An American pogrom is going on in the New York metropolitan area. I use the word deliberately. A pogrom — the word comes from Russian — is a murderous assault on Jews, either incited by or connived at by the authorities. The machete attack that wounded five people in a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York on Saturday night follows eight reported attacks in the week of Chanukah, the massacre at a kosher store in Jersey City earlier this month, a stabbing in Monsey, and a rising tide of assaults over the last three years.
There is more than enough Jew-hatred to go around in our sick times. I have no doubt that soon enough we will be back to parsing the digital stormtrooping of the white nationalists or the apocalyptic perversions of the Islamists. Today, however, we are talking about the sources of the epidemic of violence in New York.
The guilt and possible motives of Grafton Thomas, the suspect arrested in the Monsey attack, remain to be established. Meanwhile, to the enormous embarrassment of white liberals, the Democratic party, the mayor of New York City and much of the American media, CCTV footage and police reports attest that the majority of attacks over the last three years have been carried out by African Americans or Hispanics.
It is no more than the sorry truth to say that African Americans poll higher on anti-Jewish attitudes than any other native-born American population, with immigrant Hispanics polling similarly poorly. It is another sorry truth of American history since the 1960s that a minority of radicals have claimed the authority to represent African Americans and then incited against Jews.
It is an even sorrier truth that the Democratic party has entered into a strategic alliance with these demagogues and bigots in order to win African American votes — and with the shameful connivance of a majority of Jewish American politicians. The fact that Republican presidents have pursued similarly unscrupulous and damaging strategies in their cultivation of white votes — George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton gambit, Donald Trump’s use of the ‘birther’ myth — merely confirms that squalid racial politics remain endemic in the United States.
Incitement and conniving have formed a political alliance that has fed and pandered to popular bigotry. Henry Louis Gates, writing in the New York Times in 1992, identified what we would now call the intersectionality of ‘anti-Semitism from below’ and ‘anti-Semitism from the top down, engineered and promoted by leaders who affect to be speaking for a larger resentment’. The incitement has not only continued since 1992; it has become institutionalized in the Democratic party, for whose leaders Jew-hate is the one hate whose name they dare not speak.
In the same article, Gates warned Jews against conducting race relations through a ‘theology of guilt’. The manifestations of this theology pervade the cringing hypocrisy that liberalism has become, to the point that Jonah Pesner, a prominent Reform rabbi, can appear on MSNBC with Al Sharpton, not to discuss Sharpton’s long career of libel and incitement against Jews, but to ‘discuss the president’s rhetoric about Jewish Americans’.
Bill de Blasio, a longtime ally of Sharpton’s, responded with the same hypocrisy as the anti-Jewish violence in New York City ran out of control. In February 2017, Jacob Siegel recently noted in Tablet, the NYPD reported ‘an 81 percent increase in hate crimes compared to the same period in 2016, an increase largely caused by a 115 percent rise in incidents targeting Jews’. Questioned a few days after, de Blasio ignored his police department and the growing CCTV evidence: ‘The horrible, hateful rhetoric that was used in this election by candidate Trump and by a lot of his supporters directly connects to an increase since the election in anti-Semitic incidents, anti-Muslim incidents and anti-LGBT incidents.’
In June 2019, de Blasio called anti-Semitism ‘a right-wing force’. He continued to deny reality until the Jersey City killings. I’m sure he didn’t meant to incite, but the effect was to connive, just as Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders connive when they’re photographed with Al Sharpton as they compete for the Democratic nomination — or, moving from one kind of Jew-hatred to another, Nancy Pelosi connived with Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib by posing with them on the cover of Rolling Stone.
A similar connivance has corrupted the pro-Democratic media which uses the killing of Jews by white supremacists to hammer President Trump, only to consistently suppress the embarrassing reality of attacks on Jews by non-whites. On Sunday, Seth Mandel of the Washington Examiner described ‘practically begging’ editors to cover anti-Jewish violence that didn’t come from white nationalists, a ‘humiliating spectacle’ made all the worse by consistently negative responses.
‘There’s no one doing this work at the Atlantic,’ Mandel wrote. ‘There’s no one doing this work at the Washington Post.’ Nor, he said, are the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books covering what’s happening on their doorsteps. The same, Mandel said, goes for HuffPost, Slate, Mother Jones, Vox, BuzzFeed, the Daily Beast and NPR.
I hope Mandel is wrong and that all of these publications have assigned resources and reporters to an obvious and serious crisis in American life. Many of them have recently supported and published worthy investigations into the ways in which Republican politicians have mainstreamed the bigotry of white racists. It’s time that they did the same with the Democrats — and past time for the Democrats themselves to address their longstanding complicity with their preferred forms of anti-Jewish incitement.