Archaeologist and historian Alexander H. Joffe, a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, spoke to participants in a June 19 Middle East Forum webinar (video) about the "dramatic upswing" in anti-Zionist and antisemitic rhetoric in the US following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"What we've seen ... is a classic example of the red green synthesis in action," said Joffe, referring to the alliance between Islamists in the West and the far left that has spearheaded anti-Israel activism over the past few decades. Its goal is to "racialize and marginalize Jews, particularly American Jews, as white people, as enemies of people of color."
The unrest in major American cities that followed Floyd's killing has been exploited by three sectors to advance their anti-Zionist/antisemitic narratives: the Black Lives Matter movement ("the conceptual heir to the Black Panthers"), the Antifa movement ("explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-Israel"), and the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network (American Muslims for Palestine, the umbrella group for Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Muslim Students Association, all "using the rubric of human rights" to push their anti-Israel agenda). Joining this anti-Israel trio are progressive/far-left Jewish front groups, notably Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
These groups have formulated what Joffe called a "grand unified theory" of oppression that fuses "the Great Satan in the U.S." and "the little Satan, Israeli 'settler colonialism'" together with capitalism, white supremacy, and other evils real and imagined.
Israel – and Jews who support it – are charged with "uphold[ing] a system of anti-black racism in the U.S." and, in particular, of being "the root cause" of police violence in America. As evidence the accusers cite the fact that the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) and other Jewish groups have sponsored counter-terrorism training programs for U.S. police officers in Israel in the years following 9/11 (programs that have nothing to do with domestic police issues or tactics).
In 2018 the Durham, North Carolina city council repudiated its police force's relationship with Israel as a result of aspersions cast by the JVP on U.S.-Israeli law enforcement ties. In 2019, an Israel program attended by Tufts University police officers was alleged to be the source of police violence on campus.
According to Joffe, These conspiracy theories are intended to transform burgeoning African-American resentments against police into hostility toward the Jewish community. They have been widely propagated within the black community by the so-called Black Hebrews who claim to be the "real Jews" (and that Ashkenazi Jews of European descent are "fake") and Louis Farrakhan's antisemitic Nation of Islam, which has strongly influenced the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women's March organization.
The past four years have seen radicalized African-Americans engage in a series of shootings and stabbings of Jews in New York and New Jersey. Now, with these established anti-Zionist/antisemitic networks having "highjacked" George Floyd's death, Jewish businesses, synagogues, and cemeteries were targeted for vandalism amid the recent riots. On social media, Twitter condemnations accusing Israel of responsibility for police violence have surfaced from high-profile celebrities, including a popular rapper and British pop singer.
This represents a mainstreaming of anti-Zionist and antisemitic rhetoric that has been commonplace for years on college campuses, where Muslim, far-left, and anti-Israel Jewish groups have spearheaded the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
These grievance-fusion campus activists "demand ... conformity on the issue of Israel as a 'racist, imperialist, settler, colonial state'," and by and large they're getting it. Joffe cited a recent antisemitic letter circulated within the University of California system that received signatures from hundreds of graduate students – the future of academia – and the endorsements of such seemingly apolitical organizations as the UC Davis American Sign Language Club and the Berkeley Livermore National Laboratory.
"It's not going to get better anytime soon."
The activists aren't seeking merely to "break the U.S.-Israel relationship ... and cancel Israel on campus," said Joffe, but are working to create a climate of fear and intimidation for Jewish students on campuses, and more broadly to "marginalize Jews in American society."
"Hating Jews and hating Israel ... are issues the American far left and far right are ... in sync with, as they are in Europe," said Joffe in conclusion. And "it's not going to get better anytime soon."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.