After the recent heinous murder of 11 innocent people during Shabbos by a far right terrorist we are again reminded that the far right pose a serious threat to the safety of Jews in the US and Europe. Far right politics is on the rise.
But so is far left politics. So what poses the most significant threat? The far right or the far left? That’s not an easy question to answer.
Far right extremism is explosive, violent and in the case of the Pittsburgh attack – murderous. Far left extremism is less obvious, it is pernicious and hidden behind legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel.
So let’s begin by examining what far left and far right have in common with regards to itism. Firstly we need to define what we mean by ‘antisemitism’. I personally go with Brian Klug’s definition – “a form of hostility towards Jews as ‘Jews’.” So in that regard what do the far left and right have in common? Well both think we (“the Jews”) are loyal to Israel before anything else. Both believe we are committing genocide (far left say against Palestinians/far right say against the white race).
It is unusual to think of anyone on the left being racist in any way, which is why so many are keen to argue that antisemitism allegations in the Labour party are fallacious. It is difficult to think of your own camp as being party to the oppression of any minority group, but the left has a long history of antisemitism.
Karl Marx, as an example, said this – “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money…”. In this manner, Marx and Hitler were aligned. This is an example of how the far left and far right share similar beliefs regarding who Jews are loyal to.
So what are the differences? For me I think the most obvious difference is how both voice their antisemitism. The far right are openly hateful towards Jews, any Jews. The far left tend to be more subtle…they hate some Jews (Zionists usually, which is at best guess about 90% of us) and try to disguise their antisemitism behind legitimate criticisms of Israel and support for the Palestinian people.
Both are capable of violence, both believe they are the “good guys” and both pose an existential threat to Jews in Europe and the US. How they are a threat is arguably different. In my opinion the far right have always posed a more immediate threat in the sense that they are more prone to acts of extreme violence towards Jews, whereas the far left is more pernicious.
Both sides of the pond have been galvanised. In the US the far right have been strengthened and given new valour by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. In Britain the far left have been similarly strengthened by the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
In the US we saw the horrible vehicle attack at Charlottesville and now this heinous act of mass murder during Shabbos in Pittsburgh. This is the explosive, violent and murderous threat. In the UK things are less violent. It is more the threat posed by the far left taking control of the opposition, legitimising antisemitic views and potentially putting through legislation that threatens the Jewish community should they succeed in putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.
The rise of both the far right and the far left in Europe and the US highlights the need for all to come together and combat antisemitism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. There is no point quibbling over which is the bigger threat, both are equally dangerous albeit in different ways. Whenever divisive politicians rise to prominence it is Jews who who suffer, extremism in whatever form posing and clear and present danger to the Jewish communities of Europe and North America.
Whatever your politics, whatever you think of Israel, we must all be united in fighting antisemitism in all its forms. Fighting one form while ignoring the other is not an option. If you really care about the safety and prosperity of Jews you must stand shoulder to shoulder with us against antisemitism whether from the left or from the right. We Jews cannot afford for you to play politics with our oppression!