There's something just ... perfect about Annie Cohen writing a column in the Forward criticizing Jews for trying to hold Jeremy Corbyn accountable for his antisemitic associations under the title "Leave Jeremy Corbyn Alone. He’s The Leader We Young Jews Have Waited For."
Because last year, Annie Cohen ran for the presidency of the UK's Union of Jewish Students (as an avowedly non-Zionist candidate) -- a delightfully democratic mechanism for determining what, exactly, "young Jews" desire.
And she came in last place. With less than 9% of the vote.
Turns out, we have pretty compelling evidence that Annie Cohen doesn't have her finger on the pulse of what "young Jews" are waiting for.
Now, to be clear, Cohen has every right to dissent from the predominant view of her generation of Jews. She's absolutely entitled to say "while most young Jews believe A, I believe B, and here's why."
But what's troubling here is the pretension of being representative -- the claim of being right in the thick of a live controversy (if not on the leading side) as opposed to sitting way out on the marginal wings.
It's part of a disturbing trend among this sort of Jewish activist -- claiming to "speak for" communities that by all objective metrics want nothing to do with them. Ben Gladstone pointed out cases in the US, David Hirsh has written similarly about the function of groups like Jewish Voice for Labour in the UK. Groups and individuals whose modus operandi is to kick up dust to deny the existence of any "consensus" in the Jewish community around issues of antisemitism, to give third parties an excuse to simply pick the "side" that better matches their pre-existing priors.
The issue isn't of moral correctness, but simply of numbers. When Cohen writes vaguely that, "of those of us who voted Labour last year, many were Jewish," that might be technically true -- but only in the same way that "many" of Trump's voters were Muslim (Trump's level of Muslim support was in fact identical to Corbyn's rate of Jewish support). It's a classic example of how to tokenize with proportions. The sleight of hand isn't in acknowledging its existence of pro-Corbyn Jews, it's in implying that they're more than an obscure fringe that could satisfy any remotely robust obligation to "engage" with Jews as a group.
So this happens all the time. But normally it's obscured -- how can we really know who speaks for young Jews, or what politics they do and don't find appealing?
It is one of the many virtues of the UJS actually having democratic elections that here we get a crystalline case: where we know just how little support someone who claims to be representing "we young Jews" has among said "young Jews." That it didn't stop her from making the claim is testament to the hubris of the movement, and how little it cares whether its pretensions of authority map onto any reality.
I'm not sure which leader "young Jews" in the UK are waiting for. But they've been pretty emphatic in saying Annie Cohen isn't it.