No Moral Equivalence (Nazis & Anti-Zionism)


Jews used to know better about Nazis and the bright red line they represent, that Nazis are the exception that proves every rule, that you don’t associate with and actually shun people who associate with Nazis. Not anymore. The clear fact of the matter is that Jews who voted for Trump voted for a racist with neo-Nazi and white supremacist sympathies that were clear for many years. Cutting Nazis slack, Trump now openly defends white racists and the memory of white Southern slave heritage.

What you will hear now from voices on the Trump-voting Jewish right is not shame, not contrition, but doubling down on a claim that echoes the words of their puppet master. This is the claim that there was violence on many side, many sides, which works to draw an equivalence between the Nazi-KKK marchers and the antifas who put their bodies on the line to protect people who came out to protest this anathema.

In the Jewish version, claimants insist that there is some political and moral equivalence between Nazis and anti-Zionists, that both are anti-Semitic and therefore equally dangerous. As a liberal Zionist, I have written consistently against the expression of anti-Zionism on the intersectional left, but these are apples and oranges. That left anti-Zionism has an anti-Semitism problem, that it lies adjacent to a kind of anti-Semitism that lends to an exclusion of or purging of Jewish voices from the left quarter of the public square does not mean that they are in any way either politically or morally equivalent with Nazis.

These are two separate and distinct phenomena that operate at radically different levels of intensity and extensivity. Only one of them is genuinely dangerous, actually armed and dangerous, representing a direct, existential threat to Jewish life, whereas (if you are a Zionist and support the State of Israel, even if you are a rightwing Zionist who supports the occupation) the other poses a more or less manageable threat to what is a more circumscribed, complex, and bitterly contested political interest.

So much for perspective, judgment, and balance. There used be a clear dividing line with Nazis on one side and everyone else on the other side, but not anymore in some political and religious Jewish social circles situated at the coarse cross-roads of the intersectional right where people have sold their souls for a hot mess of porridge.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to No Moral Equivalence (Nazis & Anti-Zionism)

  1. dmf says:

    thanks, it is possible to not want to tie a people/tradition to a modern ethno-state (or any state really) out of love and respect for that people/tradition.

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