The currency of politics in our age has progressively descended into scouring a person’s past utterances to find “gotcha” moments that will get him canceled. And yet, in stark contrast, the tendency to exempt and excuse a record of anti-Semitism as a disqualification for positions of power, influence, and trust has become ever more frequent.
While anti-Semitism exists across our political spectrum, it is alarming that the Left, which desolates those who dare praise Christopher Columbus, indulges swelling, blatant anti-Semitism to the point at which it appears no longer even to rise to the level of a tiny speed bump in a left-wing anti-Semite’s career.
This dangerous process of normalizing anti-Semitism, especially on the far Left, thereby validating it, has now moved the very pinnacles of power in the United States. Regrettably, the Biden Administration is oblivious to this problem and is allowing leftist radicals to place notorious anti-Semites and Israel haters in key national security posts.
Anti-Semites on the Progressive Left
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has the greatest appetite to excuse and empower anti-Semites within their ranks. Sanders has displayed a particular penchant for relying on anti-Semites as his senior foreign policy advisors.
For years, Sanders’ top advisor on Middle East affairs was Larry Wilkerson, a close ally of Colin Powell and Richard Armitage. He consistently dismissed any senior Jewish official in the Bush Administration with whom he disagreed as “traitors” loyal to Israel. In fact, Wilkerson has questioned the loyalty of any official with a pro-Israeli stance.
After Wilkerson left, Sanders turned to Matt Duss, who echoed Wilkerson and peddled the idea that American Jews who are not anti-Israeli are also traitors, loyal to Israel only. Duss 10 years ago was head of the Middle East program at the Center for American Progress and a blogger at ThinkProgress. His writings were so shrill that the Obama Administration felt compelled to dissociate itself from them. Lest anyone think that he was contrite after being called out, Duss went on to recycle and reprint Nazi cartoons about Jews to attack Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
An Anti-Jewish Administration?
Now this disturbing intolerance has transferred to the executive branch. Joe Biden himself has never shown any particular traffic with anti-Israeli figures, let alone with anti-Semitic ones. And indeed, he has appointed a number of top officials who may not be on board with many of the extremely pro-Israeli positions of the Trump Administration, but nonetheless hold establishment views considered mainstream and traditional regarding Israel.
And yet, whether out of calculated political payoff to progressives or out of inattentiveness, the ranks of Biden’s Administration just under the cabinet-level are being filled with a disturbing number of appointees who have expressed strongly anti-Jewish or pro-BDS positions. Duss is apparently in serious contention for a top job at either the State Department or the National Security Council.
But even without Duss, the Biden Administration is shaping up to be a reunion of the most recent “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” conference, which has been acknowledged by nonpartisan watchdogs as blatantly anti-Semitic.
The new senior advisor at the White House coordinating all intelligence matters—a liaison position between the White House and the intelligence community that controls the intelligence content the president sees—is Maher Bitar. Bitar spent his college years as an executive board member of the Students for Justice in Palestine, organizing BDS events at Georgetown featuring Hamas speakers advocating terrorism against the Jews—activity that drew condemnation from the Washington Post in 2006.
Bitar went on to write anti-Israel screeds at Oxford University, followed by a stint earlier this decade at the Jerusalem office of the United Nations Relief Works Agency. From 2006 until 2016, UNRWA knew and acquiesced in the use of Palestinian schools to store Hamas weapons and serve as launching platforms for missiles fired into Israel—an activity even a casual observer could follow with ease. Bitar either did not see the obvious—a disturbing lapse for a future senior intelligence official—or he did not care.
Bitar will have good company. Other BDS alumni in the Biden Administration include Reema Dodin, the new deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. While at UC Berkeley, she demanded her university boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. She went on to justify Palestinian suicide bombers in public speeches at demonstrations.
Then there is Karine Jean-Pierre, the new White House principal deputy press secretary. Apart from alleging Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, she has bragged often she was the person who ensured no Democratic Party candidate would ever show up at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. She also has accused AIPAC of spreading anti-Muslim racism, and has said, without evidence, the organization “has become known for trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while lifting up Islamophobic voices and attitudes.” She is also vociferous in publicly defending Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) every time they dabble in anti-Semitic tropes.
“Validation Culture” Rising
Elections have consequences, and Joe Biden has the right to choose his team. If he chooses to have a more unsympathetic policy toward Israel than the previous administration, then so be it. Thus, policy choices and advocates who are unsympathetic to Israel but have no record of overt anti-Semitism should be challenged on the level of policy pushback. But anti-Semites in office are a different—and far more corrupting and dangerous—matter.
One of our First Amendment rights that should never be abridged unless in the most extreme and rare circumstances (e.g., falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater) is to be idiotic, offensive, or even vile. It gets a bit dicier when you are talking about people of influence, like clergy, since incitement on that level can kill. But it is an entirely different matter to empower and entrust people with extremist, anti-Semitic views in positions at the top of the U.S. government. Such positions at once validate their beyond-the-pale views and demean their offices.
America is now seized with the problem of “cancel culture,” with half the nation seeking to expand and reinforce it, and the other half horrified at the increasing limits on freedom of expression. But we should not be oblivious to an equally dangerous development.
What we face from the Left is not only “cancel culture, but “validation culture.” This culture of validating anti-Semitism in positions of influence and power is the dynamic that led Britain’s Labour Party into the abyss. The Democratic Party today, unless it exorcises its ranks of this rising class of anti-Semitic freshmen rather than continue to empower them, will and should follow their British colleagues down the path to irrelevance.