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In the debate over Representative Ilhan Omar and her weekly anti-Semitic commentary, multiple commentators have insisted that Jews will not turn to the GOP in disgust, because most American Jews are committed Democrats. Notwithstanding, and with his habitual aplomb, President Trump waded in to note that Democrats are “Jew-haters.” Trump, as the Washington Post riposted, must not know the facts: “Thirty-two of the 34 Jewish members of Congress are Democrats. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 70 percent of Jewish Americans voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.” Undeniable, but those voters have not voted on their “Jewishness” because the fact of their religion has been, for the most part, irrelevant in the modern United States. Jews, like many Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and others, do not vote their religion, they vote their convictions. And those convictions are shaped far more by political and cultural leanings, and much less by chosen house of worship. For most Jews, Israel is not the single issue that brings them to the ballot box. Jews for whom Israel is a ballot driver have, like pro-Israel evangelicals, long since abandoned the Democratic party.
But. Ilhan Omar and the new anti-Semitic vanguard in the Democratic party is something quite different in American politics. Omar is not simply an Israel hater. This is someone who has a problem with Jews qua Jews. And she is not alone. There is Bernie Sanders and his unsavory team; there is Omar’s loyal defender, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; new House member Rashida Tlaib, who wrote for Louis Farrakhan’s odious and hate-spewing “Final Call.” Now, there are plenty of vile anti-semites around, and no shortage on the Right. In Charlottesville, white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.” David Duke was excited about Donald Trump before he switched allegiance to Omar. But as the WaPo reminds us, the Right is not the natural home of American Jewry.
The same is true for Jews in Europe, who historically aligned themselves more on the Left. There are sound historical reasons for Jewish liberalism in Europe, though Stalin murdered Jews with an enthusiasm that would have made Hitler proud. But European Jews are rethinking their politics and the Democratic Party should take note. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, and has become a staple of the British Labour Party, whose leader has embraced anti-Semitic members of the Party and terrorist groups. 95 percent of French people polled rated anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem, and their compatriots in Germany (and Sweden) largely agree, and more than a third of respondents across Europe polled by the European Agency for Human Rights indicated they have considered emigrating because they felt unsafe as a Jew. (Note, this poll preceded the alarming rise in incidents of anti-Semitism in Europe over the last few years.) Indeed, almost 40 percent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Jeremy Corbyn became PM. What does the problem look like? In France, 20 percent of respondents polled allowed that Jews have too much influence in the media, a quarter said Jews have too much influence on wars and conflict, about half said they didn’t think they had ever socialized with a Jew, and 20 percent of young people 18-35 had never heard of the Holocaust.
None of this should suggest that the Democratic Party is institutionally anti-Semitic (unlike Corbyn’s Labour); Democratic leaders in the House and Senate appear alarmed by this new trend in their party, notwithstanding their willingness to water down a resolution condemning Ms. Omar’s anti-Semitism. (Just as a side note, I will say that if the Republican Leader had appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone hugging Steve King, it would still be on the front pages… But hey, Nancy Pelosi, you go girl.) Nor should it suggest that Jew haters are to be found solely on the Left. But taken together with what appears to be a growing antipathy to Israel in certain sectors of the Democratic party and the overall rise in hostility among young people on the Left to those who support the State of Israel (for whatever reason), the ascent of this anti-Semitic left-wing vanguard should be alarming to American Jews. The Jewish community may not care about attitudes towards Israel, Netanyahu, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when they find themselves in the ballot box; but they will care — one hopes — when they are singled out as Jews, accused of having dual loyalties, warmongering, or buying favor. In short, the Washington Post is wrong: Past voting patterns may be a guide to how Jews express themselves politically. But they are no guarantee of future performance should Ilhan Omar and her fans be allowed to style themselves the leaders of the new Democratic Party.
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