Adam Milstein: A Jewish Voice Keeping the Left Honest

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For decades, the majority of American Jews have voted with the Democratic party. Values like social welfare, civil rights, labor and environmental protections are championed by the progressive party, the natural home for Jews pursuing their commitment to Tikkun Olam or repairing the world. As a people particularly sensitive to injustice, Jews have been at the forefront of the fight for racial justice in the U.S. since the dawn of the civil rights movement. Jews like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Jack Greenberg marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., while three of the NAACP’s founding members were Jewish.

More recently, Jews have wholeheartedly embraced progressive social justice movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter (BLM), and Pride. Though these movements speak to the Jewish need to fight injustice wherever it occurs, many Jews found themselves looking the other way when organizers of the Women’s March were found to have ties to Islamist terror. They looked the other way when BLM published a platform plank singling out Israel for the crime of genocide. They looked the other way when Pride marches turned away supportive protesters with Jewish stars on their pride flags. This has been the quiet reality for progressive Jews in recent years. So how did the Democratic party, the natural political home of a vast majority of American Jews, become so unwelcoming to its greatest proponents?

Adam Milstein has an answer. Milstein is a prominent American of Israeli descent philanthropist and the Co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation alongside his wife Gila. His philanthropy primarily centers on support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship by strengthening Jewish identity and communities in the U.S. He supports organizations like StandWithUs and Israel on Campus Coalition, initiatives that combat the increasingly anti-Zionist and antisemitic forces festering in the most progressive of American institutions: elite college campuses. Milstein has experienced firsthand the challenges pro-Israel advocacy faces from the progressives that are growing ever more critical of the nation-state of the Jewish people. As a longtime critic of the left’s anti-Israel tendencies, he sees the problem clearly for what it is. As he wrote in an article for The Washington Times, “Radical progressives have begun to take over the Democratic Party.”

Radical progressive initiatives like Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), in addition to BLM, seek to level the playing field for marginalized groups by promoting equity of outcomes rather than mere equity of opportunity. These initiatives have “carved out large pieces within the left’s agenda” with little room for pushback, Milstein wrote for The Jerusalem Post. In keeping with their liberal worldview, many Jews felt a pull to support these initiatives, but, as Milstein explains, this often came at the expense of their own Jewish interests. “Enamored with the seemingly laudable goals of DEI: to promote the representation, participation, and fair treatment of historically marginalized groups, liberal Jews ignored DEI promoters, and CRT advocates, as they advanced a radical agenda to fundamentally undermine American values.”

Most alarming to Milstein is that these initiatives do not see Jews as a marginalized group. The many millennia of Jewish trauma have no clout on the scale of intersectional injustice. Within this radical framework, Jews are labeled as white and privileged and placed in the category of the oppressor. It naturally follows that Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, is labelled as a colonizing, oppressor nation at its core. Anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist must then, as the logic goes, support apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people. According to Milstein, “Liberal Jews failed to recognize how CRT and DEI initiatives, and intersectional theory would be weaponized against them.”

It was no surprise to him when the Progressives not only turned a blind eye but reacted with vitriol immediately following the October 7th, 2023, terror attack on Israel by Hamas. Before Israel even had a chance to formulate a counterattack plan, prominent progressive voices set the blame for the brutal murder of 1,200 Israelis solely at the feet of Israel itself, blaming the occupation. They propped up Hamas as a freedom-fighting liberation group rather than a dangerous terrorist organization. Some even denied the atrocities took place. These responses shocked Jews, especially Progressive Jews, across the country on an existential level, bringing their quiet reality into a much starker light.

Milstein traces their shock back to a fundamental inability to wrestle with the troubling signs coming from within their own party. “Historically and for good reason, Jews have been fixated on the antisemitism from the far right as our greatest threat. This focus on antisemitism’s political affiliation left us vulnerable. We have virtually ignored the growing warning signs of antisemitism from the Islamo-leftist camp.” For so many liberal Jews, denialism was more favorable than facing the ugly truth. For years, the term anti-Zionism has given the left cover to single out Israel as an unjust colonial, apartheid power while ignoring the complex reality on the ground. Now many Jews are waking up to the fact that anti-Zionism is merely the latest iteration of antisemitism’s age-old ability to adapt to the current political climate.

Adam Milstein has been keeping the American left honest for years with his outspoken critiques of its often thinly veiled antisemitism, and it’s time liberal Jews start to listen. He advises that they should no longer blindly vote for the Democratic candidate simply because they uphold classically liberal values of social justice. They must relocate their political home to the center, because the extremes of both parties are problematic. They must make careful considerations based on individual candidates’ commitment to fighting antisemitism and upholding a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Liberal Jews no longer have the luxury of denying their own interests in favor of initiatives that misunderstand and misrepresent the Jewish story. The Jewish vote is powerful, and it’s now up to liberal Jews to use their civic voice to hold the left accountable, just as Milstein does.

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