So it came to pass I was on Facebook this week and a post came up that caught my eye. A friend of mine, someone I knew in real life, had posted a comment on a group that I'm not a member of, claiming the political left had a long history of anti-Semitism.
The comment he made was in response to the daubing of anti-Semitic graffiti on a synagogue in North London on Hanukkah. The post read:
Anti-semitism has long standing roots on the Left - read Marx on 'The Jewish Question' - and please remember that Muslims are brought up, in varying degrees, to loathe Jews and for some indeed - it takes but a few - to envisage a world where they are wiped out. The Left are allies of a certain stripe of Islam so don't immediately jump to the facile conclusion that the 'Far Right' is responsible. The rise of anti-semitism has coincided with large numbers of Muslim migrants into Europe, some of whom deeply resent Judaism and 'nationalist' parties have arisen in response to this and the increasing emphasis on pressing for a monolithic European 'government'. The 'Far Right' was a risible minority until these two processes were underway.
I was immediately angered by this. Triggered if you will. Now the friend in question (no names no pack drill) isn't your typical Britain First thug. He's an educated man with a degree from the LSE of all places. He is well read and has a house full of books. I was aware he leaned to the right as I've enjoyed many late night alcohol-fuelled discussions with him, during which times we've never had too many violent clashes.
In my experience and of what I have read, the very notion that the left is anti-Semitic is a nonsense. The communists famously battled alongside the Jews in the battle of Cable Street against Moseley's British Nazis in the 1930's. It was the nazi's spouting anti-jewish slurs and propaganda during the 70's that necessitated the formation of the anti-nazi league. During 2019 election there was even an anti-Labour proppo starring Maureen Lipman that listed the life-long links that previously existed between the Jewish community in Britain and the Labour party. But then later in the video one gets to the nub. This horrendous piece of anti-Corbyn propaganda is part of a much larger and more sinister campaign by the right deliberately designed to smear Corbyn as anti-Semitic.
Going back to my friend's original post, if you have read 'On the Jewish Question' you'll know that it was far from being anti-Semitic. Marx wrote it in response to an essay by the German philosopher Bruno Bauer, who himself was arguing that Jews should renounce their religion in order to be free in a secular society, clearly an anti-Semitic position that Marx was attacking. If instead of reading the whole piece you only dip in and grab snatches of it one can easily confuse it as being anti-semitic because Marx uses many quotes from Bauer which have anti-semitic language in it. Also the language Marx used is perhaps a little less delicate than we would use today, but one has to consider the essay was written in 1843 in a time when the phrase anti-Semitic had yet to be coined. Marx also used irony and takes Devil's Advocate positions which go over a lot of reader's heads. Let's not forget too, he himself was Jewish! This leads to misconceptions about the piece such that even some Jewish scholars argue among themselves whether Marx was being anti-Semitic or not. It is this has been taken advantage of by the right who have cited the piece many times since around the year 2000. One can see the cited articles in Google Ngram searches and by searching for mentions of the book with the advanced Google search tag site: e.g. "on the jewish question" site:telegraph.co.uk
Clearly my friend's claim that anti-Semitism has deep roots on the left is completely without foundation. The far right however have been solidly anti-semitic since Hitler wrote Mein Kampf and that has manifested itself in various forms with the rise of the right. My suspicion is, that like many people my friend has been the victim of right-wing gaslighting.
Further clues follow in the rest of his comment which is pure Mainstream Media 'dog-whistle racism' as seen everyday in the Mail, Express, Times, Telegraph, Star etc etc.
1) He suggests Muslims hate Jews. There are about 1.5 billion Muslims on the planet, I'd be surprised if some of them weren't brought up to hate jews as are some Christians, but it's simply a racist stereo-type to regard being Muslim as automatically anti-semitic.
2) The left are allies of a certain 'stripe' of Islam. Hmm, not sure which stripe that is. Does he mean the Palestinian stripe who has had their lands occupied by Israel in defiance of UN resolutions, or does he mean the stripe of Islam opposed to the war being waged by the Wahabbi's on Yemen? Tell you what, we'll leave that for another blog post.
3) The rise of anti-semitism has coincided with large numbers of Muslim migrants into Europe. Has it though? He was saying earlier how old the roots of anti-Semitism were in Europe because of the political left. Is there more anti-Semitism in Europe now than there was in the 1930's? Clearly not.
4) ..'nationalist' parties have arisen in response to this [sic. large numbers of Muslim migrants into Europe] and the increasing emphasis on pressing for a monolithic European 'government'. This is a Brexiteer trope. The increase in Muslim migration to Europe is a direct consequence of American meddling in the Middle East and the notion that there pressure for a monolithic European government is also a distopic fantasy from the minds of Bannon and Farage. Anyone who believes this is barmy but anyone who believes this and uses it to accuse the political left of being anti-semitic is clearly of a dangerously confused mind.
So I politely replied to my friends post rebutting his arguments I also added the following:
"What is a crime against intellectual freedom is the notion that any criticism of the State of Israel is automatically antisemitic, and the recent decision by the Tories to prohibit public bodies like universities and local authorities from supporting the BDS movement. That's worse than Thatcher supporting apartheid."
Of course the unanswered question here is who hoodwinked my friend and the electorate into thinking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party were anti-Semitic, but that is a theme for another blog post on another day!