“Sacrosanct official narratives can lead and often have led to new tragedies for the group that stubbornly insist that their vision of the truth remain untouchable.” — Albert Lindemann in the preface to his study of antisemitism, “Esau’s Tears.”
Bari Weiss demonstrated again this week why she is one of the most toxic voices in the country today. What was the reason that Bari Weiss suggested why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cancelled her participation in Yitzhak Rabin’s memorial event hosted by Americans For Peace Now? What was the meaning of the chain of events that led to that cancelation? How did she explain to her twitter followers what the story here was?
Weiss approvingly retweeted the line that it was because “online anti-Semites objected” to AOC giving a speech at the memorial. The people who had urged AOC to cancel her appearance had cited Rabin’s human rights record (including the fact that during the First Intifada when he was defense minister Israel killed more than 1000 Palestinians and badly beat nearly 30,000 Palestinian children under Rabin’s “break-their-bones” orders). It is this type of demonization that has made Bari Weiss’ career.
And it doesn’t even dawn on Weiss that an anti-cancel cultural warrior like herself should not be making baseless antisemitism insinuations. In the real world this is the big story coming out of AOC’s decision: Bari Weiss and her ideological allies’ cancelation of AOC. Because whatever AOC’s mistakes were, they do not make her an enemy of the Jewish people. They don’t even make her an enemy of Israel.
But AOC and her supporters now join the “three-headed dragon of modern anti-Semitism” living in Bari Weiss’s imagination. From Bari Weiss’s “hasbara culture” perspective of sacred Jewish victimhood, defamation and dishonesty are no vice when fighting the enemies of the Jews.
Like many before her, AOC is now tarred as a Jew hater for life. Today, right on cue, Jewish Insider publishes a story saying that AOC doesn’t like to meet with Jewish groups (IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace don’t count).
If Peter Beinart were in charge of telling us who the anti-Semites are, we would all live happily ever after. Because unlike Bari Weiss, Peter Beinart recognizes the Palestinian perspective as legitimate. Supporters of the Palestinian cause are not by definition anti-Semites as they are to Bari Weiss. For Beinart, AOC did nothing morally wrong by cancelling, even if politics did play a role.
This is the agreed upon hatred we all have to live with. And it is this same Bari Weiss who wrote a bestselling book on anti-Semitism. Does it make sense that perhaps the most ethnocentric Jewish journalist writing in the country today also happens to be our #1 anti-Semitism expert? In fact Bari’s book on anti-Semitism tells us nothing about antisemitism and everything about Bari Weiss. But this is the world we live in. As I have demonstrated ad nauseum the fact that people like Bari Weiss can offer themselves as experts on anti-Semitism has terrible consequences. For Bari Weiss’s main concern is not actually anti-Semitism. Instead she is a guardian of the approved story of the Jews. Hasbara culture is about a story. It is not about people; it is not concerned with the actual experience of human beings. It is not even concerned with Jews or even with the state of Israel. Hasbara culture is a social construction of reality whose greatest concern is to propagate a self-serving ethnocentric narrative that is generated by an extremely ethno-centric Jewish experience of the world. To hasbara culture that social construction of reality is sacred. And it has been my project to show how this narrative has hardened into a reality for anyone who participates in our political life, and political statements that create cognitive dissonance for that reality are treated as anti-Semitism. Like AOC’s getting cold feet about speaking at a memorial to a foreign leader that suddenly became controversial.
And as more and more Americans’ consciences tell them to be on the side of the Palestinians, more and more politicians (and their supporters) are sure to be branded as enemies by Jews like Bari Weiss. And this unholy agitation against pro-Palestinian Americans and others must lead to. . . anti-Semitism. As the political scientist Ilan Peleg writes in the book “Victimhood Discourse in Contemporary Israel”:
Victimhood leads often, and often unavoidably to the classic self-fulfilling prophecy, one of the most useful concepts in modern social science, added to our repertoire by the Columbia sociologist Robert Merton. A nation that believes in “perpetual victimhood” is likely to behave as a perpetual victim, thus leading everyone else to treat it as perpetual victim. Example: The behavior of Imperial Germany prior to World War I. The Germans behaved as if they were Europe’s victims (allegedly encircled by all); their overly aggressive foreign policy caused the others [to] eventually encircle Germany leading to the War of 1914.
Bari Weiss is promoting a sacrosanct narrative of victimhood, and smearing an idealistic young politician. What I warned about the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt is true for Bari Weiss as well: Attempting to destroy politicians’ careers and reputations on the altar of hasbara culture and Jewish political power is actually toxic for the American Jewish community and real living American Jews and non-Jews.