I’ve harped on this for a while, so I don’t need to do it again. Instead, I’ll let someone else do it for me.
Most of you, if you’ve read the news, know that the Labour Party in Britain is in trouble, having expelled several members for anti-Semitic comments, some of those comments pretty vile. In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, “The British Left’s ‘Jewish Problem,’” English writer Kenan Malik analyzes the issue. I’m not going to add much value to the quotes I’ll give, so you’ll probably want to read the whole piece, especially the second and third paragraphs below (my emphasis):
Yet neither the cynicism nor the hypocrisy should distract us from the problem of anti-Semitism — not just in the Labour Party, but on the political left more generally. It is not that the left is packed with anti-Semites; rather, too many among them have been willing to accommodate bigotry.
This acquiescence is rooted in the changing character of the left in recent years. Anti-Semitism used to be a problem primarily of the right. It wasn’t that the left had a totally clean bill of health — there is a history of left-wing anti-Semitism — but its firm foundation of universal values and egalitarian principles established a proud tradition of fighting bigotry against Jews.
In recent decades, however, much of the left has retreated from these commitments. Where before radicals challenging inequality and oppression did so in the name of universal rights, many now stress multiculturalism, celebrating a world divided into distinct cultures, each with its own ideas, beliefs and values. Such “identity politics” turns on its head the dictum of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that one should judge people “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Once identity becomes the primary feature of political life, then people are judged as much by the group to which they belong as by their character or principles.
After decrying an identity politics that makes people hold all Jews responsible for Israel’s actions, and thus allowing them to go after Jews themselves, Malik adds that he also deplores those who equate criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism. I have a bit more trouble with that because criticism of Zionism is not identical to criticism of Israel. (I don’t automatically think that critics of Israel are anti-Semitic.) Zionism is simply the view that Jews should have a homeland in the Middle East. That is a fait accompli, and so anti-Zionism is the denial or wish for reversal of that fait. You can of course, say that Israel shouldn’t exist, or shouldn’t have been allowed to exist, but at least admit it if that’s what you mean. But do recognize that Israel is here and isn’t going anywhere, and there will be no peace that doesn’t recognize that fact.
Malik adds this:
The final issue, and perhaps the one most difficult to broach for many on the left, is the growth of Muslim communities in the West. “It pains me to have to admit this,” wrote Mehdi Hasan, one of Britain’s leading left-wing Muslim voices, in 2013, “but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community, it’s routine and commonplace.”
Last month, an opinion poll of British Muslims bore out Mr. Hasan’s contention. It showed a significant proportion of British Muslims — 30 percent to 40 percent — clinging to virtually every conspiracy theory about Jews: that they held too much power over government, the media, business and world affairs.
There are complex reasons for the growth of anti-Semitism among British Muslims. But whatever the reasons, these are attitudes and beliefs that must be challenged every time they surface. Many liberal Muslims do just that, often at great cost. But too many on the left have been willing to overlook such bigotry.
. . . It is not that Labour’s leadership is anti-Semitic. What is troubling has been its unwillingness to call out those who are. And that is true of too many on the left.
h/t: Greg Mayer