The following article is based on a Twitter thread, here. The author plans to expand it into a longer piece.
Momentum has produced a video on antisemitism. I think this is a step in the right direction, and it’s good to see Momentum putting out content that directly challenges the idea that there’s no antisemitism on the left. But there’s quite a bit in this I’d query...
It seems to present antisemitism on the left mainly as an incursion from wider society, and figures antisemitism as essentially a right-wing phenomenon that seeps into the left. But there are specific, discrete forms of antisemitism that are “organic” to the left.
These have manifested both as the “primitive” form of left antisemitism (invective against Jewish capitalists, “the socialism of fools”, etc.), and a more contemporary form based on a conspiracy-theorist type of anti-Zionism, originating with Stalinism.
It’s vital that the left understands this, and doesn’t see things solely in terms of barring the door to right-wing antisemitism aberrantly expressing itself on the left, but also in terms of acknowledging, confronting, and uprooting left antisemitism itself.
I also found the bit where Tania says “people inteorrogate me about Israel, but I have no connection to it at all, I boycott Israeli goods” a bit uncomfortable. Setting aside the question of whether boycotting Israel goods is the right thing to do... what if she didn’t?
What if she did feel some connection, however loose, to Israel, as (like it or not) most Jews do?
The implicit view of many on the left seems to be: “As long as you acknowledge that Jews are not collectively responsible for Israel, and not all Jews are Zionists, you can say what you like about the ones that are.” That needs challenging too.
I’d also take issue with the claim that oppressed people must have an absolute right to “define their oppression in whatever terms they see fit.” If someone says “the oppression of the Palestinians is part of a Zionist conspiracy to dominate the world”, that should be challenged, even if the person saying it is themselves Palestinian. Do they have a “right” to say it? Yes; I’m for free speech. But that doesn’t make it any less reactionary or worthy of challenge.
Jews historically “defined our oppression” in all sorts of different terms - some religiously rooted, some based on various different politically analyses - and drew all sorts of conclusions. Some of those conclusions were wrong!
A left that said, “well, we have nothing concrete to say on this, all definitions are equally valid and the oppressed must be allowed to define their own oppression however they like” would not have been very effective as a force for actually confronting that oppression.
And finally, I could really have done without the “it’s okay because Jez knows the score and will take care of it” coda. But I guess that comes with the territory with Momentum.
Properly to get to grips with this stuff we need to have a rigorous, ongoing discussion about the nuts-and-bolts. Jewish voices must be amplified, but I don’t claim any particularly authority for my view on this because I’m Jewish. The whole left needs to thrash this out.