Why attacks on ‘white’ Jews can’t be racist

As people the world over recoil in horror at  the Pittsburgh massacre of Jews praying in a synagogue, it is as well to recall a disturbing trend among US academics. Some have been saying that attacks against Jews cannot be termed racist because Jews are white. Black lives matter; they infer that Jewish lives don’t.

As an example the self-described ‘queer, agender’ astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who identifies as black (despite having a Jewish father), has tweeted this:

White Jews also need to reckon with how they used colorism to their advantage, passing into whiteness in many ways. On the street. In the board room. With property ownership.

In other words, Jews are ‘privileged’, affluent and powerful. They cannot be oppressed. The ‘intersectionality’ movement recognises that people can harbour  anti-white prejudice. But never anti-white racism. Inherent in  anti-black racism, however,  is the element of oppression built into being white.

Jews, therefore, do not qualify as victims, even if their attackers are people of colour.

The idea that ‘people of colour’  cannot be racist against whites is part and parcel of the vogue for ‘intersectionality’. This is the notion that oppressed minorities must stand up for each other.

But nobody stands up for the Jews.

After several generations of sacrifice and hard work, many Jews have achieved success. But  it can hardly be denied that Jews in America were compelled to reach its welcoming shores because their ancestors were fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, Russian pogroms or persecution in Hitler’s Germany. By  any reckoning Jews have never been other than an oppressed minority, throughout their history.

Since the end of WW2 the ghosts of Edward Said, Michel Foucault and Franz Fanon have haunted western universities. These teach the  Postcolonialist dogma that  only the West, with its history of colonial exploitation, can be racist against ‘Third World’ peoples.

The fact that 90 percent of Jews in the US fall in the category of ‘white Ashkenazi’ obscures the fact that Jews in general originate from the Middle East. Jews are from Judea. Ultimately, Jews are people of colour.

Over 50 percent of Israeli Jews never left the Middle East and North Africa.  They are in fact the indigenous population, both in Palestine and in the ‘Arab world’.

Yet it is Israel that is perceived as a white country and the Palestinians are perceived as non-white, even though, in fact, many Palestinians have lighter skin than some Israelis. The theory that Israel is a colonialist and imperialist interloper only works if vital information is suppressed – that Israel is a de facto Middle Eastern nation; that indigenous Jews were colonised and ultimately victimised by Arab and Muslim racism.

You will hardly find any Jews left in the Arab and Muslim world today, because they were driven out of it, along with  other ethnic and religious groups. The Arabs and Muslims  established vast empires full of subject peoples. They have a long history of racism and pseudo-colonial exploitation of Jews and non-Muslims. In the pecking order in Muslim society, Jews were only one notch above slaves. In some cases, they were actual slaves.

‘Third Worldism’ makes people in the West inclined to overlook the misdeeds of Arab and Muslim states or to indulge in apologetics for them. To give a flagrant example, the Taubira law memorialising slavery (adopted in France in 2001) mentioned the 11 million victims of the transatlantic slave trade, while ignoring the 17 million slaves trafficked by Arabs and Muslims.

The sooner we ditch simplistic categories born of western guilt and a stubborn obsession with identity politics, the better.

About the Author
Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments