Thirty-nine words about antisemitism are splitting the Jewish community

Of note:

There’s a storm brewing in the American Jewish community over a definition of antisemitism that appears, upon first glance, quite banal.

“Antisemitism,” it reads in part, “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

But the language, adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016, comes packaged with a host of examples that describe various criticism of Israel as antisemitic. As much of the Jewish establishment makes federal adoption of the IHRA definition a top priority for the Biden administration, it has become a proxy for a wider rift in the Jewish community over the politicization of antisemitism.“These are not people I trust to go after antisemitism.”

“The Jewish community is pushing this because they see it as a tool that they want to use to stop certain speech they don’t like,” said Ken Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate, who helped draft the language on which the IHRA definition is based.

“I can’t totally speak to their intent,” Morriah Kaplan, strategic director at IfNotNow, which is focused on opposing the Israeli occupation, said of the organizations backing the definition, “but these are not people I trust to go after antisemitism.”

The Conference of Presidents, established in the 1950s to give American Jews a unified voice to communicate with the White House and world leaders, sent a letter on Jan. 12 to now-President Joe Biden urging him to use the IHRA definition to combat antisemitism on campuses.

But that letter was only signed by five member-groups and it is unclear how many of the 51 organizations that joined the Tuesday conference statement also support the call for Biden to use it.

In fact, several conference members had joined a competing Jan. 12 statement by the Progressive Israel Network, which cited “strong potential for misuse” of the definition. The Reform movement, the largest Jewish denomination in North America, announced Monday that it had adopted the IHRA definition but simultaneously opposed codifying the language in federal law. Bend the Arc, a major liberal Jewish group, also came out against government use of the definition late Monday.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about whether Biden supports use of the IHRA definition.

Identifying the threat

As the establishment groups ramp up their lobbying for federal adoption of the definition, IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, another left-wing activist group, plan to launch lobbying and educational campaigns to oppose the definition in the coming months.

Kaplan, with IfNotNow, and others on the left argue that after four years of the Trump administration, during which the antisemitic far-right gained new power, the most urgent threat to the Jewish community clearly comes from violent white nationalists.

Public opinion polls suggest that most American Jews agree: 75% said in an American Jewish Committee survey last year that the political right posed a serious antisemitic threat, compared to 32% who said the same about the political left.

Yet many mainstream groups continue to emphasize a need to fight antisemitism across the political spectrum. And the antisemitism that Jewish leaders call out on the left almost always refers to attacks on Israel that they believe cross a line. The IHRA definition, they say, helps clarify that line.“Nobody has a problem of defining antisemitism if it’s waving Nazi flags.”

“Nobody has a problem of defining antisemitism if it’s waving Nazi flags,” said Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League. “The definition deals with a lot subtler issues of what antisemitism is, which today unfortunately includes attacking Israel’s existence.”

Foxman said the IHRA language can be used to deal with all forms of antisemitism, but critics say those promoting the definition are doing so at the expense of focusing on right-wing extremists.

They point to a November memo to Biden’s transition team from the Jewish Federations of North America outlining the organization’s priorities for fighting antisemitism. The document listed ISIS and Al Qaeda as threats to American Jews, but did not name right-wing antisemitism. Sandwiched between increased security grants and Holocaust education was promotion of the IHRA definition.

More outrage came following the Conference of Presidents letter, sent six days after a right-wing mob ginned up on antisemitic conspiracy theories stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“To go forward with a letter to Biden saying that college students advocating for Palestinian freedom are the greatest threat to American Jews was truly unconscionable to me,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is anti-Zionist and supports the BDS Movement.


Ahead of November election, growing numbers of Jews consider leaving US

Of note even if anecdotal. Interest and intention are of course different from action:

By 11:42 a.m. on the morning after US President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the presidential debate, Heather Segal had received four inquiries from Americans interested in moving to Canada. Two of them were Jewish.

Segal, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, knows there’s always a spike in inquiries during US election years. But in her 25 years of experience, it’s never been as big as it is now.

Source: Ahead of November election, growing numbers of Jews consider leaving US

ICYMI: Jewish Americans Say They Are Scapegoated For The Coronavirus Spread

Less than Asian Americans I suspect, but still of concern:

American Jews are finding themselves in a historically familiar position: Scapegoated for a plague.

