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The Dangers of Virtue Signaling

The prominence of Jews in so many movements that are primarily forms of virtue signaling



wife has one friend from childhood with whom she still maintains contact, usually in the form of birthday phone calls. In recent years, despite my wife’s attempts to avoid any political discussion, her friend invariably launches into a rant about how Donald Trump loosed the dark forces of anti-Semitism upon America.

I should add that this friend is quite bright, and on the scale of American Jewry, more identified than most. Yet I must confess that this obsession with the forces of anti-Semitism resulting from Donald Trump strikes me as unhinged.

For one thing, she speaks with a genuine sense of being threatened by anti-Semitic white nationalists. Yet I would guess that the chances of her or a loved one coming to physical harm from a carjacker is at least 100 times greater than the chance of her encountering a white nationalist bent on harming Jews any time soon.

In 2021, carjackings surged 55 percent in New York City, 85 percent in Philadelphia. There were 655 attempted or completed carjackings, invariably at gunpoint, in Minneapolis last year. And driveways in residential neighborhoods are one of the prime hotspots.

A constellation of factors — the “defund the police” movement; the flourishing of BLM (at least in terms of lining the pockets of its leaders); the end of cash bail in many jurisdictions, even for violent crimes; and the election of a host of radical prosecutors convinced that the entire justice system is rigged to keep as many minorities in prison as possible — has resulted in runaway crime. Fifteen major cities reported their highest levels of homicide ever in 2021.

Even liberals in good standing are beginning to awaken. A recall petition against San Francisco DA Chelsea Boudin is likely to be successful, in America’s most progressive big city. And a similar effort in L.A. is gaining steam. Yet my wife’s friend is still railing about Trump as the biggest threat to her safety.

Yes, there is plenty of anti-Semitism out there. If you are an identifiably Orthodox Jew in an integrated neighborhood, for instance, you have reason to fear. Anti-Semitic incidents in New York City rose over 400 percent in February compared to the preceding month. And there is plenty of it on university campuses, where Jewish students report being afraid to identify as such. But in neither of those circumstances is the anti-Semitism coming from Trump supporters.


THE SECOND THING that strikes me as strange, however, is that while expressing such concern over the nearly nonexistent threat to Jews from white nationalists, my wife’s old friend has never expressed any worries about the very real threat of a nuclear Iran to over seven million Jews in Israel, or spoken of the Biden administration’s headlong rush into an agreement effectively guaranteeing a nuclear-armed Iran as a reason to criticize either Joe Biden or former president Barack Obama.

The Iranians have treated the current negotiations in Vienna primarily as an excellent opportunity to humiliate the United States. First, they refused to negotiate with the United States directly. Instead, the US is left with Russia running the negotiations. The chief Russian negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, boasted recently that the Iranians had received “much more in negotiations than they could ever have expected. Much more.” He generously allowed that “our China friends were also very efficient and useful co-negotiators.” Thus the Vienna negotiations are effectively bringing together China, Russia, and Iran as an anti-Western coalition, which will help Russia evade Western sanctions.

As a candidate in 2020, President Biden boasted that he would negotiate a new, stronger deal with Iran. But nothing of the kind has happened — no lengthening of the sunset clauses after which Iran can pursue nuclear weapons openly, no limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program, no limitations on further development of Iran’s weaponization capabilities, and no limitations on the development of faster centrifuges.

And far from toughening sanctions on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, the terms of the agreement being negotiated as I write remove virtually all such sanctions, which will add a hundred billion or more dollars to the Iranian coffers annually. That money will be spent largely to encircle Israel with tens of thousands of conventional missiles. The recent spate of terrorist attacks inside Israel demonstrate how much terror even a handful of terrorists, with rifles and pistols, can create, much less with advanced missiles.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken can say all he wants that Iran must never be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, but no one takes such statements seriously — not the Iranians, and not the US’s erstwhile allies in the Middle East. There is a reason that Saudi Arabia will no longer take Joe Biden’s phone calls.


