Making Our Movements Stronger by Resisting Antisemitism

JFREJ member Jonah S. Boyarin and JFREJ Board member Dania Rajendra explain the impact of antisemitism on the left’s work toward social justice in this fantastic article for Everyday Feminism.

Do you want to fight white supremacy? We do. Do you want to fight systemic wealth and income inequality! Us, too.

Well, resisting antisemitism is one more way to make our feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist movement organizing stronger.

Antisemitism is real, it’s here, and it is a crucial and often invisible part of the interlocking network of oppressions with which we’re more familiar.

Resisting antisemitism strengthens our commitment to collective liberation—that we will all get free, together, including Jewish people.

Who are we? We’re Dania and Jonah, two members of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. One of us is a brown cis-woman and one of us is a white cis-man—and oh boy, people have been asking us a lot more about antisemitism lately now that it’s been in the news so often.

Some background on Antisemitism

Antisemitism is broadly understood as violent hatred of Jews, or hatred that bears the threat of such violence.

It coexists with Christian hegemony, which normalizes and rewards Christian ideas, people, and power structures, and devalues and attacks non-Christian ones.

Sometimes, antisemitism shows up as ugly microaggressions like when we’ve been called a “dirty Jew,” or asking for a bottle of wine to buy for our seder (a Jewish ritual meal) and getting handed a bottle named “The Velvet Devil.”

Or they can sound nice but actually be quite dangerous, like when we’ve been told, “All the Jews I know are rich,” (pro-tip: lots of Jews are poor) or when people shout “Jesus loves you!” at us.

But antisemitism, like other systemic “isms,” goes beyond just prejudice: it carries material power and it helps other systems of oppression function smoothly.

Antisemitism is nothing new. Christian killing and expulsions of Jews for being variously racially or religiously foreign, greedy, “unsaved,” or subversive, was a feature of European life from medieval times through the Stalinist purges of the 1950s.

During the Holocaust, a third of our people were murdered by the Nazi regime, aided and abetted by their neighbors. It wasn’t just Hitler’s personal prejudice: Jews made a handy scapegoat for Germany’s interwar economic problems and the cultural and global shifts associated with the end of World War I.

Antisemitism is a dangerous fantasy of secretive, disproportionate Jewish power, a conspiratorial claim that a cabal of (Jewish) people control our economy and society.

Antisemitism distracts us from addressing oppressive systems like racialized, sexist capitalism that are the real root cause of great suffering for working and poor people of color.

It relies on a perception of Jews as being essentially foreign, religiously/racially other, “unsaved,” and having different economic, political, and cultural interests than the white, Christian, nationalist “us.”

Antisemitism redirects the blame for the injustices caused by systems of oppression onto individuals or a small group, onto people in highly visible middleman or “new money” roles, such as Jewish landlords, Jewish attorneys, Jewish film producers, Jewish shop owners, Jewish tax collectors, and Jewish teachers.

This dynamic of scapegoating is a pattern common in the oppression of middleman or “model minorities” (i.e., Koreans in the 1992 L.A. Uprising; or white backlash against South and East Asian enrollment in universities).

It coexists alongside vicious anti-Black, anti-poor racism that is different from the experience of those in the middle (though, to be clear, people can have multiple, intersecting identities and experiences, such as being Black and Jewish).

The effect of this redirection on collective liberation movements is to distract us from fighting systems of oppression by redirecting our blame on individuals or small groups.

Right-wing, antisemitic conspiratorial thinking has also portrayed Jews as the secret, subversive (“Communist”) power behind the Black-led Civil Rights movement, women-led feminist movements.

Today, the right absurdly insinuates that the Black Lives Matter movement consists of paid protesters stirred up by Jewish billionaire George Soros. Such false claims undermine the political power and accomplishments of people of color.

So, why do a lot of people falsely believe that Jews are clannish, rich, essentially foreign, and own the banks, Hollywood, and the media? Lots of reasons!

Some reasons include anti-communism, the G.I. Bill, antisemitic job markets, Henry Ford, racialized housing markets — you can read about this for days, but one excellent place to start is the paper that Jews for Racial and Economic Justice released this November, “Understanding Antisemitism.”

In short, antisemitism is bad for non-Jews working to get free as well as for Jews. We, Dania and Jonah, are trying to get free and we hope you are, too.

Here are 6 ways to make our collective liberation movements stronger by resisting antisemitism:

Read the rest at: