The Left Needs to Handle Its Antisemitism Problem—NOW

The Left Needs to Handle Its Antisemitism Problem—NOW

Even if it’s just “the fringe,” the disgraceful and dangerous antisemitism seen in and around Columbia University needs to be condemned without equivocation.

Published Apr. 23, 2024 4:30AM EDT 


Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

In recent days, we have witnessed chaos on and around the Columbia University campus, as threats against Jewish students have created an intolerable and combustible atmosphere.

A woman attempting to hide her identity held up a sign with an arrow pointing toward pro-Israel students that read “Al-Qasam’s Next Target,” a reference to Hamas’ military wing. Other protesters told students, “Go back to Europe. Go back to Poland.”

Another protester shouted, “The 7th of October is going to be every day for you,” in reference to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Others sang a chant, which included the words, “We support Hamas’ fight!” and “Hamas we love you. We support your rockets too!” An Arab-Israeli journalist was allegedly assaulted by agitators. These are just a few of the alleged threats and assaults that have been documented on or near this campus.

While protests of all kinds are often marred by fringe actors—doing and saying terrible things that don’t represent the views of the larger group—it’s difficult to watch the videos and not conclude that there is blatant antisemitism at play among at least some of these pro-Palestinian protesters. Even if they’re a minority of the larger movement, what we’re seeing on and around the campus of one of the most hallowed institutions of higher education in America are not merely peaceful calls for a ceasefire or more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

There’s rank antisemitism, full stop, and it needs to be dealt with immediately.

One obvious step is for prominent Americans who have advocated for Palestinians in Gaza to forcefully condemn this behavior. Today.

…there are more than a few ‘bad apples’ to deduce that the far-left has an antisemitism problem.

If you are a prominent progressive influencer, pundit, or elected official (looking at you, Squad members), this is the time for you to go on the record and say that the antisemitic “fringe” of this movement—ostensibly in support of Palestinian rights and an end to the war in Gaza—does not speak for the larger group.

As it happens, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)—an outspoken critic of Israel whose daughter was one of the students arrested last week at Columbia—doesn’t seem too interested in rooting out the bigots that share her passion for the cause. Frankly, she’s not even interested in admitting they exist.

Rep. Omar on Monday tweeted, “Throughout history, protests were co-opted and made to look bad so police and public leaders would shut them down. That’s what we are seeing now at Columbia University. The Columbia protesters have made clear their demands and want their school not to be complacent in the ongoing Genocide in Gaza. Public officials and media making this about anything else are inflaming the situation and need to bring calmness and sanity back.”

That’s a lot of words to perform a Jedi Mind Trick: “These aren’t the antisemites you’re looking for.” (By contrast, Columbia Law Students for Palestine, to their credit, condemned the antisemitic incidents.)

Trust me when I say this matters. When racists on the right voiced repugnant ideas, some of us on the center-right stood up and condemned it. We did so because it was morally correct and because we hoped to prevent evil actors from co-opting and discrediting the conservative cause. Sadly, it was too little, too late.

The good news for mainstream Democrats is that these radical attitudes have not yet seized control of your political party. President Joe Biden, for example, has condemned the protests. There is still time to do the right thing.

But take it from me, parties can be hijacked more quickly than you can imagine. In four short years, the GOP went from Mitt Romney as the standard bearer to Donald Trump. You’ve got to identify it and uproot the cancer before it metastasizes. Because once it spreads, it’s too late.

If you’re still not sure this is a hill to die on, just imagine what you would think if such vicious antisemitism was coming from the right instead of the left. (Remember Charlottesville?)

Yes, there are some people who are looking to grab a short, out-of-context viral clip to make your entire movement look bad. Yes, some of these videos show events that happened on Columbia’s campus, while some took place outside the campus on a public street, where non-students were among the protesters.

But there are more than a few “bad apples” to deduce that the far left has an antisemitism problem. And honest brokers among that political tribe ought to be principled and courageous enough to admit it. Even if it’s only two or three people out of a hundred, it’s time to forcefully condemn it. Just say, “You don’t speak for us!”

This is your problem. This is your mess. Clean up your movement, before it’s too late.  » …
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