Antisemitism, the late historian Robert Wistrich observed, “Is a highly mutable mental virus that infects cultures, movements, ideologies and religions.” Increasingly normalized, antisemitism is spreading into the bloodstream of mainstream America. And most damningly, key American institutions are not only failing to inoculate against it—they’re actually helping to transmit the virus.
Regrettably, one only needs to look at Congress for proof.
On May 9, 2019, Omar Suleiman gave the Ramadan invocation at the opening of the U.S. House of Representatives session. Suleiman is the founder and president of the Texas-based Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. He’s also an apologist for Hamas, the Gaza Strip-based terrorist group that calls for Israel’s destruction, as well as an ardent homophobe.
In numerous tweets, documented by The Washington Examiner’s John Gage, among others, Suleiman has compared the world’s sole Jewish state to the Klu Klux Klan. He’s also compared Israelis to Nazis and denied that Hamas uses human shields or missiles when carrying out attacks. In 2014, Suleiman called for another “intifada,” or violent uprising, against Israel.
Suleiman has also called Israel the “51st state”—an allusion, The Jerusalem Post’s Ilanit Chernik pointed out, “to the antisemitic idea that Israel controls American foreign policy.” In a 2016 Facebook post responding to the ISIS terrorist attack at The Pulse, in which 49 people were murdered at gay nightclub in Orlando, Suleiman described homosexuality as “impermissible” and “sinful.”
Suleiman has been praised by freshmen Congresswoman Ilahn Omar, who among other antisemitic statements, has accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world,” insinuated that her fellow lawmakers are purchased by Jewish money and that the Jewish-Americans among them have dual loyalty.
The same day Suleiman spoke in the hallowed halls of Congress, Valerie Plame, a former CIA officer, announced that she was running for Congress in New Mexico. Plame first gained fame in 2003 when her employment with the CIA was accidentally leaked by then-U.S. Deputy Sec. of State Richard Armitage.
Plame’s congressional run marks quite the comeback, both for her and for what some can discern to be her views.
In September 2017 Plame received some media attention for recommending an article entitled “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars,” from an avowedly antisemitic website called the Unz Review. Plame initially defended her tweet, writing that the story by noted conspiracist Phillip Giradli was “very provocative, but thoughtful.” Moreover, she demanded of her critics: “Put aside your biases” as “many neocon hawks ARE Jewish,” she added. However, as criticism of Plame intensified, she changed her story, apologizing and claiming that she hadn’t read the article and, as a result, missed the “gross undercurrents” of a piece whose very title makes its antisemitism clear.
However, other retweets by Plame, including one that accused Israelis of dancing after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, were later uncovered. Plame subsequently resigned from the board of the Ploughshares Fund, a pro-Iran deal organization.
But that was 2017. A mere two years later Plame clearly feels that her antisemitic tweets won’t prevent her from being elected to Congress. Indeed, she has good reason for thinking so.
After all, it isn’t only politicians who are enabling and purveying antisemitism. The vaunted watchdogs of the fourth estate are failing in their role, as well.
Suleiman’s troubling history went largely unmentioned by leading mainstream news organizations. And in their reports on Plame’s congressional announcements, many major U.S. media outlets omitted the 2017 controversy—although the Santa Fe New Mexican, a smaller newspaper with a fraction of their budget and staff, commendably detailed it.
Unfortunately, antisemitism itself continues to be underreported.
Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, for example, have experienced a frightening increase in physical assaults over the past year. Indeed, its not hyperbolic to say that there a epidemic of anti-Jewish violence is occurring. According to the NYPD, hate crimes in the city have increased by 67 percent in this year—with 80 percent being directed against Jews. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noted an astonishing 55 percent increase in violent assaults on Jews in New York State in 2018, compared to the previous year.
Some in the media have reported on the crisis in New York. But many more have not. Their silence is not just unacceptable—it’s dangerous.
History tells us that strong and judicious institutions are essential to a functioning democracy. And history is equally clear that growing antisemitism is the “canary in the coal mine”–a sign of civilizational decay and the collapse of liberal values.
The United States remains one of the safest places in the world for Jews. But if that fact is to continue, its institutions must do a better job at safeguarding against antisemitism. At the very least, they can refrain from promoting it.
(Note: A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in The Washington Examiner on May 21, 2019)