Some of the first New Yorkers to contract the coronavirus were Jews in the Orthodox Jewish communities in and around New York City. In the weeks that followed, several Jewish weddings and funerals were held in violation of public health orders. Then came statements from public officials singling out Jews, and anti-Semitic threats on Facebook.

After New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio witnessed the NYPD break up a large funeral in Brooklyn for a prominent rabbi, the mayor tweeted: “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed.”

De Blasio was condemned by fellowDemocrats and American Jews. There is no data indicating religious Jews are violating social distancing rules at a greater rate than other demographic groups. While there have been high-profile incidents of police disrupting Jewish gatherings, the NYPD has also made arrests of various sorts for failing to practice social distancing, like at a Brooklyn barbershop and at a Manhattan “marijuana party.” And pictures of throngs hanging out at parks and closely congregatingfor the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds flyovers indicated that not social distancing isn’t a problem specific to a particular religious group.

De Blasio later said that he “spoke out of real distress that people’s lives were in danger.” He added: “I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way, that was not my intention. It was said with love but it was tough love, it was anger and frustration.”

By some accounts, religious Jews in certain neighborhoods of New York City have been stricken by the virus at high rates. At the same time, Jews who have recovered from the virus have donated plasma in extraordinary numbers in an effort to save others.

In early March, Yaacov Behrman, a community leader and Hasidic Jewish activist, rushed to get ahead of the virus by marrying his bride, Shevi Katzman, after an engagement of just a week-and-a-half. They had a socially distanced wedding across two Brooklyn backyards — with a few siblings, no cousins, two witnesses and a rabbi, and 2,500 people watching on Facebook Live.

“I think that’s what’s so painful and upsetting about it, about the mayor’s tweet, [is] the vast majority of Orthodox Jews have given up [something] — I gave up a wedding,” Behrman said. “What are you generalizing for, Mr. Mayor? It’s like going to the park and saying, ‘My message to the yuppies,’ you know?”

Behrman said he does not believe the mayor is anti-Semitic, but Jews should not have been singled out.

“The organizers of the funeral [de Blasio tweeted about] were 100% wrong — it was an embarrassment, it was an embarrassment to me as an Orthodox Jew, it was an embarrassment to me as a New Yorker,” he said. “But I also want to make it clear, you look around New York, everyone is becoming lax unfortunately.”

Yet there’s a pattern of specifically highlighting Jewish offenders. In Lakewood, N.J., where early on in the pandemic police made arrests at large Jewish gatherings, a local news station reported that a school bus was carrying children to a Jewish school that was open, illegally. The reporter later acknowledged that the bus was just delivering food to homebound families.

In nearby Jackson Township, N.J., town council president Barry Calogero made a speech at a government meeting indicating that Judaism itself made Jews recalcitrant when it comes to following the rules.

“Unfortunately, there are groups of people who hide behind cultures or religious beliefs and put themselves, our first responders, and quite honestly all of Jackson and bordering towns at risk for their selfishness, irresponsibility and inability to follow the law put in place by President Trump and Governor Murphy,” he said.

Calogero said he was not anti-Semitic. But after criticism he resigned days later, citing health reasons.

And in Rockland County, N.Y., where there are large communities of Orthodox Jews, the county executive’s Facebook post about police breaking up a large Passover service was met by anti-Semitic comments.

Violations of health regulations by Orthodox Jews have been documented by public officials and media at a level of scrutiny that Jews say others don’t face. Eli Steinberg, an Orthodox Jewish writer in Lakewood, N.J., says it’s easier to generalize about those who wear traditional garb.

“We’re, ya know, we’re the guys dressed in black and white and we wear the hats, so it becomes a sort of more interesting story” when Jews violate health rules, he said. “But it’s not — it’s a story about people….People do dumb stuff.”

The problem, he said, is when it is made to seem as though the few who violate the rules are more widespread in a particular community.

