Precisely one week after the October 7 massacre of Israeli citizens, foreign nationals, and Jews of all stripes by hundreds of Hamas terrorists and their supporters in Gaza, President Joe Biden delivered an address at the Human Rights Campaign’s 2023 national dinner. There, according to Reuters’s characterization of Biden’s remarks, the president condemned “all hate.”
“We have to reject hate in every form,” Biden said to a smattering of unenthusiastic applause. “History has taught us again and again anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia—they’re all connected.” Hate “left unanswered” only “opens the door for more hate,” the president continued. For the benefit of the largely Democratic audience, Biden likened the grotesque orgy of bloodletting in southern Israel to “what happened in Charlottesville”—at least, insofar as hate “hides under the rocks until there’s a little oxygen blown under,” at which point “it comes roaring out again.”
To hear Biden tell it, there is only one hate. Its permutations are only cosmetically distinct. There must be comfort in that notion for him, because the Biden White House spent the first three weeks that followed the 10/7 massacre insisting that anti-Semitism and “Islamophobia” are twin phenomena. But the world refused to cooperate with Biden’s observation. As is often the case, the poisoned minds who see Jewish perfidy in day-to-day events found license in the murder of Jews to mete out more violence and intimidation.
A knife-wielding assailant broke into a home in Studio City, California, after reportedly seeing a mezuzah affixed to its doorframe. Shouting “Free Palestine,” he threatened to kill the family he accosted before he was subdued. A Minneapolis man was assaulted and had a caustic substance sprayed into his eyes after he unwittingly drove into an anti-Israel demonstration in which his assailants brandished Hamas flags. Brief but violent scuffles broke out amid anti-Israel protests in Skokie. There, one local resident gave chase to a demonstrator who tried to deface his car, but he was set upon by dozens of violent demonstrators and freed himself only after he fired a gun into the air.
Efforts increased to intimidate American Jews into hiding. A swastika was spray-painted onto the side of a truck in St. Louis. Orthodox worshippers in Teaneck, New Jersey, were accosted by a crowd wearing keffiyeh, flying Palestinian flags, and chanting “Allahu Akbar.” The Richmond, California, city council passed a resolution blaming Israel for “ethnic cleansing and collective punishment,” alleged crimes that were both the response to and cause of the 10/7 slaughter. “You have put me in this situation,” one Richmond resident said of the shame and apprehension her city had imposed on her.
At a rally dubbed “Flood Brooklyn for Gaza,” a direct reference to the name Hamas gave its plan to slaughter Israeli civilians (the “al-Aqsa Flood” operation), 19 demonstrators were arrested for a variety of disturbance, including setting fires in the streets, attacking police officers, and pelting them with debris, before the crowd was dispersed following the use of a nonlethal sonic device.
“Long live intifada,” chanted the crowd of demonstrators who marched through a Manhattan neighborhood. “There is only one solution,” they intoned ominously.
These traumatizing displays pale in comparison with the nightmarish experience on some of America’s most elite college campuses. A protest at Harvard against Israel singled out a visibly Jewish student, surrounded him, and physically harassed him while screaming “shame” into his face. One of the student’s assailants was no less a figure than the editor of the Harvard Law Review.
“I had Jewish blood on my hands,” said one traumatized Tulane student when a student who objected to the burning of an Israeli flag was swarmed and beaten. The college’s president responded to the event by promising that anyone “who committed an illegal act” would be held accountable, and there could be “additional arrests” after an investigation into the incident. In the meantime, a “highly visible police presence” would be deployed to mitigate the threat to Jewish students. Not every academic institution has been similarly proactive.
The threat posed by anti-Israel demonstrators was so acute that Cornell University felt compelled to advise Jewish students and staff to stay away from the campus’s kosher dining hall. Their safety couldn’t be guaranteed—not when the university’s forum was alive with threats to “follow [Jews] home and slit their throats” or “shoot up” buildings frequented by Jews, because “Jewish people need to be killed.” Nor were these threats merely aspirational, according to the charges the Justice Department filed against one Cornell student who had pledged to “shoot all you pig Jews.”
A braying mob informed of the presence of Jews in Cooper Union’s library descended on its doors and beat at them, mindlessly chanting slogans such as “globalize the intifada from New York to Gaza.” Cooper Union encouraged the event, according to New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov. Faculty promoted an anti-Israel walkout by cancelling classes and offering extra credit to attendees. When events spiraled out of control, some faculty saw to their own safety while leaving Jewish students to barricade themselves in the library. No arrests were made, and no disciplinary action was taken against the school’s staff. Indeed, Cooper Union’s sterile description of this event was limited to the observation that “the library was closed for approximately 20 minutes while student protesters moved through our building.”
