Antisemitism's New Narrative

Hold my Drink Podcast Blog, Episode 31

We’re all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass

Let me be really honest here from the get-go. I’m what some people call a WASP — a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Like my (self-proclaimed) BFF Irshad Manji, I resist labels (although I admit to finding humor in such a stereotype). We are so much more than can be shoe-horned into catchy slogans. Nonetheless, I think it important to put this out there because in this week’s conversation with Asra Nomani and Izabella Tabarovsky, I want to acknowledge that the three of us all have distinct life experiences based on so many things, not least of which includes our religious affiliations. And yet, we are bound by our common humanity, and even as Asra says, a kinship.

In light of the recent Israel-Palestine conflict, we have seen a rise in antisemitic rhetoric across the United States, and even the world. Beyond rhetoric, we’ve witnessed actual violence. This week we come together to discuss how the narrative around antisemitism has shifted. Instead of the typical culprits of antisemitism — extreme right-wing groups and neo-Nazis — we have seen a rise from more progressive voices.

On average, or at least as I’ve been told in the conversations with my Jewish friends, many Jewish groups have historically been known to partner with disparate groups seeking equality. In the United States, this has frequently included various black organizations, where they have collectively worked together in an overall mission for universal justice. One might say, Jews know a little something about injustice…

In the past few years, these connections have frayed. With the introduction and infusion of Critical Social Justice throughout many of our institutions — from the government to our education system — there has been a focus on binary labels of oppressed and oppressor with skin color being the primary determining factor. The success of Jews has made them “white adjacent”, despite a colorful array of skin tones in the Jewish diaspora.

The latest conflict between Israel (white) and Palestine (brown), has further widened the growing chasm. So much of a very complex situation has been simplified into this black and white narrative — literally and figuratively.

As Izabella says, the Jews are often the “canary in the coal mine” so to speak. That is to say, what happens to Jews is often a reflection of larger societal issues bubbling up to the surface. Asra, a Muslim reformer, has her own concerns on how we’ve weaponized language to interpret any global dilemma through the lens of race. As she notes, it’s only a matter of time until this discourse will also strip others of their humanity, making it more difficult to find our common humanity.

Antisemitism, as witnessed over the past few weeks, is just the latest weaponization of a trend to divide and conquer. Instead of playing into divisive propaganda and tropes, we choose connection and meaning.

In the Hold my Drink — navigating the news and politics with a chaser of civility — and Counterweight podcast, Episode 31, Izabella Tabarovsky, a Russian-Jewish American immigrant, and Asra Nomani, an Indian-Muslim American immigrant join me to talk about the framing of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The new social justice movement has replaced the nuance and complexity of the situation with binary stereotypes of oppressor and oppressed. We discuss how the real-world application of such simplistic dogma has dangerous implications beyond the rise of antisemitism. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, and a shot of humanity.

Hold My Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we discuss what it takes to imagine a new American identity, together.

Find us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or watch the conversation unfold on YouTube, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Readings and Resources:

Council of Muslims Against Antisemitism

American Muslims for Palestine

Raheel Raza

Parents Defending Education

Battle against antisemitism has barely begun, National Review, Raheel Raza

‘You Didn’t Listen To Us!’: Leader of Parent Advocacy Group Tears Into School Board for Allowing Activism To Take Over Education, Daily Caller, Shakhzod Yildoshboev

What My Soviet Life Has Taught Me About Censorship and Why It Makes Us Dumb, Areo Magazine, Izabella Tabarovsky

How Not to Think About the Conflict, Sapir Journal, Einat Wilf

Structural Antisemitism, The Dispatch, Jonah Goldberg

After Raid on Aqsa Mosque, Rockets from Gaza and Israeli Airstrikes, New York Times, Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner

Israel-Gaza: The Democrats’ ‘tectonic’ shift on the conflict, BBC News, Anthony Zurcher

I Am Jewish, Ruth & Judea Pearl

Asra Nomani is the Vice President for Strategy and Investigations at Parents Defending Education, where she is the editor of the IndoctriNation database and FOIA work. She is also cofounder of Coalition for TJ, a group of parents and community members in Virginia, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, co-director of the Pearl Project, and cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement. She tweets as @AsraNomani

Izabella Tabarovsky is a senior program associate with the Kennan Institute (Wilson Center) and a contributing writer at Tablet. She was born and raised in the Soviet Union and came to the United States in 1990. She tweets as @IzaTabaro