Infantalizing Blacks hurts Jews and Blacks.
Husband: “Ya fired the cleaning woman!”
Wife: “She was stealing!”
Husband: “But she’s colored!”
Husband: “So the colored have enough trouble!”
Wife: “She was going through my pocketbook!”
Husband: “They’re persecuted enough!”
Wife: “Who’s persecuting? She stole!”
Husband: “All right! So? We can afford it!”
Wife: “How can we afford it? On your pay? What if she steals more?”
Husband: “She’s a colored woman from Harlem! She has no money! She’s got a right to steal from us! After all, who is she gonna steal from, if not us?”
Wife: “I married a fool!”
Woody Allen depicted his character, Alvy Singer’s, parents having this argument in his 1977, Academy-Award-winning film Annie Hall. The argument echoes in January, 2020, in the wake of numerous, headline-grabbing attacks by African Americans on Jews in the New York City area.
On December 10, 2019, two shooters, influenced by the Black Hebrew Israelite ideology, shot to death four people in Jersey City, NJ. Their target was a Kosher supermarket. On December 28, 2019, a lone man, also influenced by Black Hebrew Israelite ideology, barged into a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, during a Hanukah celebration. The assailant stabbed five people before guests threw furniture at him and he fled.
These violent attacks received relatively greater attention than other recent assaults, although Seth J. Frantzman pointed out in the Jerusalem Post that the Jersey City shooting did not receive the attention that other comparable shootings receive. Frantzman wrote,
“The murder of three people at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City was mostly ignored in the United States. No rallies or marches against the antisemitism that led to it. No major political upheavals or even much recognition. The usual anger over gun violence after mass shootings was nowhere to be found … America as a whole can’t mourn Orthodox Jews and it can’t confront perpetrators when the perpetrators come from a minority community. This is inconvenient antisemitism and it is a kind of antisemitism privilege. Despite widespread anti-racism programs in the US, there are still those in America for whom being antisemitic is a birthright and not something to be ashamed of.”
I live fourteen miles from Jersey City and I am a voracious consumer of news media. Frantzman is correct. It was a long time before concerned residents were informed of what exactly transpired, who the assailants were, and what their motive was. When this information finally was released, it was rapidly buried. If Jewish assailants, armed with an arsenal including a pipe bomb, had attacked a black-owned business and its customers in broad daylight, no doubt at least a week of news stories would have followed.
The Monsey and Jersey City attacks are part of a trend. An incident on December 24, 2019 is fairly typical. A Jewish man is walking on the sidewalk of Albany Avenue and Lincoln Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Seven young black males approach him and throw something at his head. The Jewish man is knocked off center but continues walking, rapidly, away from the youths. Three of the youths, one armed with a long object, chase after him. Two punch him. This is all recorded on video. At first, the victim did not report this attack to anyone. Such attacks had become part of life for Jews in the New York metro area. Further, new “reforms” would make the victim’s name known to his attackers. They could come at him again, using means other than street assault. Seth J. Frantzman calls the frequency of these attacks “a slow-moving pogrom.”
One might think that after the Monsey and Jersey City atrocities, news accounts, editorial pages, Twitter and other social media would be flooded with demands that African Americans confront the antisemitism percolating in their communities, that schools would be developing curricula to educate those in thrall to irrational hatred and violence, and that elected officials would be fearless in naming and shaming the ideologies and resentments that incite violence and hate.
Those reasonable expectations would be thwarted in any perusal of mainstream and social media in early January, 2020. Rather one finds an almost science-fiction phenomenon at work. Jews condemning police protection. Jews insisting that blacks not be associated with antisemitism. And, of course, a rally in support of an antisemitic schoolboard member.
In the wake of the kosher market shooting, Jersey City schoolboard member Joan Terrell-Paige posted a protest against Jews on Facebook. Terrell-Paige referred to “jews” – lower case – as “brutes” who “wave bags of money” to get their way. Terrell-Paige implied that the shooters were martyrs, trying to protect the black community from evil Jews. “Drugs and guns are planted in the black community” she alleged, perhaps by Jews. Jews are guilty of an “assault on Black communities of America. My people deserve respect and to live in peace.”
New Jersey Governor Murphy asked that Terrell-Paige resign. As of this writing, she is still a member of the Jersey City schoolboard.
What’s more, Patch.com reported on December 30 that a candlelight vigil was planned to support Terrell-Paige. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network defended Terrell-Paige. Gov. Murphy and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop “need to shut their mouths” said the National Action Network’s Carolyn Oliver Fair. Terrell-Paige “said nothing wrong. Everything she said is the truth. So where is this anti-Semitism coming in? I am not getting it,” said Oliver Fair, who also alleged that the Jersey City shooters were Jewish. The shooters were not Jewish; rather, they were influenced by the Black Hebrew Israelites, a hate group that insists that Jews are “imposters” and that the real Jews of the Bible were black.
