🗯️ Antisemitism and the Eye of the Beholder … and what that says of the Beholder

Imagine (and it isn’t hard) that Donald Trump has tweeted something insensitive and stereotypical against black or brown people. A bunch of white folk respond, “He isn’t being racist, and here’s why…”. The black and brown folk, on the other hand, instantly go: “That’s a dogwhistle racist trope. That’s a racist tweet.” Who do you think has a better case for recognizing racism? What do you think about those white folk?

Imagine Trump tweets something making fun of Native Americans including a racist trope dogwhistle. Most Americans think he’s just making fun of a political opponent, but it is the Native Americans that pick up on the whistle, and call him out for it.

Now, think about the recent tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and look at the reaction to it. Look at the folks who are saying it wasn’t antisemitic, that it was just “criticism of Israel”. Now ask yourself (a) what do they have in common, and (b) are they Jewish. Now look at the reaction of the Jewish community, which picked up on the dogwhistle racist trope immediately. Now look at the reaction of the non-Jewish community to the reaction of the Jewish community, where they are calling them overly sensitive. As John Adams sang in 1776, “Do you see what I see?”

It really teaches you something about your friends.

For those that don’t “get” it, here’s a good explanation from an article in Tablet Magazine about why the tweet was an antisemitic dogwhistle racist trope:

… [the tweet] evoked the image of moneyed Jews paying off gentiles to subvert the national interest and control American politics for their own ends. Sometimes the villain in this delusion is George Soros, sometimes the Rothschilds, and other times “the Israel lobby.” In this particular case, Omar suggested that the reason America supports the Jewish state is because (((powerful interests))) have taken control of our democracy, seemingly against the will of its people. In reality, as decades of polling shows, American politicians are pro-Israel because American voters are pro-Israel and elect leaders who reflect their views. There is no conspiracy at work, only democracy. Policy on Israel is set by the 98 percent of Americans who are not Jewish, not the 2 percent who are, which is probably why that policy is more hawkish than many American Jews would like.

For those unfamiliar, there is an ages-old canard (look up the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) about a Zionist World Order pulling the strings of every nation. It has been used as the excuse for Jewish slaughter for years. The notions in the original tweet — while criticizing the US policies towards Israel, yes — had the implication of this monied order behind it. It is that implication that was the antisemitic part.

And, to clear some things up, because they’ve come up in other discussions:

  • Disagreeing with the behavior of the government of Israel is not antisemitic. One can want the state of Israel to exist, and disagree with how her government and leaders behave. I want America to exist, and yet disagree with our current administration.)
  • I have no beef with Rep. Ilhan Omar: She’s entitled to her views, and more importantly, learned from this kerfuffle about the importance of perception of what you say being equally, if not more important, than the substance you intend. She has to answer to the people in her district for her behavior.
  • This has nothing to do with the religion of Rep. Omar: I’ve seen the same antisemitic attitude coming from white Christian Republicans. There is, however, one big difference: The Democratic party recognized it, condemned it, and the Rep. in question apologized. I haven’t seen equivalent reactions from Republican leadership when Republicans make antisemitic dogwhistle racist tropes.

That last point is an important one, given the President has been calling for Rep. Omar’s resignation over the tweets: Pot, meet Kettle. The President has been making similar tweets, not only antisemitic ones, but racist and misogynistic ones. So have other Republicans. So until they set the example by resigning over their own behavior, until they call out those in their own party for behaving this way, and until they demonstrably change their behavior (as Rep. Omar has indicated she will, although time will tell), then they have no standing to make such calls. The Republicans do not get to be sanctimonious and high minded when policing their opposition, while ignoring the misbehavior in their own party.

But back to the reason for this post:  We trust that people of color can recognize racism directed against them better than white folks who haven’t been subjected to racism can. We trust that women can recognize sexist behavior and “toxic masculinity” better than guys brought up in the male dominated culture. So why is it that non-Jews cannot take the word of the bulk of the Jewish community when we indicate that a statement is calling on traditional antisemitic tropes. What does it say about the person who doesn’t see it?

P.S.: A friend posted this, and it is apropos to this discussion:  How to Criticize Israel without being Antisemitic.