In a Politico Magazine piece titled “In a Time of Trump, Millennial Jews Awaken to Anti-Semitism,” Ben Wofford claims “the pro-Israel pillars of the American right have remained silent on the gargantuan problem of Donald Trump.” The ignorance of Wofford—and anyone at Politico responsible for publishing the article—may be matched only by that of the millennials for whom the piece purportedly speaks.
My critique is likely less sharp than what will issue from any number of Jewish conservative writers, but the article was published (intentionally or otherwise) on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when many will be unavailable to respond. Given the circumstances, a response from a gentile may have to do for now.
Speaking of those Jewish conservative writers, many have been quite outspoken against Trump on numerous grounds, including his racially tinged appeals and the anti-Semites who love him. Among those writers are: Bret Stephens; Jennifer Rubin; Ben Shapiro; Jonah Goldberg; David Frum; Commentary magazine’s John Podhoretz, Jonathan Tobin, and Noah Rothman; talk show host Mark Levin; Jamie Weinstein of the Daily Caller; Bethany Mandel; Elliott Abrams; Jeff Jacoby; and Jamie Kirchick. Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard spent weeks if not months attempting to convince people like Mitt Romney to run a third-party campaign against Trump.
As Rob Eshman wrote for the Jewish Journal: “It’s one thing for liberals and Democrats to oppose Trump. But the conservatives above are going against their natural constituencies and readerships. They are doing tweet-to-tweet combat with people who revered them, bought subscriptions to read them, tuned in to their shows. But when considering the alternative — the consequences of not speaking up before it is too late — they are willing to pay the price.”
Part of that price was a seemingly endless stream of anti-Semitic invective from the alt-right through email and social media. Wofford and the seeming handful of Jewish millennials he interviewed seem to have missed it (they are not the only ones who did, as will be noted below).
Please Get a Conservative to Clue You In
Instead, Wofford focused on the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as having fallen down on the job. I could fault some of these groups for the weakness of some of their statements regarding Trump.
On the other hand, the fact that Wofford (and Politico, apparently) view AIPAC and the AJC as “the pro-Israel pillars of the American right” may say as much about the politics at Politico, particularly regarding Israel, than it does about two groups that pride themselves on promoting bipartisan support for the Jewish state. Indeed, Wofford does not mention that AIPAC issued a statement criticizing Trump’s partisan remarks to their group.
Wofford also omitted that the RJC condemned anti-Semitic invective directed toward journalists coming from Trump, Sanders, and Clinton supporters, when the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did. The ADL statement came in response to attacks on Julia Ioffe, and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times, as well as those on Shapiro and Mandel, although the latter occurred well before the former.
A week later, the ADL announced it was forming a Task Force on Hate Speech and Journalism. The ADL’s announcement noted attacks on CNN’s Jake Tapper, Ioffe, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, and Weisman. Oddly, the announcement made no mention of the attacks on Jewish conservative journalists earlier in the cycle, despite naming Mandel to the task force and the ADL’s prior reference to them.
Insofar as Wofford wants to criticize various groups for having behaved in a partisan manner or applying a double standard, it did not escape the notice of Jewish conservatives that the ADL had to be shamed into condemning Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson’s recent comparison of Israeli settlers to termites. Or that J Street, a left-leaning group Wofford quotes favorably, could not condemn those remarks without also criticizing the Washington Free Beacon for publicizing them.
Democrats Don’t Want to Face the Skeletons in Their Closet
The unfortunate politicization of support for Israel is the subtext of Wofford’s piece—and the subtext is often not that subtle. Upon turning to the point that Jewish college students are uncomfortable bringing up anti-Semitism, one of his quoted sources opines that “it comes [in part] from a hesitancy to maybe support Judaism because of Israel.” Wofford rejects his own source, asserting it would be a “mistake” to blame the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement instead of conservatives working to raise the issue of anti-Semitism on campus.
Wofford’s assertion, however, is contradicted by a report from the AMCHA Initiative, which found “the primary agents of antisemitic activity [on campuses] are anti-Zionist students and faculty boycotters.” It also runs contrary to a Brandeis University survey of U.S. and Canadian college students and young adults who applied for Birthright trips to Israel.
Indeed, the colleges and universities Wofford mentions tend to have these very problems. For example, Ohio University’s student senate president took it upon herself to reimagine the ALS “ice bucket challenge” by wearing a BDS T-shirt and taking the “bucket of blood challenge.” Pro-Israel students who protested the action at a meeting of the student senate were shouted down and arrested.
Wofford also quotes a student at the University of Pennsylvania, where a swastika was etched onto the door of an elevator located in the same building as the Penn Hillel during the same month that the university hosted the National BDS Conference. It was the first hate crime reported on the UPenn campus in seven years.
Wofford further ignored the anonymous senior at Brown University to whom he spoke. The senior said there would not be a “Jews Against Trump” rally at Brown because the charge of anti-Semitism would just “get caught in their throat, because there’s so much psychological baggage about grandma, and psychological baggage about being gas-lighted” by the far-right.
The message from this senior is that Brown’s legendary leftism is stifling its Jewish students. It was an unfortunate coincidence for Wofford and Politico that on the same day as Wofford’s piece, the New York Times published a detailed and disturbing indictment of the anti-Semitism promoted by anti-Zionists at Brown.
Jewish millennials might be excused for not knowing that many Jewish conservative writers have condemned Trump and are often prominent members of the Never Trump group. After all, they are young and probably progressive in general. Wofford and his editors at Politico have much less excuse for this level of ignorance. And they have no excuse for dismissing the obvious reality that millennial Jews get far more exposed to anti-Semitism through the BDS movement than they do from the RJC, especially when two of Wofford’s own sources suggested as much.