A very divisive election and inflamed, hyperbolic, rude rhetoric – especially from the Trump camp – signaled to the country that the old rules of polite discourse no longer apply. This signal attracted a motley crew of KKK, neo-Nazis, and old-school antisemites – the so-called alt-right – who crawled out of their sewers and interpreted it as a license to go public with their primitive bigotry. Even though Trump and his appointees to the high offices do not appear to be antisemites and racists, as was amply debated and will not be rehashed here, the emergence of alt-right forces riding Trump’s campaign’s coattails has many people, especially in the Jewish community, rightfully concerned.
Attacked simultaneously by the bigoted anti-Jewish alt-right and by the virulently anti-Israel extreme left, it is essential for the Jewish community to dispassionately evaluate and prioritize concurrent threats in order to channel most of its finite resources towards addressing the biggest danger.
As disturbing, distasteful and offensive as the alt-right antisemites are, in my opinion, the immediate focus on Trump and the alt-right is misplaced. It is a distraction. Alt-right consists of a nasty and very vocal but a relatively small number of amateurs. Despite their obnoxious online presence, they are on the fringe; they have no support among the general population, no support in the mainstream media, no thought leaders in academia, relatively little financing, and no standing in any major domestic or international organizations. They are politically toxic and do not have significant support in mainstream politics. Some will point to Trump’s election to refute the last point, but that would be wrong. Trump is not alt-right. He is a cynical demagogue with a narcissistic complex who currently panders to them as long as it serves his own agenda. The current motley band of alt-right hooligans in the US may cause mischief and even be violent towards individuals but they are not an existential threat to Jews or Israel.
The existential threat comes from the Islamists and far-left who are well-organized through MSA, SJP, CAIR, JVP, etc, who have huge financial resources from Arab states and Muslim “charities”, who have support throughout the Western society as they latched on to the “progressive” infrastructure with false claims of victimhood, colonialism, racism and intersectionality under the veneer of free speech and human rights rhetoric, who have a sophisticated ideology, who infiltrated and corrupted our academic institutions entrusted with thought leadership. These are the people who through Intifada, terrorism, intimidation, violence and BDS threaten the existence of Israel and ultimately all Jews. These are the people who have been antisemitic long before Trump came on the scene. The only reason alt-right is visible at all is because Trump with the help of the left-leaning media constantly kvetching about them, inadvertently provided alt-right hooligans with a platform.
Compare what the alt-right has accomplished so far with what has been accomplished by Islamists. Was it alt-right or the Islamists who were successful in mainstreaming the notion equating Zionism with racism? Was it alt-right or the Islamists who were successful in singling out Israel with bizarre accusations and countless anti-Israel resolutions at the UN? Was it alt-right or the Islamists who were successful in denying Jewish heritage? Was it alt-right or the Islamists who were successful in creating toxic anti-Israel and antisemitic atmosphere on our campuses abetted by professors and ignored by administrations? What has alt-right really accomplished other than laughably childish pranks that can — and probably were — perpetrated by the equivalent of maladjusted teenagers with too much time on their hands?
Alt-right is just a distraction that we should not allow to divert us from the real threat. And the sooner mainstream Jews and others internalize it, the better.