[Marxism] "Antisemitism in the Movement"?

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Sat Jul 15 14:29:43 MDT 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "kersplebedeb" <info at kersplebedeb.com>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition" 
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Saturday, July 15, 2006 9:06 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] "Antisemitism in the Movement"?

> Yoshie, you seem troubled by this movement event happening at 
> Bluestockings (a radical left bookstore). I have no knowledge of how the 
> discussion will unfold, or how the event was planned (though Peter 
> Staudenmeier has a good rep. in my books), but i have the opposite gut 
> reaction as you: i wish i was in NYC so that i could attend!
> Why the differing reactions?
> Well, i think there are three questions here: (1) does anti-semitism exist 
> in the left, (2) is that why the left gets accused of anti-semitism in 
> some quarters and (3) is that why "many" Jewish activists have abandoned 
> the left.
> While i might agree with Yoshie on points 2 and 3 (i.e. i think concerns 
> about left anti-semitism in the mainstream press and in the official 
> anti-anti-semitism industry are disingenuous, and i don't think there is a 
> problem of any significant numbers of Jewish activists having been driven 
> away by anti-semitism - though several i know have been disheartened by 
> it) i think we defniitely disagree on point 1.
> As a non-Jew who has been active for twenty years i have seen a lot of 
> anti-semitism on the left (of course i've also seen loads of other 
> problematic things, including sexism and racism and hompphobia and 
> transphobia and middle class dominance, but they're not what's being 
> discussed here), some of it clearly stemming from ignorance and bad 
> manners, but also some of it clearly political.
> Not sure if i should now give a list of incidents, comments, statements, 
> etc. (it strikes me as a silly exercise) or what. I would certainly agree 
> that anti-semitism often is used as a canard against the left, especially 
> the anti-imperialist and national liberation movements, but to go from 
> there to say that "there is no issue" is quite a leap. Indeed, while the 
> canard would probably live on as long as the Jewish community was tied to 
> the zionist project, it would be a lot less effective if a the left had a 
> coherent and consistent position on anti-semitism.
> I'm certainly not saying i have such a thought out position to offer, but 
> having left activists discussing the question at a left bookstore 
> advertised on a left website (i.e. the Bluestockings event listed below) 
> is to me a step in the correct direction, and should not be conflated with 
> those right-wingers who are simply out to smear all opposition to zionism.
I agree with most of what you say, but suggest that question (1) might be 
phrased differently. Rather then 'Does anti-semitism exist on the left?' 
(which is a non-starter, of course anti-semitism and other forms of 
prejudice will be found to some degree in any large movement), instead we 
should ask 'is anti-semitism more or less prevalent (or equally so) on the 
left than in other groups?' But you need a decent definition of what 
constitutes 'anti-semitism' - with those propagandists of 'the new 
anti-semitism' there can be no discussion on this subject. When they say 
that anti-Zionism = anti-semitism, then they are always going to be able to 
claim that there is much anti-semitism at least on the far left, where 
anti-Zionism is a standard position to take. One way to fight back against 
this argument is to ask whether racial suprematism is more prevalent in 
Zionist movements than elsewhere. Alas, this seems to be a pretty common 
informal belief amongst many Zionists, that Jewish people are by virtue of 
their ethnicity (never mind the fact that that itself is such a murky area) 
of superior intelligence and ability to others (especially to Palestinians) 
and thus have some a priori rights compared to other groups. One has to be 
very careful how to frame that, though, as it can easily sound like genuine 
anti-semitism. But when you find (as I have) Zionists quoting that fascist 
eugenicist Hans Eysenck on racial matters, ask them whether they agree with 
his views on black people. You can't have one without the other.


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