27 January 2012

Holocaust Memorial Day

Sadly, antisemitism in the form of hostility and discrimination against Jews is still a problem today. Each year Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us where discrimination against any group within society leads.

I'd recommend that readers take the time to read Andy Newman's (Socialist Unity Network) piece in the Guardian from last year. I'd highlight this passage:

"Sometimes well-meaning people fail to recognise antisemitism when they encounter it, because they are not attuned to the linguistic codes in which it is expressed, or are unaware of the cultural themes of anti-Judaic prejudice being drawn upon."

What this means is that sometimes antisemitism arises in recklessness or a lack of awareness about how comments can be damaging to Jewish people. As individuals, we are likely to react defensively if we are challenged, understandably so, as all moral people would seek not to offend intentionally. But as Newman makes clear, defending or dismissing a challenge to language used in itself becomes antisemitism.

Last year I taught a Jewish student on a UPS International Perspectives module. He genuinely didn't have the much understanding about the history of Israel/Palestine. To expect otherwise would be antisemitic stereotyping of him as an individual, based on a projection that every Jewish person is concerned with this international issue. Nor could I have expections about him to be more or less critical of Israel than any other student, for the same reason.

On the left, direct antisemitism will stand out when it comes up. However, there is less certainty in respect of platform sharing. I've been clear that I would not share a platform with the BNP. I don't want to share a platform with someone who is racist. However, in the polarised politics of the Middle East, there are occasions that when we are rightly showing solidarity with people in Palestine, we end up at protests where there are chants of "we are all Hezbollah" or with speakers who have expressed clearly antisemitic views. This is a problem, and to quote Andy Newman again, "The Palestinian cause is hindered, not helped, when the left fails to notice or confront anti-semitism."

It is vital that we continue to be critical of the actions of the government of Israel. To choose to boycott Israeli goods or protest against the oppression of Palestinian people is a justified moral position. But as I've argued elsewhere, what is crucial for an individual or a political party, is consistency. To only focus on or predominantly focus on the Israel/Palestine issue alone, without a consistent approach to all of the oppression experienced around the world, will be seen as antisemitism.

As an anti-racist, I'm clear that these issues need to be discussed and debated and this must be an ongoing. The fact that we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day means we can refocus on oppression within our own society, particularly in respect of the travelling community, Islamophobia and the need to be vigilant about anti-semitism.

1 comment:

Jessica Goldfinch said...

Sober, fair and empathic. Thanks Peter.