Jews Aren’t White, and It Shouldn’t Matter

Jan 22, 2024 | History, Read Now

The progressive worldview favors moral binaries such as oppressor and oppressed, colonizer and indigenous, etc. Instead of moving beyond the relevance of race, progressives claim that we need it in order to make sense of the world. In fact, the two groups that focus primarily on race are racists and progressives.

Where do Jews fit into this reductive calculus?

Jews are not racially homogeneous, but progressives don’t seem to appreciate that. Most Jews in the West are “white-passing” and well-off, so progressives throw them in with the list of oppressors. When looking at Palestinians, these uninformed progressives believe they see relatively weak, poor BIPOC people. If there is a conflict between powerful “white” people and poor brown people, the progressive worldview requires that they stand with the latter.

However, unlike American Jews who are largely of European descent, 55% of Israeli Jews are either Sephardi or Mizrahi. The former descend from Jews exiled during the Spanish Inquisition, and the latter are from North African and Middle-Eastern Jewish communities. They are not white. There are, for example, about 160,000 Black Jews living in Israel who emigrated from Ethiopia.

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Progressives do not acknowledge the more than 3,000 years of history and Jewish life on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, because it does not fit with their image of what indigenous people look like. If Palestinians are the weaker, browner people in this conflict, then they must have had their land stolen by the stronger, whiter group. Facts don’t matter. History doesn’t matter. Truth doesn’t matter.

This is the psychology animating the protests on college campuses and elsewhere across the country.

The fact that progressives use the whiteness of some Jews as an argument against Jewish indigeneity in Israel is especially repugnant. The only reason that white Jews exist is because Jews fled persecution in their ancestral homeland and bred with local populations in Europe. When progressives and antisemites make this argument, they are using the effects of ethnic cleansing against the actual victims of ethnic cleansing.

Some will claim that Israel is a pariah among nations because it is an apartheid state. However, this claim does not survive scrutiny. Twenty percent of Israel’s population is Arab. Arab Israelis vote, sit as judges in Israel’s courtrooms, and as legislators in Israel’s parliament. Moreover, they have equal rights — the same rights as every Jewish citizen — and they have more freedoms than citizens of any other state in the region. For example, they can attend the Middle East’s only gay pride celebrations in Tel Aviv.

So why do progressives protest when Israel defends itself, but not when Hamas beheads homosexuals in Gaza? Why do progressives protest the accidental and unintentional killing of civilians in Gaza but not the 230,000 civilians killed during the ongoing, decade-long Syrian civil war? Why have they not protested the 150,000 civilians killed in Yemen?

The most common explanations offered for this selective outrage are that these protestors are just virtue signaling hypocrites or that they are antisemites. And sure, some of them are. But it is too easy to simply dismiss them all in this manner.


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Students are encouraged to become activists, and told that “silence is violence.” For too long, the rest of us didn’t see the harm in the hypersensitivity to microaggressions, the self-flagellation of “white fragility” and “doing the work” of renouncing their privilege, or confessing their oppression. The harm is now apparent, and it’s scary.

What is the solution?

As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant. The reason that terror apologists take down posters of children kidnapped by Hamas is because it shows the lie of their misplaced allyship. Those images create a painful cognitive dissonance that these progressives prefer to suppress. Make progressives keep tearing them down. Project them on buildings. Let those images haunt their dreams and weigh upon their conscience.

The Supreme Court recently invalidated affirmative action policies, but the Fourteenth Amendment does not prohibit policies designed to increase intellectual diversity on college campuses. These schools should publicly commit that they will stop hiring terror apologists, and that their employment contracts will require that professors not abuse their power by imposing their beliefs upon students. Let’s not forget that higher education in the US is a business, susceptible to the same market pressures as other businesses.

After the shocking testimony of the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT before Congress, donors are now aware of what is going on at these schools. They should continue to speak with their checkbooks. Students who value intellectual freedom on campus should divert their applications to institutions that welcome a diversity of opinions rather than the superficial diversity of complexion that these bastions of DEI have fostered.

Kenneth Blake teaches Critical Thinking and Government at a private high school in northern California.

View this Algemeiner Op-Ed from January 22nd