Biden can’t be trusted to take on anti-Semitism

The same identitarian worldview that is driving campus anti-Semitism is rife within Joe Biden’s White House.

Heather Mac Donald

Topics Identity Politics USA

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On 7 May, Joe Biden condemned the ‘anti-Semitic posters’, the ‘slogans calling for the annihilation of Israel’ and the ‘rationalising’ of 7 October on colleges across the US. Such practices ‘must stop’, he said in a speech marking the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Yet where does the US president think that campus anti-Semitism comes from?

Pro-Hamas hysteria is the foreseeable outcome of a belief system dominant not only in academia, but also in Biden’s own administration – a belief system in which the West is damned as ‘systemically racist’, and the world divided between ‘marginalised groups’ and the white, male, heterosexual power structure that oppresses them. Campus anti-Semitism will not stop until the university is transformed and the Democratic Party rejects identity politics.

The stunningly incoherent alliances that have sprung up since the 7 October terror attacks on Israel can only be understood in the context of academic theory. Queers and radical feminists for Palestine would seem to be logical impossibilities but for the dominance of such concepts as anti-whiteness and intersectionality. A sampling of Columbia University’s anti-whiteness offerings includes an ‘uprooting whiteness’ group, ‘deconstructing whiteness’ workshops and an ‘unlearning whiteness’ research award from the dean. Other colleges no doubt provide a similar menu.

According to the university worldview, whites and the West (the two categories are interchangeable) are responsible for everything wrong with the world, from inequality to poverty. ‘Persons of colour’ are the antidote. Heterosexuality and maleness are subcategories of whiteness, against which the intersectional coalition of queers, radical feminists and members of the Global South must mobilise. Israel today is hated as the embodiment of Western civilisation. Its modernity and economic success in a region where both are largely absent mark it out as hegemonic and illegitimate.

Of course, the ‘enemy of my enemy’ logic only works in one direction. Queers may be for Palestine, but despite their common nemesis, it is unlikely that Palestine is for queers.

What is being called anti-Semitism on college campuses today has little to do with traditional anti-Semitism. Had the university not taken its anti-white, anti-Western turn in the 1980s, students who know nothing of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion would not be baying for ‘intifada’. The exception comes from Muslim and black students, whose anti-Semitism has longer and more conventional roots. Today’s campus anti-Semitism also has nothing to do with the genteel WASP anti-Semitism of the 1950s, which saw Jews as unclubbable outsiders. The problem with Jews today, in the eyes of the campus anti-Zionists, is that they are the consummate insiders in a civilisation inimical to the interests of the so-called subaltern.

Students do not need to have taken a course in ethnic studies or postcolonial theory to have imbibed the intersectional anti-whiteness now manifest in the pro-Hamas uprisings. The majority of courses in the humanities and soft social sciences now approach their subject matter through an anti-Western lens. Subtexts of racism and imperialism are sought and found everywhere. Vilifying Israel as the settler-colonial state par excellence is the natural result of this reflexive hostility to all things Western.

Many of the faculty who are defending the illegal encampments and pro-terrorist sloganeering in the name of free speech are two-faced. They were, at best, nowhere to be seen when universities were imposing ‘diversity’ loyalty oaths on prospective hires, when dissenters from campus orthodoxies were being exorcised and when apologists for left-wing censorship developed the specious distinction between free speech and hate speech. Now they are arguing that the university must not suppress expressions that others find hurtful because free speech is such an important value. The real reason that they are defending the pro-Hamas agitation is that they agree with it. ‘Where’s all the anti-Semitism?’, a University of Pennsylvania history professor asked me during an interview in December. ‘I do not see it.’

Administrators are equally compromised. They selected students who were likely to engage in left-wing activism once admitted, since such activism was self-evidently righteous. These administrators’ verbal paralysis after the 7 October slaughter was rarely due to a principled commitment to institutional neutrality. These were the same presidents and provosts, after all, who had expounded at length about America’s ‘systemic racism’ during the Black Lives Matter protests / riots. Yet they held their fire after the Hamas massacre out of fear of offending their left-wing base or, in the case of many a diversity bureaucrat, out of sympathy with the impulse behind it.

