This is astonishing. On Thursday, Elan S. Carr was sworn in as the new envoy on anti-Semitism for the State Department and the 50-year-old attorney met with the press that afternoon. He then said in essence that his portfolio is taking on the left more than the right.
When you read this, you will see that the Trump administration has officially lost its mind, and it is playing into the hands of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This screwball obsessive focus on anti-Zionism can only serve those who have not been heard, criticizing Israel and seeking to reform it (as Asad AbuKhalil suggests).
Carr stated his mission is to combat the growing anti-Semitism in the world, Jewish insecurity in Europe and “the indoctrination of anti-Semitic hate.” But
[W]e are going to focus relentlessly on eradicating this false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The Secretary could not have been clearer. He stood before 18,000 activists at the AIPAC Policy Conference just two weeks ago and he declared, I quote, “Let me go on [the] record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.” That will be our rallying cry as we go forward to fight this ancient scourge that sadly is on the rise today and must be combated, and we’re very proud that this department and this administration is focused in unprecedented fashion on doing that.
Matt Lee gets the first question:
Welcome aboard…. [O]ne of the founders of the BDS movement has said that he was denied entry into the United States [Omar Barghouti]. I presume, but I want to ask you, is this something that you support? Do you equate the BDS movement with anti-Semitism, not just as – and regard it as something more than criticism or an attempt to change the policies of the Government of Israel?
Carr says that the effort to “strangle” the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people.
So an individual has a right to buy or not buy what they please. However, if there is an organized movement to economically strangle the state of Israel, that is anti-Semitic, and the administration has gone on the record for – as being opposed unequivocally to the BDS movement and the idea that somehow there can be movements organized to deny Israel its legitimacy and not to allow Israel to participate in economic commerce in the world – sure, that is. Hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people, and that’s something that’s very clear and that is our policy.
Let’s go over that one more time for the short sighted. Lee: “So you’re convinced that BDS is actually hatred of the Jewish state and not just opposition to the government of the Jewish state’s policies?”
So like I said, a person can decide what they want to buy, but if there is a movement that is dedicated to strangling the Jewish state out of existence, that is anti-Semitism.
Lee: “So it’s okay for one person to decide that he doesn’t – he or she doesn’t want to buy, but if two people talk about it together, that’s a – or more, that’s a conspiracy and that’s bad and then it becomes anti-Semitic?”
Carr talks about how organized a campaign BDS is.
Well, the BDS movement is well known. This isn’t a ragtag group. I mean, there are international organizations, there are websites, it’s organized, and the stated goals are clear, and the stated goals on the website of the BDS movement is to deny the state of Israel economic prosperity and to deny legitimacy. And that is anti-Semitism…
Another reporter asks whether there is not a distinction between anti-Semitism and the criticism of and opposition to policies of the Israeli Government?
So that’s a very different question. And yes, absolutely, criticism of a country… Criticism of the policies of any country, whether it’s the state of Israel or of the United States, is entirely proper and can’t be regarded as being inappropriate. However, as you may know, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism gives as a specific example the application of double standards to the state of Israel. And so if Israel is criticized in a way that no other country in a similar circumstance is criticized, yes, that is anti-Semitism.
Now, by the way, we’re not talking about censorship here. We’re talking about calling it what it is. Nobody is suggesting that simply because something is anti-Semitic people don’t have a right to say it. Sometimes people have a right to say – depending on context, depending on place – sometimes people have a right to express hate speech. Right, the Nazis marched in Skokie. But we have to call it what it is. And if it is anti-Semitism, then it’s anti-Semitism. And we are going to be unequivocal in calling it what it is when we see it. Because you can’t fight something unless you’re willing to define it and to call it out for it, and we’re going to be calling it out wherever we see it.
A BBC reporter asks about the distinction some boycotters make: illegal Jewish settlements right alongside occupied Palestinian villages.
Carr says, You have to wait for the peace plan, don’t boycott the fifty year old settlements….
Well, as you know, there is a peace plan being worked on currently, hasn’t been unveiled. The United States has long cared about this issue and on resolving the issues between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors in a way that’s fair for everybody. Resolution of those issues is not going to come about by attempting to strangle the Jews out of existence in their communities. That’s not how you’re going to get peace. And so I want to thank the administration for focusing on this issue, and all the work the White House is doing to try to really promote a plan that would finally have – get us to an agreement where the Israelis and the Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace.
Finally, a reporter brings up white nationalism. Isn’t that a problem? “Are you also going to be focused on that? Is that also a growing problem when you talk about growing anti-Semitism?”
Certainly. It is a growing problem. And in fact, while some of the attacks on Jews in the world are coming from the left or from radical Islam, many are coming from the extreme right as well. And we’re seeing that, by the way, here in this country, and we’re seeing that elsewhere. Of course, we just had a despicable massacre of worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and that was from someone who came from a place of, one can say, supremacism.
Look, Jew hatred is Jew hatred, and it doesn’t matter if it’s clothed in the language of the left or clothed in the language of the right. We’re going to be calling it out for what it is, and we’re going to be fighting it. And we’re going to be fighting it fairly and in equal measure, regardless of the ideological spectrum from which it comes.
Wait are you saying these are two “mirror images,” this extreme left and extreme right? Carr says well, yes.
I think every kind of anti-Semitic manifestation is different. There is also anti-Semitism among radical Islam. They’re all different. But what they have in common is they threaten the safety and the survival of the Jewish people, and that is unacceptable from the standpoint of the United States.
Carr, 50, is a former LA District Attorney and Iraq war veteran who has run unsuccessfully as a Republican for federal and state office. According to Wikipedia, his mother left Iraq for Israel before moving here. His mother’s father was prosecuted in Iraqi show trials after the founding of Israel. His stepfather was a Holocaust survivor.
This is just what the BDS campaign needs: rightwing fools who equate it with white supremacism. It’s pure hysteria: equating crazed murderers with civil rights activists. That’s going to make people curious. They will find out BDS is about human rights. When reasonable people see what Trump is saying about Israel, they can’t help but be moved by the BDS campaign. (And by the way, last night David Brooks of the New York Times endorsed reparations to blacks as a policy idea. He will move on this issue, too.)
H/t Donald Johnson.