What is more astounding is the number of Jewish spokespersons who took a similar approach. On December 30, 2019, the Labour-Leftist aligned British daily The Guardian managed to round up enough tweets to publish an article entitled, “Jewish Groups Push Back Against Police Surge in Wake Of Antisemitic Attacks. Liberal Groups Say the New Policing Measures Put Forward by Mayor De Blasio Will Divide Communities.” All the words in that headline are spelled correctly. The grammar works. But that’s where sanity ends. In the wake of deadly attacks, one inside a private home during a holiday celebration, The Guardian wants Jews to forgo police protection in the name of leftist identity politics.
Where have we encountered this selection of one group’s suffering as earning priority over another group’s suffering? Oh, yes. After women were raped, sometimes gang-raped, by Muslim migrants in Europe, they were often told to keep quiet, because reports of these rapes would interfere with migration policy. (See here, here, here, here, and here).
It’s weird enough that non-Jews would tell Jews to forgo police protection and endure beatings, even death, in the name of political correctness. But Jews are doing it, too.
On December 29, 2019, the Jewish Voice for Peace blamed “rising white nationalist violence” for attacks on “Jews, Muslims, Black people, and all people of color.” Police protection for Jews was unwanted. Jews should not “rely on the very forces detaining and locking up and killing our friends, family, & neighbors.”
David Klion, editor at Jewish Currents and published in The Nation, The New York Times, and The Guardian, tweeted on December 29 that “I never want out of my mind” that “We should not give one inch to right-wing forces within and outside of our community exploiting these attacks to legitimize racism.”
The “racism” at work in these attacks is expressed by black people who despise Jews. And Klion wants never to have “out of his mind” (no pun intended) that right-wing racism is the problem? Well, yes. Because, as Klion tweeted on December 27, “Flooding POC neighborhoods with cops is going to carry real costs, potentially even fatal ones, for tens of thousands of people who have no complicity in these attacks. I’m also deeply uncomfortable with the optics of cops functioning as security for Jews against POC.”
Jews shot; Jews stabbed; Klion is worried about “optics” of a police presence. In reply to Klion’s tweet, Twitter user “TalkToTheHand” posted a photo of National Guard troops accompanying black children to school in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement. Thank you, TalkToTheHand.
Ariel Gold asked, “If the National Guard are deployed and more police are on the streets to keep Jews safe, what will that mean for Black communities? Is the trade off worth it? Is this the answer? Is this lasting safety for all?” Think about the “tradeoff” Gold mentions. She’s talking about keeping Jews safe from street assaults. What is the other object in this trade? “more police … in Black communities.” To Gold, that is a bad thing. More police. Less crime. Bad. Think about that.
Sophie Ellman-Golan tweeted, “This sends a pretty stark message to non-Jewish POC living in these neighborhoods that their safety matters less than the safety of their Jewish neighbors. That’s really really bad for literally everyone except our common enemies, who benefit when we’re divided.”
The Forward insisted that “Anti-Semitism Isn’t Blacks vs. Jews. Saying So Hurts Us All.” The article insisted that no relation be drawn between any aspect of African American culture, no matter how fringe, and attacks on Jews. Apparently the attackers have all been lone wolves with no connection to any aspect of black culture.
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice tweeted that “Our response to antisemitic violence must focus on building solidarity with other groups targeted by white supremacy, not increased policing.”
What makes the above-cited material all the more surreal is how much it differs from rhetoric that accompanies accusations of antisemitism when the accused are more clearly identified as Christians, and, in the case of my own research, identified specifically as Polish Catholics. My book Bieganski details rhetoric about Poles and other Eastern European Christians in relation to accusations of antisemitism. As I demonstrate in the book, antisemitic crimes committed by Poles are spoken of as inseparable from Polish identity. This approach can be summed up as, “You did the bad thing you did because you are Polish. Polish people do bad things.” When it comes to blacks, the analysis becomes, “You did the bad thing you did because you are a victim of oppression. The people who are oppressing you are responsible for the bad thing you did.”
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski was captured by the German Nazis and imprisoned in Auschwitz. He made it out – and immediately co-founded, in Nazi-occupied Poland, Zegota, the only organization in Nazi-occupied Europe whose sole purpose was to rescue Jews. After the war, he protested against antisemitic atrocities committed by his fellow Poles, as co-founder of the All-Poland Anti-Racist league. For this, he was imprisoned by the Soviets.
