Antisemitism From the Left


For the sake of balance, or maybe convenience, antisemitism from the left and right are often treated as mirror images of each other. But a new study by the ADL suggests that, in Europe at least, they are very different in origin, development and manifestation. And the report warns that, by emphasizing both as being essentially the same, we are in danger of broad brushing out the seriousness of the phenomenon.

Released last week, the survey focused on France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Compiled with local partners of ADL, the study concluded that “expressions of anti-Israel bias from left-leaning political organizations … have devolved into antisemitism and even violent attacks against local Jewish communities.” While each country has a different profile — and the left is a complex mix of ideologies rather than a uniform progression of social theory — the anecdotal evidence is worth noting.

According to the report, the road to antisemitic venom from the left most often begins with comment on Israel and its half-century occupation of the Palestinians. The progression then develops from taking a pro-Palestinian stance to the use of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric, and then devolves into outright antisemitic hate.

Former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is the best-known example of this phenomenon. According to the report, antisemitism “increased markedly” during Corbyn’s five years leading the party, which was traditionally the political home of Britain’s Jews. Corbyn was ousted and his successor reversed course, instituting new guidelines to combat antisemitism in the party and signaling “to thousands of members, mainly from the far left of the party,” the report stated, “that their views were unwelcome.”

In France, left-wing antisemitism includes both anti-Zionism and traditional antisemitism. The pattern is “to engage in antisemitic rhetoric, to deny that antisemitism exists on the left, to excuse the antisemitism of those assumed to be political allies, and then to claim that they are the real champions in the fight against antisemitism.”

In Germany, traditional expressions of antisemitism are denounced, while anti-Zionism is being normalized. And “the discourse surrounding Israel, antisemitism and growing support for BDS is now causing anti-racist alliances to fall apart.”

And in Spain, the report says, some members of the government “openly defend the dissolution of the state of Israel.” And “the BDS movement and the extreme left are the same thing in Spain,” while the right is “almost entirely pro-Israel and guards against antisemitism.”

The report argues that these findings in Western Europe could be a bellwether of what’s to come in the United States. To the extent that may be true, the Jewish community needs to take note.

We understand that the United States is not Europe. We recognize that the American left bears little resemblance to many of the European varieties. And we acknowledge that it is a mistake to generalize on a sensitive issue like antisemitism. Nonetheless, the ADL report raises cause for concern. ■

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  1. The ADL study of antisemitism emanating from left-leaning political organizations in Western Europe IS a bellwether of what is already occurring in the United States.
    As in Europe, in the U.S. “the road to antisemitic venom from the left most often begins with comment about Israel and its half-century occupation of the Palestinians” (in reality, Israel’s half-century control over Judea and Samaria, aka the “West Bank,” came about when Israel liberated those territories from an illegal 19-year occupation by Jordan between the years 1948 and 1967). We can see ever-increasing antisemitism being spewed on American college and university campuses today— first in the form of anti-Zionism and then morphing into unabashed hatred of Jewish students on campus.
    As antisemitism “increased markedly” in the British Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn — traditionally the political home of British Jews — so did antisemitism increase among radical progressives in the U.S. Democratic Party under the banner of anti-Israel propaganda and antisemitic tropes. However, unlike the British Labor Party, the Democratic Party has failed to take effective action to stem the tide of antisemitism among its members.
    And there lies a critical difference. By failing to combat growing antisemitism within the party, and by failing to strongly admonish the radical progressives that “their views are unwelcome,” the democrats are allowing their party to become fertile ground for the growth of antisemitism in an America that was established to give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” (George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, 1790).


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