“In a time of such uncertainty, which we’re going through now, when you can effectively scapegoat somebody or scapegoat a group of people about the issue that people are scared of…that’s a part of it that concerns me,” Steinberg said. “This moment where there’s the vehicle of Covid19 to use to spread hate, it just becomes that much more scary.”

Bari Weiss, author of How To Fight Anti-Semitism and a New York Timesopinion staff writer and editor, said given how anti-Semitism is at historic peaks in New York and around the country, public officials need to be “extremely specific” in criticizing large gatherings, instead of blaming “the Jewish community.”

I think that there is a double standard often when it comes to the way that the Jewish community and Jews are talked about, whether it’s because we’re not perceived as a minority, even though we are,” she said. “It stands to reason that lots of people who already perhaps have animosity toward that community will be even more emboldened.

The Anti-Defamation League released a report this week showing that there were more anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 than at any year since it it began tracking in 1979.

“Anyone that’s been paying attention, or anyone that knows people inside of these communities, knows already dozens of stories of people that have been spit on, assaulted, harassed, had their head coverings pulled off, had their face smashed with a paving stone,” Weiss said.

Now, amid the coronavirus, the hate is more socially distanced — happening largely online. Last month the ADL documented how community Facebook groups are loaded with comments blaming Jews for spreading the virus, and calling for them to be firehosed, tear-gassed and denied medical care.

Already a New Jersey man was arrested for using Facebook to threaten to assault Lakewood’s Jews for spreading the virus. He was charged with making terrorist threats during a state of emergency. A county deputy fire marshall in New Jersey was investigated for similar Facebook comments. And in Queens, a couple was charged with hate crimes after attacking a group of Orthodox Jews — ripping their masks off and punching them in the face — for supposedly not social distancing.

“You Jews are all getting us sick,” the couple allegedly yelled.

This is all too familiar to Jews, Weiss says. For centuries Jews have been massacred for supposedly spreading plagues. Rats brought the black death to the European continent in the 1300s, “but rats weren’t blamed. Jews were blamed.” Thousands were slaughtered; entire communities were eliminated.

Jews today do not believe that violence at such a scale is imminent. But they remember their history.

I think Jewish memory is always a gift, but it’s especially a gift in a moment of crisis because frankly, we Jews have lived through a tremendous amount in our centuries on this Earth,” Weiss said. “And whenever we ask could it get worse, we know the answer is yes, because we’ve lived through worse, or at least our ancestors have. So I think Jewish memory can help us be grateful and keep things in perspective.”

Source: Jewish Americans Say They Are Scapegoated For The Coronavirus Spread

Our Reaction to Anti-Semitism Is Both Overblown and Underdeveloped

A different perspective than that of Deborah Lipstadt (Jews Are Going Underground: Lipstadt) and the contrast between the USA and Europe, along with the need for all sides of the political spectrum to take antisemitism seriously.

Canada more like the USA but welcome comments and view:

We American Jews enter a new decade that feels like a much older one. Fresh off murderous and violent attacks on Jews in Jersey City, Monsey, and across Brooklyn, resurgent anti-Semitism and the resulting fear for our physical safety is for many American Jews a new phenomenon and one we never thought we would experience. Uncertainty is gripping the Jewish community and the new decade feels as if it will be a pivotal one for the quality and sustainability of American Jewish life as we know it. It strikes me that we are both overreacting and underreacting at the same time and need to recalibrate our approach.

What we have seen on the streets of the New York metropolitan area, and the fear that it has engendered, seems out of place here. It is reminiscent of scenes from European cities, where Jews are attacked for displaying outward signs of Judaism, or attacked for the offense of speaking Hebrew in public, or attacked in their homes for nothing beyond the crime of being Jewish. Orthodox residents of Crown Heights and Williamsburg are afraid to walk the streets or send their children to school. None of this is normal, none of this is acceptable, and it should not be treated as either. And it is not incumbent upon American Jews to find a solution; it is incumbent upon our elected political leaders and American society writ large to find a solution. When Jews are afraid to be Jewish, it says absolutely nothing about the victims and everything about the perpetrators and anyone or anything that abets them.

