Anti-Semitism: Republicans vs. Democrats

by Jim Lobe

Contrary to the long-standing neoconservative mantra that the left poses a greater threat to Jews than the right, a national poll released late last week suggests that Democrats are considerably more sensitive to—and worried about—anti-Semitism than Republicans.

The Quinnipiac University survey, conducted March 2-6, found a yawning difference between Republicans and Democrats on whether they considered “prejudice against Jewish people in the United States today … a very serious problem.” Over half of self-identified Democrats (51%) agreed that it was indeed “very serious,” while less than one in five (18%) Republican respondents described it that way.

A total of 87% of Democrats said that they considered the problem either “very” or “somewhat” serious. By contrast, only 53% of Republicans agreed—a 34-point gap.

Overall, 35% of the 1,283 respondents considered such prejudice “very serious,” while an additional 35% described it as “somewhat serious.”

Nearly half of Republican respondents (45%) said anti-Semitism was either “not so serious” a problem (30%) or “not at all” a problem (15%). By contrast, only 8% of Democrats said it was “not so serious,” and a mere 3% said chose the “not at all” option.

The survey, which also found big gaps between Republicans and Democrats over their respective perceptions of whether “the level of hatred and prejudice in the U.S. has increased” since Trump’s election (84% of Democrats but only 42% of Republicans said yes), came in the wake of an unprecedented surge of bomb threats against Jewish schools and community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries.

The White House’s prolonged silence in response to these crimes has provoked growing unease within U.S. Jewish community. So has the administration’s failure to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in its first Holocaust Remembrance Day statement on January 27 and its appointment of key advisers associated with the so-called alt-right movement. The silence was not broken until Trump referred to the threats and desecrations in his February 28 address to Congress by “condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect compared Trump’s remarks to placing a “Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.”

Asked about the Trump administration’s response to the threats and vandalism, 71% of Republicans said they approved, while 5% disapproved. Among Democrats, a mere 10% voiced approval, while two-thirds disapproved. Independents were roughly evenly divided, 39-36%.

Connection to Israel

Although one survey can hardly be considered conclusive, the Quinnipiac poll offers an interesting counterpoint to a January Pew poll about partisan attitudes toward Israel. That poll, conducted January 4-9, found that three of every four self-identified Republicans (74%) said that they sympathize more with Israel than Palestinians (11% said more with Palestinians). By contrast, only 33% of Democrat said they were more sympathetic to Israel. That was only two percentage points more than those Democrats who said they sympathized more with Palestinians (31%).

Pew said that the 41-point gap on that question between the two parties was the largest since 1978. In that year, 49% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats sympathized more with Israel, according to a poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (renamed the Chicago Council on Global Affairs) which posed the same question.

The increase in Republican support for Israel presumably reflects in major part the steadily rightward drift of the GOP. This is turn was driven largely by the greatly increased influence of evangelicals and their mostly Christian Zionist leadership whose theology, as noted (euphemistically) by Irving Kristol in 1984, was pro-Israel but “not exactly pro-Jewish.” The parallel drift to the right by the Jewish majority in Israel no doubt has also contributed to both the growing Republican commitment to the Zionist state, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the growing disillusionment with it among Democrats.

In recent years, Kristol’s ideological progeny, led by Commentary magazine and other neoconservative outlets (as well as Netanyahu and his government), have tried very hard to link criticism of Israel, which has come mostly from the left, with anti-Semitism. Although some criticism of Israel has indeed been motivated by anti-Semitism, it’s also clear from the Quinnipiac survey that significantly fewer people on the right than people on the left, at least as represented by the poll’s Democratic respondents, see anti-Semitism as a “very serious problem.” Indeed, judging by the poll results, Republicans appear to be relatively complacent about both the rash of incidents and the Trump administration’s response.

The results are also hard to square with the notion that criticism of Israel by people on the left of the political spectrum is often rooted in anti-Semitism. If, after all, so many Democrats see anti-Semitism as a “very serious problem,” their views of Israel are unlikely to be tainted by prejudice against Jews.

