Left-Handed Compliments: Anti-Semitic Discourse Among ‘Progressives’

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Dr. David Hirsh, a sociologist at Goldsmith’s, University of London, discusses his new book Contemporary Left Antisemitism, analyzing the “mainstreaming” of anti-Jewish bigotry among socialist and so-called progressive circles.

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This season of the Tel Aviv Review is made possible by The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which promotes humanistic, democratic, and liberal values in the social discourse in Israel.


3 comments on “Left-Handed Compliments: Anti-Semitic Discourse Among ‘Progressives’

  1. Leonid Merzon says:

    Gilad, you really made my day with this interview! As well, as Dr. Hirsh, of course!
    Excellent, brilliant, refreshing and just brave!
    Being both a lifelong – and it’s been a relatively long life already, I’m close to 60 – leftist liberal and a lifelong Zionist, but also a firm critic and opponent of the occupation and of Likud’s and Bibi’s policies, it’s been such a torture for me over the last years to even attempt to engage in a civilized discussion of Israeli politics with my European leftist friends – particularly Swedish friends, some of whom happen to be Jewish too.
    I can’t thank Dr. Hirsh enough for reading my mind and making exactly all the points that I never have enough patience to make, as it takes to listen calmly to all those “Nazis” and “the fascist state” slurs first.
    Thank you and huzza!

    1. Gilad says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m really glad you liked this podcast. I hope you’ve listened to the others (almost 400) that we have in our archives.
      Please subscribe (if you haven’t) and share it among your friends. And if you would like to help us survive, please consider supporting us.

  2. Greg Pollock says:

    The author seems to be inveighing against something akin to Antifa, which employs ostracism and event disruption to prevent “racists and fascists” from gaining any foothold in the polity. In Berkeley they disrupted an alt-right speech rally. But in Boston such a rally, so the headline says, had more protestors than adherents. This latter strikes me as how political competition via speech should go, without disruption otherwise. To the extent that the author targets active disruption of rights I think he is correct.

    BDS is a call to refuse association no different than a labor strike. In both cases the targeted is supposed to be hurt financially and socially, and in both cases the target has far more direct power than those calling for ostracism. Those that claim BDS is inherently anti-Zionist seem confused. Israel is in the UN, secured by the Charter, and may admit whomever it wants into its land. Since Zionism is just free ingress into Israel as decided by Israel, BDS can only attack Zionism directly by denying the protection the UN Charter provides. The real issue is, of course, Judea and Samaria–and in that appellation the game is given. If Israel insists on annexing the rump of the Palestine Mandate then it acts against the UN as (albeit paper) custodian of that Mandate. BDS is focused not on Israel but on its behavior in the territories, just as a strike is focused on work conditions and not the existence of the company as such. In this, the case against Israel is far stronger than the case against apartheid South Africa, for the latter’s actions were all internal to its territory, quite the reverse of the occupation. Boycotting settler products is no more than boycotting some company’s product until a labor dispute is resolved (for years, decades, many boycotted lettuce in the US picked by workers not allowed to organize their labor).

    But the IDF allows settler incursion into this territory via police protection and the expulsion of prior residents; Israel constructs and connects settlers to water and power infrastructure passing by prior residents living quite near by; Israeli banks fund development in Judea and Samaria. So boycotting Israel more generally is then consequent of the State’s actions for settlement in this territory. A strike/boycott begun against a subsidiary can extend to a parent company. The issue should not be One State, Two States, or Confederation/Condominium, as these outcomes are decided internally in Israel in negotiation (with what is unclear); the issue is against Israeli behavior, nothing more, or should be. There is no legitimate One State position in BDS which would not violate the UN Charter. If Palestine wants to be in the UN, it has no choice but to accept Israel being in the UN.

    Anti-Semitism has two broad classes. The first is stereotypic racism which excludes, belittles, and truncates life horizon. The second is assertion that Jews as a “People” have a goal which harms others and must be resisted, usually envisioned as a nefarious network of power and suggestion, puppet masters with illuminati credentials. Neither type is uniquely deployed against Jews, and millions have died through the latter designation who were not Jewish. What the existence of Israel does is provide a tangible network point for assertion of this latter. The same was true of third world “radicals” inveighing against the US “military industrial” complex. This similarity births the author’s charge that the left has been captured by anti-Semitism. Israel in itself becomes evil, just as the US was evil for many throughout the Vietnam era and beyond. If Israel insists in annexing Judea and Samaria, or all but a rump of high population stagnant Palestinians which, thank you, Jordan or even the UN can have as its own–then I think you will see the charge of an evil Israel grow.

    You see, BDS, for all its flushed faces, is actually about preventing that by insisting Israel change its behavior fundamentally in the occupied territory. In consequence of such change, Zionism would be secured within Israel, as stipulated in its Declaration of Independence. If you are afraid of One State, stop annexation. That really should be BDS’s motto.

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