America has been shaken to its core over the past months, first with the Covid pandemic and then the riots and protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Where these protests have led to rioting and mayhem, a disturbing current of anti-Semitism has followed in the form of anti-Semitic rhetoric and slogans chanted by protestors, graffiti, and vandalism. It should come as no surprise that the recent Black Lives Matter protest movement has sparked a surge of anti-Semitism. The BLM movement has—in a multitude of ways—joined forces with the radical-Palestinian Left.
There is no inherent reason for the conflict between Jews and African-Americans. Jews played a major and critical role in the formation of the early Civil Rights movement; but with the radicalization of the movement and the infusion of Leftist and Black Muslim ideology, Jews find themselves on the outside looking in. From Jesse Jackson’s “Hymie Town” comment, Louis Farrakhan’s malign influence, to Al Sharpton’s Jew-hating riots in Crown Heights which led to the murder of a Jewish man, the “civil rights” movement of Martin Luther King has moved on from its noble roots to become a monument to Leftist Jew-hatred.
In full disclosure, I am not Jewish, but a Christian conservative. I happen to believe that the greatest threat today does not stem from the noxious, over the top Jew-hatred of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton and their ilk. Rather, it is the much more malign and subtle form of Jew-hatred that does the greatest damage; what I could call the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism. When LeBron James posted a comment on Instagram about “getting that Jewish money,” his casual anti-Semitism was just one example among many. When such a well-known cultural “icon” can casually display Jew-hatred and hardly anyone blinks, we know, or should know, that the virus of anti-Semitism has infiltrated deeply into our culture and has reached a critical stage.
It is no longer news that the Left has become increasingly anti-Semitic . That the Democrat party has so embraced this strain of anti-Semitism is very troublesome, but it is rarely reported in the media. Yet the reality is there for all to see. But I want to pivot for a moment to examine the other side of the political spectrum.
Anti-Semitism has long been thought of as a disease of the far right and there is certainly a past and current history to back that up. And while we are witnessing the rise of Leftist anti-Semitism, we would be naïve to think that the Right has fully expunged all elements of anti-Semitism from its ranks. While today we see this hatred mostly on the fringes of the far right in America, with the ghosts of David Duke, the KKK, and other white supremacist organizations, we need to remain mindful of the fear of a wider spread of anti-Semitism on the Right.
History teaches us that when times are good, the economy is strong and a nation and people are safe, persecution and discrimination against “others,” tends to be rare. However, when a society falls on hard times, economic collapse, war, and social upheaval, that is when one looks for scapegoats. My worry is that, as has happened throughout history, Jews will be caught in the middle between a suddenly oppressive government and a working class in revolt. The Jews would certainly be among those that would be blamed for the societal collapse.
And while it is early and there isn’t necessarily a “trend” of anti-Semitism to be detected on the Right, there are warning signs, lurking below the surface. Some will say I am looking for make-believe monsters in the closet, but a few thousand years of history tells us that these monsters are all too real and can rise from nothing and in places where we would least expect them.
One area of concern is the recent attacks from both the left and segments of the right against capitalism. This topic requires a much more in-depth study, so just for brevity, I will summarize. The attacks on Wall Street, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and so forth have increased in the past years, across the political spectrum, from the Occupy movement on the Left to the anti-globalists on the Right. There is certainly a lot to criticize; globalism and unfair trade practices have arguably contributed to the hallowing out of the industrial and manufacturing base and done irreparable damage to Middle America.
This is not a treatise on economics; much smarter minds can have that debate. What I am pointing to is how this debate may play out and be viewed and interpreted. We know the anti-Semitic trope; for centuries Jews have been caricatured as greedy, money grubbing vultures preying on the hard working folk in struggling areas. If an economic crash befalls America, again, the finger pointing will begin and what seems like innocuous attacks on corporate vultures and predatory capitalism, hedge fund managers and companies like Goldman Sachs, can take a very dark turn.
The other worrisome sign is what we see within the American Jewish community in light of recent events. A number of articles have been written documenting how some mainstream and left-wing American Jewish organizations have not only turned a blind eye to the rage of anti-Semitic attacks occurring as part of the BLM protests but have spoken out to condone and excuse the wave of attacks on synagogues and Jews.
These Jewish groups are rushing to be as one with the BLM movement, regardless of the cost. We see this capitulation across the spectrum, in the corporate world, sports, entertainment and in our national politics. Everyone is bowing to the pressure of the mob. So while it might seem that I am singling out Jewish organizations, in this case, I do so with a purpose.
To a non-Jew, this eagerness to ally oneself with one’s detractors is the height of madness. This was the attitude shared by some in the 1930’s in Germany, but at least then they didn’t have the precedent of the Holocaust looming over them. Now we do. As Daniel Greenfield just recently wrote, “organizations that claim to speak for the Jewish community have sold it out instead.”
If and when the system further collapses and we approach what could be anarchy or civil war, when the backlash hits, there will be the inevitable moment of recriminations and blame, from all sides. The far right will have its voices heard and, I fear, that they will blame the Jews for their perceived role in this plot to bring America down. After all, as we all know, the Jews get blamed for everything.
So much of the anti-Semitism that we hear is so ridiculous and absurd that one is tempted to laugh it off as the conspiracies of the lunatic fringe. In the past months we have heard and read that it was the Jews who are responsible for Covid-19, that Jews are responsible for the death of George Floyd, and that the Jews are behind the so-called racist police state that is America. The great tragedy is that these “absurd” tropes become reality in the minds of the infected, and contribute to the drives of passion that move a society from crazy talk to the idea of pogroms, persecution and finally, to genocide.
My plea to my Jewish American friends and co-patriots, and to my fellow Christians, is that while we all must fight injustice, we also must continue to stand for what is so great about this country. None of us should waver in the belief that our nation, America, in spite of our faults, warts, and sins, is at our roots, in our hearts and to our core, the greatest, freest and must tolerant country to have ever existed in the history of mankind. We must always call out the Jew hatred that we see all around us, for it is absolute suicide to align oneself with and to condone the vile Jew haters on the Left who seek to “burn it down.” We will all burn down with it.
America has been a relative safe haven for Jews since the first Jewish immigrants arrived in 1621, 399 years ago. I fear that safe haven is eroding, that age-old hatreds are bubbling just below the surface. We see it now in the streets, in our schools, on the internet and in our culture. I dread what may come again, here; in the last place we would ever expect it. We need to fight this cancer, all of us.
Michael Finch has spent his life working in the nonprofit field attempting to preserve America’s freedom and liberties. He has been published widely in a number of journals and is a frequent speaker. He is the author of two books of poetry: Finding Home (2015) and Wanderings in Place (2019).