I see nothing | On Politics | Chicago Reader

I see nothing 

If lefties or right-wingers don’t see anti-Jewish attitudes in their ranks, it’s because they have their eyes closed.

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click to enlarge You can say you don't see it, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

You can say you don't see it, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Ryoji Iwata / Unsplash

It was over 30 years ago, but I still remember it well—a gaggle of teenagers had taken to spray-painting graffiti on factories, garages, and houses in my neighborhood.

As a result, several earnest and well-intended neighbors convened a meeting so that residents who heretofore had barely known each other could settle on some collective action to stop the tagging.

One resident opined that a few taggers lived in a nearby apartment. Another person suggested we pressure that building’s landlord into holding his tenants accountable. Then he asked: does anyone know who that landlord is?

To which a third neighbor scornfully replied: “Some old Jew.”

So much for collective action.

As a Jewish American who’s lived among white gentiles my whole life, I must tell you—it’s an old story. You just never know when some anti-Jewish poison will gush out of someone’s mouth.

I take this not-so-pleasant excursion down memory lane to send a larger message to my beloved lefties who instinctively deny that there are those among them who have—oh, how to put this?—complicated attitudes about “the Jews.”

Oh, lefties, lefties, lefties. You know I love you. I even stand with you on many matters of Israel and Palestine. For what it’s worth—and I know it’s not worth much—I think Netanyahu stirred up the last few weeks of senseless violence to seal his reelection and hold off an investigation that might otherwise send him to jail. And if it was up to me, there would be one state. With Jews and Muslims and Christians living in harmony. As hopelessly naïve as that sounds.

That said . . .

When it comes to your denials about anti-Semitism in your ranks, you’re starting to sound like Mayor Rahm with the Laquan McDonald video.

I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing . . .

Only in this case, it’s more like—anti-Semitism on the left? How dare you even suggest such a thing! Our opposition to Israel stems strictly from our support for Palestinians and our opposition to war crimes.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Who are you kidding—other than yourselves?

Look, most of the folks I know on the left are wonderful people who don’t have a shred of anti-Semitism in them.

But, no anti-Semitism on the left? C’mon, lefties—do you live on Mars? Do you not hear and see all the things that you’ve been hearing and seeing your whole life?

I mean, if I’ve heard this shit, you’ve heard it, too. Probably last November at Thanksgiving.

Let’s go back to that out-of-the-blue comment from my neighbor back in the 80s. It was classic anti-Jewishness—clumping a large and diverse collection of people into one giant social stereotype. So it’s easier to ridicule, marginalize, ignore, and ultimately, hate them.

If I had to count which racial, ethnic, or religious group in America gets this treatment the most, it would be Black Americans. By far.

As in Donald Trump saying “MAGA loves the Black people.” Like the Black people is a single thing, not a group of different people.

In second place comes Jews. Followed by Muslims. Then Mexicans. And then—oh, you make your own count.

Sometimes the bigotry is cloaked in praise. Like—Jews are smart. Or—Jews are good with money. Or—Jews take care of their own. Or—if you want a good lawyer, hire a Jew.

Man, I could write a book about the infatuation many gentiles have regarding Jewish people who are lawyers. It’s like the Jews came out of the womb citing the municipal code.

And that’s the “nice” stuff people say about Jews. As opposed to the real nasty stuff about Jews being an evil cabal that rules the world.

So, pretending that anti-Jewish bigotry doesn’t filter into the take that some leftists have on the Middle East is positively Trump-like in its delusion.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that anti-Jewishness exists only on the left. I can go on and on about the bizarre attitudes of Congresswoman Mary Miller toward Hitler or Marjorie Taylor Greene likening the Nazi slaughter of Jews to making people wear face masks in a pandemic. 

In a twisted way, it’s almost funny to watch the contrasting reactions of the right and the left to acts of violent anti-Semitism.

If it’s violence from the right, right-wingers will start talking about their deep and abiding love for Israel. In other words, they love Jews, so long as Jews are living on the other side of the world.

As for lefties? It’s like they don’t know what to say without looking for their Twitter feed for talking points.

If the violence comes from a Nazi—like the shithead who killed 11 people in the L’Simcha Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh—lefties may issue a statement denouncing anti-Semitism.

Provided, of course, it’s broad enough to include love for all minorities.

And if the violence comes from a bunch of thugs waving a Palestinian flag—like the thugs who beat up Jews outside a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles just a few days ago—it’s the sounds of silence.

Apparently, lefties aren’t sure if standing with Jews who get beat up by thugs waving a Palestinian flag will make it look like they’re abandoning their allegiance to the people of Gaza.

I asked one leftist friend if he intended to tweet anything about that attack in LA, and he said: it’s complicated.

That was a howler, seeing that the trending response to people who had conflicted feelings about bombing Gaza was—it’s not complicated.

You’d think that beating up people on the streets of LA would also fall into that same it’s-not-complicated category.

I was heartened to see Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet out an unambiguous denunciation of anti-Semitism. So, there’s hope.

I see other parallels between the right and the left when it comes to the Middle East.

With MAGA’s support for Israel, I have to wonder if they care about Israeli Jews or just hate Muslims. And with the left, I have to wonder—do they love Palestinians or just hate Jews?

Only you know what’s in your hearts, people.  v

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