ELIE MISCHEL: TPUSA is not antisemitic; the Left is

Last week, I made the long journey from Israel to Phoenix, Arizona to participate in Turning Point USA’s Amfest, America’s largest annual gathering of political conservatives. Together with Rabbi Pesach Wolicki and a team of young Christian Zionists, we ran the only Israel-focused booth at the conference.

If you are a reader of mainstream media, you might be forgiven for considering our presence at Amfest strange and out of place. According to Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone, TPUSA’s AmericaFest is “infested with antisemitism,” with many of its main speakers - including its founder, Charlie Kirk - sharing a dark hatred for the Jewish people.

These are serious accusations. Is TPUSA really a hotbed of antisemitic white supremacists? After spending nearly three days on the convention floor and personally speaking to over 1,000 participants of every age, race and gender, the answer is unequivocally no.

On Friday night, just before the convention began, we enjoyed a Shabbat dinner together with a small group of traditional Jews and curious Christians. Our guests included leading conservative thinkers like Jack Posobeic, senior Editor for Human Events, Libby Emmons, Editor of the Post Millennial, and Mac Warner, the Secretary of State of West Virginia. Partway through the meal, we were treated to a surprise visit from Charlie Kirk, who spoke about his mentor, Dennis Prager, and his personal commitment, as a Christian, to observing Shabbat. If Charlie possesses a sinister hatred somewhere deep inside his heart, I certainly could not detect it.

Throughout AmericaFest, our pro-Israel booth received an enormous amount of attention from convention participants, almost all of whom requested free Israeli flags (we ran out after the first day). I met hundreds of young Christians who genuinely wanted to learn more about Israel, and many others who were looking for ways to support the Jewish state. Several pastors recorded messages of support for Israel, and some even wept openly as they spoke of their love for the Jewish people.

Nothing is perfect, of course. We met a handful of young white nationalists who were itching for an argument. Tellingly, to support their attacks on Israel and the Jewish people, they made a point of denigrating the Hebrew Bible in comparison to the New Testament. Their line of attack reminded me of how Nazi ideologues, in their attempt to purge the Church of its “Jewish” Old Testament elements, would not allow Dietrich Bonhoeffer to publish a book on Psalms. Happily, we only met a small handful of these losers; the vast majority of young people we met gave me new hope for the future of America, and the future of the America-Israel relationship. More significantly, a few AmFest speakers have made comments that I and many other Jews find crass and distasteful, but at worst, this can be chalked up to their broad tent being slightly overbroad; hardly the kind of intentional antisemitism that, say, “From the River to the Sea” chants are.

Still, pro-Israel speakers far outnumbered the problematic personalities at AmFest. Dennis Prager delivered a brilliant speech, illustrating the connection between pro-Hamas protestors and woke activists who seek to destroy America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. Steve Bannon, the MAGA movement’s leading thinker, has emerged as the most steadfast supporter of Israel's fight against Hamas in American media. At one point during Amfest, he called out to his audience, "Has MAGA got Israel's back?" The response was roaring cheers of approval. And Senator Ted Cruz, one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, capped off the conference by calling out Harvard President Claudine Gay’s disdain for her Jewish students. Not exactly a gathering of antisemites.

Antisemitism is back in style in America, and every decent American must call it out when it rears its ugly head - whether it comes from the left or the right. But here’s the difference. While antisemitism is growing in academia and in the youth culture of the Left, it is marginalized and shrinking on the right. If Tom Dickinson truly wants to help American Jews instead of using antisemitism as a weapon against his political enemies, he should take note.

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