Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Does Linda Sarsour have a “Jewish problem?”

Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women's March, speaks on a panel of newsmakers Friday, July 30, at the 54th Islamic Society of North America Convention at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Years ago, I learned something from Abraham Foxman, former director of the ADL.

“Never call someone an anti-semite,” he said.

“First, you don’t know what is in that person’s heart. And, second, you only create more problems.”

“Address the actions and behaviors that are anti-semitic,” he said.

So, I don’t know if Linda Sarsour is anti-semitic.

But, her rhetoric certainly is.

I am referring to what has happened in the wake of the election.

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota openly supports the BDS movement against Israel. As you can imagine, that has garnered her a great deal of criticism.

Linda Sarsour has spoken out:

This [criticism of Omar] is not only coming from the right-wing but some folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.

Which is a not-so-subtle accusation: the Jews are demonstrating dual loyalty.

Where have we heard this before?

This kind of accusation usually comes from the right.

That anti-semitism classically expressed itself thus: “The Jews are not really loyal to America.” Because, Israel.

Remember Patrick Buchanan?

He referred to Capitol Hill as “Israeli-occupied territory” (along with his defenses of Nazi war criminals and his suggestions that Israel prodded the United States into the war in Iraq).

In his book In Search of Anti-Semitism, the late William F. Buckley did a masterful job of exposing the anti-semitism of the right.

He focused on the writings of Joseph Sobran, a syndicated columnist and colleague; of Patrick Buchanan, and of Gore Vidal, who concluded in the pages of The Nation that Jewish Americans have “twin loyalties.”

Buckley called it as he saw it: it was anti-semitism. And, he publicly confessed: he grew up under the influence of Catholic upper-class anti-semitism, engaging in minor mischief and vandalism against Jewish properties.

He contritely said: This is who I was, and this is who I no longer am.

But now, the accusation of dual loyalty comes from the left: “Progressive Jews are not really loyal to the cause.”

Once again — because, Israel.

Linda Sarsour’s action have exposed, once again, how anti-semitism can come to permeate not only the radical right, but also the radical left.

In fact, the only thing those two extreme positions have in common is suspicion of the Jews, and of Jewish interests.

But, there seems to be a difference.

My right of center, conservative friends recognize the anti-semitism of some of those who are to their right. They recognize the nativist, white supremacist themes. They denounce them. They make no excuses.

By contrast, many of my leftist friends are far more reticent in recognizing and naming the anti-semitism coming from the left.

They equivocate. “Well, it’s not really anti-semitism. It is criticism of Israel.”

To which I say: you want to criticize Israeli policies? Get in line.

To which I say: you want to criticize Israel’s current government? Get in line.

But, if you say, as Linda has said, that Zionism is “creepy,” and if you think that the only nationalist movement that is creepy just happens to be the Jewish nationalist movement, then we have a problem.

But, wait, you will say.

How can you compare the anti-semitism of the right, which has proven to be violent and lethal (i.e., Charlottesville and Pittsburgh) with the “soft” anti-semitism of the left, which has only been of the intellectual variety?

To which I would say: The violence of the right began with words. It morphed into violence.

Why would we think that the hateful words of the left would not eventually do the same?

Moreover: we live in a cultural milieu in which we believe that harsh language can create trauma and that unpleasant ideas require trigger warnings.

Wouldn’t anti-Israel hate speech trigger the same kinds of trauma in Jewish college students?

And, if it does, don’t those Jewish college students deserve the same level of sympathy, empathy, compassion, and protection as members of other groups deserve?

Despite their oft-heralded privilege?

The late Irving Howe once said: “In the warmest of hearts, there is a cold spot for the Jews.”

Some are actively warming what might have once been cold — or neutral — places in their hearts.  Teresa Shook, the founder of the National Women’s March, has called on Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory to step down from their leadership of the March, citing their continued support of Louis Farrakhan.

Because, a Jew-hater is a Jew-hater is a Jew-hater.

It is time for us to condemn the anti-semitism of the right, and the anti-semitism of the left.

With no “whataboutism.”

Just name the evil when it comes.

And, be prepared to fight it.

Whatever it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

45 Comments

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  • If I am an anti-Semite for thinking that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are a great wrong being inflicted on the Palestinians, then I am very gladly an anti-Semite.
    And we sure don’t want any “whataboutism”. No King David Hotel, no Folke Bernadotte, no Sabra and Shatila, no USS Liberty. No siree, no whataboutism.