HAVE YOU NOTICED how many of the architects of the 2015 JCPOA and the Biden administration’s effort to conclude a new agreement are Jewish? Wendy Sherman, a principal negotiator of the JCPOA, and today the fourth-ranked official in the Biden State Department; Ben Rhodes, in charge of spinning the media “echo chamber” on the original Iran deal; Secretary of State Antony Blinken; and most notably, Robert Malley, the lead negotiator with the Iranians in 2015, and again today, as well as a senior Middle East policymaker since the Clinton years.

If any of them has been particularly alarmed by the Iranian threat to Israel, it has not been obvious. Malley’s negotiating strategy has consistently been to grant the Iranians whatever they demand. Three senior aides, who were either longtime State Department officials or Biden appointments, have already resigned from Malley’s team, so alarmed were they by the scope of his concessions to Iran.

Malley’s father, Simon Malley, a Jew of Syrian and Egyptian descent, was one of the founders of the Egyptian Communist Party. In the 1970s, Simon Malley and his wife, née Barbara Silverstein, published a magazine, Afrique-Asie, supporting left-wing liberation movements around the globe, for which Simon earned expulsion from France. That decision was subsequently rescinded, at the behest of Yasser Arafat.

The senior Malleys were close friends of Fidel Castro and Arafat, and virulently anti-Israel. The one exception to their support of any movement under the banner “anti-imperialist” was their support of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union is believed to have partially sponsored Afrique-Asie.

Like Barack Obama, Robert Malley inherited his parents’ anti-colonialist views and sympathy for any country with grievances against the United States, including the fanatical theocracy in Tehran. He was one of the principal architects of the objectively pro-Iranian policies pursued by President Obama, throughout his presidency.

And like his parents, he has no love of Israel. After the failure of the July 2000 Camp David summit, he and Hussein Agha, one of the chief Palestinian negotiators, wrote a long article in the New York Review of Books, seeking to remove the onus from Yasser Arafat for the failure of the conference. His views distinguished him from President Clinton and every other member of the American negotiating team. The latter realized that Arafat could not agree to end to the conflict with Israel because he would be left a “dead man walking” on the Palestinian street he had created.

Despite Malley’s “anti-imperialist” heritage, and his corollary view, as described by Martin Peretz in Tablet, that “any opponent of American postwar international expansion is on the side of the angels, and a worthy candidate for rapprochement,” he has held senior Middle East policymaking positions in the Clinton, Obama, and Biden administrations, with stints at the George Soros–sponsored International Crisis Group between Democrat administrations.

His Middle East policy, writes Peretz, can be described in one word: realignment, toward Iran and away from America’s traditional allies, Israel and the Gulf states. That includes downgrading the Abraham Accords, delisting Iran’s Houthi allies as sponsors of terrorism, even as they launch missiles at Saudi cities and starve Yemen’s civilian population, circumventing the Taylor Force Act against “pay for slay” by sending cash to Palestinian officials, and reinstating US support for UNWRA, the only UN agency supporting a group of refugees in perpetuity. Not to mention a nuclear armed Iran in due course.


THERE ARE PLENTY of nonobservant Jews who still respond viscerally to other Jews in grave need. The major efforts of the Joint Distribution Committee on behalf of Ukrainian Jewish refugees are one example. But the type of gemilus chasadim I described a few weeks back with respect to the refugees from Uman who stayed with us for a month is no longer a given.

When Jews lose the gemilus chasadim that has always defined Klas Yisrael, something vestigial and dangerous remains: the need to be perceived as good people. That explains the prominence of Jews in so many movements that are primarily forms of virtue signaling. And when it comes to virtue signaling, taking sides against one’s own people is often the easiest path.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 908. Yonoson Rosenblum may be contacted directly at rosenblum@mishpacha.com)

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