After an already longish life of not caring much one way or another about my Jewish heritage it’s almost impossible for me to believe how the last two years have raised my consciousness of it to unimagined levels.Michelle Goldberg's opinion
After 50 years of believing ourselves immune to the old anti-semitism (‘Go back where you came from, kike!” or ‘Great to have you up to our place in New Canaan but, no, I can’t introduce you to my real estate agent because of all those covenants we got here.’) we’re now just straight out shot (Pittsburgh), terrorized by khaki-wearing brownshirts yelling ‘Jews will not replace us’ (Charlottesville) or used as human shields for white nationalists and racists to attack people of color (Washington and North Carolina).
‘There’s a meme I’ve seen go around a thousand times in Jewish spaces online—a still from a Yiddish lesson series on Youtube, with the phrase “The Jews Are Tired.” It’s an all-purpose response for Gentile fuckery—speaking for Jews, about Jews, around Jews, against Jews, utilizing us without our consent or input. Black background, white letters: The Jews Are Tired.
And after the past few days, in which a fleet of Republicans and the president himself have utilized Jews as human shields for racist rhetoric, the Jews are tired, tired, tired of being used as defenses against naked racism, tired of being used to justify conditions at detention camps. Just plain tired.’
Defenders of a Racist President Use Jews as Human Shieldshttps://www.nytimes.com/.../opinion/trump-ilhan-omar.html...
Sebastian Gorka, a onetime adviser to Donald Trump, wore a medal from the Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian group historically aligned with Nazism, to one of Trump’s inaugural balls. Gorka was reportedly a member of the group, whose founder, the Hungarian autocrat Miklos Horthy, once said, “For all my life, I have been an anti-Semite.”Max Berger is a Jewish social justice activist who has long been deeply involved in Jewish communal life. He’s the co-founder of IfNotNow, a group of American Jews devoted to ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, and recently joined Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign.In a tweet this month, one of these men tarred the other as an anti-Semite. If you’ve been following the increasingly bizarre turn that American discussion of anti-Semitism has taken, you can probably guess which one.That’s right, it was Gorka who called Berger an anti-Semite, for having once joined in an internet in-joke about a nonexistent group called “Friends of Hamas.” (Gorka’s tweet appears to have since been deleted.) It wasn’t the only time this month that Gorka accused a Jew of Jew-hating; he’s also charged the anti-Trump conservative writer Anne Applebaum with “standing with the anti-Semites,” demanding that she explain “how you justify this to the community.”
the president’s defenders have used Jews as human shields, pretending that hatred of the quartet is rooted in abhorrence of anti-Semitism. On Tuesday, an evangelical outfit called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations accused the Anti-Defamation League — the Anti-Defamation League! — of siding with anti-Semites after the ADL called out Trump’s racism. The group even had the audacity to hurl a Hebrew denunciation — “lashon hara,” or “evil tongue” — at the Jewish civil rights organization.
When speaking to American Jews, he’s [Trump] called Israel “your country” and Benjamin Netanyahu “your prime minister,” suggesting that in his mind, we don’t fully belong here any more than Omar does.
If Trump succeeds in making citizenship racialized and contingent, that’s an existential threat to American Jews.
Trump and his accomplices are simultaneously assaulting the political foundation of Jewish life in America and claiming they’re doing it on the Jews’ behalf. As the Montana Association of Rabbis wrote in an open letter to Daines on Wednesday, “We refuse to allow the real threat of anti-Semitism to be weaponized and exploited by those who themselves share a large part of the responsibility for the rise of white nationalist and anti-Semitic violence in this country.”
Jewish leaders, said Ben-Ami, “made a deal with the devil. And what they’ve done is they’ve laid down in bed with white nationalists and racists and bigots.” Now white nationalists and racists and bigots — and those politically aligned with them — feel entitled to use their backing of Israel as an alibi when their leader indulges in racist incitement.
“When they start asking people to go back where they came from, that’s the first line of attack on the Jewish people over centuries,” said Ben-Ami. It’s terrifying enough to have a president who says such things. It’s an almost incalculable insult for Trump and his enablers to act as if he’s helping the Jews when he adopts the language of the pogrom.
Other Republicans took their cues from their president. Among them was Steve Daines, senator from Montana, who wrote: “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals. This is America. We’re the greatest country in the world. I stand with @realdonaldtrump.”
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the Jewish population of Montana stands at a scant 1,395. Daines has never made mention on his Twitter account of the anti-Semitic people and events in his home state—including Richard Spencer, whose hometown is Whitefish, Montana, nor Andrew Anglin, who released a troll storm so vile on a Jewish woman living in Whitefish that a court awarded her $14 million in damages this week. Daines declined to tweet out a statement of solidarity after a white nationalist gunned down eleven Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh; Daines was silent after another white nationalist attack on a synagogue in Poway, just outside San Diego, earlier this year. But when an issue was made of the President’s naked racism, Daines rode up with a cargo of Jews—imaginary Jews, silent Jews, the easiest kind of Jews to employ—to defend him. Daines isn’t the only example of right-wing politicians who wish to wield anti-Semitism as a convenient cudgel against their political enemies, with scant if any evidence. But Montana’s vanishingly small Jewish population makes it particularly clear that this strategy has little to do with flesh-and-blood Jews at all.
If it did, why would Israel return again and again to the fore? There are millions of Jews living in this country, who have known no other home than America, many of whom have strong objections to racism–and who vote, in a supermajority, for the Democratic Party. Jews and Israel are not synonymous; nor is support for Palestine synonymous with anti-Semitism; nor is questioning the orthodoxy of the Republican party, which the majority of us do with relish, an insult to Jewry.
It’s not a surprise, though, that the Republican establishment makes public statements about its superglued-to-Netanyahu foreign policy as if it inoculates them against anti-Semitism. Nor is this the first time Trump has conflated American Jews with Israel. At a White House Hanukkah party, Trump told a gathering of American Jews that Israel was “your country.” More strikingly, when blood ran on the streets of Pittsburgh after the pogrom at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, Trump did not meet with community leaders of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, nor the family members of the dead, nor even the city’s mayor. He spoke with Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. The city’s Jews led a massive protest against his visit. The message, though politely veiled, was as stark as his message to congresswomen of color: you may live here, but this is not your country. You are not from here; you are not of this country. If you don’t like it, leave.
More recently, a spate of ultra-Christian would-be spokespeople have demonstrated outrage against congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for daring to use the term “concentration camps” to describe the camps in which thousands of migrants are concentrated in squalor, and have died, on the Southern border. Wyoming representative Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain have volunteered, unasked-for, as blonde Christian Loraxes, prepared at all times to speak for the Jews. In late June, Cheney demanded Ocasio-Cortez apologize for utilizing the term, stating that “6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”
But Jews are not trees, not animals, not mute props to use as cudgels in a war of escalating rhetoric. We do not need to be spoken for, we who have been here since before this country was a country, and want to remain, and know no other home; we are not waiting for your apocalypse. As if to prove a counterpoint, on Tuesday, July 15, one thousand “Jews and allies” led by a group called #NeverAgainAction and the immigrant justice group Movimiento Cosecha enacted a protest in Washington, D.C., blockading the entrances and exits to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s headquarters and the approaching street. Their chief slogan defied those who would use Jews’ bloody history to deny present atrocities; those who would utilize Jews as weapons to silence anti-racists; those who want us to wait, meekly, to be cozened by Christ in the end of days. What they chanted, holding hands, were four simple words: “Never Again is Now.”
Talia Lavin is a writer based in Brooklyn. Her first book, Culture Warlords, is forthcoming in 2020 from Hachette Books.