Today, a sizable section of the European left has been reluctant to take a clear stand when anti-Zionism spills over into anti-Semitism. Beginning in the 1990s, many on the European left began to view the growing Muslim minorities in their countries as a new proletariat and the Palestinian cause as a recruiting mechanism. The issue of Palestine was particularly seductive for the children of immigrants, marooned between identities.
Capitalism was depicted as undermining a perfect Islamic society while cultural imperialism corrupted Islam. The tactic has a distinguished revolutionary pedigree. Indeed, the cry, “Long live Soviet power, long live the Shariah,” was heard in Central Asia during the 1920s after Lenin tried to cultivate Muslim nationalists in the Soviet East once his attempt to spread revolution to Europe had failed. But the question remains: why do today’s European socialists identify with Islamists whose worldview is light-years removed from their own?
The whole essay is a tour de force. However, I don’t think that the issue is simply that the Left is ‘failing to take a stand’ on antisemitism. I think we’ve gone beyond that in recent years. It is now clear that sections of the Left have both accepted antisemitism and has become antisemitic.
This is not to say that all on the Left are racists or even unconcerned about racism directed at Jews. There are many on the Left who are revolted by what they’ve seen. They tend not to be well organised, and therefore they’re on the hind foot. Nevertheless, even some of the most extreme groups – The Electronic Intifada for example – have drawn a line at white women like Greta Berlin pushing Jew-hatred.
But look at Counterpunch or, on a rather more petty level, the RMT Union boss, Steve Hedley’s ‘chosen people’ tirade at Richard Millett. Or the scandalous (and factually erroneous) attacks in The Guardian on The Community Security Trust. You’ll see that Colin Shindler doesn’t go quite far enough. And for that reason, there are a number of people who no longer want to be part of a Left which includes Jew-baiters.
The causes are many and varied. The Left is no more immune than any other section of society from cultural antisemitism. Add to that, the self-righteousness of a Left which believes that it can do no wrong, and that what it does is the very definition of anti-racism – almost the sole value by which it defines itself, after the collapse of Marxism as an intellectual force. Mix in the mouldering relics of Soviet antisemitism, which many tiny but frenetically active far Left factions enthusiastically recycle.
In its eagerness to justify its own alliance with Islamist groups, whose driving force is antisemitism, significant parts of the European – and US – Left have adopted their allies’ antisemitism. That’s all there is to it.