American activist warns: wake up and smell the Jew-hate, Britain

David Bernstein says 'woke ideology' in US is spawning new variants of the ancient hatred of Jews - and its coming here


STRAIGHT off the red-eye from Washington, author and activist David Bernstein meets the JC in a coffee shop near his Paddington hotel. He hasn’t slept — he has an urgent message for Britain’s Jewish community and it’s keeping him awake and alert, he says.

While claiming to promote “social justice” , the “woke ideology” that has swept through US academia, the Democratic Party and the pillars of the liberal establishment are, he says, spawning new variants of the ancient hatred of Jews.

Britain is not as far along this path as America, but it is heading the same way, he warns, and “British Jewry should do all it can to stop this while it can”.

“According to the woke, economic success is conflated with privilege,” he says. “Any time a group is under-represented, that’s evidence of discrimination; every time it’s over-represented, it’s evidence of privilege.

"This is being weaponised against Jews, and it means even a brown-skinned Jew of Iraqi descent like me is seen as ‘hyper-white’, and so demonised.”

Another key “woke” tenet, says Bernstein, is that racism is embedded in the structures of society, creating a binary division between “the oppressors and the oppressed”.
According to this logic, Jews — who once stood shoulder to shoulder with African-Americans and others in the civil rights movement — are oppressors.

Bernstein, 56, was for many years a leading figure in some of America’s most important Jewish organisations, most recently the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, where he served as president and chief executive until the spring of 2021.

But since then, he has broken away from the mainstream, founding and running a new campaign group with a very specific mandate: challenging the “woke”.

The Jewish Institute for Liberal Values (JILV) tries to do what it says on the tin — fight in defence of freedoms that Bernstein claims are under attack from left-wing authoritarians.

And as he explains in a newly published book, Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews, Jews are at particular risk. The former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky agrees. He has contributed its foreword, writing that wokeness “is reminiscent of the totalitarian ideology” he grew up with in Russia.

When it comes to the Jews, “wokeness” has several strands, he argues. One is the strident brand of anti-Zionism fostered in the developing world and the UN by the Soviets during the Cold War, which later took hold in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Unless they denounce Israel and Zionism, American Jews are “entirely shut out from progressive discourse”.

Another is the anti-racism represented by the Black Lives Matter movement, which stipulates that only those with the right “lived experience” are qualified to complain about discrimination: “If you are a white person or a hyper-white” privileged Jew, you have no place doing so.”

At the same time, many American Jewish organisations desperately want to be aligned with what they see as the civil rights movement of the day.

It means , he says, “they talk about antisemitism on the right, but never on the left, or within Islam, and you can’t fight something if you’re not allowed to name it”.

Meanwhile, on the streets, in schools and on campuses, antisemitic incidents, including acts of violence, have surged: “Jews in America are overwhelmingly its most victimised religious community.” And America’s elites are part of the problem.

Last year, for example, nine large student organisations at the prestigious Berkeley law school adopted a by-law decreeing that anyone who supported “the apartheid State of Israel” must never be invited to speak on campus.

The JILV already has several thousand people on its mailing list, says Bernstein, and has raised enough money to employ three full-time staff. Now, he would like to either work with a partner in the UK or even open a branch within these shores.

“What we are doing in America is easily applicable to Britain,” he says. “Look, I say I’m a lefty. I believe deeply in social justice. I support same-sex marriage, universal healthcare and immigrant rights. But there’s still a desire to purge me from the supposed community of the good.

“We need to campaign against this radical social justice warrior version of antisemitism.”
Things won’t change, he says, until believers in freedom raise their voices. Moreover, like cowardice, courage is contagious.

“Every act makes it easier for the next person to speak out.”

‘Woke Antisemitism’, by David Bernstein, with a forword by Natan Sharansky, is available on Amazon now (£15.96)

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