On Anti-Semitism, Soul-Searching Versus a Shoulder Shrug

The difference between anti-Semitism on the right and anti-Semitism on the left is that while the left does serious soul-searching about how to reconcile unpalatable beliefs coming from allies on other issues, the right just shrugs its shoulders and carries on.

It must be hard for our Republican friends. Like the dog who finally caught the car, they finally got what they've been chasing: Control of both houses of Congress and the White House. But at what cost? Michael Cohen is right:

Whatever the reason Americans voted for Trump, we know that every one of them chose to support a candidate who made repeated bigoted, xenophobic, and misogynistic statements. They supported a candidate who mocked a disabled reporter, demonized an entire religion, made veiled anti-Semitic comments, scapegoated undocumented immigrants, and bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Have we gone insane? How is that not immediately disqualifying? Yet Donald Trump won the Republican vote overwhelmingly. They elected Archie Bunker, but instead of laughing at him, our Republican friends are laughing with him.

The same Republicans who were all up in arms about Jeremiah Wright found it easy to dismiss events that happened not decades earlier, but during Trump's campaign, which was laced with veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitism.

The same Republicans who were all up in arms when President Obama put his feet on the desk (the disrespect!) don't seem to mind that Trump omitted any reference to Jews from his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day left Israel off a list of underreported terrorist attacks, and repeatedly refused to condemn anti-Semitism.

The same Republicans who were all up in arms about those with whom President Barack Obama may have associated before he entered public life are suddenly silent about Sabastian Gorka, the senior Trump adviser who The Forward reported is "a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been 'under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany' during World War II."

Gorka was recently photographed wearing a medal from this group. As Ben Rhodes tweeted, when asked if you are a member of a Nazi-allied group, most people can just answer "no." But not Gorka. The Anne Frank Center called on Trump to fire Gorka, as did the NJDC

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) demanded that Trump provide Gorka's immigration application to the House Judiciary Committee. Democratic (because as usual, the GOP is silent) Senators Dick Durbin (IL), Ben Cardin (MD), and Richard Blumenthal (CT) noted in their letter that

this Administration purports to have a special interest in ensuring that those with extremist views do not exploit our immigration laws ...

We are particularly troubled by Dr. Gorka's reported affiliation with an anti-Semitic organization because of the White House's own checkered record on religious discrimination. For the first time in decades, the White House's statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention the Jewish victims, an omission which Dr. Gorka publicly defended. 

If you've read the attempts to defend Gorka, you owe it to yourself to read this rebuttal from The Forward and these Twitter threads from Ron Kampeas and Sarah Posner.

If a zero tolerance policy on anti-Semitism should apply to anyone, it should apply to the president of the United States. But instead, our Republican friends prefer to focus on people from the left who don't hold public office.

So that means it's up to us to lead by example. We support justice and equality for women and African-Americans. But if an organization purporting to fight for justice and equality has a plank that is anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, then that's an organization we cannot support. And if that means sitting out a major march, so be it. We should be clear that precisely because we support justice and equality, we will not support an organization that betrays those principles by unfairly treating Jews and Israel, even though we will support the cause that they ostensibly support.

That also means that we should not participate or condone any events that convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh takes part in, no matter how much we might otherwise agree with the stated purpose of the event. Not only that, but we should tell the organizers of any such events that the inclusion of a convicted terrorist is unacceptable.

But what if an event has someone who we strongly disagree with on Israel but is not so clearly over the line as Odeh? This is where it gets murkier, as the we've seen in the debate over Linda Sarsour. She is clearly wrong when she says that feminism is incompatible with Zionism and yes, that's basically what she's saying, despite efforts by some to defend her by parsing her words. If she speaks against Israel at an event unrelated to Israel, then we need a speaker at that event who says the opposite. If there is no such speaker, then that's an event we need to skip.

Some say that we should participate in these events so that we can engage and maybe change some minds. Would you give Republicans who hang out with white supremacists the same leeway? Neither would I. We don't need to endorse their events to engage -- we can engage by explaining why, if a platform or a speaker is unacceptable, we have chosen not to participate in that particular event. At a minimum, we must, as Ann Lewis advises, "object when any individual or group attempts to co-opt successful, broad-based actions like the National Women's March with a narrow, anti-Israel agenda."

This also means that groups like AIPAC avoid anti-Muslim extremists like Frank Gaffney. And if you think that the $60,000 AIPAC paid Gaffney is a relatively insignificant sum of money, please feel free to donate to help cover the expenses for this newsletter, using this new, improved payment link.

Whether from the right or the left, all bigotry, including anti-Semitism, is unacceptable. Period.

Credit where credit is due, but not where it isn't. The U.S urged the U.N. to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid, and the U.N. didLee Smith thinks that Trump's foreign policy resembles Obama's in many respects because Obama's foreign policy team is still running the show.

Ron Kampeas explains that Trump's Middle East policies are traditional, and Adam Basciano asks us to give Trump credit for the positives.

But some of Trump's comments have cast doubt on his commitment to a two-state solution. Over 175 members of Congress signed this letter urging Trump to reaffirm his support for a two-state solution. Every pro-Israel organization that supports a two-state solution should be backing this letter.

Several major Jewish organizations praised the courts for striking down Trump's second attempt to ban Muslims, and many major Jewish organizations criticized aspects of Trump's budget cuts. 

Stop Ryan's attack on America's safety net. Former Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) served in Congress with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-OH) for 14 years. Read his commentary and take action.

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