Of course, it should be clear to virtually any informed individual—and especially to U.S. Jews—that anti-Semitism on the right (or the alt-right) poses the greater threat by far. What with people ensconced in the White House like former Breitbart CEO Stephen Bannon, who professes admiration for the notorious French anti-Semite and reactionary Charles Maurras, and Sebastian Gorka, who has ignored the Anti-Defamation League’s demand that he renounce his far-right and anti-Semitic Hungarian associations, the alt-right is becoming mainstreamed in the Republican Party.

Attitudes toward Minorities

For now, to be sure, their focus is directed primarily against other minority groups, notably Muslims and Latino immigrants. In that respect, one of the most remarkable findings of the Quinnipiac survey is the enormous partisan gap on the seriousness of the problem of prejudice against minority groups in the United States today. No less than 76% of Democratic respondents said it was “very serious” compared to 16% of Republicans—a staggering 60-point divide. And while 41% of Republican respondents insisted that the problem was either “not so serious” or “not at all” serious,” only a tiny 4% of Democrats agreed with those assessments.

Bret Stephens, one of the few neocons who early on sensed where Republicans were headed, warned just over a year ago:

It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years. Nativist bigotries must not be allowed to become the animating spirit of the Republican Party. If Donald Trump becomes the candidate, he will not win the presidency, but he will help vindicate the left’s ugly indictment.

Of course, Stephens was wrong about the election outcome, but he was right about Republicans and their trajectory. On the eve of the election, he was more explicit about the threat faced by Jews if Trump and his alt-right entourage emerged victorious. Noting the anti-Semitic dog whistles used by the campaign and its supporters, he wrote, “American Jews shouldn’t have to re-live the 1930s…”

The Republican Jewish Coalition should take heed.

Photo: Protesters in Washington, DC by Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons

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Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Anti-Zionism is the belief that Jews, as opposed to most other peoples, have no right to their own homeland. Anti-Zionism is the new politically acceptable (to the left at least) way of expressing antisemitism.
    We are not allowed to post links but…

    There is a dangerous confluence between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, though the two concepts are not always identical. Anti-Zionism is often used to conceal hatred of Jews. Anti-Semitic views can be easily distinguished from legitimate criticism of Israel.

    Consider the source. Is the speaker someone with a history of anti-Jewish attitudes?
    Critics who habitually single out Israel for condemnation while ignoring far worse actions by other countries (especially other Middle Eastern countries) are anti-Semitic.
    Likening Israel to Nazi Germany, or to traditional anti-Jewish stereotypical behavior is another sure sign of Jew-baiting.
    Attacks on the merits of Israel’s existence rather than individual government policies are anti-Semitic.

    When approached by a student who attacked Zionism, Dr. Martin Luther King responded: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

    The position of Jews in America before the Holocaust reflect a different reality and different mentality. Einstein, as brilliant as he was, was also stupid when it came to political reality. Even the Reform Movement (the least religious of still practicising Jews) did not see what was coming. But there is no excuse today.

    As for Deborah, actually it is not the nationalists like Le Pen and Wilders calling for harm to Jews. The attacks on Jews are coming from Muslims. I see much more antisemitism on the Huffington Post or NY Times than on Breitbart and it is usually shouted down on Breitbart. Progressive forums are full of antisemitism but it usually is disguised as anti-Zionism, however, the result is the same. The Jews of Israel are evil Nazis oppressing the poor goodhearted Palestinians. Gaza is worse that the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nakba is worse than the Holocaust. Etc. Etc. And I am not talking about the anonymous posters only. I am talking about the authors of the articles.

    In fact, this Lobelog contains more anti-Israel comments than you would ever see on Breitbart for example.

    I have a long-standing challenge to anyone who claims to be Anti-Zionist but NOT Anti-Semitic. I believe I can prove they are Anti-Semitic is quick order if they will honestly answer a few questions. The only exception is members of obscure Jewish cults that are Anti-Zionist but presumably not Anti-Semitic, but groups like JVP and elements of J Street sound no different than the Anti-Zionist and Anti-Semitic Muslim groups. Fire away.