The ideology of anti-whiteness that has generated what Biden denounces as campus anti-Semitism also governs Biden’s executive branch. In March, the US Treasury Department proposed to change the tax treatment of capital gains, in part because the current rules ‘disproportionately benefit white taxpayers’. Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that called for ‘advancing equity and racial justice’ for the ‘marginalised’.

The US does not ‘marginalise’ people today – unless they are white, heterosexual and male. If some groups lag behind others, the reason is behaviour and culture. Many East Asian and Southeast Asian immigrant groups outperform native American whites, because of lower rates of family breakdown and a greater focus on academic achievement. For a supposedly white-supremacist country, the US is not doing a very good job of keeping non-whites down, as the multiracial, multinational character of today’s scientific research labs and tech companies demonstrates.

Nevertheless, the White House claims that America’s ineradicable ‘systemic racism’ imposes ‘enormous human costs’. Biden took every opportunity before and after 2020 to denounce the enduring stain of racism on America’s (white) soul and to claim that black parents were right to fear that their children would be killed by a police officer, or by a white supremacist, every time those children stepped outside. It’s true that black juveniles do face a tragically elevated risk of gun violence. But they are being shot and killed primarily by other blacks, not by whites or the police. That truth is taboo within the Biden administration.

The White House insists that ‘our laws, public policies and institutions… deny equal opportunity to individuals and communities’, a claim right out of critical-race-theory sacred writ. In fact, America’s laws are colourblind. If outcomes are not equal across all groups, the cause lies not with our institutions or laws, but with the devaluation of educational achievement and work ethic among certain subcultures.

The Biden executive branch sees the white male patriarchy behind every alleged failure of social justice, from ‘pay inequities’ that allegedly afflict females and persons of colour to ‘poor health outcomes’. No other causes of different life trajectories – personal choice, different skill levels, cultural background, substance abuse, etc – may be contemplated. The reason is always discrimination.

In February 2023, Biden ordered the federal government to incorporate equity thinking into every aspect of its operations. Ninety federal agencies have adopted ‘Equity Action Plans’ to address the ‘discrimination that underserved communities face’. The federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, hand out lucrative grants to study intersectionality. They demand ‘diversity’ in research labs and clinical trials as a corrective to the racism of Western science. The US military is on a crusade to eradicate heteronormativity and colourblind meritocracy.

US representative Nancy Pelosi and US senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ legislative leaders, may voice support for Israel. But they and their party embrace the same philosophy that fuels the pro-Hamas campus protests. It is hard to find a Democratic state house or city hall that does not proudly proclaim its ‘anti-racist’ policies. Democratic school boards mandate ‘ethnic studies’ courses, which presume the existence of an enduring power struggle between the ‘marginalised’ and a white majority. State and local governments confer hiring preferences on non-white and female contractors, on the theory that merit-based systems of contracting are biased in favour of white males.

Democratic politicians promise ‘equity’, implying that American society is inherently unfair. They support the racial preferences in college admissions that have driven down the number of Jewish students, since highly qualified Jews take up slots needed to increase the presence of less qualified ‘underrepresented minorities’.

Biden received plaudits for his Days of Remembrance speech last week. But the performance was an exercise in hypocrisy. Campus anti-Semitism is the outgrowth of fundamental academic and Democratic commitments. Universities will not cure themselves unless they revamp their curricula and hire traditional scholars, rather than robotic practitioners of critical theory and activist wannabes. The ‘anti-Semitism training’ that administrators are proposing in the hope of extinguishing donor rebellions is a diversionary tactic. One can’t train one’s way out of a worldview that is baked into academic personnel and the courses they teach, even if adding to the diversity, equity and inclusion portfolio were not a patently counterproductive idea.

As long as the Democratic Party and its presidential standard-bearer remain committed to the narrative of white privilege and racial inequity, hatred of Israel and rationalisations for terrorism will be reliable products of the American left. No presidential speech will change that fact.

Heather Mac Donald is Thomas W Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of When Race Trumps Merit.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics USA


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