Yet while making sure that this problem is dealt with swiftly and comprehensively, it is also important to diagnose the breadth of the problem accurately. Deborah Lipstadt has forgotten more about anti-Semitism than I will ever know, but her speculation that American Jews may end up imitating medieval Spanish Marranos – hidden Jews who privately maintained their Judaism while outwardly appearing as Christian converts – by going underground strikes me as inapt. Spain’s Jews faced a choice at the end of the fifteenth century of expulsion, conversion, or death. The entire force of the Spanish state, intertwined as it was with the Catholic church, was brought to bear against the country’s Jews. Hiding one’s Judaism was not about avoiding potential danger, but in response to a fatal decree from absolutist monarchs. While a step down from the Inquisition and Torquemada, the environments created by the ruling class of Tsarist Russia that fomented pogroms or by Soviet leaders that sanctioned anti-Jewish discrimination were also the result of official state policies, of governments giving the green light to or directly leading anti-Semitic mobs.

Contrast that to the reaction of federal, state, and municipal governments to the anti-Semitic incidents in New York and New Jersey. They have been denounced by the president, governors, mayors, and members of Congress. Elected leaders have promised to devote resources toward combatting anti-Semitic attitudes and protecting Jewish institutions and have rushed to demonstrate solidarity with the Jewish community. Until words are turned into actions, we should withhold judgment on the seriousness and efficacy of these promises. But that the wall to wall reaction is to condemn anti-Semitism and evince a desire to remove its scourge demonstrates why the situation in the U.S. is a universe away from the ones that previous generations of Jews fled from in Europe.

As for Jews going underground in Europe today, it is indeed frightening and saddening. But it is unfortunately not a recent occurrence. It is the norm in Europe, whereas in the U.S. it remains the exception. I do not dismiss or make light of college students who feel compelled to downplay their Judaism or their Zionism. If it happens to even one person, that is one person too many. But we are not at the point in the U.S. where we have blast walls and machine gun-toting guards outside of our synagogues, where we have to ask a local for the address of a kosher restaurant that has no visible markings or identification as such, or where government officials issue warnings against wearing kippot in public, nor do I think we ever will be. Not for nothing is anti-Semitism described as the world’s oldest and most persistent hatred, and it should be clear to all American Jews that we will never be free of it entirely. Jews will be killed for being Jews, and it is small comfort to point out that such incidents remain exceptional. But it is premature to declare that it is open season on American Jews, that American Jewish life is fated to retreat behind high walls and closed doors, and that past is prologue.

All that said, there have been too many recent instances of American Jews not taking the current moment seriously enough, and nearly all of them revolve around some form of excusing inconvenient anti-Semitism away. We have all seen this in doses over the past few years, with a camp that kicks into high gear over right-wing white nationalist anti-Semitism but is blind and deaf to the far left variety that inherently views Jews as oppressors, and a camp that has a hair trigger for the anti-Semitism of progressive intersectionality but is blinded to right-wing classically anti-Semitic stereotypes by the glow of the Jerusalem embassy. On both sides, this has to end. It cannot be that the far right and the far left, despite the chasm that separates their worldviews, can manage to be united in their sneering hatred of Jews while we Jews ourselves cannot manage to be united in combatting that hatred.

If your response to the Jersey City or Monsey attacks was that it is a complicated situation, you are not serious about anti-Semitism. If your response to any display of anti-Semitism is some form of whataboutism in insisting that the other side’s is worse or more dangerous, you are not serious about anti-Semitism. If you think that it is okay to rail about globalist Jews as long as you support Iron Dome or West Bank settlements, or that it is okay to rail against evil Zionists so long as you display phantom nuance by separating them from good non-Zionist Jews, you are not serious about anti-Semitism. And if your reaction to a politician who proudly stands next to Robert “Judaism leads people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell” Jeffress differs at all from your reaction to a politician who proudly stands next to Louis “Jews are the mother and father of apartheid” Farrakhan, you should think about whether you are more interested in combatting anti-Semitism or more interested in weaponizing it. If we want to make sure that anti-Semitism remains unacceptable, then we have to treat it as such no matter the source, the target, or the ostensible motivation.

