Though my style of presentation may not always reflect this, I am actually a fairly thoughtful person and do occasionally ask myself whether I might be exaggerating or overstating the case. Once in a while, things don’t turn out as badly as I thought they would. Generally, however, it turns out that I was still being unduly optimistic when I thought I might have let my pessimism get the better of me. Today has been one of those days when my pessimism has turned out to be a puny little thing that is not even remotely up to the task.
I am currently working on a longer post in which I want to make yet another attempt to clarify why antisemitism is really not a form of racism and the willingness to go along with claims to the contrary can only lead to the erasure of antisemitism (not as a reality, of course, far from it, but as a problem that is taken seriously in its own right). Yet in the face of a number of comments in the last 24 hours, a more immediate intervention seems in order.
I have discussed the nexus between antisemitism and racism on a number of occasions and there is quite a lot to say on this topic. In this instance, I want to focus on one problem in particular: the increasingly prolific attempts to defend Jews in general and Israel in particular on the grounds that not all Jews are white. This line of argument has a number of deeply problematic implications:
- It takes it for granted that there is something inherently bad about being white and accepts a notion of racism that understands it as something done only by white people to people of colour.
- It implies that if all Jews were white, they would be fair game.
- When the State of Israel was established its Jewish population was overwhelmingly white. Hence, if we follow this logic, the creation of the State of Israel was indeed a racist endeavour.
- If Israel’s legitimacy hinges on the fact that a substantial proportion of her Jewish population is not white, then, following this logic, she owes her legitimacy almost entirely to the Arab states who were kind enough to expel their Jews.
- Given that most of the Jews annihilated by the Nazis were white, if we follow this logic, the Shoah is basically a “first world problem” and any insistence on its extraordinary significance merely cements the racist world order. Once you’ve bought into this “antiracist” logic there is really no point in criticizing the likes of Jackie Walker any longer.
Where all this leaves us is illustrated by two other interventions in the last 24 hours. Hen Mazzig has suddenly discovered that Jews are indeed to blame for antisemitism, and Howard Lovy takes the argument that only one’s opponents’ antisemitism matters to a whole new level.
And with that we’re basically back in the 1880s, as though we’ve learnt nothing about antisemitism since and, more importantly, as though the Shoah never happened, which is, of course, the point of the whole exercise.