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Let's stay united against bigotry

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

WASHINGTON -- The polling is imperfect, but it's fair to say that more than 70 percent of American Jews and Muslims vote Democratic.

They do so, in part, because Democrats have spoken out strongly against both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. And now, both groups are horrified by Trumpism's embrace of discrimination against Muslims and its trafficking in anti-Semitism.

Just watch the Trump campaign ad attacking what it claims is "a global power structure that is responsible for economic decisions that have robbed our working class," while flashing images of prominent Jews.

And you can't help but cheer the fact that Jews and Muslims across the country have stood in solidarity when the local institutions of either group were defaced or attacked.

Bigotry is bigotry. It must always be opposed.

This is why the dangerously careless use of language by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., about Jews and Israel -- she spoke of people who "push for allegiance to a foreign country" -- has been cause for both heartbreak and anger.

 

I get that some readers will see my use of the word "careless" as too soft because the dual-loyalty charge has historically been so poisonous. But in refraining from stronger language I'm putting my bet on hope. I'm wagering that Omar's personal history ought to mean that she understands the dangers of prejudice better than most.

Last fall, many of us celebrated her breakthrough election. She won strong backing from the Jewish community in her district. Maybe I'm also giving her a break because she's progressive. Anti-Semitism is utterly antithetical to anything that deserves to be called liberal or progressive. Surely Omar doesn't want the Democrats ensnared in the sort of left-wing anti-Semitism now haunting the British Labour Party.

Opposing anti-Semitism should be axiomatic for everyone. And or me, it's also personal.

My observant Catholic parents moved to our city's most Jewish neighborhood shortly after I was born, and my sister and I were raised to see anti-Semitism as sinful. My very first friends in the world were Jewish, and my late mom regularly sat down with our next-door neighbor to compare notes on Catholic and Jewish views about the nature of God. As I've written before, my informal second father was Jewish. A dear man named Bert Yaffe informally took me into his family after my dad died when I was a teenager, and his kids welcomed me as a brother.

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