Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Why #jewishlivesmatter

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., walks through an underground tunnel at the Capitol as top House Democrats plan to offer a measure that condemns anti-Semitism in the wake of controversial remarks by the freshman congresswoman, in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Omar said last week that Israel's supporters are pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of "allegiance to a foreign country." Despite criticism from Democrats and Republicans, Omar has refused to apologize. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Remember #blacklivesmatter?

How could you not? It has been one of the most influential and persuasive movements in contemporary America.

What was the impetus behind the movement?

Very simple, and very sobering. There is the perception that police have targeted blacks for violence.

Then, the push back came. For whatever reason, conservative Americans were uncomfortable singling out blacks for special recognition. They simply did not want to affirm the unique status of anti-black violence in this country. They were skittish about realizing that you could draw a straight line from Ferguson, Missouri to lynchings in the deep South.

And so, what did they do? They deflected the conversation. They shifted it away from #blacklivesmatter to #alllivesmatter.

President Trump, in particular, stated that “Black Lives Matter” is divisive and inherently racist.

Blacks, and others, were rightly furious when conservatives hijacked the conversation and took the focus off the unique suffering of American blacks.

It is not only about race. Almost thirty years ago, I gave a sermon about the AIDS epidemic. A congregant angrily accosted me. “Why are we only talking about AIDS? What about all those people who have cancer, heart disease, etc?”

A little bit of probing revealed the reason for the encounter.

My congregant was simply not comfortable discussing a disease that seemed to have uniquely targeted gays.

So, let’s just talk about all diseases.

When the particulars of a situation trouble you, and you would rather ignore them — just shift the conversation to the universal.

You see where this is going.

Let’s review. Rep. Ilhan Omar makes reprehensible statements — about what? And, about whom?

  • She started with her accusation that Israel has hypnotized the world into ignoring its evil.
  • She then went into a riff about how congressional support for Israel was about the “Benjamins.”
  • She apologized for that remark, and then essentially accused American Jews of dual loyalty.

So, to all of those who support her right to speak out against Israel, and/or against Israeli policies, please understand this.

  • This is not about the occupation.
  • This is not about the settlements.
  • This is not about checkpoints.
  • This is not even about religious pluralism in Israel.
  • This is not about Israel.

This. Is. About. The. Jews.

If the only Dreyfus you’ve ever heard about is Julia-Louis Dreyfus, stop what you are doing, and read about her distant relative.

Does the name Alfred Dreyfus mean anything to you?

End of history lesson.

No, actually, sorry: one more history lesson.

You might want to read up about how elite German-speaking central European Jews reacted to the early manifestations of antisemitism. “This can’t be about us! They must mean ‘those Jews’ — the eastern European Jews, the funny-looked Jews…”

OK, so —  confronting the possibility of a resolution condemning antisemitism, what does Congress do?

As the New York Times put it:

It started as a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Then, anti-Muslim bias was added in. After that came white supremacy. And by the end, it cited “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others” victimized by bigotry.

Please understand me. I, and most Jews, and certainly American Jewish leaders, have been univocal in condemning all of those manifestations of bigotry.

Here is my complaint.

First, the statement is intellectually dishonest. Even my tenth grade students at synagogue know that there is a difference between antisemitism and all of those other hatreds, egregious as they might be.

Second, the statement is the functional equivalent of the #alllivesmatter people trying to drown out #blacklivesmatter.

It basically says this: Jews don’t even deserve their own particular narrative.

Someone help me understand this.

How is it that such oh-so-sensitive people; the people who invented trigger warnings; the people who invented the term “micro-aggressions” — are blind, insensitive, callous, and intellectually duplicitous in Omar’s series of triggers and micro-aggressions?

Oh, wait. I get it.

When it comes to the Jews, you don’t have to be sensitive.

Because, Israel. Because, Netanyahu.

Mark my words. Yesterday will have proven to be a very dark day in American Jewish history. It will come to remind us that we have no friends on the Left, and we have no friends on the Right.

The Left does not like our parochial concerns (and we are the only group in America forbidden to have such concerns).

The Right uses and weaponizes our parochial concerns. They don’t care all that much about antisemitism, either — but they are ready and willing to use that feigned concern as a blunt weapon to get more votes.

Like I said, yesterday was a very bad day.

Time for all of us to get woke.





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.


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  • The current article regarding antisemetism acts in France on this site pointed out it now includes elements from the far Left, the far Right and Islamists. While the Evangelicals in the Republican Party claim to love Jews this is not the case with the White Supremist/Nationalist element. Pro-Palestinian sentiment (at the expense of support for Israel?) in the Democratic party is increasing. Maybe we should make sure the canary in the cage is still alive.

  • Good article — really good — but it allowed Black Lives Matter to get away with murder.

    (Literally, if we count the anti-police Dallas ambush a few years ago.) BLM had never been held accountable for some

  • Here’s the problem.
    Here’s my part in the problem.
    Here’s what I’m going to change.
    Here’s the outcome I desire.
    Who’s with me?

    Here’s the problem.
    Here’s their part in the problem.
    Here’s what they need to change.
    Here’s the outcome they desire.
    Who’s against me?

    There’s two sides to every solution.

  • Yes, Jewish lives matter. Right now, in this space: “This. Is. About. The. Jews.”

    And the Jewish experience.

    I am glad you came back to this point. I didn’t get it in this way from the column yesterday, that ignoring the language Omar uses can feed bigotry. I know that it does. I suppose I was so blindly concentrating on wanting to talk about the Palestinian issues that I was willing to ignore the warning signs from the language Omar used. This use of derogatory language about groups of people is so pervasive that we can’t seem to talk about anything without one speaker or another throwing in something to trigger very false stereotyping, denigration of a whole group, or trashing a good concept/movement/ idea because it becomes associated with a dark or questionable event.

    Again. Glad you came back to this.

  • You are using a common yes, but argument–Yes what was done to them was bad, but what was done to us was worse. This is the childs argument.. The mother says you hit your sister and the child says yes but she hit me harder.

    The statement drafted had to include all. It isn’t the same as the “all lives matter” versus “black lives matter” an attempt to negate the black lives issue. It is an attempt to recognize the pervasive anti-anyone who isn’t like us rhetoric in this world and from politicians on all sides.

    How could they single out antisemitism and not acknowledge antimuslimism and all the others?

  • You lost all credibility when you gave credibility to BLM.
    BLM – thugs defending thugs….

  • I want to make one more comment. I think you need to define what constitutes antisemitism, or anti-anything else.

    It is applying non-factual statements as statements of fact to an individual or group of individuals. For example the claim about the Benjamins–is implying that ALL Jews are in it or will do anything or concerned only about MONEY. This is using a derogatory stereotype not based on fact to make an argument. Claiming that all Muslims are members of ISIS or out to bring Sharia law to the US is being antimuslim.

    The allegiance argument is problematic because the US allows citizens to hold dual citizenship (hold allegiance to two different countries) BUT (here I am using a yes,but argument) could she or was she pointing out that in the Republican mind any criticism of Israel, is antisemitic? Republicans have indeed used this argument.

    Unfortunately the statement “I know it when I hear it”, doesn’t help others come to an understanding of WHY a person or groups takes offense at a statement.

  • “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”

    I need help seeing where Omar says anything about Jews having dual allegiance, because it just isn’t there.

  • She is. She has bulging eyes, red lipstick and moves money in between her campaign and campaign managers business quicker than a NYC card huckster.

  • And the ultimate solution? The Great Kibosh of All Religions- Tis mind-boggling how easy this solution is!!

  • When the “us” of “time for all of us to get woke”——uh, “get’s woke”——- then what is that “us” supposed to do? If the “us” is the American Jewish Community, is it going to get up and leave and go live in Israel? Or is some of it going to stay on the theory that the Freedom-Of-Religion United States of America happens to be the safest and most welcoming place in history for Jewish people? Is it going to badger and down-prioritize everybody else who also has oppression concerns and has mistreatment by others in the past——as this article seems to do?

    With respect to Jews HERE, this article contains a very strange statement, namely “Even my tenth grade students at synagogue know that there is a difference between antisemitism and all of those other hatreds, egregious as they might be”. Might that be because of what is taught at synagogue? Is there any possibility that Jewish students are being taught that the “American Left” is a bunch of Islam Lovers and Closeted Nazis instead of being taught that the Real American Left is composed of youngish fans of Simon Helberg on The Big Bang Theory show and that they have NOTHING whatsoever against this Jewish man or his TV Jewish character or against anybody else like him?

