamists and right-wing hate groups, but their statistics have been roundly criticized in such respected magazines as Tablet, and are widely thought to reflect their increasingly progressive bias. The reality, missing from the mainstream narrative, ignores the arguably more potent threat from an aroused, and increasingly radicalized, left.

The roots of leftist anti-Semitism are nurtured in anti-Zionism that has been brewing for a half century on the left. But now, for the first time, even Congress has a band of anti-Zionists who denounce Israel’s strong response to missile attacks as a war crime. The assault on Israel’s right to self-defense—though still backed by President Biden—comes from the ascendant left faction of the Democrats—led by such figures as Rashida Tlaib and the openly anti-Semitic Ilhan Omar. They assign exclusive blame to Israel for their response to the mass missile attacks on their cities from groups like Hamas, whose genocidal urges are well demonstrated and enshrined in the group’s founding documents, and whose Judenrein territorial goal, “from the river to the sea,” is now chanted by street mobs around the world, and tweeted by none other than the labor union at the New Yorker magazine.

Israel appears to have lost support among American Jews, particularly the younger and less affiliated. Having alienated the Obama administration with their West Bank settlement policies and opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, Israeli policy-makers now worry more about Democratic Administrations. A former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. recently opined that Israel should prioritize the “passionate and unequivocal” support of evangelical Christians over that of American Jews, who he said are “disproportionately among our critics.” Certainly the new administration’s intent to return to the Iran accords are troubling, as are charges that John Kerry, the president climate czar, gave intelligence to the Iranians, who openly promote eradication of the Jewish state.

These divides are particularly dangerous as the community is aging rapidly, faces increasing pressures to assimilate, while major institutions are under pressures not seen in generations. Overall, the American Jewish population—unlike that of demographically robust Israel—is unlikely to grow by 2050. There is no likely replacement for the influx of Persian, North and South African, and Russian Jews who rescued the community from demographic decline over the last half century. It is also a community that is no longer the global center of Jewry, and has been replaced by Israel, a state that acts primarily in its own self-interest, sometimes in ways that upset many American Jews.

Although Trump made some modest gains among Jewish voters in 2020, the bulk of American Jews, nearing 70 percent according to Pew, identify with the Democratic Party. Jews are widely represented in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and progressive icon Bernie Sanders, and are well represented in the media, academic, and corporate communities that have rallied behind President Biden. Democrats account for 36 out of the 38 Jews in Congress, and one-third of them are members of the far-left leaning Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose leading members, during the current hostilities, moved to block a planned $735 million weapons package for Israel.

Leading progressive Jews often embrace the notion of tikkun olam (“healing the world”) as the mission of the faith. In their mind, Jewish values are intrinsically progressive and point with pride to the community’s support for the African American civil rights movement, and their more recent unrequited backing for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women’s March. Yet many of these groups are led in part by enthusiastic backers of the most influential anti-Semite of our time, National of Islam head Louis Farrakhan, who smirks that he is an “anti-termite” and insists that Jews controlled the slave trade, and other leaders who accuse Israel of genocide, and of running an apartheid state. Professedly anti-Zionist, BLM has allied with Islamist groups and disparaged Israel during last year’s DC demonstrations as well as during the recent Gaza conflict. BLM protests have also led to rioters vandalizing synagogues and trashing Jewish owned businesses in Los Angeles, New York, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Moreover, violent, unprovoked attacks on Jews in Los Angeles, New York, Raton, Montreal, LondonArgentina, Chile, Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey demonstrate that much of anti-Zionism is in reality anti-Semitism.   

Read the rest of this piece at American Mind.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Edward Heyman is currently active as a volunteer and consultant in the Orange County, California, Jewish community, following a career as a partner in a software development firm serving the defense and intelligence communities.

Photo credit: Gregory Hauenstein via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Hope and Fear: Can We Avoid a Racial Apocalypse?

Jamil Ford still recalls the disorders of late May. ‘It was like Baghdad’, he recalls, even as jurors listen to the arguments during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of killing George Floyd. ‘I constantly think about it. The past history does not go away’, the African-American architect recalls, noting with trepidation possible National Guard deployments. ‘The mental part is still there.’

I know how he feels. In 1992 we went through this same process in Los Angeles when the police were exonerated in the beating of Rodney King. This unleashed a three-day explosion of often violent protests, resulting in $1 billion in damages and over 50 fatalities. In the end, the disorder led to some necessary shifts in police procedures but ultimately left the area relatively poorer and considerably less black than before.

Will things be different this time around? No politician in American history owes more to African-American leadership and voters than Joe Biden. His flailing campaign was rescued from the respirator by South Carolina’s heavily black Democratic electorate. African Americans sustained his path through states such as Texas. Since taking office, Biden’s commitment to battling the ‘sting of systemic racism’ and encroaching ‘white supremacy’ has accompanied his early actions and seems to have shaped many of his appointments.

The left’s and the media’s embrace of racial apocalypse, both in the US and in Britain, remains sadly selective. The recent Atlanta murders, given exhaustive coverage, appear to be the product not of Trumpista brownshirts but a singular, screwed-up madman. Meanwhile, attacks on Asians historically have come in large measure from minorities, largely African Americans. The most recent attack on Capitol Hill came not from Trumpistas but a follower of the ultimate anti-white, Louis Farrakhan.

The same media that hypes anti-Asian violence by whites usually ignores that by other ‘people of colour’. When the perpetrator is a Muslim jihadi, as was the case in Colorado, coverage has been less, even if the body count was twice as high. The ‘people of colour’ solidarity that bleeds over the pages of mainstream media has little room for nuance. It tends to ignore the fact that many Asians, and many Hispanics, oppose such things as quotas to selective high schools and colleges.

Similarly, most minorities seem not to share common ground with posturing politicians, and progressive intellectuals, who have excused looting as a form of racial redress. Minority business people generally don’t regard random violence as justice; the impact on business enterprises is felt particularly keenly in Minneapolis. A focus on police abuse is clearly needed, but the vast majority of Americans – including millennials and minorities – do not favour defunding law enforcement. They may be more concerned with the resurgence of violent and other crime in our core cities, even though it is often downplayed in the media.

The impending threat of violence in Minneapolis and elsewhere, offers manna from heaven for some but disaster for most. The racial-protest industry, perfected by the openly neo-Marxist Black Lives Matter, has raised a reported $90million, much of it from corporate largesse. What civil-rights activist Bob Woodson calls ‘race-grievance predators’ – like Ibrahim Kendi – are being bankrolled by oligarchs, like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo credit: Ted Eytan via Flickr under CC0 2.0 License.