Skip To Content
Back to Opinion

If David Duke Agrees With You On Israel, You Probably Hate Jews

CNN’s recent decision to sever ties with Marc Lamont Hill following his controversial speech at the UN in late November triggered a veritable  tsunami of critical  commentary.

The furious reactions by Hill’s supporters reflected the widely-held conviction that he should be applauded for his passionate advocacy for Palestinian rights and that his critics were trying to silence him with unfair accusations of anti-Semitism.

And yet, in defending him, many of Hill’s supporters misconstrued his words. They elided the threat to Jews that he clearly endorsed. This white-washing of Hill’s words, while despicable, is not surprising. It is simply de rigueur on the left now to whitewash anti-Semitism on its own side and focus only on the right.

The claim that Hill had merely criticized Israel and was now smeared as anti-Semitic was particularly popular on social media.

Linking to a campaign to pressure CNN to reinstate Hill, the prominent American actor Mark Ruffalo told his 4.3 million Twitter followers in a widely shared tweet: “Criticizing the actions of Israel is not anti-semitism. Since when is advocating for human rights a fireable offense? Join us in standing in solidarity with Dr. @MarcLamontHill.”

Ruffalo linked to a statement by If Not Now, a group of American Jewish millennials claiming to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank while maintaining ambiguity on the question whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state.

Under the title “Tell CNN: Reinstate Marc Lamont Hill. Advocating for Palestinian Rights is not Antisemitic,” the statement asserted that Hill had been fired “under pressure from right-wing leaders and the Jewish establishment.”

Hill’s support for “Palestinian freedom” was declared to be “in no way …anti-semitic [sic!].” If Not Now insisted that “Marc Lamont Hill has spent much of his life fighting against racism and oppression in America” and argued that “[e]specially in the Trump Era, it is dangerous to link advocating for Palestinian rights to anti-semitism. It distracts from real threats to Jewish community — the rise of white nationalism.”

But this is only partially true. Or rather, it accounts for only a portion of the threats faced by Jews in 2018.

While the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting demonstrated all too painfully that American Jews have indeed every reason to worry about the rise of white nationalism, Israeli Jews obviously have as much reason to worry about Palestinian terrorism and unrelenting Arab-Muslim enmity towards the Jewish state.

And it was precisely because Hill’s UN speech — as well as his previous activism — seemed to justify both Palestinian terrorism and the goal of doing away with Jewish sovereignty between “the river and the sea” that his speech was so controversial.

It was a fact that was lost on Hill’s left-leaning supporters, including his many Jewish supporters.

It was not lost on David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), David Duke “has been active in the white supremacy movement for over 40 years” and could be considered as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”

And when it comes to Israel, Duke tends to agree with some prominent lefties, including Hill, whose views on Israel Duke tweeted “no decent person can disagree” with.

Ironically, Hill himself regards Duke’s endorsement as a sign that the endorsee should be condemned. Likely in response to President Trump’s false claim that white South Africans are possibly being killed and robbed from en masse, Hill tweeted, “The fact that David Duke is thanking Trump for his South Africa tweet says everything.”

Hill is right: it “says everything” when David Duke endorses statements that clearly reflect the thinking and worldview of the person who made the statement. And it arguably “says everything” that when Duke agreed with Hill, it was by no means the first time that he looked for — and found — common ground with prominent activists who demonize the Jewish state in terms echoing age-old anti-Semitic tropes.

A few years ago, when the American writer and activist Max Blumenthal focused all his energies on demonstrating that Israel was the new Nazi Germany, he garnered not only praise in progressive circles, but also got some well-deserved endorsements on Duke’s website, which described “Blumenthal’s recent book and much of his other work” as “extremely valuable.”

The far-right site even objected when Blumenthal’s work was denounced as anti-Semitic by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, asserting that he and others were “placed on the Zionist blacklist simply for publicly recognizing some of the obvious truths.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Duke also keenly appreciated the work of Israeli academic Shlomo Sand, whose efforts to depict the Jews as an “invented” people with an “invented” homeland got rave reviews on websites dedicated to the relentless vilification of Israel, such as The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss.

When Pink Floyd star Roger Waters provided the radical magazine CounterPunch with his take on the views fashionable among far-left activists in December 2013, David Duke was delighted to see that “Waters has revealed that the ‘Jewish lobby’ controls the political discourse in America and the music industry in America — and uses that power to suppress any dissent about Israel.”

It also didn’t escape Duke’s attention that prominent American-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour sometimes made statements that he could fully embrace:

Given that both Sarsour and Hill have ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and have been reluctant to clearly denounce him for his breathtakingly vile anti-Semitism and all-around bigotry, it is also noteworthy that David Duke agrees that the notorious hate-preacher deserves some respect — very much for the same reason as Linda Sarsour:

There is clearly a pattern that points to substantive agreements between the far-right and the far-left when it comes to the world’s only Jewish state.

David Duke doesn’t seem embarrassed to find common ground with the far left. But progressives who claim to oppose anti-Semitism should be ashamed to find themselves in such ugly company.

Petra Marquardt-Bigman is a German-Israeli researcher and writer with a Ph.D. in contemporary history. Follow her @WarpedMirrorPMB

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.