The latest round of violence in the Middle East came home to the United States in the form of a chilling wave of attacks on American Jews. The savage beating of a yarmulke-wearing man in Times Square, the startling assault on Jewish diners at a sushi restaurant in West Hollywood, like similar events reported in London and Brussels, saw people who purported to be protesting the Israeli military campaign in Gaza attack their own countrymen simply for being Jews.
The response by progressive politicians was swift, if not exactly sure. "I strongly condemn the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia we're seeing across the country," Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, said on Twitter. "The work of dismantling antisemitism, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism, and every other form of hate is OUR work," tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). "Here at home, we must forcefully condemn anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks," echoed Julian Castro, the former secretary of housing and urban development.
What these reactions had in common was that they paired condemnations of antisemitism with denunciations of bigotry against Muslims, or in Bush's case a litany of other evils. But what about antisemitism, full stop? In a column, The New York Times' Michelle Goldberg acknowledged that the recent spate of alleged hate crimes is "first and foremost, a catastrophe for Jewish people in the United States" but worried it "also threatens to undermine progress that's been made in getting American politicians to take Palestinian rights more seriously."
This is reminiscent of the predominantly (though not exclusively) conservative tendency to push back against the phrase "Black Lives Matter" with the assertion that "All Lives Matter." The assertion is true, and it's equally true that anti-Muslim hatred is no more morally justified than hatred of Jews.
But a progressive might respond it's the worth of Black lives that is specifically at issue when a police officer kneels on George Floyd's neck as he gasps for breath. When a man is beaten in the streets of America for wearing a yarmulke, Jewish lives rather than generic anti-hate slogans need to be affirmed.
There are prudential reasons for wanting people tempted to do terrible things for what they believe to be a good cause to hear themselves represented in these messages, which may partially explain the progressive reticence to single out antisemitism. Yet there are principled reasons to call hatred of Jewish people by its name without qualification or even the appearance of equivocation.