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By Jason Michael
BRITISH LABOUR HAS A PROBLEM. In fact, the British Labour Party has quite a few problems – chief among them is that it is, as the opposition in Westminster, utterly useless. But if you have been paying any attention to the BBC and the British mainstream media – which you really shouldn’t do – you would think that Labour’s problem is antisemitism. Ignoring the fact that James Bundy, the chairman of the Scottish Conservative’s Ruth’s Youth, recently used the term “cultural Marxism” – a phrase coined and employed by the Nazis to describe the work of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and an anti-Semitic dog whistle used today by the racist far-right, the BBC has gone to town on the Labour Party for its criticism of the State of Israel. Apparently that is real antisemitism.
Let us be absolutely clear: Criticising the Catholic Church – or the Church of England for that matter – for covering up child sex abuse is not anti-Catholic bigotry. Protesting the human rights violations of Saudi Arabia is no Islamophobia. The State of Israel is a white European settler-colonial state. In the past few weeks it has legislated to become a Jewish ethno-state. Israel – according to the United Nations – is a serial human rights violator, an illegal military occupier, and guilty of a catalogue of war crimes. Drawing attention to Israel’s routine and flagrant disregard for international law and human rights is not antisemitism. It is a moral imperative.
“Antisemitism” has, however, become the dirty political weapon of our time. Everyone who challenges the power of the political establishment or the reigning media status quo is – in order to shut them up – labelled an anti-Semite. Take for example Roy Greenslade this week in The Guardian. Addressing the challenges faced by the mainstream media, he had this to say of the new or alternative media:
[The mainstream media] has not been superseded by the growth of an all-singing, all-dancing, truth-telling, fresh, responsible, informative, unbiased alternative media. Instead, what has taken hold across the net has been the opposite, based on the surfeit of fake news: a nasty, brutish, hysterical, intolerant mob proclaiming extreme opinions marked by racism, including both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
The Guardian’s sales, like the sales of all other forms of established print media, are plummeting, but rather than facing up to the deep systemic problems of corporately owned news and the falling standards of modern professional journalism, Greenslade – without presenting a shred of evidence – calls the competition racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic. Unlike Greenslade – a professor of journalism – I have over a decade of experience working in the field of interfaith dialogue. As someone who has been a member of the International Council of Christians and Jews and as someone who has published on the subject of Christian-Jewish cultural and religious relations, I happen to know what antisemitism is. I also happen to know it’s not what he thinks it is.
Antisemitism is real. It’s not a prejudice against Judaism – something that has never been far from Christian theological thinking and discourse. That would be anti-Judaism. Antisemitism is something else entirely. It is the racialised and often culturally inherited prejudice and antipathy towards Jews and Jewish civilisation as the alien in our midst, the impure racial other, “the Jew.” It was European antisemitism, nourished by historical Christian anti-Judaism, which led to the Nazi genocide of the Jews – the Holocaust. This hasn’t gone away. Antisemitism is a racist ideology that still haunts Jews and Jewish communities around the world, and – as with other forms of racism – we must never tire in our fight against it.
But this new antisemitism – the use of “antisemitism” to silence dissent, by calling everything anti-Semitic, weakens our ability to combat real anti-Semitic racism. When everyone is an anti-Semite no one is an anti-Semite. Reasonable people who can see through the political weaponisation of this language begin to dismiss – as I have been guilty of doing – almost every claim of antisemitism. We become deaf to a terminology that, ever since Auschwitz, should ring immediate alarm bells the moment we hear it. “Antisemitism,” thanks to pro-government media outlets, has just become part of the background noise of the post-truth world. It has become meaningless.
This is of course very much the success of Zionism; a truly racist and neo-imperialist state-political ideology of hate. There is no “fine line” about it – there isn’t even a hair’s width between Zionism and other forms of racial supremacism. Many Orthodox Jews – for reasons of religious Judaism – reject Zionism (and in some cases the State of Israel) because it fundamentally contradicts the internal logic of Jewish religious revelation and the understanding of exile and return. This Judaism, the most historic Judaism, views Zionism – as it did even before the Holocaust – as a secular heresy; something religious Jews simply cannot accept.
Zionism isn’t even particularly Jewish. Before Theodor Herzl – the “father of Zionism” – Zionism found its earliest supporters in Protestant Christian fundamentalism, in the belief that before the end of the world and the second coming of Christ the Jews would be returned to Palestine. Even today most Zionists are “Christian Zionists,” white Protestant Evangelical Christians – mainly in the United States – who contribute the most to the establishment of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The “hope” of these Zionists is that Jesus will decide to come back – thanks to the great and holy work they have done – and kill off the Jews with other non-Christians for their lack of faith. Now tell me again, who are the real anti-Semites?
When Zionist groups like the Conservative Friends of Israel – Christian Zionists deep within the British political and media establishment – cynically use the charge of antisemitism as a weapon against their political opponents they do immense harm to the fight against real antisemitism. In this form of antisemitism – and that’s what it is – they weaken the anti-racism cause by inuring listeners to the language, making it possible for real racism to flourish unchallenged. They create a smokescreen behind which the State of Israel can hide, allowing it to continue its programme of ethnic cleansing in Palestine without the fear of too much criticism. “Antisemitism” has become little more than a stock word in the media noise of a globalised right-wing post-truth reality – and that is real antisemitism.
Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and Israel’s leaders
3 thoughts on “Antisemitism: A Meaningless Charge”
Extremely well said.
There is no such thing as ‘post-truth.’ That would imply that truth no longer exists, or can be accessed. Which is quite clearly not the case, or you wouldn’t even bother writing your articles. These meaningless, stupid contemporary buzzphrases, often American-minted, are low-level dangerous in the way they devalue language and concepts.
I couldn’t agree more. Truth is objective, but ‘post-truth’ is a very real concept – as disgusting as that is. It is a trick the right wing is now using in order to tell lies. Thank you.