The supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in Britain’s Labour party is revealing an interesting paradox at the heart of modern discussions of anti-semitism.
Undoubtedly there are those who intentionally exploit anti-semitism for political gain. That should be obvious if we pause to consider how much attention left-wing “anti-semitism” (criticism of Israel) – formerly promoted as the “New Anti-Semitism” – is receiving compared to the old-fashioned type of anti-semitism beloved of right wingers. They wanted Jews out of Britain (the Balfour Declaration, anyone?), denied the Holocaust, desecrated Jewish graves, or refused Jews entry to elite schools and golf clubs.
Because right wingers now love Israel, even if they often aren’t too keen on real-life Jews as neighbours or members of their organisations, no one seems too exercised about that kind of anti-semitism any longer, even as it rears its ugly head again across the United States and much of Europe. We are all too busy trying to work out when hating Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the settlements is really cover for hating Jews more generally.
But aside from these foolhardy priorities, there is a more insidious and unconscious danger in this obsession with left-wing anti-semitism. It is neatly illustrated by an anti-semitism test unveiled by the comedian David Schneider. On this occasion, he does not appear to be joking. It poses four questions that are supposed to determine whether…