Published on The Federalist
Much of the Jewish-American community is fixated on the “alt-right.” Over the past year, countless op-eds have been penned and declarations made comparing the United States to the Weimar Republic and intimating, à la Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, Plot Against America, that concentration camps are just around the corner—from Main Street. (A search for “alt-right” on the eminent and progressive Jewish Daily Forward returns over 6,600 results.)
There’s allegedly a contemporary Judenrat to boot. Only yesterday, Jewish trepidation was kicked up a notch by Omri Boehm, an assistant professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research, with a New York Times op-ed, which accused “Zionist leadership” of forming an “alliance” with “politicians with anti-Semitic tendencies.”
It’s true that some individuals who identify with the alt-right—a vague, fringe phenomenon that barely constitutes a “movement”—are anti-Semites. That’s both the sufficient and obvious reason many Jews perceive a threat to their values and physical security.
The real reason, nevertheless, is one to which they have deliberately blinded themselves: The alt-right is an enemy of convenience. Like a Rorschach blot, it’s a nebulous void into which personal anxieties can be effortlessly projected while ignoring the real adversary—an adversary that’s far more dangerous and whose origins lie much closer to home.
Indeed, the Jewish-American community is markedly left-leaning and, uncomfortably, the most pervasive and pernicious form of anti-Semitism in the United States not only has long been situated on the Left, but also is a creation of modern liberalism.
Until the alt-right crossed their radar, when it came to anti-Semitism Jewish Americans were primarily (and correctly) concerned about the American campus. But it’s telling that they virtually always looked upon anti-Semitism at colleges and universities like whack-of-mole, a target whose ugly head pops up at random. In other words, rarely have they considered that anti-Semitism isn’t an arbitrary occurrence at our thousands of institutions of higher learning, but that it is a product of our institutions of higher learning.
It’s hardly shocking they haven’t. Most American colleges and universities are unrepentant bastions of liberalism and, again, the Jewish-American community is predominantly liberal. Since exit polling began in 1972, Democratic presidential candidates have received on average 70 percent of the Jewish vote. Since 2012, at least 90 percent of donations by Ivy League employees have gone to Democrats. The percent for “non-exclusive” schools isn’t far off.
What’s more, there’s a perceptible correlation between the likelihood of anti-Semitism on a campus and a campus’s political leanings. The most prototypically liberal institutions of the Ivory Tower—Columbia, Michigan, Berkeley, and prestigious liberal arts schools—are, lo and behold, the places repeatedly addressed by organizations dedicated to countering anti-Semitism.
What (liberal) Jews additionally have difficulty grasping is the fact that the most pro-Jewish schools in America are Christian in orientation, if not in action, like Hillsdale College and Liberty University. This is evidenced by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a grassroots organization active on well more than 200 campuses. The Anti-Defamation League has analyzed and documented more than 1,000 anti-Israel events at colleges and universities over the past two years. Laudably, CUFI holds more than 40 events across the country every month. That works out to about 1,000 pro-Israel events at colleges and universities over the past two years.
Yet when pushed on Christian Zionism, Jews commonly revert to a stale narrative. “Evangelicals,” they lament, are supportive only because of a belief that the gathering of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. (As such, they seem oblivious to equally strong currents of Zionism among Catholics and other denominations of Protestantism.) By the way, I know quite a few evangelicals, and not one has yet requested that I repatriate to the Holy Land!
The point is that Jews aren’t tackling the roots of campus anti-Semitism, which, as they themselves purport, are usually given a slick moral and intellectual veneer by masquerading under the banner of anti-Zionism. In fact, they won’t even concede that there are roots beyond an ancient, amorphous, and infectious hatred. That’s because to do so, they would need to acknowledge they’re brawling with themselves.
The Jewish state — because its foundation is in ethnicity, tradition, and community — is an affront to universalistic modern liberalism while the Jewish people inspired the Western civilization that modern liberalism so detests.
The left-liberalism that has dominated colleges and universities since the 1960s is convinced progress and social justice can only be achieved by tearing down the “artificial” barriers of humanity. (Of course, in practice, it’s only the religious, ethnic, and national barriers of the Western and Judeo-Christian traditions that are worthy of assault.)
The hot topic today among those (futilely) striving to combat anti-Semitism on campus is “intersectionality.” This phony postmodern concept, which describes the interconnected nature of “oppressive systems,” is used to explain—or rather justify—why environmentalists and members of the LGBT community, for example, have joined Muslims to protest “Israeli apartheid” and back the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
Yet if environmentalists and members of the LGBT community sincerely cared about Israel’s actions, they likely wouldn’t participate in activism that quickly evolves into anti-Semitism. Israel, after all, harbors the most inclusive society in the Middle East and is a global leader in environmental innovation.
Sure enough, liberal Jews hoping to contest blatant anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism that superficially poses as “criticism of Israel” are increasingly in a bind. Every day that passes, the front that seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state and, hence, Jewishness itself features more and more of their otherwise natural left-leaning allies—staunch advocates of “peace,” “justice,” “equality,” and “tolerance.”
In reality, the front has little to do with human rights. The plight of Palestinians, although real, is mainly just the uniting foil to attack the Jewish state, whose foundation in ethnicity, tradition, and community is an affront to universalistic modern liberalism, and the Jewish people, whose beliefs inspired the Western civilization that modern liberalism so detests.
If Jews were serious about defeating anti-Semitism in America, they would go after its source and, accordingly, cease obsessing over the alt-right. They would focus on colleges and universities, hitting them where it really hurts: endowments. Jewish parents could easily stop writing tuition checks to schools that are notorious incubators and breeding grounds for Jew hatred in all of its forms.
Channeling Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1981 work, After Virtue, writer Rod Dreher has popularized the “Benedict Option,” in which Christians would partially and voluntarily withdraw from decadent modern society to build their own local communities. Jews could readily pursue an academic “Moses Option.”
I anticipate, however, that an “elite” diploma and its trappings will prove in most cases irresistible. After all, rabbinic sages suggest that only 20 percent of the Hebrews actually chose to flee Egypt. Despite being slaves under Pharaoh, the unknown was simply too unsettling to warrant change.