Monday, May 2, 2016

Owen Jones and anti-semitism in the left

One of the voices of the new left in Europe, Owen Jones, has spoken clearly about the need to eradicate any trace of anti-semitism in progressive movements. Here is what he said in The Guardian:

"Antisemitism is currently being discussed in the context of the Labour leadership contest, of which more shortly. But suffice to say that, although the sole attempt in human history to exterminate an entire people by industrialised means forced Europeans to confront pandemic antisemitism, this cancerous hatred remains. It can be overt. Take the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, feeding off the despair of austerity; take the antisemitic Jobbik party in Hungary, which one in five Hungarians voted for last year; take the foul intolerance of murderous Islamic fundamentalism. But it is not simply the preserve of neo-Nazi skinheads; it can be subtle too, and it finds expression not just on the right but on the left. All cases need to be confronted for what they are. The Labour leadership frontrunner, Jeremy Corbyn, has been a long-term supporter of the Palestinian justice movement. He could not possibly have known the personal backgrounds of every individual who has joined him at the many rallies he has attended over the years. Some of these people were antisemitic. And while the vast majority of people involved in the movement are – like myself – driven by a passionate support for self-determination, there is a minority that indulges antisemitic tropes. These ideas have to be defeated. Yes, supporters of Palestinian justice get unfair criticisms. “Why do you focus on the plight of the Palestinian people rather than, say, the horrors committed by Islamic State or the suffering of the Kurds?” some ask. (...) I have challenged dodgy pronouncements from people who profess to advocate Palestinian justice.Jewish people are sometimes told that antisemitism is caused by Israel’s actions, for example. These are the same people who would never dream of victim-blaming members of other minorities, or claim that anybody was at fault other than the bigot themselves. Others play linguistic games: how can it be antisemitism, they say, when Palestinians are also “Semites” – members of a group of people originally of the ancient Middle East that includes Jews and Arabs – even though “antisemitism” has meant “anti-Jewish hatred” for generations. (This is like saying, “I’m not homophobic because I’m not scared of gays.”). There are those who imply that Jewish people are somehow synonymous with the Israeli government (a slur echoed by some uncritical cheerleaders of Israeli state policy). And some use terms like “Jewish lobby”, a classic antisemitic trope suggesting there is an organised Jewish cabal exercising behind-the-scenes influence worldwide. And so on. Antisemitism is too serious to become a convenient means to undermine political opponents. It is a menace: not just in its overt forms, but in subtler, pernicious forms too. There’s no excuse for the left to downplay it, or to pretend it doesn’t exist within its own ranks. Rather than being defensive, the left should seize any opportunity to confront the cancer of antisemitism and eradicate it for good."

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