Left-Wing Equivalents to the Alt-Right Lie within the Poison of Antisemitism
The Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers effectively ended his career when, in writing about the BBC gender pay gap, he suggested that certain presenters were able to barter for higher salaries because of their Jewish backgrounds.
It is no surprise that Myers would harbour antisemitic sentiments. He did, after all, once describe himself as a Holocaust denier. What is bewildering is that the editors would view them as fit to print in the first place. It reflects a disturbing cultural problem in Britain.
Three years of polling commissioned by the Campaign Against Antisemitism has revealed that one-third of British Jews have considered leaving the UK in response to antisemitic discrimination.
Shockingly, only 59% feel welcome in their country and a majority mistrust the Crown Prosecution Service to tackle antisemitic hate crimes, which this year have been the highest on record.
The most sobering aspect of the CAA’s survey is that most British Jews are more concerned by antisemitism on the political left than the threat of the antisemitic far-right.
America saw the vulgar face of antisemitism when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville
The Labour Party is by far seen as the political party most tolerant of antisemitism in its ranks. Chris Williamson, a shadow minister, dismissed these complaints as “bullshit” designed by saboteurs. Such contemptuous attitudes are unlikely to rebuild trust.
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone brought disgrace to Labour through his bizarre rants painting Adolf Hitler as a pioneering Zionist who simply “went mad and murdered six million Jews”. Livingstone, who has a history of antisemitic comments, was unrepentant for trivialising the genocidal intent of the Holocaust, but his Labour membership was only temporarily suspended.
Criticism of the Israeli government is not inherently antisemitic. Many Jews, including Holocaust survivors, have condemned human rights violations and military assaults against the Palestinians. Israeli journalists such as Tanya Reinhart and Danny Rubenstein have described their treatment as apartheid.
However, Shami Chakrabarti’s report into antisemitism in Labour found that anti-Israeli rhetoric can be a toxic vessel for antisemitism. Zionist - sometimes shortened to “Zio” - has become a term of abuse.
At the launch of the Chakrabarti report, a Corbyn supporter, indulging in the antisemitic trope of Jewish media control, accused Ruth Smeeth MP of working “hand-in-hand” with the press. Following this incident, Smeeth reported 25,000 antisemitic communications to the police including death threats.
Even the centre-left Liberal Democrats have harboured antisemitism. Baroness Jenny Tonge, who still sits in the House of Lords as an Independent, accused the “Israeli lobby” dominating the financial system and alleged the Israeli Defence Forces were involved in organ harvesting - a reconstruction of antisemitic canards about Jewish bankers and blood libels.
David Ward MP (since expelled) accused “the Jews” of perpetrating injustice against their Palestinians and suggested that the Board of British Jews was an “all-powerful” body bankrolled by wealthy elites.
America saw the vulgar face of antisemitism when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. Alongside neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and a group of them, armed with assault rifles, terrorised congregants at a local synagogue.
President Donald Trump defended the Unite the Right demonstrators as “good people” and labelled their anti-fascist opponents - including the murdered Heather Heyer - as the “alt-left”, equivocating them to the alt-right ideologues.
The term “alt-left” has also been used in Britain to refer to tabloid-style independent media outlets, and in the US to insult supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has himself been subjected to antisemitic slurs from-so called progressives of being an Israeli or Russian agent.
A valid use of the term could be in reference to antisemitism on the left. An example of alt-left antisemitism is an “inclusive” Chicago LGBT pride event banning Star of David flags and then ridiculing “Zios” in the resulting backlash.
The former BBC presenter and Green Party activist David Icke has built a career promoting conspiracy theories claiming that the Jewish Rothschild family puppeteer world politics and banking. Or consider Louis Farrakhan, a Black Lives Matter advocate who accuses Jews of coordinating the transatlantic slave trade and the 9/11 attacks.
The undiluted antisemitism of the far-right has raised its foul head in America and AGAIN IN EURope. But its manifestation on the left is more subtle and obscured
Antisemitism is a unique form of racism and prejudice, as Jews and antisemites come in all colours and creeds. Some neo-Nazis have formed alliances with antisemites in the Muslim world such as Hezbollah and Syrian Ba’athists, overcoming ethnic differences through their mutual Jew-hatred.
It is a pervasive poison as it ascribes malevolent stereotypes to Jews in a way to embed itself throughout the political spectrum. It was “National Socialists” who built their own trade unions and appropriated class-based politics while paving the way to the death camps.
The undiluted antisemitism of the far-right has raised its foul head in America and again in Europe. But its manifestation on the left is more subtle and obscured, manipulating discourse about global capitalism, media bias and the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to excuse hatred against Jews.
Anyone who claims to stand for progressive or socialist values must be attentive to recognising and opposing it. Responding to concerns about antisemitism with hostility or apathy amounts to complicity - in Britain it is a betrayal of the core values of the left as much as it of the Jewish community.
About the author
Jacob Richardson began his career with Disclaimer and writes on culture, politics and society. Politically he is a democratic socialist and Labour Party supporter. His other interests include cinema, psychoanalysis and professional wrestling.
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