This Week Proves It: Anti-Semitism On The Right Is The Only Real Threat To Jews
This week provided yet another illustration that despite the endless handwringing about anti-Semitism on the left, it is far-right extremism which constitutes the paramount threat to American Jewish life today.
On Friday, Richard Holzer, a self-described skinhead and former KKK member, was arrested by federal authorities, accused of plotting to blow up a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado.
Holzer was “getting ready to cap people,” he had said on Facebook. Jews “need to die.” They are “a cancer”; “I wish the Holocaust really did happen.” According to the court filing, Holzer initially contemplated poisoning synagogue members with arsenic or “vandalizing the place beyond repair” with Molotov cocktails. Had he been able to follow through on his final plan, the New York Times reported that the synagogue would have been razed to the ground with pipe bombs in the middle of the night.
But Holzer’s violent plan to harm Jews was not the only far right anti-Semitic revelation of the week. News of Holzer’s arrest came on the heels of a leaked audio recording of once-prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer ranting about “little fucking kikes. They get ruled by people like me,” just the day after the bloody far-right Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Milo just uploaded leaked audio of Richard Spencer reacting to the death of Heather Heyer and the negative press it did to his movement.
Just in case there was any question of the so-called “dapper white nationalist” being a raged fuelled hateful monster.
Explicit warning. pic.twitter.com/KpVk2fLYSu
— BAILEY, THE LIBTARDTARIAN ? (@atheist_cvnt) November 4, 2019
The audio was leaked by the faded alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos. Partners in their own destruction, Spencer and Yiannopoulos would be comic figures, drag queens for a new American fascism, had Heather Heyer not been murdered counter-protesting the very rally Spencer was encouraging.
Of course, this does not prove that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in other quarters. Anti-Semitism across the globe is indeed perpetuated by three distinct groups: the far-right, the far-left, and Islamic extremists. The far-left seeks to make it impossible for Zionists to participate in left-wing politics, driving 95% of Jews to its margins. The far-right undermines conditions such as the freedom of speech and rule of law that make Jewish life possible. And the most violent elements seek Jews’ physical destruction.
Whether fueled by populist Soros-centric conspiracy theories in Hungary or left-wing political anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party, anti-Semitism is playing an ever-greater role in democratic life. And the United States is no exception here. The American Jewish Committee’s recent survey concerning anti-Semitism in America found that 88% of American Jews consider anti-Semitism a domestic problem, with 84% responding they believe the level of anti-Semitism in society has increased over the past five years.
But the AJC’s polling also reiterated that the far-right, far-left, and Islamic extremism are not equivalent immediate dangers, as Holzer’s arrest among other things clearly demonstrates. While 78% of American Jews told the AJC that “the extreme political right” represents a “very serious” or “moderately serious anti-Semitic threat in the United States today,” a far smaller 36% said the same of “the extreme political left.”
It is not that anti-Semitism does not exist on the American political left. Individual anti-Semitic incidents have been well-documented, incidents like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s construal of American support for Israel as being “all about the Benjamins” (for which she apologized), or her barely-coded remarks about “the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country” (for which she did not apologize). Support for BDS, especially the reported growing interest in the movement on college campuses, has also been the subject of rather belabored discussion.
But the extreme political left that the AJC survey alludes to is so small and disempowered as to render it totally ineffectual. BDS, as I’ve previously argued, is a zombie movement that is largely kept alive by those who oppose its destructive ideology, who make it out to be something it is not.
If anyone could stand accused of turning support for Israel into a narrow, partisan issue, endangering America’s vital bipartisan consensus, it is the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s White House, which, in its pointedly-timed recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, put American foreign policy at the service of Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection campaigns.
Those aforementioned anti-Semitic scandals, meanwhile, have been confined within the Democratic Party to one or two congresswomen at the most, neither of whom are in possession of any real power or influence whatsoever, in spite of their outsized national profiles and popularity within their districts. Meanwhile, Republican senators of standing are embracing so-called “national conservatism” while freely using anti-Semitic codewords like “cosmopolitan elites.”
As the Republicans move ever rightward, commentators have warned of the possible Corbynization of the Democratic Party. But it’s a phantom menace. Jeremy Corbyn was indeed a marginal figure until 2015, when he dramatically and unexpectedly took the Labour leadership, bringing with him thirty years of experience in anti-Semitic politics. Corbyn’s rise was one chapter within a much larger history of struggle between left and right within Labour. Moreover, it was enabled by a vote of party membership, a franchise which today numbers just over 500,000. By contrast, the next Democratic presidential candidate will be chosen by 547,458 registered Democrats in Orange County, California alone.
It was not the extreme political left that shot up the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, murdering one woman and injuring three others. Nor was it the left who was responsible for killing 11 people and injuring seven at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. They were not responsible for Holzer’s bungled night of broken glass, nor for the swastikas and SS symbols found graffitied on the side of a shul in Hancock, Michigan.
It is without question the extreme right that poses the gravest threat to American Jewish life. If anti-Semitism in America is a question of power, representation, and the means to carry out that which it intends, the fact remains that while the extreme left is marginalized, the extreme right runs rampant.
Liam Hoare is a freelance journalist and critic based in Vienna.