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Making excuses for violent tyrannies

Progressives forget the slogan “never again” for the Uyghur genocide and the left’s anti-Semitism


Pro-Palestinian activists protest at the White House in Washington on Nov. 4. Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

Making excuses for violent tyrannies
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In November, the municipal government of San Francisco, Calif., took to the streets to clean up the filthy mess that the city had become over the last half decade. Homeless men and women were shunted into shelters and syringes and human excrement were removed from the streets, but not for a visit from the president of the United States, or the British monarch, or for another major Western leader, but instead for the Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. This is the man who has spent the better part of a half-decade openly engaging in genocide against Muslim Uyghurs in western China.

A week earlier a Jewish man had been clubbed to death by a pro-Hamas demonstrator in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Far from being isolated and disconnected events, San Francisco’s welcome of Xi Jinping and the death of a Jewish man on the streets of a California city are directly tied together. They are both evidence of the absolute hypocrisy of the Western world.

For years the slogan “never again” has been trotted out by progressives to ensure that the legacy of the Holocaust was remembered and that outright genocide and anti-Semitism would be finally removed from Western society. Instead, progressives have made excuse after excuse for genocide and anti-Semitism so long as it was done by progressives in the name of academic discourse, post-colonialism, or anti-racism.

This is not to imply that all progressives are hypocrites. John Fetterman, admirably, has championed the cause of American Jews as a United States senator, and some progressive organizations have routinely criticized China’s human rights record. On the whole, though, progressives have proven themselves more interested in scoring points against social conservatives than a consistent and meaningful commitment to human rights.

It is not only conservatives who have noticed progressive hypocrisy. For years, European and American governments reflexively chanted the slogan “never again” and declared to the world that they would never let genocide of any sort or anti-Semitism go unchecked. But in the third decade of the 21st century, not even a century after the Final Solution and the mass murder of Jews, Western governments have sat idly by while Xi Jinping and China’s communist government set up what the Human Rights Foundation noted were very literally concentration camps in western China for the purpose of so-called reeducating Uyghurs.

In 2020, a Uyghur human rights activist argued that it was “unconscionable that European countries would continue having normal relations with a government actively committing genocide.” Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, pointed out in Politico that the communist regime in China keeps “promising to respect human rights and lying about its atrocities, but faces no real consequences from the EU. Europe must show that its commitment to human rights is not just empty rhetoric but defines who we are and determines our actions.”

Public expressions of Jewish faith long practiced in the United States have become risky propositions for American Jews.

The governments of Europe have shown little initiative or even willingness to confront Xi’s dictatorship over its treatment of Uyghurs. For countries that spent 70 years proclaiming, “never again,” argues Isa, that’s not good enough. “We cannot sit idly by while another genocide occurs. When we say never again, we have to mean it.”

Jews in the United States, many of whom are related to victims of the actual Holocaust, face unprecedented threats to their place in American civil society simply by sharing a religion or even merely an ethnic heritage with Israeli citizens. Many so-called pro-Palestinian demonstrations have engaged in rhetoric that threatens Jewish citizens of the United States. The New York Post noted ominously that calls for violence against Jews rose a startling 1,200 percent in 2023. The epicenter of anti-Semitism, noted the Post, increasingly centered on New York City but anti-Semitism across the country increased.

Public expressions of Jewish faith long practiced in the United States have become risky propositions for American Jews. One Jewish father told CNN he wasn’t letting his children wear their yarmulkes out of fear they might be targeted. In October a pro-Palestine rally became so threatening that Jewish students at New York University barricaded themselves inside a library.

Jewish students, a senior at NYU said, they felt “scared to go to class. Scared to wear a Jewish star out in public.” All this seemed hypocritical on “a campus that really promotes diversity and inclusion. Right now, about 15 percent of their population feels alienated. They feel unvoiced. They feel unheard.” The most rhetorically anti-Jewish rallies have taken place in progressive secular spaces, particularly on college campuses, and have served more as intersectional totems—evidence found in the hilarious presence at marches of groups like Queers for Palestine (homosexuality is a capital offense in Gaza)—than meaningful solidarity with Palestinians.

Westerners who want to be taken seriously at all on the question of human rights must begin by meaning what they say. “Never again” must not be reduced to a slogan. It must be declared as a promise, and it must apply to everyone, including American Jews and Uyghurs.


Miles Smith

Miles Smith is a lecturer in history at Hillsdale College. His area of interest is the intellectual and religious history of the 19th-century United States and the Atlantic World.

@IVMiles


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