Alex Hearn

Why are Jews left to fight antisemitism alone?

Anti-Jewish racism is a symptom of a growing rot that will affect the whole of society in time


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June 01, 2022 13:14

Society often lowers its Jews down the coalmine before understanding whether the environment is too toxic. Bigotry in society or organisations is frequently directed at Jews first. And with a history featuring genocide, pogroms and expulsions, antisemitism is something Jews have learned to identify very quickly.

It happened when the Labour Party embraced authoritarianism and sympathy for terrorism — things that affected everyone. The anti-Jewish ideology was just one element. But British Jews, who make up just 0.3 per cent of the UK population, stood up and spoke out with unprecedented unity. In return, the largest political party in Europe mobilised its apparatus against that tiny Jewish community.

The “good people” in the Labour Party who understood the wider dangers hid behind the Jewish community. They let Jews do the fighting and suffer the toxicity, happy to stand by when there was a surge in antisemitic attacks.

More recently, Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) and JC journalists exposed the anti-Jewish incitement posted by incoming President of the National Union of Students (NUS), Shaima Dallali. But as surely as night follows day, antisemitism is followed by other illiberal thinking. Dallali supported people and organisations who are against basic rights and liberties, believe homosexuality is evil, that the stoning of women is necessary and domestic violence is acceptable.

Dallali was supported by the current President of the NUS, Larissa Kennedy, and by Sara Bafo, President of Goldsmiths Students’ Union. Bafo then denounced a Jewish academic at Goldsmiths, David Hirsh, as a “far right white supremacist” because he made some criticisms of a policy she supported.

Her comment was publicly endorsed “100 per cent” by the Goldsmiths staff union.

Of course, accusing a Jewish sociology lecturer of being akin to a Nazi, especially when he is widely respected for campaigning against antisemitism, and when his own mother had been a child refugee from Nazi Germany, is antisemitic.

These are people who wield significant power in our education system. They influence the environment of students. Some of those students will become politicians, and some of those politicians will go on to shape government policy.

To date there has been no action by Goldsmiths over this incident. To the contrary,

Goldsmiths contacted LAAS to correct the record, saying they were not investigating the incident. Instead, they claimed they had passed it to the “independent” Goldsmiths Student Union to investigate themselves. This was the day after it was reported that Goldsmiths Student Union said they had decided not to investigate.

What message does this lack of consequences send? That what many would consider is racist abuse and bullying of a minority is acceptable, and so diversity is not respected; that you don’t need to engage with the content of what is being said, when instead you can target the status of the person saying it.

Influential organisations have a responsibility. But the Labour Party proved that a culture capable of elevating antisemites into leadership positions can turn a respected organisation into one with a culture of hostility towards minorities.

Amnesty International rejected a call to fight antisemitism in 2015, the same year they sponsored a speaker who denied the Holocaust and called gays “AIDS spreading faggots”. They also ran a campaign in association with “Cage”, who also defended Jihadi John, the man who beheaded captives for ISIS.

Some might assume that antisemitism is of little consequence outside of the Jewish community. They are wrong. The Ukraine war illustrates this. After 1967, the USSR, which once imagined it could use Israel as a Communist outpost to grow its influence in the Middle East, turned decisively to support Arab nationalist regimes. This intensified the antisemitic propaganda campaign by the Soviets, who labelled the Jewish state imperialist, Nazi and illegitimate. Now ex-KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin is justifying a war of annihilation against Ukraine, recycling the same de-legitimisation tropes.

Antisemitism is also integral to murderous violence. In the USA, 10 African Americans were killed in a Buffalo supermarket by a man whose far right white supremacist politics were constructed on antisemitic conspiracy fantasies.

According to statistics from the CST, a British Jew is many times more likely to be attacked than the second-most-attacked minority. It is grossly unfair that it is left to Jews to stand up for liberalism in society when the consequences are so great. It is time for society to deal with the toxicity without sacrificing its Jews first.

Alex Hearn is a Director of Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS)

June 01, 2022 13:14

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