Features, Politics

When Accusations Lose Their Bite

About a week ago, ABC canceled one of its most popular shows, “Last Man Standing” starring conservative comedian Tim Allen. This appears to be the belated consequence of a smear campaign directed against Allen in March, after he explained to Jimmy Kimmel why he was nervous talking about his involvement in Trump’s inauguration: “You gotta be real careful [in Hollywood]. You know, you get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes. It’s like 30s Germany.” Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, spearheaded the backlash. He asked: “Tim, have you lost your mind?” Apparently Allen’s comment “trivializes the horrors imposed on Jews in Nazi Germany,” and he needs to “leave [his] bubble to apologize to the Jewish people.”

Just two months before Allen’s comments on Jimmy Kimmel, however, we find an interesting report in the Huffington Post: “Goldstein told HuffPost it would be hyperbolic and irresponsible to compare Trump’s actions to the Holocaust’s mass murders. ‘However, it would be equally irresponsible not to point out the similarities between demonizing and isolating groups of people within our country…and the demonization that Jews suffered during World War II.’” So although Goldstein won’t literally compare Trump’s actions to the Holocaust, he enthusiastically compares the experience of some unnamed groups in the U.S. to that of Jews during WWII…when the Holocaust happened. Needless to say, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect was silent when Ashley Judd compared Trump to Hitler.

This is part of a worrying trend of self-appointed representatives of the Jewish people using the memory of Holocaust victims to bash conservatives and advance whatever happens to be the latest platform of the Democratic Party.

CEO of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt (who recently made his own U.S./Nazi Germany comparison) was gravely offended by Trump’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.” For those with less refined anti-Semitism sensors than Greenblatt, Trump’s “puzzling and troubling” and “very offensive” sin was to use the phrase “innocent people” instead of “six million Jews.” One cannot help but wonder whether Greenblatt, a former Special Assistant to Barack Obama, is more concerned with honoring the memory of the six million or with scoring political points against a Republican. And if the latter, is it right to use the Holocaust for that purpose?

The conflation of organized Holocaust remembrance/anti-anti-Semitism with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is deep. Last year the ADL submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case of Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries arguing that Christian bakers should be forced to make cakes for gay weddings. After Trump’s victory, the ADL published a lesson plan to help middle and high school teachers lead discussions about the election. The teacher is instructed to share “information” with the students including: “Protesters are upset about Trump’s policies, positions and bigoted rhetoric and some are questioning the legitimacy of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.” One of the vocabulary words the teacher is supposed to familiarize students with at the beginning of the lesson is “anti-Semitism”—an obvious attempt to encourage discussion of Trump’s alleged anti-Semitism. The Museum of Tolerance (founded by the Simon Wiesenthal Center) claims in its definition of “race” that “Modern science proves that among humans there are no races except the human race”—a view favored by liberals and indeed some scientists. But the idea that “modern science” proves that humans are all one race would have been news Ernst Mayr (whom Stephen Jay Gould once called “the world’s greatest living evolutionary biologist”) who wrote in 2002 that those who deny the existence of human races “are obviously ignorant of modern biology.” It would also be news to the geneticists at 23andMe, the company that can tell you your race or racial admixture from a saliva sample.

No one begrudges the people at the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the ADL, or the Museum of Tolerance the right to be liberal activists. I do begrudge them the right to speak on my behalf, or, what’s worse, to speak on behalf of Jews who are dead and who cannot say whether they support the Democratic Party. According to Goldstein: “No one knows what Anne Frank would have done today for sure, but if you read her diary, she unmistakably had an activist’s heart and soul.” In reality we can only guess what Anne’s political views would be had she survived, and whether or not she would have been an “activist.” As to the millions of anonymous Jews murdered in the Holocaust, most were orthodox. In the U.S., 57% of orthodox Jews identify as Republicans—so we can make an educated guess that a sizable number of Holocaust victims would not be liberals.

Trump’s election was followed by a spate of bomb threats against Jewish institutions. Liberal journalists blamed Trump for emboldening anti-Semites with his hateful, “dog-whistling” rhetoric. Vox voxplained that, although it’s “impossible, and unfair, to pin all of [the blame] on Donald Trump,…he has contributed” to the rise of anti-Semitism in the mainstream, which led to the threats. What was Trump’s initial response to the bomb threats? He suggested they might be hoaxes to make him look bad. This triggered an avalanche of hysterical commentary and accusations about the president’s indifference to Jews. Greenblatt was “astonished by what the President reportedly said.” Goldstein addressed Trump with his usual formula for outrage: “Mr. President, have you no decency? To cast doubt on the authenticity of anti-Semitic hate crimes in America constitutes anti-Semitism in itself….If the reports [about what you said] are true, you owe the American Jewish community an apology.”

That was early March. On March 23rd, the alleged perpetrator of most of these threats was arrested. He is a 19-year-old Jew from Israel who, according to his mother, has some unspecified neurological problem that is responsible for his behavior. After the arrest of the hoaxer, Greenblatt released a statement saying: “While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism.” The whole statement contains not a single reference to the fact that the perpetrator was Jewish. Israeli police say that he made threats against many different kinds of targets in different countries with the aim of eliciting a response in the media. He made so many threats against Jewish institutions because he realized that this got a big reaction. What was Goldstein’s response to the arrest? “We are grateful for the arrest of a suspect in a number of bomb threats to Jewish institutions. This year, we have called on the Administration to respond to such threats consistently in real time, which didn’t happen.” Apparently soi-disant experts on when others should apologize don’t always recognize when it’s their own turn.

