We’re not a partisan community. In Coffeehouse Torah Talk you’ll find people who describe themselves as liberal, conservative, libertarian, democratic socialist, green party, etc. Despite Jews sometimes having differences in political or religious views, much more binds us than separates us.
Among those of us in the United States, we have some differences of opinion, such as on how to interpret the second amendment of the constitution. But red lines exist which unite us all: If a political advocacy group takes a turn towards antisemitic posturing, then we are obligated to recognize and oppose this.
“Never again” is what we said after the Holocaust. This means recognizing when those tactics against Jews are deployed again. For several years commentators across the political spectrum have noted that the NRA’s public face has relied on troubling and dangerous antisemitic tropes. Now is the time for us to challenge this. I would ask readers to consider the information here, and bring it to their local religious and communal organizations.
The NRA Has An Anti-Semitism Problem , Jay Michaelson, The Forward, 2/23/2018
Led by the National Rifle Association, which pretends to be the voice of millions of gun owners but is in fact mostly funded by gun manufacturers, some on the right responded by vilifying the students, spreading a ludicrous conspiracy theory that they were actually paid actors, and warning, Chicken-Little style, that liberals want to take away everyone’s guns and turn America into a socialist super-state.
The NRA itself went even further. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA and its leading spokesman for thirty years, delivered the knockout punch of conspiratorial anti-Semitism at a speech at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference.
In part, LaPierre’s speech was McCarthyite, John Birch Society style American nativism: we the common people against the cosmopolitan elites. The Democratic Party, he said, “is now infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it. Obama may be gone, but their Utopian dream, it marches on.”
Moreover, “they politicize the Department of Justice, they weaponize the Internal Revenue Service, the EPA, perhaps cripple the FBI and the intelligence community, and seize and embed leadership in all of them to advance their agenda. Absolute control in every corner of our government is their ultimate dream.”
This McCarthyite vision of a cancer destroying America, what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” is classic populism. It posits a good, mostly rural, less educated, implicitly white Volk being undermined by a corrupt, mostly urban, over-educated, and foreign set of elites.
Sometimes those elites are actual Jews controlling Hollywood, “the media,” banks, or political structures. Other times, they are “structural Jews” – foreigners, Communists, elites, or other outsider-insiders who don’t share the values of “the people.”
LaPierre’s speech never mentioned the word “Jew.” And yet, nearly every example of the “enemy” was Jewish. “History proves it,” LaPierre said, to eruptions of roaring applause. “Every time, in every nation in which this political disease [socialism] rises to power, its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated. It is all backed in this country by the social engineering, and the billions, of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and more.”
There are, of course, many billionaires engaged in progressive “social engineering” – Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, or Jeff Bezos. But the three LaPierre selected for opprobrium are Jews.
And while LaPierre briefly mentioned Congress members Nancy Pelosi and Chris Murphy, only Senator Charles Schumer received extended treatment, when LaPierre called him a “liar to the core.” Even the long-deceased Jewish radical Saul Alinsky got a nod. “The opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain,” LaPierre said. “Saul Alinsky would have been proud.”
LaPierre’s speech is profoundly disturbing. Not only is it paranoid McCarthyism, but just like McCarthy himself, LaPierre disproportionately singles out Jews as examples of the foreign disease afflicting America.