The Open Anti-Semitism of the American Left


A month ago, CNN made the controversial decision to fire commentator Marc Lamont Hill in response to anti-Semitic remarks he made while speaking at the UN, specifically over his use of the phrase “a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.” 

The phrase in question is a slogan coined by the terrorist group Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the extermination of the Jewish race. Many progressives, however, jumped to Lamont Hill’s defense immediately. There were widespread claims that accusations of anti-Semitism were being used to shut down debate over the Palestinian—Israeli conflict.

The irony of statements like these should be obvious: progressives on college campuses and beyond often use accusations of bigotry to censor or silence the voices of those who dissent from the dominant left-wing paradigm. It’s also deliciously ironic that a man who formed an entire career around claiming that anything and everything was a racist dog-whistle suddenly finds himself arguing passionately against legitimate grievances about his own racist dog-whistling.

What is perplexing, however, is that a political movement that has cut its teeth on proclaiming everything in American society racist seems oddly defensive when one of their own is accused of the same. This is not just a coincidence or an isolated incident — liberals have a serious problem with anti-Semitism, which runs much deeper than the Lamont Hill affair, one that they have historically refused to acknowledge.

Significantly more disturbing than the river-to-the-sea debacle is the troubling association of many Democratic politicians and activists with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Perhaps the most virulently anti-Semitic man alive, Farrakhan has called Jews “satanic,” said that Judaism is “a gutter religion,” claimed that “the false Jew will lead you to filth and indecency,” and voiced unflinching support for every baseless anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on the planet, including that Jews were secretly behind 9/11 and that the Holocaust death count was exaggerated. When the Anti-Defamation League referred to Farrakhan as “the black Hitler,” he responded by saying, “Hitler was a very great man.”

Illustration by Annabel Driussi

Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, co-founders of the Womxn’s March, have both attended speeches by, been photographed with, and voiced outspoken support for Farrakhan. Mallory once called him “the G.O.A.T,” meaning Greatest Of All Time. Despite Farrakhan’s bigotry, Sarsour and Mallory, even when pressured, have consistently refused to condemn his open anti-Semitism.

 In fact, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that Sarsour and Mallory are anti-Semites themselves — there are substantial allegations that they have professed belief in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in private company, and a widely circulated report that surfaced last year alleged that they berated a Jewish woman because “her people hold all the wealth.” Sarsour has refused to condemn Hamas, despite being repeatedly given the opportunity. 

Despite all of this, Sarsour and Mallory remain darling of the Left. Kirsten Gillibrand called them “extraordinary women.” Vallerie Jarrett called them “leaders of tomorrow.” The Obama White House called them “champions of change.” After the allegations of anti-Semitism surfaced, the New York Times and the Washington Post published a series of op-eds that defended the two women, despite acknowledging that they were probably anti-Semites. 

Prominent progressives who are associated with Farrakhan are too numerous to count — even Barack Obama was photographed smiling with him in 2005. Lamont Hill, for his part, claimed that he does not believe Farrakhan to be truly anti-Semitic, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. When he came under scrutiny for a 2016 photograph that pictured him arm-in-arm with Farrakhan, he refused to distance himself from Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. (Just days before the photo surfaced, Farrakhan had compared Jews to termites in a public speech.) Instead, he claimed that the backlash was an attempt “by dishonest media or poorly intentioned observers to create unnecessary division.” The irony of this statement is, once again, tantalizingly delicious.

The anti-Semitism of the progressive movement is ubiquitous, and there are hundreds of examples beyond the ones I had space to discuss in this article. However, what is astonishing is that progressive activists and politicians, and the mainstream media, are largely willing to look the other way, as long as it comes from within their ranks. One can only imagine what the reaction would be from the same groups who ardently defended Lamont Hill if a conservative had been even remotely associated with Farrakhan-esque anti-Semitism. 

After the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, liberals blamed President Donald Trump for fostering an “atmosphere of hate” that led to the attack. Liberal concern for the well-being of the Jewish community seems to evaporate completely, however, when it is openly professed by their own activists, politicians and pundits. Just as conservatives must disavow and expunge any elements of the alt-right from within their ranks, progressives must distance themselves from Farrakhan and the general anti-Semitism that infects their base. The movement’s apathy towards its own bigotry is astoundingly hypocritical. 

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