A particularly disturbing sentiment has been percolating: only those who are Jewish can speak on behalf of Jewish interests, and only those who are black can speak on behalf of black interests, and so on.
Even defining interests based on particular religious or ethnic groups is a murky endeavor. There isn’t political consensus among Jews, just as there isn’t political consensus among African Americans, and with good reason. Intellectual diversity is a hallmark of humanity.
Talia Lavin recently published an article in GQ, however, arguing that the right has been using Jews for politically expedient purposes. She suggests those on the right who have been condemning the left’s rising anti-Semitism are only doing so because it is politically advantageous.
Lavin’s claim is riddled with several false assumptions. The first is based upon the notion that those on the right can’t possibly be truly alarmed by the anti-Semitism allowed to simmer on the left, or disgusted with comments made by the infamous Democrat “squad.” The second is that the right cannot possibly represent Jewish interests. These assumptions are both incorrect.
As a Jewish woman, I am grateful for individuals like Rep. Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain, women Lavin snidely refers to as “blonde Christian Loraxes.” Lavin presents this point as if somehow the religion and physical characteristics of these two women make them “unfit” to call out the left’s alarming anti-Semitism. What jumbled nonsense.
This type of identity politics logic (nay, lack thereof) is the sort of nauseating spectacle that precedes all sorts of disastrous consequences. You can’t defend Jews because you’re not a Jew, it says. And if you do speak out on behalf of Jews, it must be in pre-approved leftist jargon. It can’t be in promotion of Zionism, although many Jews regard Jewish self-determination as integral to their religious identity.
What Lavin is really claiming is that criticisms of anti-Semitism can’t be directed at leftist mouthpieces because it will damage the leftist agenda, and concerns about anti-Semitism must be sacrificed on the altar of leftism if their political goals are to be achieved.
As a Jew, I have never felt like a prop to the right, but I have felt as if the left thinks I am an idiot. I’m supposed to pretend I don’t recognize a majority of the House Democratic leadership has met with radical anti-Semite and homophobe Louis Farrakhan. I’m supposed to pretend I don’t recognize that many within the boycott divest sanction movement, led by leftists, would love to wipe Israel—home to more than six million Jews—off the map.
I’m also supposed to pretend I don’t recognize much of the anti-Israel sentiment emanating from the left is eerily reminiscent of neo-Nazi propaganda (just swap “Israel” for “Jew” and you will see precisely what I am referencing). I’m supposed to pretend I don’t recognize prominent Democratic members of Congress continue to applaud British Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn as he fends off accusations of anti-Semitism. I’m not supposed to recognize that prominent members of Congress have invoked anti-Semitic tropes when discussing Israel or Israeli interest groups.
Yes, perhaps one side of the political spectrum dehumanizes me, but it is not the right. If any side has treated me as if I have the intelligence of a doorknob, it is the left, which continues to tell me there is no anti-Semitism as I witness it so clearly and so frequently.
I recall a long conversation with McCain back in March about then-recent comments Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had made in reference to Israel. The conversation morphed into a larger discussion of anti-Semitism.
Meghan’s concern was palpable, real, and thoughtful. I remember I was sitting on a bus to New York and became embarrassed because I was tearing up over my phone. I didn’t ask Meghan to comment. There was no “political” gain to be had from her reaction. She shared with me her genuine disgust, and I remember in that moment being entirely grateful that it wasn’t just the Jewish community feeling alarmed. There were others. Lots of others.
Instead of shunning those who call out anti-Semitism, we should be celebrating them, just as we elevate those who call out racism and discrimination against homosexuals, and any other form of hatred where it rears its ugly head. Perhaps the Germany of the 1930s and 1940s would have been even marginally different if more non-Jews had the gumption to speak up about the atrocities taking place.
When Meghan criticized Corbyn during a “View” segment, she was ridiculed for “fake” tears, an entirely ridiculous proposition when you consider that there are many, both within and outside, the Jewish community who genuinely fear Corbyn and his ilk. Pause to consider the myopia it takes to criticize the person who calls out anti-Semitism instead of the actual anti-Semite. Then peer closer at the modern left. I know who believes I’m a doorknob.