Monday, November 19, 2018

What is This Strange Feeling of Hope I Have?

I've written a lot about Corbyn, and Corbynism, and the deeply toxic impact it's had on British (and particularly progressive British) Jewish life. There's so many depressing or negative emotions associated with that whole state of affairs, and I have to think over the course of the past few years I've articulated all of them in one form or another.

But one thing I don't think I've ever written -- but which I've felt for awhile now -- is my sense of inspiration.

Because as terrible as Corbynism has been for progressive Jews in the UK -- they haven't taken it lying down. They've rallied, they've organized, they've refused to be cowed. And they've won serious victories -- the adoption of the full IHRA definition being just one example. Yes, there are many -- many -- Labour activists who are still quite publicly and viscerally hostile to Jewish activity. But it's also the case that there are many Labour politicians who have boldly and uncompromisingly stood with the Jewish community -- obviously Jewish figures like Luciana Berger, but also prominent non-Jewish members like Sadiq Khan.

Faced with an emergent antisemitic tide in Labour, UK Jews dug in their heels and fought back. And if you compare the genuine resistance to antisemitism that we're seeing inside Labour to, say, the utter capitulation to racism that's characterized the contemporary Republican Party in the face of Trumpism, there's no question that the left comes out looking much better -- not because we've won the battle (or anything close to it), but because there actually is a battle. It hasn't been a steamroller, and we've given as good as we've got.

I'm inspired because in the UK there are far fewer Jews, who are far less interlaced in political and social life, than in the US. So if they can do it there, we can do it here. Yes, there's antisemitism on the left in America. But the Jewish community hasn't slunk away, and we haven't even stepped back from our posts as a core progressive constituency (79% of Jews voted blue in the midterms -- that's more lopsided than pretty much any other group save African-Americans).

If you're worried about the influence of Louis Farrakhan on the left, go ahead and do that -- but also be cognizant of the fact that, as much as certain figures in the movement have been utter failures on that issue, there's been a sustained, powerful firewall of progressive activists who have stepped up to the plate and who are -- again -- giving at least as well as we're getting. If this is a fight, then we're fighting -- and on Farrakhan-related questions, I dare say we're winning pretty decisively.

There's a fantasy in which the Democratic Party saw a group of left-wing activists hostile to Jews and immediately tossed us overboard, and then there's the reality where the Democratic Party has been remarkably robust in listening to Jewish concerns and holding the line against attempts to exclude us from the movement. It's not the case that antisemitism doesn't exist in the Democratic Party, but neither is it the case that when it manifests it riots unchecked. Jews speak out, and when we do it matters.

And here the comparison to the Republican Party couldn't be starker. I don't know if the RJC has even tried to object to, say, Soros conspiracy mongering by Republican officials -- but if it has, it's barely been a speedbump. You want to talk about a political movement which is scarcely even trying to fight antisemitism in its own ranks -- there's your mark.

Bizarrely, sometimes it seems like conservatives get more credit because Jews are so marginal in their movement that there are no "fights" about antisemitism at all -- if the Republican Party wants to run conspiracy theories about the globalist Jews corrupting the volk, nobody on the inside could stop them and nobody on the inside really tries to stop them. The progressive movement has visible friction precisely because there's resistance to internalized antisemitism that is virtually non-existent in conservatism. What sometimes seems like comparative placidity in the conservative ranks is a mirage -- it disguises an utterly routed state.

So I'm feeling weirdly good right now. Are there efforts within the left to marginalize Jews? Yes. But are Jews going to simply roll over and concede to them? Not bloody likely. And the most heartening part is -- experience has taught me that we won't be fighting alone, and we won't be fighting in futility. This is a battle we can win.

1 comment:

Suzanne S said...

Thank you, David. I needed a post like this at this time.