Source: Our Reaction to Anti-Semitism Is Both Overblown and Underdeveloped

Frum: American Jews Are Being Tested By Trump

As are all groups:

It’s becoming almost a daily occurrence: President Donald Trump denouncing anti-Semitism and expressing solidarity with the state of Israel.

Gone are the days when Trump tweeted out a Star of David atop stacks of money. The Trump White House has purged itself of oddballs with troubling backgrounds and even more troubling friends.

The larger MAGA universe may still pulse with anti-Semitic animus. Pro-Trump trolls may traffic in grotesque online slurs and threats. Hate crimes against Jews seem on the rise. A deadly anti-Jewish mass killing occurred on Trump’s watch. Although the Pittsburgh killer is often described as despising Trump, that’s not quite accurate. It would be more correct to describe the Pittsburgh killer as disappointed in Trump, whom he viewed as a promising racist naively duped by Jews. In one of his postings, a word bubble is drawn over a photograph of Trump receiving a visitor dressed in Orthodox garb. “Your character will appear to the public as a white racist,” the visitor seems to say to Trump. “It’s how we control Whites.”

“Anti-Semitism has no place in our country or anywhere in our world.

The Trump Administration is working every day to oppose and eradicate anti-Semitic hate crimes and ideology.”

The Trump presidency seethes with hostility toward many different minority and subordinated groups. But Jews have been elevated to a special protected category, exempt from the lines of attack deployed against Muslims, non-Norwegian immigrants, women Trump deems unattractive, and so on and on.

This special exemption poses a moral quandary for communally concerned Jews quite unlike anything in our collective experience.Jewish collective life in America has been built on the assumption that people who espouse any form of bigotry—whether against African Americans, or gays, or the disabled—will, sooner or later (and probably sooner!), also turn upon Jews. The famous Martin Niemöller poem begins, “First, they came for the socialists”; only in the third line do they “come for the Jews.”

But what if a new generation of bigotry arose, attended by a strong, take-it-to-the-bank guarantee: This time, they are not coming for the Jews—not sooner, not later. That ancient obsession is laughably out of date. Today we have other concerns. Here’s a photograph of me posing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He likes George Soros even less than we do!

What if American Jews found themselves facing people who practiced a politics of incitement, but not against Jews—indeed, who found it more useful to cast themselves as allies of Jews?

Trump usually has, at most, a perfunctory word for mass shootings and hate crimes. But Trump traveled in person to pay respects to the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. Vice President Mike Pence had led the way, personally helping to restore a desecrated Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, early in 2017.

When Trump attacked Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, he specifically cited her record of tweets and statements about Jewish money supposedly swaying Congress in favor of Israel. Among other pieces of classic anti-Semitic language, Omar had said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Statements like that goaded President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to write here in The Atlantic: “No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.” Her words set in motion a resolution in the House of Representatives to condemn anti-Semitic and other bigoted speech.

By contrast, the Trump administration has more than fulfilled the wishes of many American Jews on issues from moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem to condemning Palestinian incitement to countering the Iranian nuclear program. At the Department of Justice’s conference last week, Barr said:

“Far too often, Jews and Jewish communities in America suffer outside the spotlight. New York City, this past year, has seen a sharp uptick in attacks on Orthodox Jews, particularly in the Crown Heights neighborhood. People are attacking Jews in the streets and vandalizing synagogues. In Massachusetts in March, vandals desecrated 59 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery, knocking over headstones and scrawling swastikas and hateful graffiti.

While the tragic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway appropriately drew national attention, these attacks and others like them in communities across the country are, sadly, less well known outside the Jewish community. But they form the daily background of concerns about security and safety that many in the Jewish community feel.

As attorney general and a fellow citizen, I want to assure the Jewish community that the Department of Justice and the entire federal government stands with you and will not tolerate these attacks.”

As measured by polls, the large majority of American Jews recoil from Trump and his administration. Yet if you spend time in the organized Jewish world, you have probably noticed an early but unmistakable warming to the president. The warming is most pronounced among the older, more communally committed, and more Israel-focused part of the Jewish world.

