The return of the socialism of fools

Apr 7, 2018 by

by Brendan O’Neill, spiked:

The problem of left anti-Semitism is more profound than people recognise.

Suddenly, about 20 years too late, Britain’s supposedly radical left has become woke about anti-Semitism. Having spent years happily attending demos on which placards described the Jewish State as baby-eaters, and getting far angrier about Israeli militarism than the militarism of any other nation on Earth, and turning a blind eye to expressions of anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, now leftists can’t get enough of telling us how aware they are of anti-Semitism and how much they want to destroy it. Following the controversy around Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s favourable Facebook comment about a vile anti-Semitic mural six years ago, and revelations that the chair of Labour’s disputes panel, Christine Shawcroft, had called for the reinstatement of a Labour candidate who had openly flirted with Holocaust denial, Labour leftists are now everywhere declaring that anti-Semitism is a disease that must be ruthlessly excised from the left.

To which our first response might be: what kept you? The drama of their turnaround, so that they have shifted in a matter of days from either denialism or certainly de-prioritisation of the problem of left anti-Semitism to a state of permanent Tourette’s-like denunciation of it, will make some of us think they are not entirely serious in their new determination to do battle with this prejudice. To go from failing to acknowledge the depth of the new anti-Semitism to being ostentatiously woke about how awful it is will look to many like a back-covering exercise. Less a genuine commitment to tackling one of the oldest prejudices than a performance designed to disguise their witting ignorance of, or even acquiescence to, anti-Semitic thinking over the past couple of decades. To paraphrase Shakespeare, now the left doth protest about anti-Semitism too much.

But there is an even greater problem with their theatrical new awareness of left anti-Semitism: even now they underestimate the scale of the problem. Even now, as they dial up the condemnations and churn out articles saying ‘Anti-Semitism is really, really bad’ — congrats on the insight, guys — there is a flimsiness to their understanding of the nature and breadth of the new anti-Semitism. They treat anti-Semitism on the left as an alien force, at odds with the decent outlook of their movement. But this immediately raises a question: how, then, did the anti-Semitic sensibility manage to attach itself to their movement? If this prejudice is so antithetical to their left, how did they end up aligned in various ways? That’s the question they need to ask, because if they did they might realise that, far from being an aberration, the latest outburst of an ancient prejudice tells us something very important about the entire new left and its backward politics.

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