Socialists Are Content to Blame Anti-Semitism on Everyone but the Anti-Semites

January 13, 2020 | Ari Hoffman
About the author: Ari Hoffman, a student at Stanford Law School, holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard and writes widely on literature, politics, and culture. His first book, This Year in Jerusalem: The Israel Novel and Why it Matters, is forthcoming from SUNY Press.

Recent articles in Jacobin magazine—the flagship publication of the American hard left—have responded to the upsurge of violent attacks on Jews with articles declaring that “to defeat anti-Semitism we must defeat capitalism” and “only the left can defeat anti-Semitism.” For its part, the likeminded Jewish Currents has simply blamed the victims. Ari Hoffman, noting socialism’s long and well-documented history of hostility toward Jews, takes stock of these arguments:

Jews are being shot and macheted, the editors [of] Jewish Currents collectively mused, because they are more effective at developing real estate and extracting government services. “Fifty-five percent of ḥasidic households in New York City live below the poverty line and have been extraordinarily organized in applying for social services en masse, creating stiff competition for public assistance,” they write. And “for historical reasons involving redlining and white flight, many landlords in the area are Ḥasidim; as a result, members of this community function as the faces, and sometimes the scapegoats, of the ongoing gentrification of these neighborhoods and their worsening housing crisis.”

[Setting aside] this ugly portrayal of Jews, . . . the simplicity of blaming everything on “material conditions,” gentrification, and the existing order is indeed tempting. The Jews become the natural victims of the system that they benefit from, and those who attack them are structurally absolved; their acts of violence get added to the bill of particulars in support of the need for revolution. “Context,” [a favorite term of these writers], does all the work, and what’s left over is picked up by “solidarity,” which can mean anything at all except that Jews deserve protection from those who seek to harm them.

In fact, the relationship [between socialism and anti-Semitism] goes the other way. As with the far right, the socialist left is relentlessly bad news for the Jews. Its most successful contemporary avatar, Jeremy Corbyn, presided over the transformation of one of the great political parties in the West into a [den] of anti-Semites. And its most successful tribune in the United States, while himself a proud Jew, seems unable to quit those like Linda Sarsour who speak for him and see behind him a movement more amenable to their hateful commitments.

Read more on Forward:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now