  • The topic is anti-semitism.

    In particular, the topic is the anti-semitism of the Left, evidenced by Linda Sarsour as an example.

    The author explicitly excludes criticizing Israeli policies and Israel’s current government.

    Settlements in the West Ban and so on all fall under that rubric.

    Blame the perpetrator(s), not the nationality, not the religion.

  • Frankly I oppose the West Bank Settlements, BDS and right wing philosemitism precisely because I support Israel and oppose anti Semitic.

    BDS has its hands dirty with links to eliminationist elements and an unwillingness to examine Palestinian misdeeds. It’s goals and rhetoric are ridiculously counterproductive to peaceful resolution to the issues.

    Right wing Bible Thumper support of Israel is backhanded. The anti Semitism is still part of their beliefs. These same people still call on neo Nazis for support. It’s all about their own eschatological needs and nothing else.

    West Bank settlements are a neo colonial holdover way past it’s expiration date. They are a security risk and an ideological nightmare for a democracy. The benefits are long gone only liabilities remain.

  • Frankly I oppose the West Bank Settlements, BDS and right wing philosemitism precisely because I support Israel and oppose anti Semitism.

    BDS has its hands dirty with links to eliminationist elements and an unwillingness to examine Palestinian misdeeds. It’s goals and rhetoric are ridiculously counterproductive to peaceful resolution to the issues.

    Right wing Bible Thumper support of Israel is backhanded. The anti Semitism is still part of their beliefs. These same people still call on neo Nazis for support. It’s all about their own eschatological needs and nothing else.

    West Bank settlements are a neo colonial holdover way past it’s expiration date. They are a security risk and an ideological nightmare for a democracy. The benefits are long gone only liabilities remain.

  • I am not against Israel having a land of their own, but to be honest, the Bible is not speaking of terra firma as a land for Israel. And, nobody calls on neo-nazis for support, to be honest. Honestly, I love right wing boots, but they stopped making the model I wear and I didn’t want to be insensitve, so I didn’t use the real name. Clean up your act, honestly.

  • “And, nobody calls on neo-nazis for support”

    Quite untrue. Conservatives have embraced “the alt right” whole hog. Our president retweets their garbage and calls them “very fine people”. Several GOP political candidates in the last elections freely associated with white supremacists. Even epithets used by conservatives smack of anti semitism (“globalist = is the new version of “international bankers”, Zionist, The Jews). What was the expression of the neo nazis “Unite the RIGHT”

  • I couldn’t care less about Biblical claims here. Israel exists as a nation. No nation is expected to justify its existence. It just does. No debate necessary, it is reality on the ground. Ones opinion on the subject is immaterial.

    Republicans have made neo Nazis a key base of support. Trump loves making appeals to white supremacy. They are even look for excuses to put children in concentration camps.

  • The Progressives’ problem with Jews is the same as G.K. Chesterton’s. He didn’t believe Jews were inherently evil or inferior, but didn’t like that Jews in England refused to become English. Of course, that very refusal to cease to be Jewish is why there are still Jews around at all.

  • Rabbi, I have a question and don’t intend to make an argument. It’s about the word “Semite”. It’s a confusing word that describers people with a common linguistic and cultural classification, but gets tangled up with racial groups which I suppose are rooted in the story of Noah and his son Shem.. So Hebrew speaking Israelis and Arabic speaking Palestinians could be said to be both Semitic peoples by this definition.. Yet In modern common usage “Semite” describes Jews, whether from Ohio or Israel, irrespective of their language or racial group. I suspect the confusion in terminology accounts for unhelpful assumptions on all sides. How do modern rabbis handle this?

  • Complicated problem. There is a difference between I don’t like how you identify and I’m threatened by your identity. It can be the spectrum of racism in a group of people or it can be the result of interactions.

    I can know that some people are not going to like how I identify. I can learn that sometimes there are reasons with merit as to why some people don’t like how I indentify. I can know that some people are threatened by how I identify. I can learn that sometimes there are reasons with merit as to why some people are threatened by how I identify.

    To change I have to want the results of what that change will bring and then you get to self interest and when that is your left or right motive expectations of ourselves and for others become locked in our identities.

  • I am a Republican Jew. Spuddie, I support some of your comments, but I don’t see Trump as White Supremacist You need to study the relationship between Obama, the Jewish People and Israel. U must look at relationship between Sarsour, Mallory & Farrakhan and “new left”. Both sides contain evil Jew Haters, but right this minute, Sarsour and her gang are ahead. Please, do get rid of them.

