What I’ve seen often and what really needs to be addressed is how people on the left react to accusations that their friends and/or allies are doing things that are antisemitic. They’re quick to assert “conspiracies from the right (or relative right in the case of the Labour antisemitism issue),” “crying wolf,” “privilege (white Jews don’t have Jewish privilege and white privilege and experiencing antisemitism are not mutually exclusive),” and, of course, “Zionism.” 

The problem here is in suppositions. Because someone is on the left, they assume everyone there is anti-racist and, by extension, against all forms of racism including antisemitism. But the thing is, it’s not that simple. This is why it’s so galling for Jews to hear Jeremy Corbyn say that he’s against “antisemitism and other types of racism” when we’re not questioning him on his commitment to fight other forms of racism. All racisms function in different manners with different stereotypes and different forms of marginalization. You can’t be “antiracist” and not understand that. You can’t be against “antisemitism” in principle and not in action. It’s the inaction that’s become very frustrating from a Jewish perspective. It’s the routine acceptance and denial of antisemitism on the left that is the problem, not whether Cobyn himself believes in antisemitic conspiracy theories or hates Jews qua Jews.

Take the situation at Oberlin College where various members of the faculty and student body have lined up to defend a professor who spreads antisemitic conspiracy theories on public social media while also teaching “social justice writing” classes. I have no doubt that the professor is antiracist in many areas, but she is an antisemite. She has not apologized, claimed that she is not antisemitic despite piles of evidence that she is, and people have acted angrily to the notion that she should even apologize. The anger at this point isn’t so much at the professor in question but at those who are lining up to defend her for her unrepentant actions, as if antisemitism is to be tolerated because the antisemitic speaker in question is valuable in other parts of the social justice fight.

The problem here is ultimately that a lot of people on the left believe that the fight against antisemitism no longer holds value or that, by virtue of Jews being “privileged” or “white” or Israel’s oppression of Palestinians they have somehow come to the belief that antisemitism is either no longer a problem or is no longer worth fighting. Tacit acceptance of antisemitic allies is bad enough, but defending them at the risk of normalizing their views is quite simply aiding in the spread and growth of antisemitism. 

But we have reached a point where accusations of antisemitism are treated as more offensive than actual antisemitism and that means that Jews on the left will either need to start swallowing their bile and put up with the antisemitism or leave. It’s difficult to put your whole self into a movement that tells you that it won’t watch your back when you’re threatened no matter how much you want to support it. 


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