The government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, Lord Mann, has accused Conservative MP Miriam Cates of making an antisemitic comment when she used the expression “cultural Marxism” in a speech to a Conservative conference yesterday.
Much as I greatly respect Lord Mann, I feel that he is wrong to criticise her use of this term. When compared to unquestionable Jew-hatred which in today’s world is all too commonplace, such an expression is arcane and largely obsolete in the use that Lord Mann ascribes to it. Rather, what matters is the context in which it is used.
A review of Cates’s speech makes it crystal clear that she is not referring in any respect to Jews in her comments. Rather, she is lamenting the poor standards of education for our children and the dangerous messages that are infused into their learning. One can agree or disagree with the points that Cates makes, but it is ludicrous to claim that there is any antisemitic message in them
This is not the first time that the expression has been used, with a wholly non-antisemitic meaning. In 2019 I was the vice chairman of the Defence Division of the Board of Deputies and recall speaking out, at a division meeting, against the Board’s criticism of Suella Braverman (then a backbench MP) for her use of the term “cultural Marxism”.
It is now, just as it was then, an obscure expression with limited meaning as regards Jews but considerable meaning with regard to the ills of aspects of our education system and other features of our society today. Indeed, I recall several experienced Deputies at the time telling me that they had never heard of the term.
I have come to regard accusations of antisemitism of this type as an attempt to weaponize this issue against those on the political right who, as far as I and many others are concerned, do not have a Jew-hating bone in their bodies. Another excellent example of this is the suggestion, made on several occasions in recent years, that to call someone a “globalist” is antisemitic.
Being a globalist means that you believe in policies that are worldwide in scope, putting the interests of the whole planet above those of individual nations. It is an approach to politics and philosophy and is a type of belief, just as being a liberal, a conservative, an environmentalist or a socialist might be. Depending on one’s point of view, to be called a globalist can be complimentary or insulting, but it is not antisemitic. Those who are opposed to globalists include both Jews and non-Jews in their criticism.
What I find highly unfortunate – and indeed, for our community, highly politically problematic - in these attacks on conservative-minded politicians is that they take attention away from real Jew-hatred – the hurling of abuse at Jews for simply being Jews or being supporters of Israel, the patently absurd claim that Jews do not suffer from racism, the attempts to deny or water down the Holocaust, the denial of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself and the hateful depiction of Jews in the media, via cartoons or otherwise.
Instead, by referring to debatable expressions such as “cultural Marxism” as antisemitic, the focus is being shifted on to what most people would regard as arcane trivialities where the targets of criticism, almost always of a conservative mindset, are often philosemitic and strong supporters of Israel.
In conclusion, the weaponisation of antisemitism, as has happened in this dispute, for what in my view are political aims unrelated to Jew-hatred, must stop. If it does not, we risk diluting our defences against much more serious assaults on Jews, Judaism and Israel.
Gary Mond is the chairman of the National Jewish Assembly