In western Europe, Jews have been pushed away from their historic home on the secular left toward new alliances on the nationalist right. Under Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party has been stained by anti-Semitism—to a point where past leaders such as Gordon Brown have taken a public stand against Corbyn.In the United States, mercifully, Omar remains a marginal figure within the Democratic Party. On July 23, all but 17 members of the House of Representatives voted to condemn Omar’s project of anti-Israel boycotts; the “squad” member Representative Ayanna Pressley voted with the House majority. But an important part of Trump’s plan for 2020 is elevating Omar’s profile, and prodding American Jews to compare him not with the actual Democratic nominee, but with the target he has singled out for attention.

It’s part stunt and scam, as James Kirchick recently argued. But it’s not all stunt and scam.

At a conference in Washington, D.C., last week, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri delivered a speech denouncing cosmopolitan elites. Some who listened to the speech thought they heard a slight against Jews. Yet the conference had been organized by an American-born Israeli, Yoram Hazony—and at every turn, the conference communicated Jewish inclusion in the new cross-border nationalist movement Hazony hopes to create. Hawley replied to his critics: “You’ll have to carry me out on a slab before I compromise my defense of the Jewish people, their greatness, their history, their safety, and the state of Israel.” That’s the language of committed friendship.

There is a message for American Jews in all this: These attacks on the other are not aimed at you. You can be part of us. We’d like you to be part of us. All you have to do is stop worrying about them. And after all, they don’t worry about you!

The comedian Chris Rock performed a classic comedy sketch about how bigotry always accelerates toward the Jews at the end. “That train,” he quipped, “is never late!” But what if that train is late? What if it’s been canceled altogether, at least insofar as it departs from Trump Station? What if the old community of interest between American Jews and other minorities is dissolving, leaving only the weaker tie of a community of values?

And not only American Jews! Many illiberal authoritarians around the world have tried to gain indulgence for other hatreds by friendship with Israel. Even the Viktor Orbán government in Hungary—which often theatrically glorifies violently anti-Semitic figures from the nation’s past—quietly assures that country’s still surviving Jewish community: None of this will translate into real-world actions against you. And indeed, thus far, that assurance has been honored.

Jews generally believe ourselves to be bound by an ethical code of tolerance and decency larger than our own parochial interests. Trump seems intent on putting that belief to the test. Will we meet it? Will we meet it as a united community? Or by tempting Jews with privileges denied to other, more marginal groups, will he split religious Jews from secular; more communally minded Jews from more universalist; more conservative from more liberal—embittering American Jews against one another, as he has sought more generally to embitter American against American?

Source: American Jews Are Being Tested By Trump

The Tone-Deaf Israeli Reactions to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Interesting account of the gap between Israeli and American Jews:

For Jews around the world, now is a time to mourn and come together, as the dead from the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue are buried. And yet it also reveals how far apart we are.

To be sure, most responses to the massacre were sincere and uncontroversial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as all of Israel’s leading politicians, issued heartfelt and apolitical responses to the massacre.

But not all.

In an interview with an Israeli religious newspaper, Rabbi David Lau, Israel’s Ashkenazic chief rabbi (a governmental position), declined to call Tree of Life Synagogue a synagogue, describing it instead as “a place with a profound Jewish flavor.” Other ultra-Orthodox newspapers have followed suit, referring to it as a “Jewish center.”

To American Jews who care about Israel, that’s a painful reminder that Reform, Conservative, and other non-Orthodox Jewish denominations are not recognized by the Jewish state. The state does not recognize conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis. And plans for a non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall have been floated and canceled for a generation now—most recently by Netanyahu, who flatly broke his promise to American Jewish leaders to create one last year.

Nor is the tone-deafness exclusively on the right. Israel’s opposition leader, Avi Gabbay, said the attack should inspire “the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home.”

Meanwhile, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett headed to Pittsburgh to offer condolences, saying, in part, “our hearts go out to the families of those killed, and we pray for the swift recovery of the injured, as we pray this is the last such event. Jewish blood is not free.”

First, sending the ultranationalist Bennett to “comfort” mostly liberal American Jews rubs salt in the wound. Bennett, perhaps more than any other Israeli politician, has legitimized open racism against Arabs, sworn his opposition to a two-state solution with Palestinians, and moved the “Overton window” of Israeli nationalism far to the right. Thanks to his party, Jewish Home, comments that would have been too racist for polite conversation a decade ago are now routinely made on the floor of the Knesset.

