On National Public Radio yesterday the Holocaust scholar Deborah E. Lipstadt said that “the so-called alt-right” is a euphemism for white nationalism, which is itself a euphemism for white supremacy; and the media should cut through the pretense and say “white supremacism.”
LIPSTADT: I would say white supremacism. I think white nationalism is just like Holocaust deniers calling themselves, you know, revisionists. To properly understand the danger, we should call them by what they really are, white supremacists..
I think it’s incumbent upon the media to understand who these people are and the kind of arguments they’re making and not to treat them as a benign point of view.
Meantime, in the Forward, Lipstadt has an article that while critical of rightwing Jewish groups for normalizing Trump’s racism, reserves its main blast for the left. “Didn’t Slam Anti-Semitism On the Left? Don’t Expect Credibility When You Slam It On the Right.” In this article, Lipstadt equates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
For the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism from the left. From Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom to college campuses across America, the phenomenon is real, and it is dangerous. Yet, all too often, some Jews — both individuals and organizations — who inhabit the liberal or left end of the spectrum have tried to explain it away with the classic “yes/but” rationalization: “Yes, it’s wrong, but if only Israel would… then the anti-Semitism would disappear.” Maybe their fear of losing their left-wing bona fides blinded them to the fact that the only proper response to prejudice of any kind — anti-Semitism included — is unambiguous condemnation.
Lipstadt is advocating a double standard. If she is going to criticize white nationalism as a white supremacist ideology, then what about Jewish nationalism? Palestinians routinely describe the Zionist regime in Israel Palestine as Jewish supremacy; and there is plenty of evidence to support the victims’ view of the matter. As the illustration above makes plain, any Jew can move to Israel tomorrow; but a Palestinian who was born there and made a refugee by the Jewish state is not allowed to return to his or her own village. There are over 1.5 million Palestinians and registered descendants living in refugee camps right now. Many laws in Israel discriminate against Palestinians in favor of Jews, including many involving land ownership and zoning that are reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. And if you are a Palestinian living in the occupied West Bank, you can’t vote for the government that rules your life; but a Jewish settler living alongside you in an illegal colony can vote. That would seem to be the definition of supremacy.
So: Lipstadt is slamming white nationalism while extolling Jewish nationalism. The left is consistent in condemning both.
This debate is no longer confined to ideologues of Zionism and anti-Zionism. It has become an urgent American discussion because the Trump victory has pushed liberals and leftwingers into the same political space, of Trump resistance. Some of these anti-Trump activists are Zionists, some are anti-Zionists; and the contradiction is no longer sustainable: the lib-left must support equal rights for all people if it is to have ideological integrity and force in opposing Trump. I would argue that Hillary Clinton’s Zionism contributed to her defeat; and that once Jewish nationalism is exposed for its actual accomplishments in Israel and Palestine, Zionists are sure to lose this debate among freedom-loving Americans.