This is a guest post by alfie, adapted from a comment here.
My journey has been like this.
I grew up an instinctive Leftist. It was natural to do so. The visceral racism I experienced growing up was at least nominally organised against by the Left. My instincts were Labour. My sympathies were with a tendency that at least showed an awareness of the experiences of an ethnic minority.
I never even became aware of how poisoned the Left had become by a visceral structural anti-Semitism, ostensibly linked to the Israel – Palestine conflict, until I re-examined my attitudes and feelings in the aftermath of 9/11. The Left became ripe for a shading into hatreds allied with, broadly, the Islamist identity-politics movement.
I don’t think I even ever met a Jewish person until I was a teenager. Anti-Semitism was non existent in my Indian community, because we had no connection with the Jewish experience directly, as working class immigrants, neither here nor in the ‘old country’. Our sectarianisms were of a different kind. It wasn’t until I interacted with Pakistani Muslims that the kind of reflexive anti-Semitism that might even embarass a blackshirt became apparent to me. Beliefs in conspiracies co-ordinated by a cabal of demonic Jews out to destroy Islam. The full hook-nosed Der Sturmer gamut.
I started to identify with the Jewish community. Not only through my education, both at school in history lessons, but also my own reading. My instinct became, if this group of people is demonised so relentlessly, what is the difference between that, and how I as a British Indian was demonised by racists?
Its important to note that it wasn’t just casual bigotry from some Muslims that aroused my instincts and what became I guess you can call philo-Semitism. I also experienced casual anti-Semitism from white English folk. At school some white kids would say ‘Don’t be a Jew’ if you wouldn’t chip in to buy something, equating Jewishness with being a selfish miser. I understood even then how loathsome this was. Another example is of a co-worker at the first office I worked at who would come out with stereotypes of Jewish scheming against a senior manager who happened to be of part Jewish heritage, but who didn’t even observe the rules against eating pork. With this, you can’t escape, you’re marked.
So I can see how the Left’s walls fell so easily to this kind of poison. The Left needed a cause on which to hinge the Manichean good versus evil simplicity as an explanation of all that is Satanic in the world, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, ‘Zionism’ fitted the bill perfectly. The surge of Islamist identity-politics ovewhelmed the Left and gave them comfort and a new constituency, and their hatreds and racism would be sanctified as righteousness.
Now I see sinister things inside the Left where once I saw goodness and benign sympathy. That is not to say I have become part of the Right. I don’t feel at home there either. But I now know that if the Left could turn on the Jewish people, they can turn on me too. There is a menacing dog in the room – with Jewish obsession in its eyes, stalking and disrupting, defecating, and threatening. When I look in its eyes I don’t expect the Left to seek to kennel it and confront it anymore, that is how low my expectations have fallen. And I know that this is a poison that Labour and the institutions of the British Left have to fight – but when the media institutions participate in it and perpetuate it, what hope is there?