Race and Ethnicity

The Cudgel of Antisemitism

Is there a crisis of hatred against Western Jews, or are they just another casualty in the game of victimhood politics?

Vans belonging to The Community United against Labour Party anti-Semitism group, Culpa, are parked next to a police car ahead of the Labour Race and Faith Manifesto launch on November 26, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

NOTE FROM GLENN GREENWALD: As is true of all the Outside Voices freelance articles that we publish here as part of what is essentially our op-ed section, we edit and fact-check the content to ensure factual accuracy, but our publication of an article or op-ed does not mean we agree with all or even any of the views expressed by the writer, who is guaranteed editorial freedom here. We realize the topic of this essay is controversial, but it is also being debated now more than ever.

In light of Ye’s (formerly Kanye West) antisemitic rants, he has faced widespread condemnation from previous brand partners and a firewall of sponsorship terminations, which has “obliterated his net worth.” Just two weeks after, NBA star Kyrie Irving continues to assume significant personal financial punishments from paused sponsorships and his ongoing suspension from the NBA, after he initially failed to apologize for sharing a link to an antisemitic film; he now faces a long list of demands for his re-instatement — including completing education classes and donating money to the liberal activist group ADL — which ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith called “emasculating.” And now comedian Dave Chappelle — who has long faced accusations of transphobia — faces similar accusations of anti-semitism due to his monologue on the latest Saturday Night Live, which appeared to endorse, or at least spread, some of the premises regarding the power of Jews in media and entertainment which resulted in so many punishments for Ye and Irving. This article by Kriss, a British journalist (see his own Substack here), examines the use of anti-semitism accusations primarily within the context of British politics, and argues that — like other forms of bigotry accusations — they are often cynically weaponized to discredit political enemies and silence debate.

As always, anyone who wishes to submit a thoughtful reply to this article which contests some or all of the arguments may do so. We will publish quality and thoughtful responses in the spirit of open and free inquiry provided that the articles meet our editorial standards. As we explained when we launched this section of our Substack, the objective of Outside Voices is to offer to our readers high-quality, well-documented and well-reasoned articles in the spirt of fostering, rather than suppressing, important political controversies.

By Sam Kriss.

Here is a story about antisemitism on the British left. Last May, Israel fought a brief war in the Gaza strip: over ten days they destroyed forty schools, four hospitals, and nearly a thousand buildings; they also snuffed out around 250 human lives. I went to a protest against the war in central London, not because I really thought it could change anything, but out of the usual obscure sense of duty and guilt. It was a fun day out. There were thousands of us there, filling up the streets; I kept running into people I knew. Most of them were—like me—Jewish. Afterwards, I discovered that the protest had actually, according to much of the press, been an orgy of antisemitic hate. Mostly, this hate took the form of placards comparing Netanyahu to Hitler: these protesters didn’t get the memo that there is a list of political leaders it’s acceptable to compare to Hitler, and while it’s fairly long, Netanyahu’s name isn’t on it.

Probably the most revealing spark of outrage that day concerned a large inflatable puppet that appeared behind the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as he gave a speech. The effigy depicted a man wearing an Arab headdress, with curly devil horns, glowing red eyes, and a large, prominent, hooked nose. This was Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, Sheikh of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates: the previous year, Sheikh Khalifa had normalised relations between the UAE and Israel, so now the protesters were clearly depicting him as a monstrous Jew, using all the classic tropes of age-old antisemitism.

The horns: for centuries Jews were depicted as something not quite human, as animals or demons. Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses gave him a pair of goatish horns; in 1262 an ecclesiastical synod in Vienna ordered all Jews to wear a horned hat. The bloodstained hands: all those libels about Jews drinking Christian blood, kidnapping children to consume their blood, baking the blood into our matzos. The nose hardly needs explaining. Antisemitism was on the march in London, and once again Corbyn was associating himself with it; he had plopped himself in front of “the world’s most racist 10 foot tall inflatable” and said nothing. “He should be expelled from the Labour Party immediately. Not suspended. Expelled. As should any other Labour MP or member who attended.”

The truth was a little more prosaic, but nobody bothered correcting themselves. The effigy had actually been made for a much earlier protest against the UAE’s involvement in the Saudi war in Yemen. They had given Sheikh Khalifa bloodstained hands because his forces were killing Yemeni civilians. They’d given him devil horns because they didn’t like him and devils are generally considered to be bad. And as for the nose—well, Jews and Arabs are brothers, and Khalifa bin Zayed happened to have a large, prominent, hooked nose. That was all. As it turns out, most people are more concerned with the reality of the present than the symbols of the thirteenth century.

This doesn’t mean that there was no antisemitism at the march. In fact, there was: I witnessed it myself. Near the Israeli embassy, a group of young men had jumped up onto the wall around the Royal Garden Hotel, and one of them was screaming into a megaphone. “Fuck Israel!” he yelled, and a portion of the crowd chanted “fuck Israel!”in response. “Fuck the Zionists!” he yelled, and the crowd repeated that too. And then, hoarser than ever: “Fuck the Jews!”


Categories: Race and Ethnicity

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