These terrorizing incidents build on a solid and growing foundation of anti-Semitism in America. Episodes of recordable anti-Jewish violence in the United States already increased by 35 percent between 2021 to 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s figures. What’s more, PBS marveled, “the rise in Jew-hatred in the U.S. is not limited to white supremacists.” Some of that hatred was attributable to the “far left” too! And yet, the ADL and chroniclers of its findings felt the need to justify at least some of the left’s anti-Jewish antipathy by registering their dissatisfaction with Netanyahu’s “ultranationalist” government. This finely nuanced view was not in evidence in the streets and on college campuses, where the 10/7 massacre and Israel’s justified response to it precipitated a campaign of anti-Jewish terrorization rivaling any in American history.
And by early November, these eruptions claimed their first Jewish life. On November 6, in Ventura County, California, 69-year-old Paul Kessler was, according to witnesses, beaten by a Hamas defender armed with a bullhorn. Kessler fell backward onto the pavement and bled for several minutes before he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Just hours earlier, a 34-year-old woman in Indiana drove her car into what she thought was a school full of Jewish children. “Yes, I did it on purpose,” she confessed to police. It was only through luck and stupidity (her target turned out to be an institution run by the hate group Black Hebrew Israelites) that she failed in her quest to kill Jewish kids.
It’s possible that itemizing these incidences of anti-Semitic violence and intimidation does a disservice to the nationwide outbreak of anti-Jewish hostility. It gives short shrift to the uncountable episodes of harassment and intimidation targeting Jews: the bomb threats, the poster thieves, the pogromist graffiti on Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues, the letters from professionals and academics that set out to contextualize Hamas’s violence and euphemize murder. A crime tally takes no account of the social-media algorithms seemingly optimized to haunt American Jews with the ubiquitous images of their tormentors, whose menacing enthusiasm for their depraved work betrays the lack of any accompanying social consequences. The terror that began on 10/7 has not yet abated.
Yet, in response to all this, Joe Biden’s allies insisted that the president hadn’t condemned Islamophobia with sufficient intensity.
In a prime-time address to the nation in which the president sought to underscore the threat to U.S. security represented by both Israel’s war against a constellation of Iran-backed terrorist networks and Russia’s war of conquest in Ukraine—two distinct conflicts orchestrated by instigators who are increasingly aligned—Biden took a time-out to preemptively criticize Israelis and Americans alike for succumbing to the Islamophobic hate to which their detractors assume they are inclined.
“I cautioned the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage,” Biden said. He didn’t spare his fellow citizens the admonition. “When I was in Israel yesterday, I said that when America experienced the hell of 9/11, we felt enraged as well. While we sought and got justice, we made mistakes.” It’s not clear what the “mistakes” were that Biden felt the need to condemn, but subsequent reporting about the thinking within Biden’s inner circle suggests the president was trying to get ahead of the wave of Islamophobia due to crash onto the American political scene any minute now.
Prior to the address, one of the president’s speechwriters “sat down with a group of senior Arab and Muslim American officials to go over the draft and take suggestions,” NBC News revealed. Reportedly, the president’s staff was treated to a dressing down over the “torrent of anger” the Muslim community has faced—a pain compounded by the president’s failure to emphasize their plight. The speech mollified the concerns of at least one White House official, who “felt very seen and respected” by the president’s outsized focus on latent Islamophobia. But not all the official’s co-religionists were satisfied by the draft.
As New York Times contributor Rozina Ali mourned nearly four weeks after the 10/7 attacks, Muslims in America “fear a new outbreak of violence,” and the Biden administration had not risen to meet the perceived threat. The campaign of moral blackmail from professional Muslim advocacy groups directed at the White House became so great and the supposed threat to Biden’s electoral bottom line in places like Michigan became so acute that, by November 1, the White House announced the creation of a “national strategy to counter Islamophobia.” “For too long, Muslims in America, and those perceived to be Muslim,” the White House release read, “have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks and other discriminatory incidents.”
