Anti-Semitism and Double Standards
Category: Op/EdVia: vic-eldred • 4 months ago • 12 comments
By: By Dominic Green
I spent Friday night like millions of other Jews, at the Shabbat table with my family, and then spent Saturday night like millions of other Jews, watching the phone for updates on the hostage situation at the Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. I went to bed thankful for the bravery and professionalism of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, puzzled as to how and why the hostage-taker, a British Muslim, ended up in a synagogue in Texas—and somehow not surprised.
I wasn’t surprised that it happened. This sort of crime isn’t yet normal, but it is starting to feel familiar. Familiar enough for Jewish parents to calculate the chances of getting caught in the statistical crossfire every time we take our children to synagogues, schools and Jewish-themed events. This is part of the reality of Jewish life in America today.
When you’re perpetually calculating these odds, the question of whether the person who might shoot up the place is a deranged Islamist or a deranged white nationalist is secondary. Yet it’s of primary importance to the media and political parties. Terrorism, like everything else in this balkanized society, has become a team sport, for both its protagonists and their cheerleaders. Perception, the battle of images, has become more important than reality to our politicians.
Political ideologies exist in a continuum, from the small number of true believers to the larger number of those who sympathize in some degree with the terrorist’s grievance but not his actions, and the largest number—those who, embarrassed by association, want to minimize or look the other way. The swing vote in presidential elections gets smaller every four years, making it more necessary to get out the vote in key sectors, and more tempting to exploit the full range of the ideological continuum, including the extremist fringe.
Two-party systems are great for parliamentary stability, but they require their parties to have broad appeal. When there’s a coalition to build and an election to win, it’s easy to ignore the company in which you’re traveling. That’s the sordid logic that in 2019 led Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pose with Rep. Ilhan Omar for the cover of Rolling Stone.
The result is that Islamist and left-wing terrorism are closely associated with the Democrats, and white-nationalist terrorism closely associated with the Republicans. The representatives of both parties deny their complicity with the extremists who incite these actions. But extreme elements in both parties recognize these associations and exploit them, especially to convert rhetorical points into votes. The Democrats are still making hay from misrepresenting President Trump’s maladroit response to the 2017 white-nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Va. Republicans will forever remind Kamala Harris that when the actor Jussie Smollett faked a hate crime with a script that implicated Mr. Trump, she leapt to decry “an attempted modern-day lynching.”
The problem is, the fellow-traveling and furtive incitement also get converted into terrorist attacks like the mass murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, and Saturday’s hostage-taking in Colleyville. When that happens, it is necessary to trace the attacker’s inspirations and establish the context of a crime—regardless of which team the attacker thinks he’s playing on.
After a white-nationalist attack, the media devote considerable resources to tracing the attacker’s ideas and search history along the ideological continuum and tarring the Republican Party with “complicity” in his crimes. After an Islamist attack, the imperative is not to establish politicians’ complicity with the criminal, but to avoid any inquiry that might amount to “Islamophobia.”
Stifling the debate in this manner reflects the preference of most American media for the Democrats, but that shouldn’t distract us from a reality that has implications for all Americans.
Anti-Semitism is a barometer of a society’s health—or rather its sickness, because anti-Semitism, whether that of the white nationalist or the Islamist, is at heart a spiritual disease. The unprecedented and rising levels of incitement and violence against Jews in the U.S. are warning signs of social breakdown. Anti-Semites are the proven enemies of a free and decent society, yet elected representatives of both parties continue to play footsie with them.
Just as Republicans like Rep. Paul Gosar need to cut loose from the white-nationalist subculture, so the Democratic leadership needs to disavow their fellow-traveling with Islamists. Speech isn’t violence, but it does have consequences.
Mr. Green is editor of the Spectator’s world edition.