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Joseph Mintz
Joseph Mintz

Why I am No Longer Talking to the Hard Left About Antisemitism

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

We are good, in the Jewish community in England, at trying to fit in. Our tradition, if it can be called that, is about not making waves – the genteel top hats of the United Synagogue, both the fabric ones of yesteryear and the ones who run Jewish life in England, signal the need to fit in. Since the war, it was probably only the infection of a major political party with antisemitism under Corbyn, that roused us to action – the Chief Rabbi himself raising our collective heads above the parapet when he spoke out against Corbyn in public.

But underneath all this was, and is, a belief that this was just an aberration – the British people are fundamentally decent sorts, an opinion that my parent’s generation, brought up in the shadow of the war, strongly held to. Yes of course on one level it’s true, Britain, taken in the round, has been exceptionally good for the Jews, and more generally by any reasoned estimation is one of the best in the world to be born in to. But is has of course its problems and one of the them is both the growing influence of the hard left on public discourse and ideas, and through the hard left’s increasing brazen infection with antisemitism, the normalisation of anti-Jewish prejudice in every day life. So much so,  that in recent days an influential British rapper can spout virulent antisemitism with virtually no widespread public reaction and the BBC can traduce the antisemitic incitement of Jews celebrating their faith in central London, turning, as so many modern antisemites have, the victims in to perpetrators.

Yet some people still seem to think that we can make Britain love us – that we can somehow join the progressive community of the “good” – if we show strongly enough that we are part of the hard left’s programme for society, if we can come out as good Jews, then we will be accepted. We see this in all sorts of ways. The Jews arguing for the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism which essentially says that it’s fine to fetishtically trash national Jewish self-determination and blame it for all the evil in the world, as long as you don’t say anything against Jews as Jews. It’s a bit like Jewish turkeys voting for Christmas, but with the caveat that as long as you let us celebrate Chanukah (even I guess with a bit of antisemitic incitement thrown in) then it’s all fine.

Or take the Board of Deputies, guardians along with the United Synagogue of our honoured traditions of not making too much fuss. When a cricketer who had experienced awful racism was then discovered to have made historic tweets whose basic message was that Jews were a kind of dirt you might find on your shoes, but then apologized, the President of said Board was frankly gushing in her praise. Yet many wondered whether such blatant, hurtful and denigrating antisemitism could really be so easily blotted out by a few well chosen words of apology. Their thinking, of course, whether consciously or not, was that by playing in to the identitarian structure of society promoted by the hard left (where as promoted by the the American School in London, Jews are white-adjacent on the ladder of oppression – I guess even when people are threateningly banging their shoes on and seig heiling at your party bus), we would somehow be accepted in to the community of the good.

Perhaps they thought that, just as they always have, that if we genuflected enough, all the nasty antisemitism would just go away. But of course it won’t. It’s always been there in the hard left. It was there in the Soviet Union. In fact, it’s also been in Britain for centuries – antisemitism is and always has been baked in to the fabric of English society, from 1290 and before. Yet there was, in modern times, at the very least a veneer of sensibility covering it. However, for a long time now antisemitism has been taking root in in the hard left in universities. Now, after decades and decades of courses that, just as David Miller did, even if in not quite such a direct manner, positioned Jews as white oppressors, and their fight against persecution and aspiration for self determination and self-protection as a colonial racist project, the graduates of these programmes are often in positions of power.

The hard left is increasingly in some ways now the country, at least in significant swathes of the intelligentsia and the chattering classes. And as David Baddiel has shown us, Jews Don’t Count. And the President of the Board and everyone else have got it wrong. There is no point trying to appease this mindset – there is no point trying to somehow join the community of the good as a progressive, as though that will somehow save us. In fact, there’s really little point in engaging with the hard left at all– any more than there is traction in trying to engage with Wiley about why he is wrong about the Jews. Just as with the Squad and increasingly much of the Democratic party in the US, progessive voices in the UK just aren’t interested and aren’t listening. What we need is to believe in who we are and what we stand for – there is no salvation in trying to be accepted by the hard left – the socialism of fools is in fact just socialism, at least in terms of modern hard left progressive politics.

About the Author
Joseph Mintz is Associate Professor in Education at UCL Institute of Education. He engages in research on inclusion, special educational needs, teacher education for inclusion and has led research projects funded by government and national agencies. He has written for the Jewish Chronicle, the Algemeiner and Times Higher Education. He regularly presents on issues of inclusion and special education in a range of national and international forums.
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