And yet, the very Polish, devoutly Catholic Bartoszewski faced verbal abuse in both Germany and Israel. Why? His ethnic identity. Polish identity has been conflated with antisemitism for too many people. If you are a Pole, you are an anti-Semite.
That rhetoric is used to conflate Polish identity with antisemitism and to shield African American identity from any association with antisemitism may be of little interest to anyone but Poles. But this dichotomy is in fact pertinent to African Americans.
It’s undeniable that antisemitism has played a significant role in Polish culture and that Poland was site of antisemitic atrocities carried about by Poles. Poles are not protected by political correctness. Why? Political correctness is a concern of the left and Poles are not likely recruits in bringing on world revolution. Poles famously fought the Soviets, significantly in 1920, in the Polish-Soviet War that Poles, miraculously, won. Poles fought the Soviets again after Soviets, along with their allies, the Nazis, invaded Poland in 1939, and then again in 1945, with resistance lasting till the end of communism in 1989. Poles are notoriously Catholic, and Catholics are not likely fodder for world communist revolution. Leftists have no reason to use rhetoric to protect Poles. Rather, leftists are all too happy to insist, inaccurately, that hate is a Christian thing, and that Catholicism is responsible for antisemitism.
The ease with which Poles are identified with antisemitism, and the difficulty of naming African Americans as anti-Semites, is reflected in Deborah Lipstadt’s December 29, 2019 piece in The Atlantic Monthly. Lipstadt is the professor of Holocaust history of Emory University. Her essay appeared after the Hanukah stabbing, after the Jersey City shooting. She had plenty of reason to address African American antisemitism. She did not. She chickened out. In fact she never uses the words “black” or “African American.”
Whom does Lipstadt accuse? The Poles. And the Slovaks. Eastern European, Christian populations. Her bashing is not warranted. Szczecin, a city in Poland, wanted an explanatory note added to a commemorative plaque, clarifying that the victim the plaque commemorated was murdered by German Nazis. That’s a reasonable and necessary request, given how Holocaust history is distorted. Slovaks? Thugs desecrated a Jewish cemetery. A very bad thing, but not representational of Slovaks, and not pertinent to Monsey.
The simple truth is, neither Lipstadt nor The Atlantic Monthly will catch one bit of flak for bashing Poles and Slovaks, who don’t matter to Atlantic Monthly readers or Emory University or America’s elite. Go after easy targets. With them, be as racist and as essentializing as you want. Poles do bad things because they are Poles. African Americans do bad things because they are oppressed, but that’s potentially controversial, so we won’t even mention it in this article.
Their lack of politically correct protection has, ultimately, been to Poles’ advantage in some ways, though Poles may find that hard to perceive. Poles have been accused before the world of being essential, unchanging and unchangeable anti-Semites. Those accusations have prompted mass examination of conscience in Poland. Those outside of Poland are probably largely unaware of these national mea culpas, confessionals, and resolutions to reform, but they are very real. Nobel-prize winner Czeslaw Milosz produced two of the earliest significant works of art addressing the Holocaust, “Campo de Fiori,” and “A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto.” Pope John Paul II became the first pope to enter a Jewish house of worship “since St Peter,” and he was the first pope to visit Auschwitz, where he made it a point to pray at the monument to Jewish victims, defying communist propaganda that downplayed the Jewish identity of most victims. John Paul insisted on the continued validity of God’s covenant with the Jews.
I could go on, naming filmmakers, authors, theologians, and average citizens who have taken it upon themselves to address and to work to eliminate Polish and all forms of antisemitism. I pray that in my own small way, I continue this mission.
As quoted above, Seth J. Frantzman wrote that “There are still those in America for whom being antisemitic is a birthright and not something to be ashamed of.” The key word here is “shame.” Shame drives some Poles to address and defeat antisemitism. Shame, combined with pride in Poland’s multicultural heritage, its tradition of “For your freedom and ours.”
The publications, organizations, and social media users insisting on not addressing those aspects of African American culture that allow antisemitism to metastasize are not doing African Americans any favors at all. Shame is necessary to human community. Years ago I was on a bus in my majority minority community. Garbage on the street is a major problem here. People throw their garbage on the street, in the river, on playgrounds, without a second thought. A young man got off the bus and was about to throw garbage on the street. I glared at him. For a second he caught my baneful glare. He actually stopped, and carried his garbage to a garbage can. I shamed him. His behavior changed.
No, not all African Americans are anti-Semites. Only a minority are. No, no decent person wants to return to the bad old days of vicious stereotyping. But the violent attacks are going to continue until someone has the courage to stand up, root out, and analyze the ideologies that give a free pass to the black antisemitism that does exist. We can’t do that as long as we are virtue signaling. Servicing one’s own reputation as a good, paternalistic liberal infantilizes and betrays black people.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.