Bigotry in America is rising and responses to it are also increasing, although much depends on the source of the bias and those responding to it. In most circles there is a declining tolerance of racism, sexism, homophobia, and White Nationalism. This is certainly true among liberals and those on the left. There is a declining acceptance of such behavior among moderates and many conservatives. This reflects itself, politically speaking, among Democrats as well as among a growing number of Republicans. Yet the problem still festers and is fanned by events which are permitted to continue unaddressed.
Unfortunately for many in the Jewish community–of all political persuasions–there is a growing anxiety of bias in the public space. Specifically, there is an absence of concern to the growing increase in anti-Semitism in America. While there was a major outcry in October after the killing of eleven Jews at prayer in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,this wide-based condemnation has not translated in any demonstrable manner since then, except for heightened police security. It appears as if, like with the horrific school shootings over the past years, hand-wringing is followed by little action.
Specifically, Congressman Steve King finally was rebuked by the House Republican Party and removed from his House committee assignments in January. While he was roundly condemned for his White Nationalist bigotry, very little was made of his very long history of anti-Semitic views and a dubious record on the Holocaust. (Following his group trip to Holocaust sites last year, including visiting concentration camps, King made a point of arranging a private meeting with members the far-right, Austrian Freedom Party, a nationalist group. This group is anti-immigrant like King, but his justification for meeting with them was similar to President Trump’s after the 2017 Charlottesville march that there was “blame on both sides.”)
In the newly enthusiastic Freshman class in the House there also are signs of a growing insensitivity to anti-Semitism as distinct from the major outcries that have been heard against other expressed forms of prejudice; but leaders of the Democratic Party need to demand proper speech and adequate sensitivity. The new progressive New York Representative Alexandre Ocasio-Cortes, for example, expressed pleasure with her recent 45-minute telephone conversation with Jeremy Corby, the leader of the British Labour Party. Not only does Corbyn have a clear anti- Israel record, but he also has fanned the anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
The new Muslim-American Members of the House, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota have articulated positions which were not only anti-Israel but anti-Semitic. Tlaib’s comments suggesting Jewish-Americans have a dual loyalty because of their support for Israel smacks of the one of the classic anti-Semitic canards that circulated in Washington in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Unlike her Palestinian counterpart Tlaib, Omar has presented herself as having a broader view; however, she is still running trying to excuse the anti-Semitic statements in her past. While they both expressed opposition to the Senate bill which contained anti-BDS language, she did reach out to Jewish Republican Representative Lee Zelden to meet with him in order to seek to discontinue their public, aggressively hostile, tweeting match.
Progressivism in the name of political change is fine but not when it permits the trampling on the rights of any Americans. Members of both parties and particularly leadership must move not only against the unacceptable prejudice which is intensifying in the country but specifically to address the intolerable, growing anti-Semitism.