Jeffrey Salkin: Anti-Semitism Is Evil, Whether It Comes From the Right or the Left

This Hanukkah, there is a new game that you can play with your friends and family.

”Who has a bigger problem with anti-semitism — the Right or the Left?”

Because everyone seems to be playing it.

It is really quite easy to play.

Simply look at the various varieties of Jew-hatred emanating from the end of the political spectrum that you disagree with, and argue that they are the most grievous offenders.

Actually, you probably already played this game when you were young.

It was called “twister.”

As in: the attempt to twist your body, and your mind, into uncomfortable contortions of rationalization.

Consider a recent article in the Forward by Dove Kent. He argues that the accusation of anti-semitism on both sides of the political and cultural divide is inappropriate, that the vituperation and violence coming from the right is far more threatening than that which comes from the left.


“Anti-Semitism may appear in certain tangential strands of U.S. leftist ideology but it is certain not its animating force. Indeed it is almost universally understood to be antithetical to our social justice movements.”

In one sense, he is not wrong. The history of leftist ideology is spotted and stained with anti-semitic motivations. Check out the late, lamented Robert Wistrich on this. But, it has not been as dominant on the left as it has been on the right.

And yes, the sheer number of right wing extremist hate crimes and violence certainly dwarfs the number that have come from the left.

But, consider the words of the indefatigable Deborah Lipstadt.

For the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism from the left. From Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom to college campuses across America, the phenomenon is real, and it is dangerous. Yet, all too often, some Jews — both individuals and organizations — who inhabit the liberal or left end of the spectrum have tried to explain it away with the classic “yes/but” rationalization: “Yes, it’s wrong, but if only Israel would… then the anti-Semitism would disappear.” Maybe their fear of losing their left-wing bona fides blinded them to the fact that the only proper response to prejudice of any kind — anti-Semitism included — is unambiguous condemnation.

Deborah makes it clear: we need to condemn anti-semitism on all sides. Every manifestation of Jew-hatred is dangerous.

I will now suggest that, in some ways, the anti-semitism of the Left might actually be more dangerous, and more insidious, than that of the Right.


First, the anti-semitism of the left is rarely violent. It does not come in the form of miscreants carrying torches in the streets of Charlottesville. It does not come in the form of bullets fired in synagogues.

The violence is verbal, and often comes in the form of intellectual argument.

The problem? As we have seen, hateful ideologies and hateful words have a way of metasticizing into violent acts.

Second, the anti-semitism of the left rarely comes in the form of “I hate the Jews!” It usually comes out as “I hate, or have great difficulty, with Israel and Zionism.”

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Source: Religion News Service