  • You have some major confirmation bias and blinkers on here. You are supporting someone and a party which is more than willing to throw you and your interests under the bus to appeal to more numerous antisemitic Bible Thumpers. Neo-nazis have become a mainstream Republican support base and it gives you no pause.

    “Both sides contain evil Jew Hater”

    But you are unwilling to address the ones in your own midst, so your opinion on such matters is worthless.

    https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/
    “The alt-right [Neo-Nazi] is here, and here to stay.”

    Only one side has given its “jew haters” access to political power. The current one. One which had at one point three white supremacists in the White House staff. The one which retweets neo-nazis and calls them “very fine people”. Lets not forget the anti-semitic appeals using George Soros as a stand in for the “Zionist bankers conspiracy” or how “globalist” and “the Jews” are practically synonymous with right wing screeds supported by Trump.

    How quickly you forget about Trump’s deliberately panicky bigoted election stunt rhetoric which inspired the mass murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh.

    “You need to study the relationship between Obama, the Jewish People and Israel. ”

    No I don’t. That is just whataboutism deflection garbage.

    You simply do not want to address Trump’s appeal by and appeals to white supremacist/anti-semites. Obama has been out of office for more than 2 years. I don’t ever have to give a crap about him in a conversation about current events and our current president.

  • “Because, a Jew-hater is a Jew-hater is a Jew-hater.”

    So I’m going to take a risk here and quote Paul and the New Testament.

    “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    Louis Farrakhan, Linda Sarsour and others didn’t invent anti-semitism what they do best is exploit it to their advantage. I think what Paul got right when he said this was if we don’t control what can be used to exploit us we will be dragged into un-winnable, or out of winnable fights.

    I’m all for naming evil and fighting it, I think everyone can get better at fighting it on two fronts.

  • “Louis Farrakhan, Linda Sarsour and others didn’t invent anti-semitism what they do best is exploit it to their advantage. ”

    Interestingly neither of them have any real political clout to speak of. However Republican politicians running anti-semitic appeals seems to go unnoticed
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/11/06/republicans-attack-jewish-candidates-across-us-with-an-age-old-caricature-fistfuls-cash/?utm_term=.a599910ec89a

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-how-gop-s-anti-semitic-and-neo-nazi-campaigns-fared-in-midterms-1.6633483

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/ohio-candidate-runs-radio-ad-that-rants-on-billionaire-communist-jews-1.6631218

  • not a subscriber so could not read first two post, third post is about a Green Party candidate. Don’t know much about those guys but aren’t they left of Bernie Sanders?

  • Nope. I’m not a subscriber to the Washington Post, I’m not a subscriber to Haaretz, and the 3rd link opens with “Jim Condit, 65, is on the ballot under the Green Party ticket.” The article goes on to describe the nut that he is and how the Green Party rejects him.

  • Shall we talk of the “very fine people” at Charlottesville?

    Or about the rise in anti Semitic violence since Trumps election?

    Or the three white supremacists who were / still are on the White House staff?

    Or that a major conservative mouthpiece (Breitbart) supports “the alt right”

    Republicans have a Nazi problem.

  • Dylan Roof is a problem. Micah Johnson is a problem. Roof shot nine black church goers Johnson shot five Dallas police officers working a protest. Both those guys are extremes examples of extreme acts. Both those guys are easily manipulated I’m not saying this is a 50/50 problem, it’s a problem that will take help from the other side fix.

  • Uh, Frosty, Sarsour isn’t in the WH or admin. BIG difference.
    Now, face reality & deal with today’s events. 45, as a republican, is a self admitted white nationalist.
    What are YOU going to do about it??

  • A few years ago a teenage girl committed suicide and her last message on her social media page was “Words Hurt”.

    Our day to day WORDS and actions matter. The argument that a comment is a “soft” comment is simply the failure to admit that your side did something wrong. Words are windows to the health and well being of our souls, to the core of who we are as human beings. Words often”slip” out. Freudian slips is what they are called!

    People in leadership positions need to be more careful with their words, because of their position they attract more attention and carry more authority behind them.

  • Jeff there’s a big difference between hated of Jews and disagreement with the actions of the Likud theocracy in the nation of Israel. You know better than this.

