Some thoughts about antisemitism and narratives

Now that America is divided over whether to elect a reasonably competent establishment candidate or a creepy orange fascist, the media have stopped pretending they ever gave a shit about antisemitism; instead, they're pretending they give a shit about the US.

I didn't get to do this before on account of having a massive workload, but a lot of the reactions to the antisemitism shitstorm upset me massively. Many of them were pure denial: "I've never seen antisemitism in my community, so it must not exist." Many of them were denial mixed with tokenism: "I'm going to weaponise Jews who don't see antisemitism and use them as a tool to conveniently ignore people who disagree with me." Many fell back on the old chestnut that "anti-Zionism isn't antisemitism." (It isn't, but blathering about "Zionist control of the media" or "Zionists did 9/11" is very clearly an antisemitic dogwhistle. Regurgitating antisemitic rhetoric and replacing "Jew" with "Zionist" is still antisemitism, and it helps nobody, except possibly fascists.)

One of my least favourites was this one: "But the person you have accused is a tireless campaigner against racism and antisemitism!" It came up very, very frequently. I have problems with it.

One of the very first things you learn applying critical theories is that you will fuck up at some point. We are human. We make mistakes and have prejudices. Sometimes that means you're going to hurt people. If that happens, you'll be called out (callout culture has massive problems, but people should definitely be held accountable for their actions).

Does this only apply to novices? Does it not apply to seasoned campaigners - who are still human and still make mistakes? If not, why not? Selectively applying this rule seems like it's designed to protect the powerful and influential. Actually, I'll go further: overlooking this rule when it comes to people who are powerful and influential within their circles enables abusers. It's a way of saying to people with less power or influence that they should shut up if they feel uncomfortable, because the people hurting them are just so righteous and so committed to the cause. It's yet another way of imposing yet another bullshit hierarchy.

There's something else, something darker, which follows on from this: it paints Jews as the big, mean, nasty villains oppressing the principled anti-racist. Why? Because we dared to speak up and say that we were being hurt.

We're being told that we're not just wrong to speak up - we're problematic. We're evil. We're being told that the right and good thing to do is to shut up and take it, or risk isolation from our communities. We're being manipulated into staying silent.

There are of course Jews who are going to disagree. They are not bad, or wrong, or somebody else's token. Everyone's experiences are valid - but that also includes the people who are facing isolation for speaking up about what is happening to them. And of course we are not uniquely perfect; some people are doubtless bigoted and prejudiced. But that doesn't excuse antisemitism. Nor does someone else's antisemitism make it right to act oppressively towards them.

Please don't hurt other people. And please don't try to silence people who are hurt.