Updated: Anti-Semitism and the Fool’s Errand of the European Left

The Anti-Zionism of Fools”
Richard Seymour

Jacobin
August 8, 2014

Jacobin, the Marxist quarterly that is far more likely to publish anti-Israel screeds than to say anything positive about Judaism, has held its nose and published an article acknowledging that France has an anti-Semitism problem.

I say “holds its nose” because while the article offers a reluctant acknowledgement that, yes, antisemitism is wrong and should be expunged from the anti-Israel dialogue, the author prefaces all of that with an overlong screed against Israel, as if anyone on the Left in Europe who dares speak against anti-Semitism must first establish beyond a doubt their Israel-hating chops.

The result is that the first half of the article is a fairly tedious display of what happens to Hamas propaganda when it is pushed through the gut of a radical Irish writer. But if you can manage to restrain your bile long enough, the last half of the article offers some interesting fodder on the anti-Semitism of the French far-right.

On the other hand, you may not want to. Richard Seymour is complicit in the kind of unquestioning support of Palestine, and the unequivocal condemnation of Israel as “a state which is, at its core, an institutionalized form of colonial ethnic cleansing,” that is aught less than demagoguery served hot. It also proves that he is on a fool’s errand.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that the past several years have provided an ample body of evidence that there are herds of anti-Semitic pond scum within the European Left, and that recent weeks have seen them scurrying for cover under the banner of protest against Israel. There is a fundamental linkage between Israel and the global body of Jews that must be considered before we spend our energies trying to weed out the “good” anti-Zionists from the “bad” anti-Zionists.

Because while there are those who can and do disaggregate a disapproval of Israeli government policy from their feelings about Jews in general, they are generally the kinds of people who would grant that Israel has a right to exist. But those who insist that Israel has no right to exist are ipso facto anti-Semites. By de-legitimizing Israel as a state, they are imposing a brutal sentence on every Jew: you, Jews, have no right to a homeland, and despite a long history of oppression and persecution in nearly every other land in which you have lived, I condemn you to an existence in which you will be forever a stranger in a strange land.

Is that not, at its essence, a profoundly anti-Semitic sentiment? Is it possible to argue for the destruction (or deconstruction) of Israel, the end of a land where any Jew has the right of abode, without being fundamentally anti-Semitic?

I commend Seymour for his call to the French left to disaggregate antisemitism with anti-Zionism. I castigate him for putting to print language that delegitimizes Israel and thus calls into question its right to exist. And I pity him for the belief that, in Europe especially, he will ever be able to divide those who hate Israel and those who simply hate Judaism.

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