  • “Simply?” Hardly. “Need to??” Stating “need to” makes Susan’s statement false as they need to do no such thing. Stating “should” makes her statement true. Susan should practice what she preaches more.

  • WRONG. They “need to” this isn’t an issue of should they “Need to be more careful” the health and well being of our society and our nation is at stake here.

    I obviously “practice what I preach”. Do you?

  • “Need to” means “must.” It’s simply not true that they must be more careful. You are “obviously” quite sloppy with your word choice, actually, seemingly preferring to use wordage which allows you to play the victim at the expense of truth. To see if that’s true, the next times you are inclined to state “I need to” or “I have to,” try using “I choose to.”

  • Just watched a show about how the muslims take over other countries with their “religion” that is religious, political, judicial (sharia law) and military. At 1%, they are peaceful and considered a non-threat to anyone; at 2 to 3%, they start proselytizing among other disaffected groups, ethnicities, gangs and jails; at 5%, they wield influence well beyond their percentage of the population and work towards being allowed to impose Sharia Law on their own; at 10%, they will increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions and any non-muslim action that offends Islam will result in riots ; at 20%, expect hair-trigger riots, jihad militia formations, genocide and synagogue and church burnings; at 40%, they will control the population with threats, intimidation, physical harassment and murders; at 60%, they will commit state-sponsored genocide among non-muslims. Don’t believe it? America is in the 2-3% (no mosques when I was a child and now there are over 1600 in the US, most financed by Iran or Saudi Arabia, and more disenfranchised blacks and whites are turning muslim); England is in the 5% range; Germany and Sweden are approaching the 10% range (google the rapes, murders and the fact that civil authorities will not go into muslim-controlled areas due to concern for their own lives and that Sharia Law is imposed on the local population); at 60% one need only look at the genocide in Nigeria and Egypt and how only Islam is allowed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries. As the host of the show said, muslim immigration without assimilation is invasion and that is starting in America (Linda Sarsour – a muslim woman who is active and prominent in activities against our way of life and who is calling for a jihad, which in Arabic means holy war, against our government – stated that it is the intent of muslims to protect their “community” and to not assimilate and subjugate themselves to any other authority) and is well under way in some European countries with others probably so far gone that their national identity will soon be lost and another totalitarian regime such as exists in Iran will show in Europe! It amazes me how the PC crowd does not see this as a threat to civilization as Islam is not compatible with Democracy (there are no muslim democracies in the world) and that the muslims will not be satisfied until they attain world domination. CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood should be classified as terrorist organizations (the leaders of CAIR in the US are on record as saying that they will take this country over from inside) and we should impose a temporary ban on the immigration of any more muslims into the US until the population already here assimilates. If you think this is paranoid, consider that in a 2016 poll taken among muslims already in the US 25% think it is OK to wage jihad against America/Americans (that is 1 million potential jihadists already here – think in terms of the Ariana Grande concert bombing times at least 1000) and 50% want to impose Sharia Law (women will become property, non-muslims will be taxed or murdered and there will no longer be due process).

  • They must be more careful. They need to be more careful. I chose my words precisely. You may not like what i wrote but I mean what I said!

  • “Precisely,” huh? You “said” nothing rather “wrote.” Doesn’t matter what YOU mean. What matters is being truthful. This is a 6th grade level abstraction, Susan. It is absolutely not true that they must follow YOUR orders.

  • I am writing for people that aren’t as sophisticated as you! You need to get over yourself! Oh and need isn’t an order it is a strong suggestion!

  • “need to” is NOT an order. It is an admonition! And sweetie, honestly what century are you from!

  • An admonition? In other words, bullying. PS. Stating “need to” is ALSO typically being untruthful. I know you prefer histrionics over the truth.

  • Give it up FHRITP you are making a fool of yourself. Admonitions aren’t bullying, they don’t attack a person’s character, or call a person names. They are warnings of what might happen IF something isn’d done.

    The only histrionics here are from you. Get over yourself.

  • Her fellow leaders of the Woman’s March are Jew baiters. They just said Jews controlled the American Slave Trade.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful commentary about anti-semitism regarding Linda Sasour and others on the left and right. This is helpful for me in discussions that I have in my personal life.

  • Not going to say much here, except that BDS is a great movement. It has a lot of support here in Norway where I’m from, and my hometown is a Sister City of Gaza. I personally think all Dems should be unwaivering in their support of Rep. Omar.