The Weaponization of Anti-Semitism

Here’s an informative podcast interview with my friend Steve Shalom, a political scientist at William Paterson University (Wayne, New Jersey), and an active member of Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey. You have to scroll down a few clicks past the bio and the Banksy visual for the podcast itself.

What Steve says in the interview about anti-Semitism strikes me as one instance of many of the over-emphasis on race in American political discourse–not only to the exclusion of other sorts of identity, like gender and class, but to the exclusion of a straightforward focus on ethico-political issues as such. In other words, we not only have a tendency to focus on race above all other things, but to use our focus on race to distract attention from equally important things. It becomes easy to forget that sometimes an issue is just an issue.

Of course, no sooner do I listen to the interview but I run into a bunch of anti-Zionist Holocaust deniers on Facebook.

Ever since Ilhan has been accused of “anti-Semitism”, many supporters are playing defense, claiming “anti-Zionism is not ‘anti-Semitism'”. Weak stuff, imho. I envision the day soon, when the response to being called an “anti-Semite” will be “So What?”

Gas chamber? Can you provide a wartime photograph of a homicidal gas chamber? And please provide the name of a “real anti-Semite”, b/c I would like to meet him. Ernst Zundel was the last so-called Jew hater, and I found him to be a warm and caring human being.

JFC. My mistake to have given these louts even a minute of my time. Talk about “never again”! Not that any of that contradicts anything Steve says, or even casts any doubt on it. Just a reminder of the need to hold two different thoughts in one’s head at the same time: the charge of “anti-Semitism” can and often is unfairly weaponized, but sometimes it fits, and when it does, it needs to be wielded…like a weapon.

P.S., March 3: Another piece on essentially the same topic by Michael Lesher, another JVP North Jersey activist, on the reputational “mugging” of Ilhan Omar. I assume most readers have seen this story by now. From Juan Cole. The excuse for defaming Omar? Well, we’re told, she’s an anti-Semite, so she deserves it.

One thought on “The Weaponization of Anti-Semitism

  1. Apropos of the anti-Zionist Holocaust denier I mentioned in the post, here’s what I said before I realized who I was dealing with (there were several people on the thread, but I was engaging primarily with one of them):

    I’m sorry–the original post is talking all-out nonsense. It’s crucial to deny the equation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but it’s equally crucial to call out anti-Semitism. Fantasies aside, anti-Semitism is a real and dangerous phenomenon, and it finds its way with predictably nauseating regularity into anti-Zionist politics. It’s easy for anti-Zionists to be infiltrated by white nationalist anti-Semites or Muslim anti-Semites who are more interested in expressing their hatred for Jews than freedom for Palestine. I’ve had to spend a lifetime differentiating my politics from that of real anti-Semites. I’m not going to let go of the term “anti-Semite” because some people misuse it, and others have closed their eyes to it. The discussion here is almost unbelievably parochial and myopic. Get out more, and you’ll encounter real anti-Semites who would throw anyone on this thread into a gas chamber without a moment’s thought.

    After awhile, I realized that I was engaging with a Holocaust denier, and had to put things this way:

    The pro Palestinian movement needs unapologetically to seek out and purge people like you. You’re a menace to all of us, and unbelievably fucking stupid to boot.

    Later, I figured out who he was:

    Just what we need: some half-assed Holocaust-denying poser out to appropriate the memories of dead Palestinians. Maybe there is such a thing as “cultural appropriation” after all?


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