Explaining the Resurgence of Left-Wing Anti-Semitism

Sept. 28 2018

While the rising tide of anti-Semitism on the European left is most evident in the British Labor party, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is an Israel-hater in the old Soviet mold, it is apparent elsewhere in Western Europe as well. Furthermore, writes Alex Joffe, there are disturbing signs that the U.S. is not so far behind. Joffe asks why it is that these hostile attitudes toward Jews and the Jewish state, long present on the fringes of the left, are now moving to the center:

Coupled with the burgeoning of racialized identity politics and “intersectionality”—localized versions of Third Worldism and the “red-green alliance” [between socialists and] Islamists—traditional anti-Semitism has been updated. Jews are suddenly called upon to [make a familiar false choice]: reject their identity and join the vanguard, or become an enemy of the people. . . .

Another explanation for the current explosion of deep-seated anti-Semitism is [that] Jews are simultaneously the most assimilated Western minority and the one that remains demonstrably—even uniquely—grateful to host nations and to the idea of the nation-state and its opportunities. This is intolerable to left-wing positions that reject the nation-state, national identity, and national pride. Jewish attachment to Israel compounds the transgression against post-nationalism, and this connection to a unique and cosmic evil positions the attitude firmly as old-new anti-Semitism. . . .

This sort of reasoning generally appeals most to members of the educated elite, but they have given license to popular outbreaks of what might be called middle-class anti-Semitism, expressed most vividly by hundreds if not thousands of British Labor-party members. A sudden eruption of mostly traditional anti-Semitism from the public was waiting for its moment, with oddly familiar rhetoric: Jews as disloyal, greedy, alien, clannish, manipulative, and conspiratorial. This is merely 19th-century anti-Semitism updated, no longer theological but not yet racial.

But anti-Semitic attitudes also refract another phenomenon: the unrootedness of a broad swath of the British populace from Britishness. Few nations have repudiated their histories with the speed and anger of Britain, and post-imperial and post-colonial Britain possesses a deep self-loathing of its history and culture. Few cultures are so explicit about guilt and repudiation, although this is matched by the American far left, which sees the country’s founding as Original Sin. These are elite formulas that have been disseminated to the middle class through the educational system and media.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, Jeremy Corbyn, Politics & Current Affairs

Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics