Know Your Enemy
My late father-in-law was a pretty smart guy, but he had his blind spots. We were discussing anti-Semitism once (he was a semi-religious Jew and I am a secular Jew) and he opined that anti-Semitism was largely the province of the political left. I countered with my belief that neither left, right, nor center has a monopoly on anti-Semitism, and as an example mentioned Nazi Germany, which was a right-wing regime and the most anti-Semitic government in the history of the world. He replied that the Nazis weren’t really right-wing, but were politically “sui generis”: different than other regimes and impossible to classify as right or left. Well, we both had law degrees, but my undergraduate degree was in 20th Century European History, while his was in Electrical Engineering. So while I would have trusted him to wire my house, on this subject he was out of his depth. And while I still believe that anti-Semitism comes at us from all angles, in Trump’s America Jews had better keep their eyes especially peeled to the right, or suffer the consequences.
As mentioned above, I am a secular Jew. While I am an atheist and completely a-religious, I am ethnically and culturally Jewish, and I feel a strong affinity with the Jewish people. Part of this comes from what I learned about the Nazis while studying for my B.A. Nazi anti-Semitism was qualitatively different from traditional European Christian anti-Semitism. Traditional anti-Semitism was based on religion, and so during the Spanish Inquisition a Jew could escape persecution/torture/death by converting to Catholicism. On the other hand, the Nazis practiced a “blood-based” anti-Semitism; if you had Jewish parents/background you were a Jew, and what you actually believed or practiced was irrelevant. The Nazis would have killed me, that’s for sure, and so I know that my heritage is something that I can’t escape even if I wanted to, and I don’t.
For a number of years my family and I belonged to a local synagogue that is known for being fairly progressive in its thinking. My wife wanted to belong, and I thought it was a good idea for our sons to learn something of their heritage, and to allow them to make up their own minds concerning religion. Anyway, even though we are no longer members, we are still on the temple’s email list. Recently I received an email from the temple informing me that they are hosting a forum on the dangers of the “BDS” movement on college campuses, (which seeks to “Boycott, Divest and Sanction” Israel for its policies on the Palestinians) and the anti-Semitism that members of BDS sometimes devolve into. I can understand why the temple would find this important. Personally, I oppose the Israeli government’s settlement policy and support a two-state solution, which is something that I believe the current Israeli government only pays lip service to. But being against policies of the Israeli government is one thing, anti-Semitism is something else altogether, and should be challenged and fought wherever it raises its ugly head. But in light of everything that has happened in the United States the past few months (especially the past few weeks) my old temple’s forum seems quaint, if not naïve. People, the top advisor to the President of the United States of America is a freakin’ KLANSMAN for crying out loud. During Stephen Bannon’s reign over Breitbart News, that site referred to conservative commentator Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” because he refused to jump on Trump’s bandwagon, and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum as a “Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” Bannon’s ex-wife has testified in court that he said he didn’t like Jews and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart News becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.
Last Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, which seemed to Trump, Bannon, and the rest of the “America First” crowd (boy if that term doesn’t send chills down the spine of every American Jew, a history lesson is surely in order) a perfect time to issue an order banning people who are fleeing a hideous nightmare in their own country from entering ours, based on their religion, no less. Sound familiar, students of 20th century history? But not to worry, the Administration put out a statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. They just happened to omit any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism in their statement. ON HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY. Oh well, maybe it was just an oversight. Yeah, right. There’s not enough tequila in the world to render me sufficiently drunk to buy into that line of garbage. Especially when the Administration sends their resident weasel Reince Priebus to the Sunday talk shows to state that Hair Furor stands by his statement because “a lot of people suffered during the Holocaust”. Look you piece of human excrement, a lot of people suffered during World War II, (and that includes Japanese-Americans shamefully interred in the land of the free) and they should all be remembered. But this was HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY, the Shoah, which was a uniquely Jewish tragedy. The Nazis killed socialists and communists (so much for the argument that they weren’t a right-wing regime) and also targeted Romani, homosexuals, Russians, Poles and so many others. But the Wannsee Conference was convened in January 1942 to formulate a plan for the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem”, and the Jewish Problem only. Only the Jews were targeted for total annihilation. To issue a proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews is to engage in what historian Deborah Lipstadt has referred to as “soft-core Holocaust denial”, wherein someone acknowledges that “bad things” happened to “a lot of people” during World War II, but denies the essential Jewish nature of the Holocaust. When the President’s Senior Counselor is a white nationalist anti-Semite, I guess it’s no surprise that a White House declaration should reek (and I do mean reek) of soft-core Holocaust denial. But surprising or not, it should raise deafening alarm bells among all decent human beings. So by all means have a “BDS” forum; there’s reason for concern and vigilance there. But if you don’t at the same time put a new forum on your agenda for confronting the hate that sits in the Oval Office, history will teach you a lesson you will never forget.