I have not lived in New York City for thirty five years.
So, why should I care about the race for New York City Council in the district that includes the area from the Upper West Side to lower Washington Heights?
It is quite simple: I challenge you to find a clearer, more blatant example of raw, unvarnished Jew hatred in America today.
Thomas Lopez-Pierre is running for City Council against incumbent Mark Levine. He is also “running”, he says, against “greedy Jewish landlords.”
Don’t believe me? Watch this, in which he compares gentrification to “ethnic cleansing.”
Is gentrification a social problem?
Does the religion of the landlords matter?
You tell me. I think no.
This is nothing new for Lopez-Pierre. According to a Daily News article, in the fall of 2012, Lopez-Pierre sent a series of emails calling Levine a “White/Jewish candidate.”
This is also nothing new for New York City politics.
Those of you who are old enough remember the blatant anti-Semitism that emerged during the New York City school teachers’ strike in 1968.
That is just one example of how Jew-hatred has currency even (or, especially) in the most Jewish city in the world.
As we used to say in the South, I don’t have a dog in this fight — at least, politically.
Neither do many of you.
Why, then, should we care?
We should care because it drives home exactly how well-ingrained anti-Semitic (oh, let’s stop mincing words: Jew-hating) discourse is in America today.
This, on the heels of the recent ADL report that says that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged more than one-third in 2016, and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, particularly since November.
More than this: The amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at nondenominational K-12 grade schools has doubled.
Even if we factor in the bomb threats that emanated from an American-Israeli youth (and the story becomes more bizarre and troubling all the time), we should be concerned about this increase in anti-Semitism.
We should care because Lopez-Pierre’s anti-Semitic rhetoric proves that anti-Semitism is as pronounced on the political Left as it is on the political Right.
Over the past six months, I have noticed that Jews on one end of the political spectrum have tended to downplay the anti-Semitism in their own camp, and overstate the anti-Semitism in the opposing camp.
This quickly devolves into a fourth-grade screaming match of “Oh, yeah? Well, what about … ?”
Those conversations wind up becoming utterly useless.
It is time for both parties to clean house, and to speak the truth about hatred – wherever it arises.
We should care because of what is happening in France.
Marine Le Pen, whose rhetoric has been ultranationalist, racist and troubling to many Jews, will be facing off against the centrist political novice Emmanuel Macron.
But, let’s remember someone else who had been in the mix: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left populist firebrand who received more than 19 percent of the vote – and who has a record of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements.
In fact, Melenchon’s supporters tweeted attacks French Jewish public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy: “Shove off to Israel or the States, you son of a bitch. … If Melenchon wins BHL knows where he can return.”
Sort of makes you remember how Zionism started, doesn’t it?
With Theodor Herzl hearing the cries of “Death to the Jews!” in the Paris streets during the Dreyfus trial.
So, in the week running up to Yom Ha-Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), both Le Pen and Melenchon remind us of one reason why Israel needs to exist in the first place.
Finally, let’s get back to upper Manhattan.
Lopez-Pierre is running for office in a district that includes the Upper West Side – a.k.a., the Jerusalem of the United States.
You would have to be a. foolhardy or, b. just a fool, to not take that into consideration when you are choosing your campaign rhetoric.
Or, c. You would have to think that making such outrageous remarks about “Jewish landlords” would not be enough to disqualify you from this race, or even do much damage to your political career.
You would have to think that those who hear this rhetoric will agree with you, that the invocation of Jewish landlords will strike a chord.
For Jews and others who know history, this should be the most sobering lesson of them all.