Views from Washington on Antisemitism

September 6, 2019


On Wednesday, FSWC held an insightful talk with three analysts from Washington D.C. to discuss critical issues concerning antisemitism and the American political landscape. Following the talk, we asked each of the panelists to provide a summation of what they said and critical issues that arose from our discussion. I am pleased to share these ideas with you as we continuously analyze and reflect upon social issues and source and causes of antisemitism.  


Avi Benlolo, President and CEO
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.  

Ilan Berman, Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council

The rise of anti-Semitism (witnessed most directly in the activism of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib) is part and parcel of a larger reorientation of the Democratic Party in a more leftist, “progressive” direction – one which views Jews not as victims but as privileged individuals (or, worse, oppressors). The decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Steny Hoyer to “circle the wagons” and support – rather than ostracize – Omar after her anti-Semitic outbursts is an important barometer of where, exactly, the center of political gravity currently is on the American left.

None of this means that we are witnessing the “Corbynization” of the Democratic Party – at least not yet. However, the increasing normalization of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments as part of the Party’s leftward drift should be cause for serious concern, because we can see its logical terminus in what is taking place today in England.

Neither, however, is it going to lead to a “Jexodus” from the Democratic Party, as President Trump seems to believe. Historically, some three-quarters of American Jews have voted Democratic, and most classify themselves as “liberal.” That means that, no matter what pro- Israel steps Trump may take (including the transfer of the Embassy, recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, and others), they still eye his Administration with suspicion and with opposition. Simply put, American Jews self-identify with liberal causes by an overwhelming margin, and dislike Trump on both a personal and policy level. This, coupled with a growing distance from, and lack of understanding of, Israel’s security situation and decisionmaking makes them less supportive of the Administration’s moves in the Mideast than they would be otherwise be (or, objectively, should be).

Josh London, Director, Government Relations, The Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA)

The Democratic Party has a definite and growing anti-Semitism problem. While fears of “Corbynization” are not unfounded, they are currently overwrought, and the open sore is being purposefully poked at, and to significant effect, by President Trump. Unfortunately, the mainstream of the American Jewish community is not likely to help greatly in potential efforts to improve, much less reverse, the problem as they remain very solidly blinkered party loyalists and ideological fellow-travelers. Additionally, an extraordinary animus towards President Trump is proving a weighty factor in the worst dynamics of both the Democratic Party and the American Jewish community. At the same time, the on-again-off-again friction between Israel and significant elements of the American Jewish community is growing, needlessly and listlessly yet seemingly intransigently towards rupture and estrangement; the clear demographic imbalance/trends tends to exacerbate and further frustrate the bilateral discourse. These noxious dynamics seem set to dovetail towards further disquiet and dislocation. The situation is far from hopeless, but the darkening clouds overhead are not yet being fully recognized as a coming storm. Activism and education help greatly, and much more of it is required, and not just from within the healthier segments of the Diaspora communities—Israel can and should do much more.

Eric Rozenman, Consultant, Jewish Police Center

The era of "Never again!" has ended in Western Europe, is fraying in North America, and never penetrated the Middle East. Nazi "excesses" discredited Jew-hatred in the West, for the generation of the Allies that fought World War II. But the post-liberal left, neo-Nazi right, and Islamist movements have found the way to return antisemitism first to "tolerated" and then to respectability through anti-Zionism: just shift focus from individual Jews and Jews in small groups to the Jewish state. Hence "racist Israel" and, subsequently, "white, privileged, racist Jews."

Right-wing antisemitism in the United States has been murderous, as in Pittsburgh and Poway, and though Internet-disseminated, remains on social-cultural margins. Left-wing anti-Zionism, strong in academia, communications emedia and even entertainment (try to imagine Hollywood filming "Exodus" today). Increasingly morphing from anti-Zionist to anti-Semitic (the all-powerful "Israel lobby" to an updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion) increasingly spreads through the left-of-center half of the U.S. public.

The "Corbynization" of the Democratic Party began long before Jeremy Corbyn took over leadership of the U.K.'s Labor Party. Jesse Jackson with Yasser Arafat in '79, Al Sharpton's incitement of the '91 Crown Height Pogrom to Al Sharpton's "king-maker" role in today's Democratic Party, the 2012 Democratic National Convention's resistance to the "Jerusalem is Israel's capital" platform plank, the influence of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the worst senator on U.S.- Israel ties and a campaigner for Corbyn in '17. All this before the election last year of Reps. Omar, Tlaib, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez.

Fortunately, institutions like the Wiesenthal Center are in a position to convey the truth about Jews, antisemitism, the Holocaust and by extension Israel to audience that can act on the truth.

< Back to News Room