September 28, 2020

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No, speaking about Black antisemitism does not make one a racist

An article in the New Socialist crystallizes the discomfort that many socialist Jews have had with the Twitter 48 hour boycott campaign – by claiming that targeting a Black antisemite is actually racist:

Recent stories, and much longer-run patterns of discourse, have seen many people, including some Jews, attempting to “ethnicise” antisemitism. To construct it as a peculiarly “Black problem” or “Muslim Problem.” This is not a new phenomenon but it does seem to be gaining ground in the current moment – not coincidentally amidst the largest global Black liberation struggle in several generations. The thinker Adolph Reed has aptly noted in his essay “What Colour is Anti-Semitism” that,

Anti-semitism is a form of racism, and it is indefensible and dangerous wherever it occurs. What doesn’t exist is Blackantisemitism, the equivalent of a German compound word, a particular – and particularly virulent – strain of anti-Semitism. Black anti-Semites are no better or worse than white or other anti-Semites, and they are neither more nor less representative of the ‘black community’ or ‘black America’.”

Part of the specification of a particularised “Black antisemitism” seems to be connected to the seeming relish with which many white people, including some white Jews, see instances such as Wiley’s outburst as an opportunity to call Black people “racist.” There is a tendency to impose collective responsibility on Black or Muslim “communities” for instances of antisemitism (and for many things other things) in ways that Neo-Nazis like David Duke or Nick Griffin (both of whom, incidentally, not banned from Twitter) [this article was written before Duke’s suspension – EoZ]  are never held to be representative of white, English or American culture. Except, of course, that is what they are. The discourses and violence that make up the long history of antisemitism are far more organic to the cultures of white, Christian Europe and its settler colonies than anywhere else. Attempts to ethnicise antisemitism today are regularly mobilised, often by non-Jews, as a means to derail and discredit justice and liberation movements and their demands. This comes with its own grim irony, given that justice and liberation movements aim at the undoing of precisely these cultures of white, Christian Europe that were formative for and continue to reproduce antisemitism.

I can only speak for myself, but this is absolutely false.

Most blacks are not antisemitic. While a higher percentage of blacks are antisemitic than of the general population, the percentage of blacks who hold antisemitic opinions has gone steadily down since the 1990s when it was about 37%.



I have no glee speaking about Black antisemitism or Muslim antisemitism or white supremacist antisemitism. But I do think it is critical to not put them all in the same bucket.

If one wants to fight antisemitism, one needs to understand it. And the recent public examples of Farrakhan/Griff/Wiley antisemitism are much different from traditional Christian antisemitism, much different from neo-Nazi antisemitism, much different from Muslim or Arab antisemitism. They are also somewhat different from what Black antisemitism was like in the 1960s.

All kinds of antisemitism have a righteous justification. No one says “I hate Jews for no reason.” One way of fighting antisemitism is with education, and it is critical to take away the justifications for antisemitism by directly attacking the assumptions of the antisemites.

Just like there is no one type of antisemitism, there is no one way to combat antisemitism. (This socialist article went on to pretend that there was only one antisemitism and it looks at it through a class lens, which is ridiculous. Antisemites come in all classes, colors,  political affiliations and religions.)

When Rabbi Abraham Cooper went on Nick Cannon’s show, I was upset because he did not directly attack the fundamental myths that were the basis of Cannon’s and Griff’s rants. And the comments on that YouTube video show that practically the entire Black audience were not swayed by Cooper’s words – he was speaking the language of victimhood, of the Holocaust, of historic Black and Jewish commonality, while Cannon’s fans are convinced that they are the true Hebrews. This was the wrong argument. I looked at the root of what we can call Black replacement theology, where Jews are frauds and Blacks are the true Jews. That is what Rabbi Cooper should have done.

But Muslim antisemitism is different. Arab antisemitism is different even than Muslim antisemitism although there is huge overlap. Christian and scientific and philosophical and, yes, modern anti-Zionist antisemitism are all different, and it is not racist to call that out.

Of course racism exists and it is a serious problem. But only people who already look at the world through a lens of race will find racism literally everywhere.

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