Twenty years ago, after my first trip as a government minister to 13 college campuses in the United States, I told Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s prime minister, that in my opinion, the main battlefield for the future of the Jewish people lies in American academia. Since then, I appeared dozens of times at different universities, and with each visit I witnessed the new antisemitism growing stronger.
In light of this experience, I insisted in many conversations with liberal American Jews that while left- and right-wing antisemitism are connected and both are very dangerous, it is the left-wing variety that poses the greatest threat. The reason is that left-wing antisemitism today is buttressed by a powerful, all-encompassing ideology that has significant support on social media and in the academy.
This ideology divides the world into oppressors and oppressed, and assumes that moral righteousness always lies with the latter. It assesses the moral value of an action not on its own terms but based on the identity of the agent, asking not “Is this right?” but “Does it help the victimized class?” What is worse, if an action is thought to aid the downtrodden, it becomes acceptable to violate the most basic rights of those deemed to be their oppressors, including the rights of free speech and physical security.
Before Oct. 7, these warnings were usually met with skepticism. How, I was asked, can you compare the Ku Klux Klan-like hatred of the far right with the vision of social justice warriors who want equality and inclusion just like we do? Even when I pointed out clear examples of antisemitism in the progressive movements that American Jews supported, I was told that these groups might have their problems, but that their dream was the same as ours and we had an obligation to help them.