It was expected that Donald Trump’s political rivals would blame him for the Pittsburgh massacre, hard as it is to square this argument with plain common sense. No president has been more supportive of Israel than Trump. He has Jewish family members. Moreover, the murderer wasn’t one of his supporters.
And despite all this, we’re asked to believe that a neo-Nazi, who hates Trump precisely because of his ties to Jews, somehow acted in something like Trump’s spirit. Why? Because Trump created a “climate of hatred” toward migrants, and because Jews, according to the killer, support immigration. This is more than a slight stretch, and it gives the impression that those who advance this narrative are less concerned about the welfare of Jews than they are for bashing Trump.
The facts produced in support of this flimsy narrative were quickly shown to be just as flimsy. Jonathan Greenblatt, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and now the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, provided the golden piece of evidence that everyone rushed to quote: a 57 percent rise in the number of anti-Semitic “incidents” in 2017; that is, in Trump’s first year in office.
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But this number, it turns out, conceals more than it reveals. In an article on the Jewish website Tablet, David Bernstein showed why. The increase was in the number of people who felt they were victimized, not in the number of attacks.
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The number of violent attacks actually dropped in 2017, even drastically; moreover, the places with a particularly sharp increase in the number of reported incidents were university campuses. Trump’s influence there is negligent, of course, in comparison to the impact of the academic left, which is growing increasingly hostile toward Israel. It’s no longer a secret that being a Jewish student at a contemporary American university isn’t easy, under the tyranny of political correctness.
This is why it’s hard to shake off the unpleasant feeling that Robert Bowers has become something of a fig leaf. Here, in a flash of false clarity, the Nazis have returned to center stage, and the old sort of anti-Semitism could be used to hide the new sort.
One need not forgive Trump for failing to clearly condemn neo-Nazis in the aftermath of Charlottesville, or underestimate the dangers lurking on the far right (mainly in Europe), to recognize what any sober observer of the contemporary climate would tell you: The risk of anti-Semitism posed by American neo-Nazis, as murderous and vile as it is, pales in comparison to the darkening clouds of Islamic anti-Semitism. The latter is backed by states, armies, nuclear-weapons programs, worldwide terror organizations and a vast network of anti-Semitic incitement in mosques all across the West.
A substantial part of the left has opened its doors to this type of anti-Semitism, under the deceptive aegis of multiculturalism, tolerance and a concern for human rights. It has made Israel-hatred legitimate. If there is a “climate of hatred” it’s a result of this acceptance, and it's this that is making Jews flee Europe. This isn’t a climate created by Trump, but one he vehemently opposes.
In this climate anti-Semitism on Britain’s left has moved from the margins to the Labour Party’s leaders. In this climate, Hezbollah and Hamas front organizations operate without interference in Europe (in the name of multiculturalism, of course). In this climate American Jewish organizations refuse to publish figures on anti-Semitic incitement in mosques, fearing that defenders of political correctness will call them Islamophobes.
In this climate nongovernmental organizations such as Breaking the Silence can peddle groundless blood libels about settlers who have “poisoned all the water sources in a Palestinian village" (the NRG website, June 2016). In this climate there’s a need for armed guards around synagogues in Western Europe. In this climate Berkeley offered a course where the final assignment was to suggest ways for “decolonizing” Palestine, a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of Jews. In this climate New York City’s mayor offers financial support to an organization headed by an anti-Semite, Linda Sarsour.
To portray Trump, who is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, as if he were implicitly inciting people to anti-Semitism, and to portray Sarsour, who openly declares she wants to “dehumanize” the Jews of Israel and who advances sharia law, as a human rights activist is downright absurd.
People who collaborate with all this, actively or even tacitly, don’t sound convincing when they suddenly blame a philo-Semitic president for creating an anti-Semitic climate. People who stoke hatred of Israel at international forums with a mixture of facts, deceptions and outright lies, people who demonize the Jewish state for a living, people who portray IDF soldiers as bloodthirsty storm troopers, or even as neo-Nazis, can’t now use the massacre in Pittsburgh to conceal their own contribution to legitimizing anti-Semitism.
I assume that inwardly, these agents of demonization and their supporters distinguish between good Jews (themselves in Israel, Hillary Clinton voters in the United States) and bad Jews (most Israelis, Trump voters in the United States). In fact, an entire chorus of columnists in this paper seems to base its journalistic endeavors on this distinction.
But anti-Semitism doesn’t know such distinctions between Jews here and Jews there, between good Jews and bad Jews, between blood libels coming from the right and blood libels coming from the left. It would therefore be wise to remember Jeffrey Goldberg’s words: “When neo-Nazis email me links to Haaretz op-eds declaring Israel to be evil, I’m going to take a break, sorry.”
I don’t doubt that those on the Israeli left who drifted incrementally from a concern for human rights to a systematic demonization of the Jewish state were truly shocked by Bowers’ action. This is clearly not what they ever bargained for. They were hoping that demonization would lead to international pressure on Israel, and that such pressure would in turn lead to the end of the occupation (based on an imaginary assumption that if we only willed it, we’d have a partner for peace on the Palestinian side). But this plan didn’t yield the expected result and Trump, more than anyone, symbolizes its failure.
In the meantime, however, this strategy had other results: stoking anti-Semitism in all its forms and a particularly shameful surrender to its Islamic variants. Anyone who demonizes Israel day in and day out cannot at the same time blame others for creating “a climate of hate.” This is no longer a case of camels not seeing their humps. It’s a case of elephants refusing to see their trunks.