by Maddie Solomon
July 26, 2019
I’m sitting in Charlottesville, Virginia — the city where the ugly “Unite the Right” rally took place two years ago that gripped the nation. The sun is radiant and the houses are pretty, but I can’t deny the choked up memories of weapons, white supremacy and violence. It’s my first time here — my dad used to tell me that Jews don’t go to the South. However, I have also spent the past six months witnessing a form of antisemitism on the left: Ilhan Omar, the BDS movement, and the comparison of Jews to Nazis. Internal dissent to these ideas is rarely, if ever, welcomed in leftist spaces — including college institutions on the West Coast.
In college, I experienced Jewish paranoia for the first time — because we seem besieged on all sides.
Donald Trump often uses Israel as a shield to defend his racism. Yet Democrats fail to condemn antisemitism at home; most Jewish voters are already estranged from the party. In fact, we’ve never really had a home; why did we expect our political and academic institutions to provide one?
The right will most definitely not fight for us, but neither will the left. I’m a progressive, and I’m disappointed with the state of affairs in the Democratic Party. My identity is being politicized, and never for the right reasons.
I’m angry at the right for how they unfairly treat minorities, and uphold racial harm. And I’m frustrated with the left for how they ignore antisemitism, endorsing stereotypes about Jewish monopolies and power. A direct correlation exists between anti-Israel and antisemitic activity; when BDS comes to campus, antisemitism thrives.
The right blames immigrants for stealing their jobs, despite the fact that immigrants bolster the economy. The left voices their frustration with capitalism through accusations of Jewish control of foreign affairs, a false idea deeply shared by the right.
And yet this crippling leftist dissociation is also the Jewish paranoia speaking. Our ancestors have fled persecution, genocide and violence. Fear of religious persecution has become fear of political ostracization — and now, we sometimes feel we can’t speak up in our own party.
Too often, we confuse criticism with hatred for the party itself. My peers will assign me names: confused, moderate, conservative, immoral. Most Jewish students, including myself, self-identify as liberal; in fact, Jews are largely one of the most liberal ethnic groups, consistently voting Democrat. And we are in danger, because Trump uses Israel as a shield for his inexcusable actions, which could lead to dire consequences for Jews and Israel.
I’m choosing to critique the radical left’s chosen form of antisemitism not because it is morally equatable with the alt-right, but because it is harder to discern. Academia is normalizing anti-Jewish sentiment once again; backed by professors, these institutions have made it sexy, progressive, and legitimate to target Jews and Israel.
From California to Charlottesville, Jewish paranoia prevails. I am relieved to be leaving Virginia, but it would be ignorant to assume that the West Coast and the political left will offer me and other Jewish students political asylum. Thus, it is up to us to stand up to physical and ideological violence, no matter what party it originates from.