Of course, there have been efforts to harass, intimidate, and harm Muslim-Americans following Hamas’s massacre, but these were exceptionally heinous acts performed by literally deranged people. In his speech, Biden focused on one particularly abhorrent episode outside Chicago in which a young Palestinian mother was attacked, and her six-year-old son stabbed to death, by a man who was, according to prosecutors, inspired by Hamas’s actions. A man in Illinois was charged with a hate crime after he verbally abused and threatened to shoot two Muslim men in a parking garage. A Muslim woman in Maryland was the target of a hateful tirade at a parking light, and a teenage girl reported having her hijab pulled off on the New York City subway. All these antisocial acts are worthy of condemnation, but these incidents were the totality that NBC News could assemble in its October 31 report on the “spike in hate” that is “reminiscent of post-9/11 Islamophobia.”
The Times, too, tried to create balance in its coverage of explicitly pro-intifada demonstrations in the city’s streets by highlighting the arrest of two men who “shouted anti-Muslim slurs while attacking three other men” a week earlier. But that only underscores the disparity the Times was seeking to elide. After all, the occurrence that precipitated the dispatch was an event in which 100 of the more than 1,000 menacing attendees were arrested—a demonstration organized by the Democratic Socialists of America, a group to which sitting federal and state-level lawmakers belong.
The most glaring disproportionality—substantiated both by an overwhelming cascade of anecdotes and FBI statistics—is the hate directed toward America’s Jewish minority in response to a demonstration of their vulnerability. The White House’s compulsion to adulterate that hate with the introduction of a variety of other competing hates only exacerbates the acute sense of isolation America’s Jews have experienced since 10/7.
Democratic lawmakers certainly know they are erecting an elaborate false equivalence. Indeed, they once committed the country to a prolonged lecture about its very willful blindness at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.
BLM activists and their Democratic allies took exception to the rejoinder “all lives matter” because, they repeatedly explained, generic expressions of antipathy toward every expression of bigotry and discrimination were just a way of condoning the very specific bigotry that produced the moment everyone was experiencing. There is logic in this admonition, but as we now know, its proponents never meant a word of it.
Turns out they were not articulating a universal principle. Rather, they were reaching for the nearest superficially legitimate weapon to hand so they could bludgeon their opponents into silence. So many of the same voices who once lectured Americans about their unenlightened views toward minorities have simply adopted the habit they once condemned now that it applies to Jews. What’s more, they have spent years incubating the very sentiments that they now supposedly find so shocking.
The 2017 anti-Trump movement known as the Women’s March sprouted up organically and was speedily embraced by the Democrats who suddenly found themselves in the political wilderness. But signs of trouble—the march’s hijacking by unsavory elements—were apparent early on. When one of the group’s organizers, Linda Sarsour, called for “jihad” against the president, it seemed to bother only the American right. “Muslim activist Linda Sarsour’s reference to ‘jihad’ draws conservative wrath,” the Washington Post reported. It was only the paranoid right that “read violence into Sarsour’s anti-Trump” remarks, the Daily Beast insisted. “The people disagreeing with [Sarsour] clearly don’t understand what Jihad means,” Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill claimed.
Democrats closed their eyes to what was staring them in the face. Sarsour’s allies claimed that little could be gleaned from Sarsour’s support for anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan or the Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh. They were unimpressed by her attacks on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist and intellectual who, Sarsour said, had deserved to be assaulted for the sin of opposing female genital mutilation. They didn’t see a problem when Sarsour insisted that Israel was “built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everybody else.” So by the time the Women’s March found itself implicated, as a result of reporting in Tablet, in an anti-Semitic scandal involving the deliberate isolation and ouster of Jewish members, the shock of it all was limited only to Democrats and media professionals whose default assumption is that conservatives are just being paranoid.
Prior to Trump’s ascension, student and faculty groups in support of the so-called BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement, which puts pressure on Western institutions to do no business with Israel or Israeli-owned companies, had already exhibited great self-confidence. By 2014, events such as “Israeli Apartheid Week” had become social staples on American campuses, and hundreds of colleges had adopted pro-BDS statements. In early 2015, BDS activists united to deny Rachel Beyda a seat on the UCLA judicial board because it was assumed that being “a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community” compromised her. “Zionists off campus,” students chanted the following year at Brooklyn College, a school that hosted pro-BDS lectures from “philosophers” including Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this and other campuses friendly to BDS then experienced an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents—because that’s what BDS encourages. A 2016 study conducted by the AMCHA Initiative found that 95 percent of schools that host BDS activity on their campuses reported “anti-Semitic expression,” compared with 33 percent of schools with no BDS activity. Moreover, 56 percent of BDS-friendly schools were the scene of “incidents that targeted Jewish students for harm.” The intervening years have not seen an improvement in the quality of life on American campuses.
This activism coincided with the popularization of a pedagogy that emphasized transgenerational grievances, sorted students into opposing camps based on their immutable demographic signifiers, and set them against one another.
