Betsy L. Ames: Anti-Semitism is used to confuse, distract us from change

Published: 8/21/2019 5:13:50 PM
Modified: 8/21/2019 5:13:40 PM

I applaud the U.S. House’s censure of Trump’s racism last month. It’s necessary to speak up against white nationalism.

What alarms me is the stealthy role that anti-Semitism plays; the censure didn’t mention it. It mentioned white nationalism and Charlottesville, but not the word anti-Semitism, even though Trump defended himself by accusing those four congresswomen of anti-Semitism by saying that they are against Israel.

To be clear, anti-Semitism exists on both sides of the aisle. It must be addressed, but it can be hard to recognize because anti-Semitism is not only an oppression, it’s also a mechanism that’s been used for centuries to confuse and distract us from uniting to make lasting change.

It sets up Jews to be between working people and the ruling class so that the legitimate rage of workers never reaches those in power. The real conditions of working people will not change until this mechanism is understood and dismantled. So progressive women of color are being repeatedly targeted by the right wing for anti-Semitism, when others are not. This is racism.

Rep. Ilhan Omar and Linda Sarsour, the founder of the women’s march, were both targeted for anti-Semitism last winter. And now this. Simply calling attention to the left wing’s anti-Semitism cannot be considered a genuine stance against anti-Semitism because of the way it sets Jews up to be in the middle and cut off from their natural allies.

Isolation is a hallmark of anti-Semitism and our tendency to miss this dynamic allows it to operate unchallenged. As allies to both people of color and Jews, we must learn to notice when Jews are being put in the middle. If they are, it’s likely that someone in power wants us to be divided or distracted. Understanding that mechanism is the key to finding ways to stand with our women of color leaders, even when they make mistakes.

Imagine what might be possible if the legitimate rage we see in America today could be directed toward the actual source of our difficulties? It’s not the Jews — it’s not the immigrants — it’s a corrupt and collapsing system that needs to change.

Betsy L. Ames


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