Stuart Baum (MI): ‘I Don’t Believe the Activism and Policy Solutions on the Left are Anti-Semitic’

Stuart Baum

Stuart Baum (22), a Democrat from Detroit, MI, attended Jewish day school growing up and is a recent graduate of Wayne State University where he served as student government president. Baum is an intern in the Michigan state legislature, where he serves as a community liaison, connecting residents’ concerns with legislative priorities. He is also working at the Brennan Center for Justice on advancing and protecting voting rights. As a member of the LGBTQ community, he would like to see more attention paid to gay rights in the presidential campaign.  

We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.

Are you concerned about the increase in anti-Semitism in this country and have you seen evidence of it on campus at Wayne State? I’m definitely concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism in America. The data shows an overall increase in hate crimes and an increased climate of anti-Semitism. But I haven’t ever felt unsafe, or afraid or insecure on campus. I don’t think it’s particularly the crisis that a lot of people think it is on college campuses.

Do you think student groups who are critical of Israel ever cross the line into anti-Semitism? We’re all a product of our upbringing. The Palestinian students on campus were brought up hearing messages that were probably just as far to one side as the messages I heard at Jewish day schools on the other side. Most criticism of Israel doesn’t come from the mindset of anti-Semitism. I think a lot of people who grew up tied to the idea of supporting the State of Israel are scared that anything short of support is a threat. But it’s important to emphasize that there’s room for criticism that isn’t anti-Semitic. It’s on us as Jews to speak up because that’s how you know it’s not anti-Semitic. I only speak out because I care that a nation that acts as a representative of all Jews behaves in a just manner. But it is a blurry line at times because Judaism, and the Jewish people are so intertwined with Israel itself.

What would you like to see the presidential candidates saying about anti-Semitism and how to fight it? I want more candidates to talk about how the rise in anti-Semitism is part of the rise in hate directed to all groups. That’s the right frame to view policy solutions through. And specifically, tying it to the rise of white nationalism and supremacy, which President Trump has sowed in the country. We need to be direct about how much things have changed and how he bears a lot of responsibility for permitting and planting the seeds for that kind of discourse. I liked how Bernie Sanders talked about tying anti-Semitism to hate more broadly and tying it to solidarity with other people who are facing hate.

Some people say the rise in anti-Semitism comes from the right with Trump’s rhetoric and white nationalism and others blame the left including the BDS movement and members of “the squad” in congress. What do you think? I don’t believe the activism and policy solutions on the left are anti-Semitic. They have definitely said some problematic things that need to be called out, but the acts of terror and hate crimes are not inspired by that form of anti-Semitism. They’re being committed by white nationalists who couldn’t be further from the people on the left who are criticizing Israel, even if some cross the line. 

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