    In the 2016 election, the Jewish American voters went 71% against Trump overall. I once had a conservative Jewish guy tell me in the comment section that only the Jews who don’t go to synagogue voted for Clinton and that those who DO go to synagogue overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Honest to goodness, I was told that. Is it true? That synagogue people liked the candidate who was attractive to the “Jews Will Not Replace Us” chanters at Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, 2017? We all ARE what we are taught. When we “get woke”, we maybe all need to worry about whether we are being taught unity well enough.

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  • “Unfortunately the statement ‘I know it when I hear it’, doesn’t help
    others come to an understanding of WHY a person or groups takes offense
    at a statement.”

    It certainly should be sufficient for others to stop making the offensive statement(s).

  • No. The canary dies when too much dangerous gas infects the mine but not enough to kill humans – it warns us. Antisemetism, the poison, is spreading, in Europe as well, from some from the Left, the Right and Islam.

  • No Bill. Most people aren’t abstract thinkers. They have difficulty extrapolating a concept from one situation and applying it to other situations. They need concrete examples.

  • “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”

    So according to Omar, being a supporter of Israel means to have a dual allegiance.

  • The problem with BLM is its insistence on the existence of inherent widespread racism in our police forces coupled with its own resulting violent bigotry leveled against those same police. In this case, the House Democrats watered down their bill to the point that it was about everybody in general so they could avoid making it about anyone specifically.

  • When a bi-partisan array of Senators, congress members, and presidents all support Israel over our own stated policy of supporting a two-state solution and just conduct, it seems as though they are giving Israel greater allegiance.

    That speaks to politicians and die hard supporters of Israel in the US though, the vast majority of whom aren’t Jews.

  • That is a misunderstanding of what bigotry is. Occasional violent acts by the oppressed do not equate to the overwhelming power of the oppressor. A slave revolt is not the same as a genocide.

    Police forces that make up a militarized force with organization, that fund themselves by preying upon poor minority communities, and feel justified in killing for the sake of their own security… they are not equal to those they police.

  • You mean like getting boycotted, voted out of office, or waylaid in an alley by someone with a brick?

  • “When a bi-partisan array of Senators, congress members, and presidents all support Israel over our own stated policy of supporting a two-state solution and just conduct, it seems as though they are giving Israel greater allegiance.”

    Except, of course, that is not what she is referring to.

    In fact, the word “Israel” and the phrase “two-state” appear nowhere in her comments.


    bigotry – mass noun

    Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.

    DougH appears to be spot on.

    For example, despite the fact that a white person is five times more likely to be shot by the police than a black person, a bigot would tend to write about “Police forces that make up a militarized force with organization, that fund themselves by preying upon poor minority communities, and feel justified in killing for the sake of their own security …”.

    Btw, under the law acting for the sake of their own security pretty much defines a justifiable shooting.

  • And there’s the bigotry. There is no “overwhelming power of the oppressor,” only men and women doing their best to do a job that is necessary but often difficult and sometimes dangerous. Are there racists among them? Of course there are, as there are in every segment of society be it professional, ethnic, or religious. Is there inherent widespread racism in our police forces? Not that I’ve seen any evidence of.

  • Omar equated recognizing Israel’s just claims and right to exist–her “support,” since that’s all I’ve generally heard politicians offer, even if no more than lip service–with allegiance. She has also suggested the Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state, falsely claims that Israel isn’t a democracy, and libelously compares the country to Iran when anyone doing a hint of research knows they are nothing alike.

  • Police represent a militarized force with the power of the state behind them. They are not in the same category as historically oppressed peoples.

  • “The statement drafted had to include all.”

    Not particularly.

    The statement as drafted by Nancy Pelosi and her staff was designed to avoid calling out Ilhan Omar.

  • I was hoping someone could clarify what the author meant when he wrote, “Even my tenth grade students at synagogue know that there is a difference between antisemitism and all of those other hatreds, egregious as they might be.”

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