As my newest book (((Semitism))) heads to market, look here for my most recent work, especially on Judaism, hate, and the rise of white nationalism in the era of Trump.
My rabbi in Washington, Daniel Zemel, quoted the Israeli Yaniv Sagee during Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur evening service, this fall: “For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists.”
Rabbi Zemel implored his congregation to act before it is too late, to save Israel from itself.
But Israelis want nothing of the sort. American Jews don’t serve in the Israeli military, don’t pay Israeli taxes and don’t live under the threat of Hamas rocket bombardments. And many American Jews would not heed Rabbi Zemel’s call.
Zionism divided American Jewry for much of the latter 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Those divisions remained in the early decades of the Jewish state, fading only with the triumph of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the peril of the Yom Kippur War.
Now many American Jews, especially young American Jews, would say, Israel is Israel’s problem. We have our own.
There are roughly 6.5 million Jews in Israel. There are roughly 5.7 million Jews in America. Increasingly, they see the world in starkly different ways.
The Great Schism is upon us.
Moment Magazine interview:
This book is very hard on Jews, and I did that intentionally. There are too many Jews who have taken themselves out of the public sphere. They are so comfortable in their upper-middle-class to affluent positions that they have chosen to rationalize away the hatred or the bigotry surrounding them because they don’t want to make waves. I dedicated an entire chapter to what I call “the Israel diversion.” Jews love to argue, but most of our arguments are now about Israel. There are liberal Jews and conservative Jews, there is J Street and there is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—they all sit around and argue about Israel. Meanwhile, many Jews don’t even see what has happened in the society that we live in. We’ve lost touch with our obligations to it.
Stop obsessing about Israel. Start looking around at what is happening in your own country. Reach out to Muslim groups, immigrant groups, civil rights groups. Use the muscle, know-how and resources of the Jewish community to thwart the rise of this new Internet-savvy hate.
Bernie Bernstein pretty much fits the mold of a Jew — at least as the alt-right sees us.
A strange Northeastern accent, somewhere between New York and Boston? Check. Tossing money, but not too much money, around to no good end (remember, we’re rich, but cheap)? Check. Pursuing the agenda of the liberal fake-news media? Check. Riling the worst instincts of the South’s conservative base? Check.
But there was something a little too on the nose, forgive me please, about those robocalls in Alabama from a mythical Washington Post reporter named Bernstein seeking women to dish dirt on Roy Moore, something too “Jewy” to be actually Jewish. And that’s where the rising anti-Semitism of the new white nationalists loses its punch.
THE first tweet arrived as cryptic code, a signal to the army of the “alt-right” that I barely knew existed: “Hello ((Weisman)).” @CyberTrump was responding to my recent tweet of an essay by Robert Kagan on the emergence of fascism in the United States.
“Care to explain?” I answered, intuiting that my last name in brackets denoted my Jewish faith.
“What, ho, the vaunted Ashkenazi intelligence, hahaha!” CyberTrump came back. “It’s a dog whistle, fool. Belling the cat for my fellow goyim.” With the cat belled, the horde was unleashed.
The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters, hasn’t stopped since.