  2. Addendum: “Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front party, has a message for French Jews: stop wearing kippahs if you want to join the fight against radical Islam.” The Forward, February 6, 2017 By Daniel J. Solomon

  3. Deborah,

    Marie Le Pen also says that wearing crucifixes should be banned as well as burkhas. The proposed ban would be on wearing ALL religious symbols in public. The law would not apply to clergy of any of these faiths. I think she has a point. While I don’t agree, it would be preferable for Jews to give up wearing kippas if it meant the Muslims were similarly restricted. Actually, there is no religious requirement for Jews to wear a Kippas. All that is specified is a head covering of some sort.

    The day when come when all Jews shake themselves out of this 1930s mentality and correctly identify the modern day Amalek. Some Jews already have.

  4. You are spewing Zionist mythology as though it were the same thing as Judaism. It’s not. It’s a 19th century invention used to create a ‘homeland’ that would allow some Jews to reconquer Palestine, as Jews allegedly did in the Tanakh when they annihilated other peoples of the area.

    It was no more a homeland for the Jews than for the Canaanites.

    Once you establish that you’re talking about Zionism, you’re no longer talking about Jews.

    Were European Jews more entitled to take over Palestine than European Christians were entitled to take over North America?

    Despite your Zionist mythology, the response to your definition of anti-Zionism is ‘bullshit!’

    The Jews weren’t placed in that area by God, but by their slaughter of other people.

    Everything else you say after that first lie is built on your Zionist mythology, something that is all about hate, as the remainder of your dishonest ugliness demonstrates.

    Despite your vile attempt to equate Zionism with Judaism, you leave out the central ethical standard of Judaism that we’re taught by the Seder: we should always think of ourselves as having come out of slavery, an attitude that requires us to identify with the oppressed (not the oppressor, as Israel under Netanyahu has become). Second, we are instructed that no one is free until everyone is free. Finally, we are taught that Jews have an OBLIGATION to work for that universal freedom.

    Everything you have written is an insult to those beliefs and to Judaism.

    Take your disgusting and hateful political ideology away from Jews who ARE Jews, who work to create freedom, not to annihilate others, as the Likud in Israel, and loathsome hatemongers like you encourage.

  5. Bill,

    I was told personal attacks are not permitted on this blog. Hmmm.

    Anyway, a Jewish person would know Zionism was “created” in the Bible over 2,000 years ago not in the 19th Century. Zion means Jerusalem and Zionism refers to the longing of the Jewish people to return their ancestral homeland from previous exiles BEFORE the Roman exile.

    I am sorry but the Canaanites went extinct many centuries ago. I hope you realize the Arabs or Palestinians are not Canaanites. The Arabs including those who fancy themselves as Palestinians came to Palestine in the 7th century and conquered it by military force, imposing their violent ideology and religion.

    It seems to me you claim you are a Jew however you do not believe in God apparently given your statements. You also don’t seem to identify ethnically as a Jew as you despise Israel and don’t even believe that “Jews” came originally from “Judea.”

    You are correct that Jews should and do sympathize with the oppressed. However, the Torah also states that Jews are not to tolerate “Amalek” meaning any people whose goal is to annihilate the Jews. The Palestinians act more like Amalek than any oppressed people. Frankly it is hard to sympathize with Arabs who own 99% of the land which they seized and occupied by military force whining about losing 1% of the land to the Jews who actually predated them in the land.

    Your kind of weak attitude is what led to centuries of Jewish persecution. Perhaps in the diaspora, Jews had not choice but to bend over to accommodate whatever people controlled the government where they lived. Now there is no excuse for not standing up proudly with your Jewish people and defending our ancestral homeland.

    If you think Jews have some obligation to appease their enemies or worse to collaborate with those who mean us harm, then you are sorely in need of enlightenment.

    Why don’t you go lecture the Palestinians and other Arabs about freedom and tolerance. If, by chance you return to this blog with your head still intact, we will be greatly heartened.

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