Second, Bennett’s line about “Jewish blood” is both creepily blood-nationalist and a common justification for harsh military responses against terrorists, their families, their neighbors, and even their whole villages.

What revenge is Bennett planning to take against Robert Bowers, anyway? Bennett’s rhetoric is tone-deaf, alienating to most American Jews, and part of the very hypernationalist crisis that brought this tragedy into being in the first place.

These and other comments point to a vast and growing gap between Israel and the majority of American Jews.

Take the nationalist populism of President Trump. Among American Jews, Trump’s approval rating hovers around 21 percent. Mostly liberal American Jews are appalled by his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-media, and anti-science rhetoric. In Israel, however, 69 percent of Israelis express confidence in Trump’s leadership. If you assume that hardly any Israeli Arabs (21 percent of the population) share that confidence, that’s a roughly 85 percent approval rating among Israeli Jews.

There are many reasons for that widespread support. Trump has shifted the United States from being an “honest broker” for Middle East peace to being an unapologetic partisan for Israel, symbolized by the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (the status of which is still disputed under international law). Trump’s broadsides against Muslims and his anti-Obama birtherism resonate with the prejudices of many Israeli Jews, many of whom believe they are surrounded by hostile, uncivilized enemies.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” in the words of pro-Israel extremist Pamela Geller.

Most important, though, right-wing Israelis, together with the majority of Orthodox, right-wing Jews in America, have a fundamentally different understanding of Judaism than the majority of American Jews, whose experiences are colored by American liberalism and the immigrant experience.

For the former, Judaism is Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel, a source of patriotism and allegiance. For the latter, Judaism may be a culture, or a religion, or a nation, but it is defined not by blood and loyalty, but by ideals of justice, fairness, and compassion. When those ideals are transgressed, liberal Jews see Judaism betrayed. Whereas, for many on the right, you’re either for us or against us, and if you’re against us, you’re anti-Semitic and that’s that.

“Pittsburgh is why most American Jews oppose Trump. Israeli leaders seem not to understand that.”

For the former, the lesson of the Holocaust is that Jews must always be strong and defend themselves. For the latter, the lesson of the Holocaust is that baseless hatred is wrong and leads to tragedy.

For the former, Jews everywhere exist in solidarity with each other. But progressive American Jews may find more in common with other oppressed minorities than with right-wing Jews, who oppress minorities themselves.

For the former, Muslims and Arabs, often confused with each other, are the implacable enemy of the Jewish people. For the latter, violent rejectionists—be they Muslim, Jewish, or Trump-loving-Christian—are the enemy.

For the former, supporting Israel means supporting the Israeli right’s vision of a strong ethno-state triumphant over its enemies. For the latter, supporting Israel means helping calmer, more rational voices prevail so that peace and justice can be achieved for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Each side has biblical proof-texts, Jewish history, and plenty of emotional appeals they can make. We all have our friends or relatives who have died at the hands of terrorists, anti-Semites, or enemy soldiers. No one ever wins this argument. (We are Jews, after all.)

But the results are profoundly different conceptions of what it means to be a Jew.

When most American Jews hear Trump bash “media elites,” Muslims, Mexicans, Democrats, or victims of sexual assault, we see our deepest values transgressed, and we see ourselves in the crosshairs next, because we, too, are an often despised minority.

But when right-wing Israelis and American Jews hear Trump bash Israel’s enemies, they are encouraged and emboldened. They say anti-Semitism, which Trump has condemned, is totally separable from the white-nationalism, Islamophobia, transphobia, racism, and populism that he has tolerated or encouraged. They say Trump is on our side.

And yet it’s not just he said/she said. There are still facts. And the facts are that the alt-right’s most ardent members, people like Cesar Sayoc Jr. and Robert Bowers, do not separate anti-Semitism from their hatred of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, gays, liberals, and journalists. They say so quite clearly, in words and deeds.

In short, Pittsburgh is why most American Jews oppose Trump. Israeli leaders seem not to understand that.

Source: The Tone-Deaf Israeli Reactions to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting