Rally to Combat Anti-Semitism Overloaded with Left-Wing Talking Points
We at the Conference of Jewish Affairs, though not sponsors of the "No Fear" rally held Sunday, July 11 in D.C., did wish for its success inasmuch as a rally against anti-Semitism from well-meaning people has many pluses. We were not active sponsors of the rally, since four decades of experience in Jewish organizational life have taught us some unassailable lessons and the need to beware. One of these lessons is that establishment Jewish organizations often use the legitimate concerns of the Jewish grassroots and turn them into public showcases that deny the true sources of anti-Semitism and focus on liberal-leftist goals more than the actual defense of Jews. Too often, instead of tackling anti-Semitism as a standalone evil, these events become platforms against "hate in general," thereby inoculating from criticism the very perpetrators and groups directly attacking the Jewish people. You see, criticizing the anti-Semitism coming from "intersectional" minority groups is now called "hate speech."
While the rally featured some inspiring young people whose dedication to the Jewish people was heart-warming, and while many of the speakers certainly had their heart in the right place and displayed a passion for Israel and Jewry, there were many high-profile speakers who predictably exploited the goodwill of those in attendance by promoting left-wing themes and pronouncing falsehoods, refusing to put the blame for many of the attacks, and the rhetoric behind the attacks, where it belongs.
Rabbi David Saperstein, from the Reform Religious Action Center, exploited his podium by pointing at the Capitol and proclaiming that on January 6, white extremism and anti-Semitism coalesced. But January 6 was not about anti-Semitism, nor about threats to Jews, though Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat Party keep trying to convince us it was.
We knew there would be "progressive" speakers who would use the occasion to speak about their personal identification with the "Palestinian" struggle and quest for self-determination. We knew there would be people, though officially supportive of Israel, who would cry out about the "occupation." Elisha Wiesel, son of Eli Wiesel, the representative of the JCRC of Washington, D.C., and David Saperstein did their part in making our prediction come true. One need not travel all the way to D.C. to hear the pathetic dribble characteristic of CNN reporters.
There were so many speakers who continually referenced Charlottesville as the source of anti-Semitism in America while ignoring the countless physical attacks against Jews (something that did not happen in Charlottesville) by Islamists in our major cities and attacks against Jews on campus by Islamist groups and Students for Justice in Palestine. The representative from the Biden administration, Erika Moritsugu, echoed what other "big machers" repeatedly talked about: white supremacy, Charlottesville, systemic racism, and January 6, disregarding the vile hatred coming from much of the mainstream political left and from within the Democrat party.
While David Saperstein told us that America's "systemic racism" (yet again blaming American society) is the cause for hate, we heard nothing from him about Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who are founts of incendiary anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric. The representative from the Biden administration thought we would be soothed and comforted by new hate crime laws routinely used to silence pro-Jewish and pro-Israel conservatives who accurately criticize and spotlight some of the Islamist sources behind the attacks happening today against Jews in Brooklyn, Miami, and Los Angeles, and in every borough (except Staten Island) in New York City. She repeated all the false talking points geared to make us believe that Jan. 6 rally attendees and white supremacists are behind every attack on Jews in our streets and campuses. The bulk of attacks against Jews in Brooklyn is coming not from white supremacists, but from minorities from contiguous neighborhoods. Predictably, these attacks remain beyond criticism.
As much as Elisha Wiesel pontificated that love will solve many of our problems, we know we have enemies who will not be placated by our gestures of love and must be pointed to for the hate in their hearts, coming through their hands. Neo-Nazis are atrocious, but presently, their sway, their numbers, and their ability to cancel out Jews in America are minuscule compared to the power and influence found among the "progressive" left.
There was no reason to stand in the sun for so many hours or to travel with high hopes born of devotion to the Jewish people, just to hear the tired and misleading charge of white supremacy being the major threat to the future existence of American Jewry. It's not so much about Nazis and Charlottesville, as many of the high-profile speakers would have us believe. Outside the synagogues in Poway and Tree of Life, most actual physical attacks on Jews at restaurants and on urban streets, as well as intimidation of Jewish students on campus, are coming from Arab, Muslim, and left-wing sources. American professors, including many leftist Jewish professors, are leading the charge against and demonizing Israel. None of this evil is a consequence of "systemic racism" or the January 6 mayhem at the Capitol that Rabbi David Saperstein and the Biden rep portrayed as the root of current American anti-Semitism.
Nor do I believe, as posted by the rally organizers, that "anti-Semitism cannot be stopped until we also defeat Islamophobia, transphobia, racism [which today seems to include almost everything], classism, and homophobia." Anti-Semitism pre-dates all these isms and so-called phobias and is a separate category. In fact, there seems to be far more movement in the political left in defeating these phobias at the very same time anti-Semitism is growing within the ranks of the left. Evidently, they are de-linked phenomena.
While we applaud the hard work of those who organized the "No Fear" rally, and while we admire those Jews willing to travel and stand in the hot summer D.C. sun so as to give voice to their sense of peoplehood, and while we admire so many of the young and not so famous speakers who spoke with pride of being Jewish and their unwillingness to hide their Jewishness or capitulate to the marauders, I'm afraid the feel-good "Barney" themes (I love you, you love me) of Sunday's rally will dominate and that the narrative will be exactly as the "progressives" and the ADL wanted — namely, that it is white, conservative, patriotic, "systemic racist" America whose attitudes foment anti-Semitism, and it's those people who must be quelled. Yet the truth is precisely the opposite. A majority of the attacks against individual Jews walking on the streets are coming from minority communities contiguous to Jewish neighborhoods.
Thus, this rally, while well-intentioned, was not one we could actively sponsor. Five decades of fighting anti-Semitism convince me that the same old tired, liberal organizational themes will never rescue us. Many want these tepid and often deliberately misleading proclamations and themes to be American Jewry's official position. But we at the Conference of Jewish Affairs know that unless the real truth is spoken, nothing will change, nor will an end solution be realized. For us, these templates cannot be labeled or sanctified as the "official" position for those genuinely wanting to thwart anti-Semitic activity.
I'm always uplifted by Jews who still care about their Jewishness and who try to do something. I loved seeing the young people, the Chabadniks, and those from other ethnicities who demonstrated their support. But along the way, something was co-opted, and undeniable truth suffered. The Deep State had its way.
Rabbi Aryeh Spero is president of the Conference of Jewish Affairs and author of Push Back: The Battle to Save America's Judeo-Christian Heritage.
Image: Martin Vorel via Libreshot.
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