The curriculum arrayed around the nebulous concept of social justice instilled in its adherents a variety of pathologies masquerading as thought experiments. Among them is the theory of “intersectionality,” which entreats its students to marinate in racial and creedal stereotypes so they might navigate a world that is supposedly dominated by dedicated bigots. Intersectionality reduces people to the traits they inherited at birth, flattens the distinctions among them, and categorizes the groups it creates into a hierarchy of oppression.
There’s a fine line between internalizing stereotypes to combat bigotry and simply assuming them for yourself, and too many overeducated young adults seem to have absorbed the negative tropes that contribute to anti-Semitism. American Jews are well-off and influential disproportionate to their numbers, the toxic intersectional worldview maintains. They are a clannish Diaspora everywhere save the one nation on earth they have “colonized” at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, whose melanin content renders them second-class citizens, at best.
Indeed, social-justice warriors often apply the heuristic of American racial politics to the conflict in the Middle East—if only to get their hands around a part of the world they know little about. For example, at a Philadelphia rally celebrating the slaughter on 10/7 less than 24 hours after the massacre, one speaker gushed over the way in which Israelis “woke up in the morning and they found the field hands in the house with a knife ready to cut their f—ing throats.” That isn’t just bloodthirsty; it’s nonsensical. The only people in the Israel–Gaza conflict who ever were slaves en masse were the Israelites. And the analogy makes no sense within the context of the Israeli–Palestinian dynamic. But the same logic finds its way into the mouths of intellectuals as well as rabble-rousers.
Indeed, what is going on is anything but complicated, according to celebrated author Ta-Nehisi Coates. “I immediately understood what was going on over there,” he said of the conclusions he drew from his visits to the West Bank in a post-10/7 interview. “Where your mobility is inhibited, where your voting rights are inhibited,” and “where your right to housing is inhibited, and it’s all inhibited based on ethnicity”—it was all too “familiar to those of us familiar with African-American history” to avoid drawing parallels between Israel and the Jim Crow South. Voting rights are indeed inhibited in Palestinian areas—but by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, not the Jews.
This outlook is of a piece with efforts in academia and the press to impose foreign concepts on the conflict. In this approach, decades-old court cases over individual property rights in East Jerusalem have become “ethnic cleansing,” and the Israeli government’s management of the West Bank has become “apartheid” irrespective of the status of Israel’s Arab citizens. This cultural exchange has been a two-way street. The BLM activists who rioted in the summer of 2020 deemed themselves the executors of an “American intifada.” Theirs was a revolt against not just their external conditions but their “internal colonialism” consisting of what vox.com’s Russell Rickford identified as “racialization, dispossession, underdevelopment, and state violence.” (Russell Rickford is also the Cornell professor who professed himself “exhilarated” by the attacks and then took a leave from the university.) In these narcissistic narratives, Israel serves as an abstract stand-in for the evil that is America.
The academic theories that buttress anti-Semitism were made operational in 2019 in the effort to compel House Democratic leaders to back down from their effort to censure Representative Ilhan Omar for her flagrant anti-Semitism. The backlash from the left was wildly successful. Because she wanted the censure, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was dubbed by Linda Sarsour a “typical white feminist upholding the patriarchy doing the dirty work of powerful white men.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agreed. “No one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities,” she insisted. “We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry,” then senator Kamala Harris wrote. And yet, “the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”
A united front emerged, and Democratic leadership was convinced to subordinate its better instincts to the social justice solidarity movement that formed around Omar. In the end, the caucus produced not a censure of Omar’s prejudice but a watery statement of general opposition to bigotry in whatever form it takes. Sound familiar?
The least charitable interpretation of the Democratic establishment’s internal turmoil in the weeks that passed since the 10/7 attack is that its leading lights are inveighing against the scourge of Islamophobia to give cover to anti-Semitic elements within their coalition. And it is not without evidence—the evidence of years of cowardice, caviling, and making deals with the devil.
Progressives and liberals alike abetted decades of policy preferences, campaigns to coerce and cajole donors, indefensible tenure-track recommendations, efforts to debase humanities departments, and the creation of a media-academic industrial complex designed to house the products of this ill-considered education. They built an elaborate new lie—the threat of “Islamophobia”—that hijacked the enduring reality of the world’s oldest lie. It should be a source of profound unease to all people of good will, and to all people who fear the consequences of these apologia for anti-Semitism, that the White House’s first instinct when confronted with the rotten fruits of their coalition’s labors is to throw yet another lie on the pile.
Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
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