White People and Arabs Don’t Get to Define Anti-Semitism

In today’s increasingly “woke” political atmosphere, the terms “mansplaining” and “whitesplaining” have become popular and widespread. For those who don’t know, mansplaining refers to a situation where men explain something to women in a condescending and relatively sexist manner, assuming the woman doesn’t know or understand the same way a man would. Whitesplaining is pretty similar, except replace “man” with “White person” and “woman” with “people of color.” In light of the situation with Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the British Labour Party, another term needs to be popularized: “goysplaining.” And the meaning of this term? When a gentile explains to a Jew what “real anti-Semitism” is, and/or insists on being an “ally” to the Jewish community despite engaging in discriminatory behavior against Jews.

Lately, there have been quite a few examples of this. Consider, for instance, how the Labour Party reacted when Lord Jonathan Sacks, formerly the Chief UK Rabbi, criticized Jeremy Corbyn’s racist biases against Jews. Labour proceeded to both praise Corbyn as a man dedicated to fighting bigotry while also deeming Sacks’ comments “absurd and offensive.” Perhaps even more disturbing was the accusation by Mark Serwotka, a staunch Corbynite and leader of the Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS), that Israel was behind the anti-Semitism “manufactured” crisis to tarnish Corbyn’s image. The saga continues with one of Corbyn’s many “friends”–among them, Hamas and Hezbollah–who called for Israeli MPs to be assassinated during the Second Intifada, and spray painted “Free Gaza” on Auschwitz. He reiterated old tropes about “Zionists” being foreigners in the UK (even though his party also claims we are foreigners in the land of our ancestors) and not understanding English culture. He refuses to condemn–and attends commemorations for–terrorists who murdered Olympic athletes simply because they were Jewish. He has attended other conferences with terrorists while trying to purge Jewish Labour members for voicing their concerns. Amazingly, after all of these summer revelations, Corbyn still had the chutzpah to claim that under his leadership, Labour would fight anti-Semitism.

With his statement about “Zionists”, which Corbyn of course denied was a dog-whistle for “Jews”, the Labour leader pulled a page out of the playbook of historic anti-Semitism by labelling Jews as “forever foreigners” in the lands we inhabit. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, did the same thing in March when trying to blame non-ethnic Russians for the 2016 election interference–Jews and Tatars among them. (Personally, I think we should pride ourselves on being Jews and not “real Europeans,” but that’s a topic for another time.) Corbyn has also displayed his friendliness towards other non-progressive and authoritarian ideas and figureheads. He appeared on Iran’s propaganda network, PressTV. He, like US President Donald Trump, has taken a soft and friendly stance towards Putin’s Russia. Corbyn has chosen to stand with the Syrian dictatorship over the children that are gassed to death on his command. This is no revolutionary, progressive leader. He is merely the opposite side of the same Trumpian coin that has reared its ugly head in the world as of late. But what he has done is expose that we Jews do learn history, despite his statement to the contrary. We have heard this song and dance before, about having dual loyalties, faking our oppression, and whatever other drivel Labour members are spewing these days. Which is exactly why Britain’s Jewish community isn’t buying what Corbyn is attempting to sell when it comes to being a “friend” of the Jewish people. That argument is as silly as the White Trump voters holding up “Blacks for Trump” signs during the 2016 election.

