On February 25, the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, delivered a three-hour speech in which he engaged in the naked anti-Semitism that has come to be his trademark. Among those in attendance was Tamika Mallory, a leader of the 2017 Women’s March, who has posted pictures of herself with Farrakhan and praised him on numerous occasions. Mallory was quickly criticized for her association with Farrakhan, but rather than distancing herself from him, or at least from his rantings about Jews, she stuck fast in her support, and was defended by some of her fellow Women’s March leaders. David Schraub comments:
This oddity—defiant refusal to concede any ground on the anti-Semitism count, coupled with no attempt to . . . rationalize the anti-Semitic content [of Farrakhan’s remarks]—demands explanation. My hypothesis is [that] leftists don’t like thinking about anti-Semitism in their own ranks. At the same time, they’d never admit this is so. Fortunately, most anti-Semitism controversies that implicate the left relate to Israel in some fashion, and so [apologists] can respond with their favorite chestnut: “criticism of Israel isn’t anti-Semitic.” On its face, this response assures the audience that [these apologists] do care about anti-Semitism (the “real” anti-Semitism), but that the case at hand doesn’t count as such. (That it never seems to count as such is suspicious in its own right. But leave that aside.)
But Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism isn’t really tied to Israel. Which means that the stand-by response won’t work. And these leftists are left flummoxed, because they don’t really have another thought on anti-Semitism beyond “criticism of Israel isn’t [anti-Semitic].” Forced into a situation where it seems necessary to say something else, they find themselves at a loss. Suddenly, they can’t play their get-out-of-talking-about-anti-Semitism-free card.
And this is revealing. If the problem really were Israel, the Farrakhan case shouldn’t present any difficulty. But if the problem is that these leftists just don’t want to have to reckon with anti-Semitism in their community (and Israel is a convenient but ultimately epiphenomenal factor), then Farrakhan presents a huge problem.