“Anti-racism” has for years been a major tenet of Britain’s Labor party, and especially its left wing, notes Tomiwa Owolade; yet those who most proudly proclaimed themselves anti-racists were often most zealous in defending some of the party’s most prominent figures against charges anti-Semitism. To Owolade, this situation is not so contradictory as it may seem, for the very understanding of racism embraced by the British left—and much of the American—is blind to anti-Semitism, and may even encourage it. He cites the opinions of Ash Sarkar, an influential, young, left-wing British journalist who has proven herself eager to condemn Israel and to dismiss any accusations of anti-Semitism against Laborites:
Sarkar . . . argues that anti-racism is actually about dismantling the material inequalities in our society, and that “racism against Jewish people does not result in the harsher prison sentences, wage gaps, stop and search, or unequal healthcare outcomes that we see with other groups.”
[Hatred of] Jews, by this logic, does not qualify as racism, under this definition which emphasizes “structural inequalities”—that same definition to which Sarkar and many others are most attached. If structural inequalities are the basis for racism, then Jews in contemporary Britain cannot by definition be victims of racism. This concept of racism is not only insensitive to anti-Semitism; it also fails to account for prejudice against other minorities in Britain.
Structural inequalities might be a consequence of race, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. If these outcomes were necessarily because of race, this wouldn’t just mean that minorities with worse outcomes were racially disadvantaged. It would also imply that some minorities, like Jewish people, are racially privileged. (And remember: if you are racially privileged, you can’t be a victim of racism.)
This isn’t simply wrongheaded. In the case of anti-Semitism, it is especially dangerous. As the German social democrat August Babel said, anti-Semitism is the “socialism of the fools.” Jews supposedly possess power and privilege; so to “call them out” thus makes one a foe of structural inequalities.