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From radical chic to Jew-hatred chic

by California Digital News

(RNS) — I am eager to see the new biopic “Maestro,” about Leonard Bernstein — not only because I admired Bernstein, but because I like Bradley Cooper as an actor, prosthetic nose and all.

Even still, Cooper admits the movie omits a crucial episode in Bernstein’s colorful life and career.

It might be the scene we needed to see the most.

I am talking about the famous party Bernstein and his wife, Felicia, sponsored for the Black Panthers at their New York apartment in January 1970. The late Tom Wolfe chronicled that social event in his book, “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.”

The guest list included some of the most famous luminaries of American culture: Otto Preminger, Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick and Barbara Walters, among them.

The guests sat, enraptured, as the Panthers regaled them with their platform.

We want all black men exempt from military service. We want all black men who are in jail to be set free … We’d like to take kids on tours of the white suburbs, like Scarsdale, and let them see how their oppressors live … We want peace, but there can be no peace as long as society is racist and one part of society engages in systematic oppression of another.

Wolfe was suspicious of the sudden hipness of such radicalism. In particular, he cited the Aug. 30, 1969, issue of “Black Panther,” which featured an article entitled “Zionism (Kosher Nationalism) + Imperialism = Fascism,” and spoke of the “fascist Zionist pigs.”

Wolfe accused the radically chic of debasing the objects of their fascination with colonial ideas of the “exotic” and “primitive.”

Radical chic pandered to the baser elements of radicalism. It was a good way to thumb your nose at the pretensions of middle class respectability.

In retrospect, radical chic was a collection of boutique ideologies that were mostly talk — what we would now call virtue signaling.

The cult of radical chic, descended from the party at Bernstein’s pad, still lives.

Today, those who sought cachet among the Black Panthers would be among those who defend Hamas, as some did at a public meeting in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday (Nov. 29). “Calling Hamas a terrorist organization is ridiculous, racist and plays into genocidal propaganda,” said one speaker, according to The Guardian. In the days after Oct. 7, the Young Democratic Socialists of America at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, called the deaths of 1,200 Israelis “decolonial action in real-time.”

These are the types who might show up at dinner parties to mingle with members of Hamas, fill their glasses with a great sauvignon blanc and listen attentively as honored guests outline their plans for the elimination of Israel — expressed, of course, in polite euphemisms. At least some of the guests will be Jewish, and they will not even realize their fellow canapé munchers are advocating the destruction of their people.

It started with radical chic, and it has migrated to something far worse.

It is Jew-hatred chic. It is now cool to contemplate the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. It is now cool to call for violence against Jews.

How else can we account for the antisemitic acts that now occur on an almost daily basis?

What makes it worse than anything we have seen in the past?

It is coming from young people — and they are getting younger.

Demonstrators protest the Israel-Hamas war and call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict as they march in downtown Atlanta, Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Demonstrators protest the Israel-Hamas war and call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict as they march in downtown Atlanta, Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Just two things in recent days:

  • At Columbia University, kaffiyeh-wearing students and others chanted “from the river to the sea …” which refers to the eradication of Israel, and called for a renewed intifada. Let us be clear: intifada means “violence against Jews.”
  • A teacher at Hillcrest High School in Queens, New York, attended the Israel rally in Washington. When students learned about this, they stormed the hallways. They tried to get into the teacher’s classroom, and the teacher had to hide in a locked office.

Yes, that happened. In Queens, New York. In 2023, not in Berlin, Germany, in 1936.

Imagine the crowd of students catching that teacher. Does anyone doubt what would have happened?

Actually, it is even worse than “Jew-hatred chic.” This is “terrorism chic.” 

The words of Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for 9/11, recently went viral among young people. This won him posthumous fans — young people.

Seriously (and forgive my abbreviated vulgarity): WTF?

Memo to our young radicals:

Can we get real about Hamas? (Didn’t you see “Fauda?” Wasn’t that enough for you?)

Are you really throwing your support behind this international Manson gang that committed acts so barbaric we have no frame of reference for them?

This is how they treated the hostage children. From HaAaretz, Nov. 28, 2023, (thanks to my friend and colleague, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, for seeing this):

The aunt of 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi, who was released from the Gaza Strip on Monday, said in an interview with the French television network BFMTV that he experienced “horrors” in Hamas captivity.


“Every time a child cried, they threatened him with a rifle to keep quiet,” said aunt Deborah Cohen. “When he arrived in Gaza, all the Gazans, they all beat him. We are talking about a 12-year-old boy!”

The radical chicsters don’t have to support Hamas terrorism to show that they’ve got their lines crossed. One slogan spotted in the past few weeks is “Queers for Palestine.” 

Let me try to figure out the source of this bizarre idea.

This is what you are thinking: LGBTQIA people lack power; Palestinians lack power; therefore, I will equate the two and believe one group’s struggle equals the other.

Um, no. 

Do you have any idea what actually happens to queers in Palestine, which is ruled by Hamas, or in Hamas’ sponsor state, Iran?

In 2016, Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a Hamas commander in Gaza, was murdered — because he was suspected of being gay.

Hamas does not believe what you believe about the world. You have nothing in common with them. These are not your friends.

Once upon a time, European and American supporters of Communism were deemed “useful idiots.”

It was not a good look back then, and it is not a good look now.

This is not about Israel, and it is not about the Jews.

The Jews have only been the proverbial canaries in the coal mine.

This is “nihilism chic.”

This is about civilization itself.

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