Contemporary Left Antisemitism
Today’s antisemitism is difficult to recognize because it does not come dressed in a Nazi uniform and it does not openly proclaim its hatred or fear of Jews. This book looks at the kind of antisemitism which is tolerated or which goes unacknowledged in apparently democratic spaces: trade unions, churches, left-wing and liberal politics, social gatherings of the chattering classes and the seminars and journals of radical intellectuals. It analyses how criticism of Israel can mushroom into antisemitism and it looks at struggles over how antisemitism is defined. It focuses on ways in which those who raise the issue of antisemitism are often accused of doing so in bad faith in an attempt to silence or smear. Hostility to Israel has become a signifier of identity, connected to opposition to imperialism, neo-liberalism and global capitalism; the ‘community of the good’ takes on toxic ways of imagining most living Jewish people.
1. Ken Livingstone and the Livingstone Formulation 2. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and how tolerance of antisemitism came to function as a marker of belonging 3. The crescendo of antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Chakrabarti Inquiry 4. The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel 5. Struggles over defining antisemitism 6. Ronnie Fraser v UCU: taking the union to court for antisemitism 7. Antizionism: discourse and its actualization 7. Jewish antizionism: being drawn towards the logic of antisemitism 8. Sociological method and antisemitism
‘For more than a decade, David Hirsh has campaigned courageously against the all-too-prevalent demonisation of Israel as the one nationalism in the world that must not only be criticised but ruled altogether illegitimate. This intellectual disgrace arouses not only his indignation but his commitment to gather evidence and to reason about it with care. What he asks of his readers is an equal commitment to plumb how it has happened that, in a world full of criminality and massacre, it is obsessed with the fundamental wrongheadedness of one and only national movement: Zionism.’ — Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University, USA
‘David Hirsh is one of our bravest and most thoughtful scholar-activists. In this excellent book of contemporary history and political argument, he makes an unanswerable case for anti-anti-Semitism.’ — Anthony Julius, Professor of Law and the Arts, UCL, and author of Trials of the Diaspora (OUP, 2010).
"David Hirsh writes as a sociologist, but much of the material in his fascinating book will be of great interest to people in other disciplines as well, including political philosophers. Having participated in quite a few of the events and debates which he recounts, Hirsh has done a commendable service by deftly highlighting an ugly vein of bigotry that disfigures some substantial portions of the political left in the UK and beyond." — Matthew H. Kramer FBA, Professor of Legal & Political Philosophy, Cambridge University, UK
"A fierce and brilliant rebuttal of one of the Left's most pertinacious obsessions. What makes David Hirsh the perfect analyst of this disorder is his first-hand knowledge of the ideologies and dogmata that sustain it." - Howard Jacobson, Novelist and Visiting Professor at New College of Humanities, London, UK
"David Hirsh's new book "Contemporary Left Anti-Semitism" is an important contribution to the literature on the longest hatred. Coming at a time when there is appropriate attention to a resurgence of populist, classic right-wing anti-Semitism, Hirsh's work is a reminder that there is no ideological monopoly on anti-Semitism. As he delineates in detail, using Britain as a jumping off point but speaking more broadly, left-wing anti-Semitism is more challenging to identify but is no less pernicious than its right-wing counterpart. In a highly polarized world, understanding anti-Semitism from wherever it emerges is more vital than ever. Hirsh makes a large contribution toward that imperative." - Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO, Anti-Defamation League, USA
"David Hirsh has rightfully emerged as an important voice on the issue of contemporary antisemitsm. He writes with passion but with balance and offers insights, to which we may have been previously oblivious, but, after reading what he has to say, seem utterly obvious. This book is not just for those who care about prejudice and antisemitism. It is also a must read for anyone who cares about the contemporary political landscape. It is a wakeup call for those who believe in the ideals and objective of leftist politics." - Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University, United States
"David Hirsh is not only one of the foremost analysts and authorities on contemporary antisemitism, he is also one of its most redoubtable opponents." Mark Gardner, Director of Communications, CST, UK
"David Hirsh is a relentless investigator into one of the darker corners of contemporary left discourse, always shining a probing, revealing light." Jonathan Freedland, Author and Journalist, The Guardian, UK
"The rise of anti-Semitism on the British left -- which reached its apex in Jeremy Corbyn's capturing the leadership of the Labour Party -- is one of the most confounding, and worrisome, developments in contemporary Western politics. A man of the left himself, David Hirsh understands this phenomenon better than anyone, and has the battle scars to prove it." James Kirchick, Foreign Policy Analyst and Journalist, USA
"David embodies what academia should be about - nuance, balance, careful evaluation of the merits of every perspective put forward, when disagreeing, doing so in a measured, respectful manner that deals with the issues not personalities, a willingness to subject his views to rigorous critical scrutiny and where called for adjust his views accordingly - he puts all too many of his academic humanities colleagues to shame. Listening to him is an intellectual treat. This fight is about more than Israel. It's about restoring intellectual honesty and professional integrity to the world's institutions of higher learning, which have largely been hijacked by intellectual frauds, moral charlatans and witch-hunting ideological bullies." - Wendy Kahn, National Director, South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
"In his book Contemporary Left Antisemitism David Hirsh proves himself to be our foremost diagnostician of a dangerous malaise: antisemitism among people who consider themselves progressive and antiracist. Building on masterly analyses of a series of contemporary case-studies, and approaching antisemitism as a sociocultural and institutional framework rather than a product of individual prejudice, Hirsh exposes the hostile assumptions and defensive obfuscations of left antisemitic discourse, from the continued use of blood libel and conspiracy theories to the implication of inherent deviousness to Jewish motives – the historically shocking observation that many antiracists ‘have been educated to recognize the accusation of antisemitism, rather than the antisemitism itself, as the dirty trick’. Honest, precise and unwavering, Hirsh’s writing is publicly-engaged scholarship at its best. This deeply insightful book is indispensable not only for those wishing to understand contemporary left antisemitism, but for anyone concerned with the moral health of democratic political culture." - Paul Frosh, Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
In Contemporary Left Antisemitism, David Hirsh takes on those in Britain and elsewhere who have embraced an anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal political view and think of themselves as members of the community of the good, but in recent decades have also embraced toxic ways of imagining most Jews. Such "progressives" participate in antisemitism even as they insist they stand against it. They practice a discursive intolerance, expressed in insults, exclusions, purges, and boycott; at the same time, they accuse Jews of crying antisemitism in bad faith.They pour new life into a powerful tradition of accusing the Jew, updating it for a new era.
Hirsh further suggests that the new antisemitism cloaked as antizionism emerges when progressive politics are shaped by identity and position rather than by commitment to shared democratic values. These good folks think in simple binaries casting Israel as bad and Jews as privileged. The world they see is divided by opposed camps and they cast their lot uncritically with the victimized and the resistant.
Hirsh’s study is a useful guide to this new politics and intolerance, which has spread in recent years also to the United States and especially to its universities. Hirsh’s account teases out its key features and assays its impacts – on unions, the courts, the Labour Party, the universities. It is also a powerful story of marginalization and the effort by a brilliant scholar to define an empirical methodology for study of antisemitism and to speak back effectively against bigotry. - Ken Waltzer, Professor Emeritus, Social Relations and Policy, Michigan State University
'The empirical richness of the study is, not surprisingly, impressive.' - Lars Rensmann, Antisemitism Studies