Charges/insinuations of anti-Semitism or insensitivity to Jews should be made extremely carefully, especially by leaders of influential organizations like the ADL whom the media (wrongly) treat as spokesmen for the Jewish community. If Greenblatt and others continue to lob accusations of anti-Semitism and insensitivity at conservatives as a political weapon, the accusations will lose their bite. Two-and-a-half thousand years ago Aesop taught us why that might be dangerous.


Nathan Cofnas will begin reading for a DPhil in philosophy at the University of Oxford in October. Follow him on Twitter @nathancofnas


  1. I see your point, Nathan, but I have a hard time imagining that accusations unfairly leveled at conservatives will ever lose their bite for liberals who are eager to believe them.

  2. Peter says

    In my mind, many of these public accusations and displays of offense are actually “pseudoevents” (as coined by Daniel Boorstin). That is to say, they are manufactured events and inauthentic displays of emotion that exist solely for the purpose of being reported on (and the publicity this brings). We can expect to see more of this as the left and right becomes more about their respective “honor cultures,” where words are like sticks and stones and there is no greater indignity than to be “offended.”

  3. Uri Harris says

    Excellent article. I completely agree with your contention that these people should not have free licence to speak on behalf of Jews, dead or alive, according to whatever fits their political agenda. Of course, I’m sure they would respond by using the old leftist tactic of saying that anyone who disagrees with them is not a ‘real Jew’ (or black, woman, gay, etc.), which of course means that they always represent all Jews, since they do so by definition. Very clever.

    That sentence on race strikes me as complete babble. No one questions that humans are a single species, which has a reasonably clear scientific definition, but what does it even mean to say that science has proven that all humans are a single race? In everyday language we use the word race to categorise different groups of ethnicities, which works reasonably well, and which has an observable genetic component, as you mention. What exactly is there to disprove?

  4. EK says

    I recall Pastor Martin Niemöller’s lament:

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    And observe that the Nazis came for Socialists and Trade Unionists before they came for the Jews and conclude that the Jews cannot be the final arbiters of all things Nazi.

  5. The Jewish experience of Holocaust, which is what most people think of since the experience of Romanies, Poles, Russians and many other experiences of Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis,
    have been forgotten, denied or simply ignored ….has been milked to death to justify the colonisation of Palestine and the dispossession and murder of the indigenous people of that country.

    Yes, Jews suffered under the Nazis but the total figure has never been established and Zionists were talking about 6 million Jews dying in Europe, in the 1890’s, if their plan to colonise Palestine did not go ahead. Many people suffered, tens of millions of them, not just followers of Judaism.

    The irony of course is that now Israeli Zionists and Jews have a problem with around 6 million indigenous Palestinians they would like to remove from sight, if not existence.

    However, even if the Jewish experience of holocaust was everything that is claimed, it just makes the holocaust inflicted by Zionists and Jews on the Palestinians that much more horrendous. Those Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis must be spinning in their graves at what is done to Palestinians in their name.

    The hypocrisy of Zionists, Jews and their supporters is breath-taking. Only when we recognise that all experiences of holocaust are equal will we be able to do something to stop them.

    The Nazis were not the first, not the worst and horrifically, not the last to create such holocausts.

    And freedom of speech on this issue is crucial. It is the censorship of the holocaust inflicted by Nazis on Jews which has allowed atrocities to be committed in its name.

    • One would think the rest of the Arabs would be eager to save their fellow Arabs from the Jewish terrorism, wouldn’t one ? Maybe the fact that, after 70 years, the Palestinians are the most violent residents of the Middle East discourages them. Meanwhile the million Jews expelled from Arab countries have found a home in Israel.

      • This is not about Arabs, a cultural definition, anymore than it is about Europeans, the original culture of most Israeli colonisers.

        All Asians and Africans don’t support each other and neither do all Europeans so why would all Arabs?

        This is about a colonial war waged by Europeans in the name of Zionism, a fascist political movement, against the indigenous Palestinians.

        The fact that followers of Judaism were expelled from other countries does not give them the right to steal someone else’s.

        There are 8 million Palestinians in the diaspora, most of whom will go home when the one state solution is imposed on apartheid Israel.

      • Brewer says

        ” the Palestinians are the most violent residents of the Middle East”

        134 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 2,154 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000.

    • Luke Reeshus says

      You just committed a holocaust on moral reasoning.

      See, I can use “holocaust” anyway I want to as well.

      • Holocaust has many uses and interpretations and ways of being used. I have no problem with you using it as you see fit.

        Odd though that you use the term moral reasoning when objectivity is the best way to assess anything – facts speak and morals should never deny facts, as often they do, particularly when the topic of the Jewish experience of holocaust comes up.

  6. The state of Hawaii is suing the maker of the drug Plavix because it has unreliable results in Polynesians and the drug maker did not publicize this information. The single race nonsense will kill someone.

  7. The dead horse of the Holocaust was beaten thoroughly into the ground years ago, and the charge of anti-Semitism right behind it. The chief incitement to anti-Semitism is the efforts (including charges) exerted to combat anti-Semitism.

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