Earlier this month, after Rep. Ilhan Omar accused American Jews of dual loyalty and the Israel lobby of purchasing undue influence, the House passed a resolution that did not mention Omar by name and that condemned not only anti-Semitism but every other conceivable form of bigotry. Doing his best to hide his disappointment, Rep. Eliot Engel, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I wish we had had a separate resolution about anti-Semitism. I think we deserved it.”
The congressman can take heart: A new resolution, drafted by Ted Cruz and slated to be introduced in the Senate this week, delivers everything that the Democrats’ muddled manifesto did not. “Anti-Semitism,” it declares in its very first sentence, “is a unique form of prejudice.” It’s precisely the sort of statement—factually true and morally clear—that so many American Jews hoped to hear after Omar made her inflammatory comments, and had the new resolution said nothing more it still would’ve been enough. But in four brief paragraphs, Cruz’s initiative delivers not only a much-needed course correction but also an education on the specific historical evils of anti-Semitism and an elucidation of the real key differences between both political parties when it comes to understanding and honoring the concerns of American Jews. For these reasons, it merits a close reading.
The resolution begins, as all serious documents must, by providing historical context. Anti-Semitism, it reminds us, is not, as the Democrats’ resolution argued, narrowly an obsession of white supremacists—and as such only one small part of a worldview that disdains “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others.” Anti-Semitism is instead an unparalleled conspiracy theory that dates back more than 2,000 years and that, when left unchecked, has paved direct paths to extermination.
And while genocide has always been and remains anti-Semitism’s ultimate goal—which is why the Holocaust-denying Iranian regime, for example, invests so many resources in financing and facilitating the murder of Jews everywhere, from Jerusalem to Buenos Aires—the ancient hatred couldn’t have survived without effective means of reproducing itself and presenting itself in every generation anew as something rational and respectable people might endorse. This, the Cruz resolution reminds us in its second and third paragraphs, is why “anti-Semitism has for hundreds of years included attacks on the loyalty of Jews, including the fabrication and circulation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion by the secret police of Russia,” and why it has always included attacks on the livelihood of Jews, from prohibitions of land ownership in the Middle Ages to the Nazi confiscation of Jewish property to the present-day BDS campaign designed to deny Jews the ability to sustain themselves.
If all these injustices seem like the stuff of a distant and benighted past, the resolution courageously concludes by reminding us of America’s own less-than-perfect treatment of its Jewish citizens. “As recently as 50 years ago,” reads its fourth and final paragraph, “it was common for Jews to suffer from systematic discrimination,” which included everything from being denied admission to elite educational institutions to being kept out of law firms, medical practices, and other professional associations. And while many barriers have indeed been removed, the resolution acknowledges that Jews “continue to face false accusations and stereotypes of dual loyalty” and remain “the targets of the majority of hate crimes committed against any religious group.”
It’s that last paragraph that gives the resolution its beating heart. It shows an understanding, rare for the generally vapid genre of official declarations read from the Senate floor, of the actual lived experience of actual American Jews. It acknowledges that anti-Semitism isn’t some opaque and abstract construct best understood by theorizing about hegemony, intersectionality, or other concepts beloved by the grievance-peddlers in college classrooms, but an all too real prejudice that continues to afflict real Jews in unique and nonreplicable ways.
This is not only an ontological distinction, but a political one as well. If you view the world exclusively through the lens of big, broad categories—race, sexual orientation, religious belief—you are likely to prefer the sort of legislation that sees people as not much more than extras in an epic drama of clashing identities. That’s why reparations, for example, long opposed by the majority of Americans—including about half of all African-Americans—and considered a nonstarter by nearly all mainstream politicians, has become a cause célèbre for several of the Democrats running for president in 2020. Benefiting not those who had suffered but their distant descendants, the policy proposal is the perfect embodiment of how progressives think about politics: A contest between warring groups that can be decided only by sweeping and symbolic gestures.
Cruz’s resolution, on the other hand, shows a dramatically different way of thinking. Rather than treating Jews as a metaphor—an amorphous group whose suffering can be distilled into some politically valuable and intoxicating elixir—it is careful to enumerate the ways in which individuals have suffered. It’s a useful vantage point from which to approach legislation, as previous efforts by the senator had shown. Last year, for example, he spearheaded an amendment that called on the Defense and State Departments to issue a report on the use of human shields by terrorist groups murdering Israelis, a highly specific and concrete step to alleviate the particular suffering of real-life Jews. We should expect and accept no other approach.
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