Evidence is mounting that anti-Semitism is on the rise. For a recent example, a CNN poll found that “more than a quarter of Europeans say Jews have too much influence in business and finance, while one in five said Jews have too much influence in the media and politics.”
Anti-Semitism has, in the past, frequently been associated with the political Right; but the rise of anti-Semitism on what is frequently called the ‘New Left’ is closely linked to the combined forces of identity politics, anti-colonialism, and anti-imperialism unleashed in the 1960s and 1970s.
Left-wing anti-Semitism is not new. What has made it front-page news is the manifestation of blatant, institutional anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Repeated failures to address anti-Semitism within the party has now brought Labour to the point where even its supporters believe the party to be systemically anti-Semitic.
Left-wing anti-Semitism is intimately linked to a fervent form of anti-Zionism — the view that the State of Israel should not exist — which denies both the very concept of Jewish peoplehood entitled to self-determination. This form of anti-Zionism arose from a determination amongst a generation of people who came of age after WWII to oppose racism and colonialism.
Israel, according to the New Left, is an illegitimate remnant of Western colonialism in the Middle East — a view endorsed by the United Nations as it added newly decolonized states to its membership. Opposition to racism and colonialism — and thence, to Israel — is also interwoven with a deep-seated hostility to the USA and its allies.
Yet Corbyn refuses to concede the existence of anti-Semitism within Labour ranks because he refuses to accept that opposition to racist colonialism is equivalent, in the case of Israel, to Jew-hatred. As Labour’s scandal of anti-Semitism worsens, many Jewish leaders in the UK now consider the party — long the home of British Jewry — a threat to Jewish life in that country.
Labour’s anti-Semitism is not an isolated instance. Extreme anti-Semitic views are also being expressed more frequently on the Left of American politics — as in the case of the so-called ‘Squad’ of Democratic members of Congress. And although the Australian Labor Party has been spared the scandal of its British counterpart, anti-Semitism still seeps into our political life.
Writing in The Australian recently, James Kirchik warned ALP leader Anthony Albanese of the dangers of associating himself with Jeremy Corbyn, a man, who, Kirkchik noted, “leads an institutionally racist party.” Albanese and the ALP now have a vital opportunity to keep a commitment to justice and equality free of the ugly taint of anti-Semitism.
Peter Kurti is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and also Adjunct Associate Professor Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
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