Left or right? Neither side feels safe: what are Jews to do in an election season that features Trump, BDS and BLM?

Author:Oppenheimer, Daniel


In August, a coalition of Black Lives Matter groups released a platform that included a denunciation of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which it described as "genocide." After criticism from Jewish groups, one of the groups that drafted the platform shot back this rather sinister warning:

"On the American left, there are many wolves in sheep's clothing. You have revealed yourselves. And now that we know who you are, we will not forget."

A few days later, BuzzFeed reported that the chairman of the American Nazi Party had declared in a report that Donald Trump's candidacy was shaping up to be a great vehicle for normalizing white nationalist views. As he wrote: "We have a wonderful OPPORTUNITY here folks, that may never come again, at the RIGHT time. Donald Trump's campaign statements, if nothing else, have SHOWN that 'our views' are NOT so 'unpopular' as the Political Correctness crowd have told everyone they are!"

That same week, William Kristol, neoconservative stalwart, said on CNN that his party's nominee was "unstable" and "so narcissistic ... you couldn't trust his judgment about anything."

What's extraordinary isn't that these events happened in such close proximity. What's extraordinary is that, for this campaign season, it wasn't a particularly unusual week.

On the left, we have a series of rising movements and currents that contain the traditional left-wing threads of anti-Zionism and, at the margins, anti-Semitism. On the right, we have a presidential nominee who winks at the Aryan fringe and incites the passions of the mob in ways that have not, historically, ended well for the Jews.

It's been a while since Jews have had to contend with many of these currents in genuinely alarming, or even potentially alarming, forms. Depending on where you are on the political spectrum, though, the vexation feels different.

Left-wing and liberal Jews have long had to wrestle with the anti-Zionism of the left and to debate to what degree they feel compelled to fight explicit anti-Semitism on its fringes. The left has been politically moribund for so long, however, that for decades these concerns have been almost entirely confined to niche political ecosystems where the left still wields some influence (e.g. in the academy). Only in the past five years, with the emergence of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and campus anti-racism...

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