It’s another round of Jew-hatred, and this one is difficult, because it’s two conservatives shouting past each other in blindness and rage. Jews calling Jews “locusts” is a bad take, period.
Some background: National Review published an explainer piece about why orthodox Hasidic Jews in the New York City tri-state area have experienced more incidents of hate crime. In the piece, one Jewish, but not orthodox or Hasidic Jew, who lives in New York but upstate, was quoted, “Many in the community look at the Hasidim as locusts, who go from community to community . . . just stripping all the resources out of it.” That statement was supposed to lend context to the attacks. It didn’t.
After a backlash from the New York City Jewish community, normally top-notch analyst Kevin Williamson doubled down on NR’s bad take.
But because there are people who want to smear National Review for political purposes, they pretend that an article about anti-Semitism written by a veteran of the Israeli military is itself an exercise in anti-Semitism. I have a hard time believing that is an honest error, because people dumb enough to make an error like that, and make it honestly, can’t read.
For this, Bethany Mandel took him, and all the rest, to the woodshed in a scathing Twitter thread.
Both Kevin and Bethany are guilty of talking past each other and NR is guilty of being totally blind to the plight of Hasidic Jews.
It’s totally correct for Bethany Mandel to be outraged at the terrible hot-take of using a non-Hasid living in upstate New York to comment on NYC tri-state anti-semitism. A non-Hasid in somewhere else than the NYC Tri-state is as foreign to a NYC Hasid as a goy (a non-Jew): An outsider who doesn’t know that life. Using that person’s opinion is offensive to Hasids.
Anti-Semitism would be directed at any Jew in NYC or anywhere it exists. Jews who blend in are not perfect targets since they have “stealth” of being Jewish without the physical trappings. A Jew living in upstate New York, or Atlanta, who drives a BMW or a pickup truck, doesn’t wear a kippa (or yarmulke) on their head, dresses in clothes other than black overcoats and wide-brimmed hats, and doesn’t “advertise” being Jewish can’t expect to be attacked simply because they “blend” better.
Using that comment is not a good take. The “locusts” comment is both out of context and untrue. Hasids net-net contribute to the communities in which they live, because they operate as a community. However, they don’t blend. Nor are they trusting of others (this whole incident is one reason why). Orthodox Judaism, as a general rule, operates better in community (try living as a Hasid among goys, say in rural Kansas, I think it’s not doable).
“Locusts” is also not the reason Jews are attacked. It’s a convenient out for people looking for a rational explanation, where there isn’t one. Plus, it’s bad journalism. No pundit or writer should take one opinion and stamp “Jew” on it any more than we can do that with Christians or Muslims. Jews are diverse. Non Hasids can’t comment on why Jew haters hate Hasids other than they are convenient targets of opportunity.
Where Kevin Williamson went wrong is that he missed his own blindness, and instead of looking inward, he lashed out and explained the outrage by placing the motive on the outraged. Williamson should apologize for his blindness that he attributed some political motive for offense before looking for the real reason.
But Bethany should also understand (as a convert, she knows life on the “outside”) that outsiders from the Hasid and orthodox community—Jew or not—are blind to her life. While many outsiders want to help, they can’t understand why Hasids don’t just “blend” better. Orthodox Jews don’t want or need anyone’s help (but God’s). Therefore they can appear stubborn and unhelpful. This leads some Jews to leap to awful conclusions.
This leads blind non-Jews to include those conclusions in explainer pieces. And that leads to smart people like Williamson to defend his blind colleagues who are attacked for no other reason than they are blind. Both sides talk past each other and neither understands the other.
Until “blended” Jews experience the attacks Hasids and Orthodox Jews receive, they won’t understand that the hatred isn’t rational xenophobia or jealousy. It’s irrational and unique to Jews because it’s spiritual. May the day when all Jews, kippa-wearing or not, experience anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. never happen. If it does, we will be where Germany was in 1938. Yellow stars by any other name are still Jew hatred. Let’s all understand that.