Fifteen years ago, my mother was shopping at a Key Food grocery store in mostly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and saw what was at that time an unusual sight – a Muslim woman in a full burqa. My mother looked at her in curiosity and the Muslim woman glared back.
“I hate you too,” she said to my mother.
It was an eerily prescient incident. There are many more burqa-clad women in Brooklyn now, but the sense of mostly peaceful equanimity that existed between the Muslim and Jewish communities before October 7th rupturing.
A Cygnal poll conducted between Oct. 16 and 18 reported that almost 58% of Muslim Americans agree that Hamas atrocities were at least somewhat justified as part of the “struggle for a Palestinian state”. Many more younger Muslims than older ones polled ostensibly believe that it’s ok to cut off the fingers of children before killing them or behead babies or tie up women and children before burning them alive.
This is not just troubling for Jews in Israel. This is a blaring siren for Jews in America. With the ADL reporting a 400% increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. compared to the same period last year, which saw its own increase, we know we’re in trouble.
Statistics are almost redundant as we are flooded with images and videos of Muslims and their useful cronies shouting “By any means necessary” and “Jewish genocide” in the streets of New York City, Dearborn, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and across other American cities and campuses. On the so-called “Day of Rage” after the massacre, Brooklyn College protesters, several blocks from my home, pledged allegiance to their “heroes in the resistance”.
This is sadly not as shocking to Orthodox Jews as it is to their secular liberal brothers. Those on the right have been sounding the warning bell for years, pointing to the dangerous alliance between leftist Jews and anti-Israel progressives and Muslims. However, it took a sadistic massacre that killed largely secular and left-leaning Israelis for woke American Jews to awaken to the fact that progressives are not all that interested in their brand of tikkun olam. Worse, many realize that they were complicit in amplifying the very threats they are now facing.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres maliciously stated that the Hamas massacre “did not happen in a vacuum”. It’s a specious phrase that can ironically be aptly applied here. After turning the other cheek to anti-Zionist and BDS rantings for years in the name of intersectionality, progressive Jews have been shocked into a recognition of betrayal through a primordial fear for their own physical safety.
Until October 7th, many of these Jews excused latent Jew-hatred as merely expressions of anti-Israel “colonialism” and “apartheid” on campuses, in the media, entertainment and corporations, and among the political leaders they helped elect. But suddenly, chants of “Free Palestine” and “from the river to the sea”, themselves thinly veiled calls to liquidate Jews, have morphed into screams of “Gas them, the filthy Jews”.
Jews on the left are now scrambling to do damage control.
Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL, which has been at the forefront of progressive activism – from fighting “systemic racism”, abortion rights, gender rights, immigrant rights – is now pushing back against former cohorts. Shortly after October 7th, Greenblatt admonished MSNBC for failing to portray what actually happened on that fateful day. “I am angry with the world that allowed the dehumanization of Israelis and sanitized the view of Hamas,” he said. “I love this show and network, but who’s writing the scripts?”
Greenblatt is now calling on CNN and other media outlets to get their story straight too. “The carelessness with which they treat Jewish victims is crazy…Demonizing and dehumanizing Israelis and Zionists is how you get this kind of barbarism and these atrocities.”
You have to give this guy credit. It must not be easy for a former Obama employee, who in 2015 trashed opponents of the Iran Deal. At the time, Greenblatt slammed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and said Huckabee “went so far as to accuse President Barack Obama of leading Israel ‘to the door of the ovens’”. Many of Hamas’s victims would probably have preferred those ovens to the torture that Iran-backed terrorists subjected them to before killing them.
The ADL provides high school resources to teach about Black Lives Matter as an activist movement that “continues to pursue policy solutions beyond the events of Ferguson”. It is to be hoped that the ADL will consider scrapping those lesson plans after the BLM Grassroots organization, which encompasses dozens of chapters in American cities, claimed that Hamas “resistance must not be condemned”.
Even the notoriously anti-Zionist Jewish journalist Peter Beinart is admitting to a sense of betrayal. He recently wrote, “I think the left bears some blame as well because so many prominent people and institutions either justified the attacks or just ignored the attacks altogether and essentially said nothing about them, and only focused on Israel’s actions.”
Then there’s J Street, which has vigorously advocated for a Palestinian state, while simultaneously promoting progressive policies and partnering with far-left progressive candidates during elections. J Street U’s director, Erin Beiner, is at odds with how to advise students coping with the massacre’s fallout. “They’re so hurt about what happened in Israel…And then they’re also hurt by what they’re seeing online from groups that they at certain points looked to as partners. A lot of Jews are feeling very betrayed.”
If the stakes weren’t so high, Jews on the right, who could say “I told you so”, might be experiencing some schadenfreude. Leftist Jews are caught like deer in the headlights at the perfidy of their “friends” and are left to watch the progressive gods they built up crash down and endanger them.
There is a lot of blame to go around. However, just as we delay finger-pointing in Israel now, perhaps we should postpone the inquiry here. Many wealthy liberal Jewish donors have started to pull funds from universities they supported. Jewish business owners are doing the same. Reality is forcing them to let go of entrenched beliefs, and those on the right could ease the process by providing examples and support.
Leftwing Jews need to use the same zeal, passion and resources they used to promote woke causes, which are now coming back to bite them, like their lives depend on it. Because they do.