Doug Chandler reports in the current issue of NY Jewish Week, on the New Jersey conference organized by Judy Andreas on anti-Semitism and the Left.
I checked out Judy’s reference to the www.unlearningracism.org website and see Judy’s point about how to reach out to the Left. I continue to have my disagreements with the far Left in general, but want to give this “Unlearning Racism” perspective (dedicated to the memory of Ricky Sherover Marcuse) more thought.
Judy is surely correct that if groups are categorized as either being “oppressed” or “not oppressed,” and Jews are considered as the latter (not oppressed), Jews fall onto the Left’s shit list. But my argument is that it is this Leftist analysis that needs to be challenged, because it simplistically depicts reality, reducing whole groups of people into good and bad, oppressed and oppressor.
It is also unhistorical. The history of the Jews over the last two millennia is as one of the most oppressed, persecuted and massacred people on earth. Anti-Jewish hatreds are ancient and embedded in majority cultures through at least half the world, with the exception of Buddhist and Hindu societies in Asia. Christianity has poisoned the well for Jews into modern times and has even infected contemporary Islamic societies to the point where anti-Jewish feelings are more prevalent and venomous today in predominantly Muslim countries than in the Christian West.
There are many countries in the world where it’s unwise to advertise one’s Jewishness, but there are few places where Jewish communities remain that live in oppression. Iran is probably one such place, but Jews are more secure today in North America, in Europe and in Israel than in past centuries. Of course, the European Holocaust remains a living memory, and world Jewry has not even replaced, in raw numbers, the six million lost during that time. And the vibrant and ancient Jewish communities of the Arab world have also been lost– although most of their progeny have found refuge in Israel and in the West.
The reemergence of anti-Semitism as a problem in Western Europe during the years of the post-Camp David Intifada, beginning in the fall of 2000, has been almost as much of a shock as the Intifada itself. We are now living in an era where the ubiquitous presence and graphic power of the electronic media, in instantaneously distributing imagery of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israeli soldiers or in disseminating flawed theories of Jewish power in the US (for example) combine with preexisting prejudices to threaten Jews anew.
There is an age-old pattern of tyrannical regimes using the Jews as scapegoats to defer unrest or to fan and exploit this ingrained bigotry to safeguard their hold on power. This was obviously true of Nazi Germany and European fascist regimes in its orbit. This was true of Czarist Russia, this was true of Stalin’s Soviet Union and neighboring countries that fell under Soviet domination (with anti-Semitism being disguised as attacks on “rootless Cosmopolitans” and “Zionists”). It has also been true of Arab regimes, which have long blamed their failings on Israel and Zionism.
What is different today is that the problem is not the current reality of anti-Jewish oppression, but the potential and threat of this happening again as Israel and the Jewish people are viewed by manipulated masses as sources of evil in the world that need to be defeated or eradicated. Jews are a vulnerable and threatened people, but not powerless and not (for the most part) oppressed. This is a complicated but problematic reality that defies the dualistic analysis of oppressed versus oppressor, and an adoration for the perceived “underdog,” that the Left seems so fond of.