Labour must expel likes of JVL

David Hirsh says the Labour Party must oppose those who fight for antisemitic politics - including Jewish members

December 10, 2020 09:02

Wherever Israel is condemned as a unique evil there will be antizionist Jews joining the charge. Wherever claims of antisemitism are denounced as dishonest attempts to silence criticism of Israel, there will be people prefacing their accusations of Zionist conspiracy with the words ‘as a Jew’. AsaJews parade their Jewish identities in an effort to give their views extra legitimacy in the eyes of a non-Jewish audience. It is an inversion of identity politics. They mobilize their identities in the service of silencing the Jewish consensus of reasonable concern about antisemitism.

Antizionist Jews are not the useful idiots of left antisemitism, they are among its pioneers. They taught Ken Livingstone that Adolf Hitler was a supporter of Zionism, they taught Jeremy Corbyn that Zionism was racism and they taught the University and College Union that Israelis should be excluded from UK campuses and journals. They arm contemporary antisemitism with little particles of fact and with plausible arguments, dressed up as legitimate Jewish opinion.

Left antisemitism in general is embraced by people who believe that they themselves are trenchant opponents of antisemitism. Some of these people are Jews.

It is widely understood that racism is not only about hatred but also about structures of power, institutional norms and inherited ways of thinking. Racism is a social phenomenon which exists objectively in the world. People can go along with it even if they don’t recognise it, even if they strongly deny it. Racism is about what we do and say, not the purity of our subjective motivations and intentions.

Antisemitism is frightening because it is irrational. Some Jews are tempted to believe that they live in a world where antisemitism is a rational response to the bad behaviour of Jews. It is tempting because then Jews could make things better by being good. Sometimes taking on an antisemitic logic saves Jews from the fear of living in an antisemitic world. Jewish antizionism is one way of dealing the stress of living in an antisemitic world. It is understandable as such, but it makes things worse, not better.

Jews are often especially interested in Israel and sometimes Jews can become obsessive about the faults and crimes of Israel — real, exaggerated or invented. Some Jews export their Jewish obsession into non-Jewish spaces and insist that non-Jewish organisations adopt an ideology and culture which puts the crimes of Israel at the centre of their worldview.

The Israeli left adopts the old Bolshevik slogan, ‘the main enemy is at home’ and sometimes they get an enthusiastic hearing outside Israel, where others agree heartily that the main enemy of the oppressed everywhere, is Israel.

Viewed in this frame, the organisation Jewish Voice for Labour serves to kosherize Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitic politics and to smear anyone who says they have experienced antisemitism in the Party. That is its function, that is why it exists. It is there to pretend that Labour Jews are split on the question of antisemitism.

Last week, in an effort to help people boycott Israel, JVL advertised Chanukah candles made in China. ‘Jewish Voice for Forced Labour’ was the meme around social media.

JVL has been an effective voice for antisemitic politics in Britain. If Labour is to save itself it will have to create a culture in which asaJews who fight for antisemitic politics are understood to be threatening not only to the Jewish community but also to Labour’s democratic heart, and to its hopes of creating a plausible alternative government.

The Labour Party appears committed to expelling and opposing members who fight for antisemitic politics. That must include Jewish members who sow confusion about what is, and what is not, antisemitic.

December 10, 2020 09:02

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive