An international Jewish pressure group has launched a blistering attack on the pro-Israel lobby and Israel's Ambassador to the United States over their comments comparing Palestinian supporters with white supremacists. The comments in question were made in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack in which 11 people lost their lives to a gunman who shouted "kill all Jews".
Rabbi Alissa Wise, the deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, was taking part in a TV debate on the popular US network MSNBC when Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer defended Donald Trump's widely criticised response to the shooting. This is not the first time that the US President has been coy about criticising right-wing violence. He caused outrage last year when he said there were "a lot of fine people" on both sides of a white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville that left one counter-protester dead.
"I see a lot of bad people on both sides who attack Jews," said Dermer, echoing Trump's words. "Anti-Semites are usually not neo-Nazis, on college campuses. They're coming from the radical left. We have to stand against anti-Semitism whether it comes from the right or whether it comes from the left."
The JVP's Rabbi Wise described the Israeli diplomat's comparison of college students defending Palestinian human rights with a mass murderer as reprehensible, insulting and dangerous. "Criticising Israeli policy or defending Palestinian human rights is not in any way anti-Semitic," she explained. "However, employing white supremacists, as Trump and other politicians have done, is indeed anti-Semitic. Moreover, making false claims of anti-Semitism is dangerous, as the events this week have shown, because these false claims distract from the dangers of real anti-Semitism."
Wise is a leading voice in New York City with Jews Against the Occupation and is the founding co-chair of the JVP Rabbinical Council. "The Israeli ambassador's false allegation that students on the 'radical left' are as dangerous as white supremacists betrays Israel's true lack of concern for Jewish safety," she added. "Even in the wake of the deadliest attack on American Jews in history, Israel has shown how it is yet again willing to jeopardise the safety of the American Jewish community in order to maintain its close relationship with Trump, all in pursuit of the goal of Israeli domination of Palestinian lives and land."
The rabbi made her views known as news came in about the vandalism of a Californian synagogue. Early on Wednesday, someone sprayed "F*** Jews" on the wall of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Irvine. The prime suspect in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, is said to have believed that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was trying to "bring invaders that kill our people."
Before Trump became President, many American Jewish conservatives argued that anti-Semitism emanated from the political Left. Among them was Ben Shapiro, regarded as the most influential conservative Jewish analyst in America, who in 2016 performed a U-turn in his opinion on this issue. "I've spent most of my career arguing that anti-Semitism in the United States is almost entirely a product of the political Left. The anti-Semitism I'd heard about from my grandparents – the country-club anti-Semitism, the alleged white-supremacist leanings of rednecks from the backwoods – was a figment of the imagination, I figured. I figured wrong."
Last week, after what was soon obviously the deadliest ever attack against Jews in America, some other Jewish conservatives agreed with Shapiro, confronting the reality that anti-Semitism does indeed exist among US Republicans and others from right wing and conservative backgrounds. Some have gone on to say that the sort of anti-Semitism witnessed in America last week is a by-product of the nativist conservatism being championed by President Trump.
The vile chant "Jews will not replace us" heard in Charlottesville last year had its roots in the irrational belief that white Americans are being replaced by third world immigrants thanks to the imagined machinations of Jews. In Trump's America, the Jewish man most frequently depicted as secretly engineering the immigrant takeover is George Soros. Just days before the deadly attack on the synagogue, a man in Florida sent a letter bomb to the Hungarian-born billionaire.
Last year, Hungarian MP Andras Aradszki, who represents the Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP), accused Soros and his supporters of trying to dilute Europe with "the forced settlement of tens of millions of migrants." He told journalists, "Soros and his comrades want to destroy the independence and values of nation states," adding that it is a "Christian duty to fight Satan's Soros plan to bring migrants into Europe."
It was hardly surprising that Iowa Congressman Steve King said at the time, "It's Soros' plan for America, too." Last month, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted a video allegedly showing people "giving cash to women and children to join the caravan and storm the US border." Gaetz then asked, "Soros?" The US President's son, Donald Trump Jr, retweeted his question. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert has also suggested that, "Soros and others, may be funding" the migrant caravan.
When the US President denounced "globalists" during a speech last month, a man in the audience at the rally shouted "George Soros" followed by "Lock him up." Trump smiled and repeated the "lock him up" chant. Little wonder, then, that rising nativism and anti-Semitism appear to be in tandem.
While many Jews can and do recognise the evidence for this, it disturbing when leading Zionists, including Ambassador Ron Dermer and other Jewish conservatives, choose to equate pro-Palestinian supporters from the traditional Left with genuine anti-Semites on the far right.
Those who seek justice for Palestinians are not known for taking up arms and slaughtering innocent Jews inside synagogues. Zionists who suggest otherwise cause harm to Jews everywhere by giving credibility to armed and very dangerous right wing anti-Semites.
The Israeli government spends millions of dollars targeting the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and defaming anyone and everyone who stands up for Palestinian rights. It would be better disposed to urge Donald Trump to do something constructive by defanging the far right, which poses the biggest threat to Jews in America and elsewhere today. Legitimate criticism of the State of Israel does not lead to mass killings of Jews in synagogues; inciting hatred against them does.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.