As the husband of a Muslim woman and the father of a son whose name marks him as foreign even though he was born in the United States, I have been reading with care, gratitude, and a welcome sense of solidarity the posts in my Facebook feed about how important it is not to despair now that Trump has been elected president; and I have been thinking about the role I might play in helping to make sure, as much as possible, that all of those targeted by the hatred at the heart of Trump’s campaign nonetheless feel their presence in this country to be welcomed and safe and respected and valued.
I have also been heartened and affirmed by how many of the posts I’ve read make a point of naming the specific groups in need of our support, because each of them is the object of a hatred directed specifically at it, and that hatred needs to be understood and opposed on its own terms. I have, however, also noticed the conspicuous absence of the group to which I belong, the Jews, from most of those lists-of-the-vulnerable. (Here is one example.) We may be the one group (as far as I can tell) that Trump himself did not name specifically, but his alt-right and KKK and neo-Nazi and white supremacist supporters sure as hell named us when they attacked Jewish journalists who criticized Trump; and the classically antisemitic, right-out-of-The-Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion, “global-conspiracy-that’s-bleeding-us-dry” rhetoric that he embraced towards the end of his campaign, in his speeches and perhaps especially in his final campaign video (complete with images of the prominent and wealthy Jews who are doing “the bleeding”), was sure as hell a way of naming us without naming us:
Do I think, therefore, that the rounding up of Jews is imminent? No. Do I think the people who would support and participate in the rounding up of Jews have been inspired, empowered, and legitimized by Trump’s campaign? Absolutely. The image at the top of this post, for example, of antisemitic graffiti written on a storefront in Philadelphia the day after the election, is from the Anti-Defamation League’s Twitter feed:
— ADL Philadelphia (@ADLPhiladelphia) November 9, 2016
It’s worth noting that it almost certainly was not lost on the people who put that graffiti on storefronts that they were doing so on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. To put it another way, I think it is to be willfully blind not to see parallels between the dynamics of Trump’s campaign and the dynamics at play at the beginning of Hitler’s Germany, or of any of the other periods in history when the Jews have been targeted as some version of “the global conspiracy.”
Back in July, a woman named Carly Pildis wrote an essay that, if you care about the integrity of what it means to be anti-racist/anti-oppression, you should read. It’s called “I Am Woke: Why I Am Finally Raising My Voice Against Jewish Erasure in the Anti-Racism Movement.” (The link takes you to a recent repost of the article in Tablet.) The following paragraph struck me in particular. It appears after a section in the essay where Pildis quotes examples of some particularly offensive tweets she received for pushing back ever so gently against what she saw as a simplistic #BlackLivesMatters portrayal of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.
I am not asking the anti-racism movement to join AIPAC. I am asking that it apply the same values to Jews as it does other marginalized or oppressed groups. I am asking that the movement put a parenthesis around its twitter handles and stand in solidarity with me and my family. I am saying that if the rule of this community is that those with lived experience should be heard the loudest, then hear the Jews among you. If those who have experienced oppression should never be doubted in their experience, then stop saying I am a not a real minority, or that anti-Semitism isn’t real. If anti-oppression work must be intersectional, then that intersectionality can no longer end when the word Jewish is uttered. If communities that are affected by policy must always be consulted and in the forefront of policy discussions, stop telling Jewish Americans we have no right to be included in your conversations about Israel, or that our views on the physical safety of our families are not welcome to be discussed, struggled with or even acknowledged.
When I started this post, I thought of it as an expression of how vulnerable the antisemitism in Trump’s campaign has made me feel. I did not imagine I would also be writing about how what Pildis called “Jewish erasure” among progressives—a term I had not heard till I read her piece—makes me feel perhaps even more at risk. But it does. I know what to expect, and to expect no better, from the people who spray painted those swastikas. Their actions do not constitute a betrayal. Failing to include the fight against antisemitism in a response to Trump’s presidency, however—especially given its explicit expression during his campaign and, now, after his victory—most certainly does.
So I guess I have come to see this post as a challenge. If you are one of the people or organizations talking about how we need to organize not just against the hatreds Trump’s campaign stood for, but also affirmatively in support of the specific groups that were—and are still being—targeted, have you done, are you willing to do, the work of including antisemitism in your analysis? To paraphrase Pildis, intersectionality is either fully intersectional or it isn’t. If it is, then it must include antisemitism among the oppressions it confronts. If it isn’t, if it doesn’t, then why should I see it as anything other than good-old-fashioned, left-wing antisemitism using the fight against other oppressions as camouflage?