Corbyn and his European-leftist crowd are not the only ones trying to tell Jews what  anti-Semitism is. Increasingly, the “Arab Left,” as it calls itself, has joined in. Often writing from such Qatar-funded newspapers and websites as Middle East Monitor or Middle East Eye, Arab academics abroad have written extensively about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the recent Labour anti-Semitism crisis. Yet in doing so, too often they are brushing aside Jewish concerns of bigotry that have nothing to do with the conflict, or Arab complicity in anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence historically. Take, for example, Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian academic. Karmi has disturbingly stated that Corbyn should “stop apologizing” for his racist activities, suggested that the crisis is “inflated” by Zionist organizations, and slamming the internationally-accepted definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance (IHRA). Nimer Sultany, a Palestinian-British lecturer, alludes to a conspiracy to silence criticism of Israel at the time of the Nation-State Bill. Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), calls for the IHRA definition to be rescinded  because it apparently does not leave enough room to make Arabs feel comfortable in their critiques of Israel. These scholars, in their articles, are doing exactly what Corbyn did during his speech on British irony and “Zionists”: conflating worldwide Jewry and legitimate concerns about anti-Semitism with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Equally disturbing as holding all Jews responsible for the controversies of one country (regardless of the differing views on the conflict) is the fact that many of these so-called progressives–people of color, no less–are making the anti-Semitism crisis all about them. Perhaps this isn’t surprising–after all, some Palestinian activists have tried to appropriate other struggles, such as the LGBT rights movement, the Standing Rock protests, Black Lives Matter, the immigration/DACA issue, and so on. By ignoring and whitewashing legitimate anti-Semitism–much of which comes from within their own community –and appropriating Jewish history, these academics are proving that they actually are not interested in peacemaking or building bridges with the Jewish community, as they claim, but are instead opportunists who engage in anti-Jewish oppression and then deny it.

Jews don’t need to hear where real (as opposed to fake?) anti-Semitism comes from. Jewish people don’t need to hear from pro-Trump evangelicals that the real danger to the Jews comes from left-wingers who loathe Netanyahu. We’ve experienced far-left anti-Semitism from the Soviet government and now in South Africa & Britain. Jewish people don’t need to hear from left-wing “revolutionaries” that the real danger to us is from the far-right who march in the streets with torches. We experienced right-wing anti-Semitism when the Nazis exterminated 6 million of our people in the supposedly-“enlightened” continent of Europe. We don’t need to hear from the Arab World (or for that matter, Iran and Turkey) how “good we had it” in their countries compared to in Europe. What would our ancestors say, then, about the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad or the Hebron Massacre of 1929? As the British Jews said in their anti-Corbyn protests recently, enough is enough.

The people who gave us the Holocaust do not get to “goysplain” to us what is and what is not anti-Semitic.

The ones who expelled us from Iberia and countless other places in Europe don’t get to say that anti-Zionism is not equivalent to anti-Semitism.

The ones who cover up and ignore the expulsion of 800,000 Jews from countries where Jewish presence predated the Arab Conquest do not get to pretend that they are peacemakers and friends of the Jewish people.

The ones whose xenophobia led them to pressure the British to shut the gates of our homeland–during the Holocaust, no less–do not get to lecture us on racism and marginalization.

The ones who called to “saturate Jerusalem with Jewish blood” and “pave the Arab roads with Jewish skulls” do not get to accuse us of genocide.

The ones who enforced state-sponsored anti-Semitism and pogroms do not get to tell us what the real anti-Semitism is.

Is it acceptable for White people to lecture Black people on how slavery really worked? How does it look when Japan claims to be “friendly” with China & Korea while continuing to deny the issue of “comfort women” and the Rape of Nanking? If that doesn’t seem moral or ethical, why the double standard for Jews? Why should we be expected to put up with accepting these “explanations” and “friendships” from the peoples who have oppressed us throughout history? Those who have stolen our land, dragged us out from it in chains, massacred us, told us to “go back to Palestine” and then now tell us to “leave Palestine?” Those who culturally appropriate our history, and proceed to label us as foreign colonialists in the land of our ethnogenesis? No, we will not listen and “build bridges” with such people. Dayenu. 

There are two options for White and Arab allies of the Jews: acknowledge your privilege, listen, & fight for justice (for all people) alongside us, or shut up and get out of our way as we do so alone.

About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is currently attending Arcadia University. He has a deep interest in writing, reading, and politics, as well as photography, health, and traveling. He lives in Philadelphia, USA.
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