Antisemitic imagery on “progressive” blogs

Adam Levick has a paper on the existence of anti-Zionist cartoons that employ antisemitic imagery on “progressive” blogs such as Daily Kos, Mondoweiss, MyDD, and Indymedia. It’s worthwhile to take note of this phenomenon, but I’m not sure what conclusions we should draw from it. Adam concludes that “the failure to act in the face of such clear expressions of Jew-hatred constitutes a shameful — and potentially calamitous — moral abdication” by mainstream progressives. But what if these progressives don’t understand that such images are expressions of antisemitism in the first place? If so, their failure may be less a moral one, and more one which stems from a lack of knowledge or a series of misperceptions. I’ll have more to say on this later, but for now I recommend a very thoughtful working paper on left-wing antisemitism, entitled “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections” by David Hirsh, a sociologist who teaches at the University of London.  I have met Hirsh a few times and most recently heard him speak on this topic at the YIISA conference at Yale. His insights are important.

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One Response to Antisemitic imagery on “progressive” blogs

  1. Adam Levick says:

    Thanks for the post. I agree that the line between what I would call hateful anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is often a blurry one. But, I think there’s a lot of overlap (indeed, I’ve read polls indicating that those who are “merely” anti-Zionist tend to be disproportionately prone to believe in classic anti-Semitic tropes as well.)

    A Yale Study/poll demonstrated that:

    “Even after controlling for numerous potentially confounding factors, we find that anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed.”

    So, while those of us who write on the subject need to be careful about carelessly accusing folks who are anti-Israel of being anti-Semitic, I also think its fair to say that their is strong correlation between the two.

    Also, I used the State Dep’t and European Monitoring Centre’s (now called EU Agency for Fundamental Rights) definitions, because I think that such codifications of anti-Semitism are generally reasonable and while they both incorporate extreme anti-Israel rhetoric as anti-Semitic (such as comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany), they also both make clear that mere criticism of Israel shouldn’t be seen as anti-Semitic.

    Further, as I pointed out in my essay, the Stephen Roth Institute has argued (I think persuasively) that the increase in extreme anti-Israel demonization (and pro-Hamas/Hezbollah rhetoric) during demonstrations in Europe (especially during the 2nd Lebanon War and Cast Lead) clearly resulted in an uptick in violent anti-Semitic acts (particularly by the more radical (though not all) Muslim communities in those countries). So, at least in this case, it would seem to suggest that at least some anti-Israel activism is indeed, at the very least, a catalyst for anti-Semitic behavior.

    I also think there’s a difference between, say, Western left anti-Zionism and such Israel hatred in the Arab world. While most Western leftists try hard to avoid engaging in anti-Semitic tropes while criticizing Israel, such anti-Zionism in the Arab world (as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch continually demonstrate) is often infused with ugly classically anti-Semitic narratives and imagery. However, even the Western left at times falls for classic stereotypes about Jews with their broader critique of Israel (and U.S. Support for Israel) with their their obsession over the “power” of the Israel/Jewish lobby. Progressives who to come to the conclusion that Jews in America (2% of the U.S. population) have too much power over U.S. policy are clearly within the realm of “the socialism of fools”.

    Finally, again, regarding the cartoons I used in my essay comparing Israel to Nazi Germany…look, I’m willing to acknowledge that some who make such comparisons may not indeed have animosity towards Jews, as such, but I’m very skeptical. As Manfred Gersetenfeld and Stephen Roth argued: Nazis have become to represent (quite naturally) the epitome of evil in our time. So, to compare the Jewish state to such an entity is to inherently delegitimze Israel, and render efforts to destroy it almost a moral undertaking.

    Such accusations – that Israel has become a Nazi-like state – are so extreme, so intellectually unserious, that I struggle to find a a motivation for such unhinged charges other than pure animosity towards Jews.

    Finally, the fact is that Israel (a democratic and progressive state by even the most rudimentary standards), is alone among the nations in that its the only country which has to actually defend its very right to exist – state which just happens to be the world’s only Jewish state. A mere coincidence? Perhaps. But, not likely.

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