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November 15, 2017 by

The Leftist Guide to Fighting Antisemitism That You’ve Been Waiting For

antisemitism

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) today released a primer for activists on the Left about antisemitism. The 44-page document tackles the existence of antisemitism among both Jews and non-Jews on the Left and the uniqueness of Jewish oppression and its history—plus our current moment when antisemitism is again gaining momentum, and Jewish communities and their allies are reacting and defending.

The primer “is unique in how it addresses the ways in which antisemitism has been used to break apart movements for liberation,” says Julia Salazar of JFREJ. “Our paper highlights how antisemitism is deeply connected to capitalism and white supremacy. And while explaining the ties between these oppressive systems, the paper is also a valuable resource on who Jews actually are, in terms of racial diversity and range of class experiences. This challenges many of the myths and false stereotypes about Jewishness that fuel antisemitic ideology.”

The paper, entitled Understanding Antisemitism: An Offering to Our Movement, is super-comprehensive, in the exact way you want it to be. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for because the document is written as a tool for individuals and organizations who want to have a more in-depth analysis of antisemitism, and who want to intervene when they encounter it.

Understanding Antisemitism is compiled by who it’s intended for—Jews on the Left committed to building stronger justice movements and dispelling the idea that one oppression is more important than another, when in fact, all are connected. The paper dissects the covert nature of antisemitism, the reluctance to see it, and the fact that this hesitancy results in our unconscious or even deliberate erasure of Jews of Color, Jews from Arab countries, and Jews from various socioeconomic backgrounds. (You can find a brief, yet comprehensive, Jewish history in the report, along with an examination of the complicated relationship between Jews and whiteness.)

Understanding Antisemitism allows organizations and individuals to challenge effectively the idea that being on the Left exempts a person from aligning with antisemitic tropes (like “Jews control the media,” “All Jews have money,” “Jews can’t be trusted,” etc.) Emphasizing the role antisemitism plays in obstructing the goal of dismantling white supremacy can help justice organizations strategize, especially when building coalitions with other communities. Directing this tool towards people who are already involved in anti-oppression work aids in creating a common language, as well as an understanding of how Jews and non-Jews with the same goals can hold one another accountable when we flounder into the traps set by overt or internalized antisemitism.

Throughout the paper, the actions of the Trump administration are mentioned in connection with how emboldened white supremacists have amplified antisemitism both before and after the 2016 Presidential campaign. The report dives deeply into the connection between antisemitism and Islamophobia, a topic JFREJ also addresses with its programming.

“It is important to note that the history of antisemitism does not dictate its future,” writes the authors of the document. Understanding Antisemitism is a teaching tool, and it takes that role seriously with the inclusion of case studies and tips. Its glossary is invaluable, since we’re often afraid to admit what we don’t know, especially when everyone around us seems to agree on what certain terms mean. On the Left, needing to learn can be seen as a moral deficiency, as opposed to an opportunity. As we want to heal what’s desperately broken, we are not always as generous with one another as we can or should be.

But this is a generous document—it assumes good intentions, while also taking organizers and activists to task. If you’ve been looking for comprehensive and accessible information about antisemitism from a progressive perspective, here it is. Share it, apply your own experiences to it, use it to move forward and do better—in your organizing, your thinking, your relationships, and in helping to manifest the future we want to see.


 

 The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.