Once upon a time, American anti-antisemitism was seen as a bastion of the poorly-educated nativist right. (This was never entirely true, as quotas limiting Jewish admissions were imposed at many Ivy league universities in the 1920s, and Father Coughlin, perhaps the most prominent American anti-Semite of the 20th century, founded the National Union for Social Justice.) But William F. Buckley was fairly diligent in excluding anti-Semites from the modern conservative movement, a vigilance that continued well into the 1990s, as Joseph Sobran and Patrick Buchanan (cast out for tiptoeing up to the line) can attest.
Conversely, antisemitism has been rising on the left, both here and in Europe, as John-Paul Pagano details:
Israel’s stunning victory against combined Arab armies in 1967 set in motion streams of hostility—some anti-Israel, some “anti-Zionist,” some anti-Jewish—which would pool, roil, and gather strength until the turn of the millennium, when the Second Intifada unleashed them in a cataract of anti-Semitism. Two groups were swept along most forcefully by the current: Arabs and Muslims; and Left-wing radicals, who took their cues on Israel and Zionism from Moscow, where “anti-Zionism” assumed a central place in the Soviet anti-colonial catechism.
That’s the first strand. Pagano then offers a section on the rise in the unassimilated Muslim immigrant population in Europe, and the increasingly open antisemitism and attacks against Jews by those populations over the last decade. Then he gets to the meat of his argument:
I think there are three main drivers guiding progressives like [Freddie deBoer] who have similar responses to the very real injuries suffered by Jews who are targeted, excluded, abused, and sometimes murdered for reasons that are clearly the result of hatred: an excess of rationalism, the way anti-Semitism short-circuits the “privilege” analysis of racism, and a prioritization of some victims of racism over others.
But it’s the “privilege” theory so beloved of Social Justice Warriors that really ties it all together:
Paul Berman made the point in Terror and Liberalism—a book the mere mention of which sends deBoer types running for the bathroom—that we in the West are inheritors of Enlightenment rationalism, and as such we find it difficult to understand and constructively respond to irrational political movements. In this respect “we are all Noam Chomsky,” Berman wrote in reference to the man who has done the most to advance this reductive Weltanschauung. In politics Chomsky proposed two warring innate ideas—an instinct for greed (embodied by the corporatized West) and an instinct for freedom (embodied by those opposing the West)—and honed this analysis by applying it to the abattoir in Cambodia during the 1970s. There have been few enormities that more clearly exhibit irrationalism than the Khmer Rouge auto-genocide; but in Chomsky’s hyper-rationalist view, no such movement of self-cannibalizing lunacy could exist (at least not among victims of American imperialism). So, he wrote that there was no genocide to speak of in Cambodia, and if there was violence, it was because greedy U.S. war-making had driven the Cambodians to it.
So too with some interpretations of crises relating to radical Islam and the Middle East. Irrationalism is the wrong explanation, because it simply can’t be right; or if violence and hatred do exist, they assume the discrete and contingent form of being a rational (i.e., predictable and understandable) response by the victims of the United States and Israel. For deBoer and the segment of the Left he represents, anti-Semitism is not a coherent and meaningful force among Muslims—that is to say, a movement; or if it is, it is not a self-sustaining irrational movement, one founded on conspiracist racism against Jews and drunk on salvationist violence. Rather it is tightly correlated to the wrongdoing of Americans and Jews themselves, and thus acute in onset and understandable.
Hyper-rationalism pairs well with the dogmatic underdog-ism of the Left, which assumes that weakness is a source or at least a marker of virtue. Yet just as the poverty of Chomsky’s political analysis became clear after the United States withdrew from Indochina, the silliness and toxicity of New Left ideas about race have become plainer as Jim Crow recedes.
Perhaps the worst of these is the formula that racism equals prejudice plus power. People of color can’t be racist, according to this definition, because they are structurally disempowered by our racist-capitalist “system.” Whites are racist, wittingly or not, because they are existentially driven to oppress non-whites in order to preserve their “privilege.” Analyses of “structural racism” and “privilege” assert a kind of Wizard of Oz sociology that exhibits some elements of conspiracy theory—false consciousness, social determinism, and peoples of good and evil locked in Manichean struggle.
In the mental shorthand of many, Muslims are people of color and Jews are white. That demarcation has fateful consequences. We in the West have a horrendous history of racism; in the United States the oppression of African Americans for hundreds of years is an enduring betrayal of liberal values. Responses throughout the educated West to the Arab-Israeli conflict have been warped by fear that Zionism is a form of racism—as the Soviet architects of that libel surely intended. We are prone to seeing Israeli violence as illegitimate per se, and to regarding violence, hatred, and illiberalism among Arabs and Muslims as a rational—predictable and understandable—response to Western and Israeli imperialism. We miss the part that is a will to power, aspirational imperialism in its own right.
The “prejudice plus power” idea erases real anti-Semitism—a construct with its own history of horrific effects, which is often lumped in with racism, but is actually something else. To borrow from comedy parlance, most racism “punches down”—an incumbent group constructs and subordinates an underclass. The stereotypes that make up such racism diminish their victims. For example blacks, to the white racist, are inferior, criminal, stupid, lazy, and lusty. Anti-Semitism is often the opposite, envisioning the Jew as a preternatural creature—as evil, brilliant, controlling, connected, rich, and powerful beyond measure. Anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory. As such, Anti-Semitism often “punches up.”
When deBoer implies that anti-Semitism is not increasing in Europe and that the real problem is Islamophobia, he ties all of these threads together. Muslims, people of color, can’t be racist, at least not in any coherent and self-sustaining way; they are an oppressed people reacting to the depredations of Jews and other whites. Irrationalist movements that are powered by Jew-hatred don’t exist anymore; that sort of thing was the preserve of white people 70 years ago. Anti-Semitism today is embraced most frequently and fervently by people of color—but to note that is “the basic logic of bigotry,” blaming the victim while aggrandizing the powerful. As Chomsky put it himself, “Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98 percent control.”
Most people on the Left today prioritize the well-being of Arabs and Muslims over Jews.
Read the whole thing.