In order to be welcomed as a Jew in a growing number of progressive groups, you have to disavow a list of things that grows longer every day. Whereas once it was enough to criticize Israeli government policy, specifically its treatment of Palestinians, now Israel’s very existence must be denounced. Whereas once it was enough to forswear the Jewish Defense League, now the very idea of Jewish power must be abjured. Whereas once Jewish success had to be explained, now it has to be apologized for. Whereas once only Israel’s government was demonized, now it is the Jewish movement for self-determination itself.
This bargain, which is really an ultimatum, explains so much.
It is why Jewish leaders of the Women’s March were subjected to anti-Semitic attacks and exclusion by the movement’s other leaders.
It is why at the University of Virginia, Jewish student activists were barred from a minority-student coalition to fight white supremacy.
It is why Manny’s, a popular café and event space in San Francisco, is being regularly protested. Its owner – a gay, progressive Mizrahi Jew – is, according to the protesters, “a Zionist and a gentrifier.”
And just as those on the far right have an out when accused of anti-Semitism – we like Jews just fine so long as they self-deport to Israel and keep our country unsullied – those on the far left have an out as well. We like Jews just fine, they say, as long as they shed their stubborn particularism and adhere, without fail, to our ever-shifting ideas of justice and equality. Jews are welcome so long as they undertake a kind of secular conversion by disavowing many or most of the things that actually make them Jewish.