The Anti-Defamation League recently released the results of its annual anti-Semitism audit. It found that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged nearly 60% this past year.
These results, though dismaying, are surprising only if you’ve been living under a rock. From the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to the White House hiring and firing of Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, to the rise of “alt-right” leaders like Richard Spencer and David Duke, we are awash in anti-Semitism at the highest levels.
Less discussed but equally pernicious is the anti-Semitism from the left. Last week, Louis Farrakhan gave a horrifying speech that included references to Jews controlling the government and Hollywood. He also claimed that the Jewish stranglehold over Hollywood created transgenderism. As he finished his speech, he said that the Jews’ “time is up” and that we will burn in hell.
Of course, Farrakhan has been a known anti-Semite for decades now. He once called Hitler “a very great man.” Then there was the time he said, “When it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!”
So it was dismaying that a leader of the left would countenance his words, show up at his speech and take a photo with him. And yet this is what the leader and co-chair of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, did this week.
It would be one thing if Mallory later denounced Farrakhan’s hateful words, if only because anti-Semitism is so taboo that even closet anti-Semites understand that they must hide it.
But she did not. Rather, she proudly shared a video and photo of her attendance on Instagram. Not only that, in an apparent response to the (very limited) outrage about her attendance, she tweeted an anti-Semitic dog whistle:
If your leader does not have the same enemies as Jesus, they may not be THE leader! Study the Bible and u will find the similarities. Ostracizing, ridicule and rejection is a painful part of the process…but faith is the substance of things!— Tamika D. Mallory (@TamikaDMallory) March 1, 2018
This is the kind of dog whistle that even humans can hear. Mallory’s claim that she has the same enemies as Jesus Christ only days after being criticized for her attendance at an anti-Semitic speech is a clear reference to one of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes of all time, used to justify unimaginable massacres throughout the ages: that Jews are the enemies of Christianity.
Let’s be clear: These are the words of an anti-Semite. The only other public statement she’s made about the event was in response to a tweet by Talib Kweli where he also proudly claimed his support for Farrakhan. Mallory’s response? “My brother! Love you, Talib!”
Mallory had the chance to clarify her attendance, to claim that perhaps there was some explanation besides hatred that would motivate her attendance at this speech, and her proud sharing of images from it.
Instead, she has doubled down, and proudly.
Others who are part of the Women’s March leadership have not said a word. Linda Sarsour has been notably silent, as has Carmen Perez, both co-chairs of the movement.
Worse, instead of an outcry from the left of the sort Steve Bannon has gotten, there has been a bizarre silence from leaders of other social justice organizations, including Jewish ones.
Now is not a time to mince words: The left’s silence in this instance signals their complicity in anti-Semitism. They are allowing naked, open bigotry to grow in front of them without a word of protest.
In fact, when CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted criticism of Mallory’s attendance, he was himself criticized on the grounds that Mallory is not important enough to castigate.
This is both false and insidious. It’s false because Mallory is the head of one of the most mainstream activist organizations in America. The original Women’s March broke records for attendance for single-day demonstrations in the United States. It has taken on an even bigger role, thanks to the #MeToo movement. It is one of the strongest, most important voices in left-wing activism (as it should be).
Mallory’s role, then, is not a fringe leader of some small movement but the leader of a cultural powerhouse. And it is tribalism that has silenced the left on her behalf. Morality should be guiding our positions, not the relative power of others or what “side” they are on. To accept hatred among our own because it is convenient or because it is less dangerous in our minds than the other side’s hatred is an amoral, tribal, strategic decision rather than a moral one.
Ultimately, anti-Semitism is evil, as is racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia and every other hate that takes groups of people and turns them from individuals into massive globs of enemies to be destroyed. It is infuriating that anti-Semitism is not taken as seriously as these other forms of bigotry. But it also exposes a serious moral failing on the left that threatens the very integrity of its collective soul.
Tamika Mallory has not just gone to see a man oozing of such hatred speak. She has publicly endorsed him. She has refused to back down for her attendance. She has refused to denounce his words. She has composed her own anti-Semitic dog-whistling comment. And she has thanked others for supporting her attendance.
It is our job to speak up, not because she is powerful (which she is), and not because she is influential (which she is) and not because if we don’t speak up, the hatred will spread (which it will). We — and everyone else on the left — must speak up because it is the right thing to do.
Elad Nehorai is the writer behind the blog Pop Chassid, the co-founder of the creative Jewish website Hevria, and one of the leaders of Torah Trumps Hate, a new Orthodox Jewish activist organization and community.