The anti-antisemites with a blind spot

The hypocrisy of some people on the issue of antisemitism needs to be called out

August 02, 2017 17:19

Anyone who has the faintest familiarity with the Jewish community knows that there is not a single issue on which we are completely united. Religious observance, politics, football – there is precisely nothing on which we all agree.

The initial reaction to Kevin Myers’s now infamous piece is no exception to that rule. Although it was met by a wave of criticism, representatives of the Irish Jewish community defended him, saying he had “inadvertently stumbled into an antisemitic trope” about Jews and money.

We should not be surprised by this. No antisemitism accusation against anyone high profile would be complete without the appearance of the stock character of the ‘Jewish friend’, defending their good mate from those who just don’t understand him. Mel Gibson, John Galliano, Ken Livingstone; each time we saw some Jews rushing to their defence and working overtime to try and persuade us that these people were not what they appeared.

We see this far too often with people who are perceived to be pro-Israel. Individuals who make comments which can easily be seen as antisemitic are sometimes given a special pass by members of our community because of their apparent support for Zionism.

But the other side of this coin is that when antisemitic comments are made by people on the Left, they are all too often ignored – and at times actively denied - by Jews on the far-Left.

Michael Segalov is a Jewish far-left journalist. Like many in the Jewish community, he condemned Mr Meyers’s article. But he has saved his real anger for those he accuses of smearing the Labour party with accusations of antisemitism, referring to them as “vile, dispicable [sic] chancers making a mockery of antisemitism”.

Mr Segalov has referred to his history of experiencing antisemitic abuse and fighting far-right antisemites. He also shows a spectacular lack of self-awareness.

“Antisemitism is a problem. It must be called out when it rears its ugly head” he has written. That undeniable truth is immediately followed by the claim that, “For months we have been bombarded with bulls**t accusations of antisemitism”; in reference to Labour…Now, when actual antisemitism appears from the right… silence”.

Responding to one commentator, who wrote that the Sunday Times’ swift sacking of Mr Myers showed up Labour’s attitude to antisemitism in its ranks, he wrote: “I've had nazi salutes in my face, slurs, abuse, all sorts. Always from the right. Never the left… Cos anti-Semitism isn't a joke, a game. It's not for you to use as a political football. It has consequences. Learn some f***ing respect”.

The hypocrisy is hard to stomach. Last September Segalov wrote: “As a Jewish Labour member, I'm sick of antisemitism being used as a political weapon against Jeremy Corbyn”.

He went on:

“It’s the left, and Corbyn’s supporters, who’ve put their bodies on the line time and time again to protect us from these racist organisations.

“That’s why these cries of antisemitism make a mockery of a real and present danger. Corbyn’s commitment to fighting discrimination and prejudice has been well documented for decades. His supporters are those who’ve stood alongside him”.

What “protection” would that be, comrade? What “commitment”? People like Jackie Walker, who trumpet their “anti-racist” credentials while parroting far-right conspiracy theories about how “many Jews were the chief financiers of the slave trade”?

Corbyn’s long-term support for Hamas, whose founding charter includes some of the most viciously antisemitic language you’ll read outside of Mein Kampf, as a “movement for social justice”?

“Accusing these people now of peddling prejudice is nothing but political point-scoring at its worst”, Mr Segalov wrote, indulging in some pretty blatant political point scoring of his own.

“It undermines real hatred, and waters down the impact of calling out antisemitism when it rears its ugly head. 

“I’m not saying Labour members haven’t experienced antisemitism inside the Labour Party”, he thoughtfully hedged near the end of the article.

“Those few who blindly label all incidents of antisemitism as anti-Corbyn slander and restrictions on critiquing Israel need to listen to the voices of victims and let conversations about Judaism and Israel be led by Jewish members: we are here and we know how to speak”. 

Lovely words, to be sure – except that Jews within Labour who instead of squawking about “smears” have had the courage to call out the rampant antisemitism within the party have all been attacked.

In one response to Mr Segalov’s tweets, a left wing Jew said that “a year ago, antisemitic posts starting appearing on my FB - it came as quite a shock...and they were being put there by newly politicised members of the Labour Party…”

He went on to tell Mr Segalov that “the people who were being antisemitic on my FB shared your article… to prove there isn't a problem.

“As for your fight against the far-right… It means little when you don't speak out strongly enough against the problem on the left atm [at the moment]. It has real-life consequences for people”. 

Inevitably, in the weeks and months to come, there will be further examples of antisemitic language, from both the Right and Left. Maybe those on either side of the political divide might spend just a little time considering why they are prepared to vocally criticise antisemitism emanating from ‘the other’, while ignoring, denying or downplaying its presence on the side they perceive to be their own.


August 02, 2017 17:19

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