There is a new report on anti-Semitism brought out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Given the mass of confusion and misconceptions, I think it deserves serious study. It reports a snapshot of views at a specific time. We need more work to understand the underlying dynamics however two conclusions drawn by the author need highlighting.
The first conclusion of the report
Indeed, in both diagrams we see that most of those holding the anti-Israel attitudes tested (whether measured at a level of one or more, or six or more) do not hold any anti-Semitic attitudes.
This is important. There is an oft repeated view that says anti Israel and anti Semitism are the same thing. This view is simply wrong. People do distinguish between disliking Israel and holding anti-Semitic views. The idea that people start from prejudice against Jews then move on to hostility to Israel is also wrong. (If that was the trajectory those disliking Jews would be a bigger group than those disliking Israel.)
The left is not more hostile to Jews than the general public.
levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain are among the lowest in the world. British Jews constitute a religious and ethnic group that is seen overwhelmingly positively by an absolute majority of the British population: about 70% of the population of Great Britain have a favourable opinion of Jews and do not entertain any anti-Semitic ideas or views at all.
The very left-wing, and, in fact, all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population.
Why is there such a huge gap in the reality and the media coverage?
Israel’s new ambassador to the United Kingdom on Sunday said parts of Britain’s left are ‘in denial’ about the ‘disease’ of anti-Semitism.
Sir Eric Pickles, chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn must shoulder some blame for failing to challenge antisemitism in his party.
Joan Ryan MP is a spokesperson for Labour Friends of Israel. She is opposed to Corbyn. She wrote an article headed Anti-Semitism cannot go unchallenged.
I agree with Avi Shlaim
Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel’s apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood.
I would add that the right wing in the Labour Party are using the issue as a stick to hit Corbyn.
Given that ‘The very left-wing, and, in fact, all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population’ it would appear that the attacks on the left for anti-Semitism are disproportionate and a deliberate slur to attack the Labour Party and Corbyn and the Palestine solidarity movement. This filthy slur of anti-Semitism does three other things.
- It hides the fact that Islamophobia is a bigger problem. While debates and expulsions over accusations of anti Semitism dominate debate the bigger problem of Islamophobia in the Labour Party and society is not addressed enough. The report shows that the general public shows unfavourable attitudes to Muslims at nearly three times the level of hostility to Jews. (15.4 against 5.4). Â There are countless examples that illustrate this. Labour MP, Sarah Champion wrote an article in the Sun “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.” Why highlight white girls? Asian girls were raped too. Why highlight Asian men? The majority of rapes on young girls are carried out by white men. Trevor Kavanagh from the Sun can write about the ‘Moslem problem’ with its horrible echoes of the 1930s.
- It spreads fear within the Jewish community. According to the report ‘levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain are among the lowest in the world’. However about 30% hold at least one anti-Semitic view. (The majority of these will also hold positive attitudes to Jews. The hardened Jew haters are about 3 %). This means that Jews will experience anti Semitic views and ideas. They will hear many more anti-Israel views than anti Semitic ones. ‘56% of the general population hold at least one anti-Israel attitude’. Each time Israel steals more land, kills more people, introduces a new racist law, or reinforces the apartheid regime in the west bank, more people will become anti-Israel. Any confusion between Anti-Israel attitudes and anti-Semitism will unnecessarily raise the fears of British Jews. Israel wants mass emigration of European Jews to Israel. Sadly the campaign by the Israeli Embassy, the Friends of Israel appear to have done this. ‘One in three British ‘Jews thinking about leaving UK’ as anti-Semitism soars leaving one in six feeling unwelcome.’
- It possibly allows anti Semitic ideas to be ignored. Jackie Walker was expelled from the Labour Party because she has been alleged to be anti-Semitic. (She is married to a Jew and the daughter of a Jew and a consistent campaigner against racism.) Does anyone believe that she is anti-Semitic or wants to spread hostility to Jews? Moshe Machover was also expelled from the Labour Party (since reinstated) for ‘an apparently anti-Semitic article. He is an Israeli Jew who has consistently fought Zionism and racism. Their real crime was effective campaigning against Israel. Some people on the left feel that all charges of anti-Semitism are malicious inventions of the pro Zionist right. This cannot be the case. ‘all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population’ Given that those of us on the left pride ourselves on anti-racism we should be doing far better than the general public. We need to understand why this is not the case. I will address this in the next blog.
We can draw 3 conclusions
- Being Anti Israel is not the same as anti Semitic
- The left does not have an anti Semitism problem (but it perhaps could do better)
- Pro Israel propagandists use the anti Semitism charge to shut down criticism of Israeli Apartheid practices.