Why is there antisemitism on the left? Phoebe and Moishe

What would Phoebe say?

A very smart piece from Phoebe Maltz, read the whole thing:

… Being on the left has always been about supporting the downtrodden, and since anti-Semitism is and always was about accusing Jews of being insufficiently downtrodden, there are only these rare moments when the obvious left-wing position is to get worked up about anti-Semitism – moments when anti-Semitism’s on-the-ground influence is so great (think the Dreyfus Affair, the Holocaust) that thinking of Jews as victims becomes uncontroversial.

Where does Israel fit into this? The idea that Zionism was and continues to be the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, a flawed movement but a legitimate liberation movement akin to the postcolonial ones all the same, this gets lost because Israel is a wealthy enough country with a white-ish population. The fact that Israel was founded by those Europe had rejected on account of their “Oriental” “race” and told to “go back to Palestine” gets lost and replaced by the idea that Israel’s a country dominated by a bunch of white Europeans – with all the global privilege that entails – who have no place in the Middle East. But the issue isn’t really Israel, or even the fact that the Palestinians are indisputably suffering, somewhat more disputably the non-white party in the conflict (disputably because, Ohad Knoller aside, Jewish Israeli’s aren’t all that white) – it’s about how Jews are perceived at home. I suspect that many in America picture Israel as basically a wealthy American suburb, a great big West End Avenue by the sea….

Read it all at What would Phoebe do?

And of course, Moishe Postone:

… The extensive and intensive spread of such global conspiratorial thought was dramatically revealed recently by the Egyptian television series Horseman without a Horse, which made use of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a historical source, and the spread in the Arab media of medieval Christian blood libel charges — that Jews kill non-Jewish children in order to use their blood for ritual purposes.

Moishe Postone

This development should be taken seriously. It should neither be treated as a somewhat exaggerated manifestation of an understandable reaction to Israeli and American policies, nor should it be bracketed as a result of the dualistically grounded fear that focusing on it can only further Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Grasping its political significance, however, requires understanding modern anti-Semitism. On the one hand, modern anti-Semitism is a form of
essentializing discourse that, like all such forms, understands social and historical phenomena in biologistic or culturalistic terms. On the other hand, anti-Semitism can be distinguished from other essentializing forms, such as most forms of racism, by its populist and apparently antihegemonic, antiglobal character. Whereas most forms of race thinking commonly impute concrete bodily and sexual power to the Other, modern anti-Semitism attributes enormous power to Jews, which is abstract, universal, global, and intangible. At the heart of modern anti-Semitism is a notion of the Jews as an immensely powerful, secret international conspiracy.

I have argued elsewhere that the modern anti-Semitic worldview understands the abstract domination of capital — which subjects people to the compulsion of mysterious forces they cannot perceive — as the domination of International Jewry.
Anti-Semitism, consequently, can appear to be antihegemonic. This is the reason why a century ago August Bebel, the German Social Democratic leader, characterized it as the socialism of fools. Given its subsequent development, it could also have been called the anti-imperialism of fools. As a fetishized form of oppositional consciousness, it is particularly dangerous because it appears to be antihegemonic, the expression of a movement of the little people against an intangible, global form of domination.  It is as a fetishized, profoundly reactionary form of anti-capitalism that I would like to begin discussing the recent surge of modern anti-Semitism in the Arab World….

The whole piece by Moishe Postone is worth a read.

ht Ignoblus

10 Responses to “Why is there antisemitism on the left? Phoebe and Moishe”

  1. Bill Says:

    The primary conduit of mainstreaming antisemitism or any other flavor of racism or bigotry is to establish the target as a threat. The colored people are gonna get our land and women. The Jews control pretty much everything. Women are moving from the secretarial role (where they belong) up through middle management and to “our” jobs. Mexican Latinos want La Reconquista and are making it happen. Cuban Exiles are nothing more than Jews with rhythm. Muslims want the caliphate. Gays want to take everyone to Vegas for a shotgun same-sex wedding and make us wear chaps, and they’re all over showbiz. Dismissing Jewish concerns about antisemitism because they are unduly “empowered” is a sham. Every object of discrimination has always been “unduly ’empowered'” by those who want to bash their heads in. Forgiving antisemitism because Jews are “anglo” “euro” or “white” is a lie, it’s because whites/euros/anglos (and others) need someone to hate and blame everything on. And from my experience to my disgust, fake progressives need a 2-minute hate within the protected group category to get all their bad energy out — and it seems to be especially reserved for Jews of course but also Cubans, and certain subgroups of women blacks and gays, typically those that don’t read off their scripts.

  2. darren redstar Says:

    on my website I have acopy of an essay I wrote at university on Mosley’s anti semitism which I argued was as much a result of his experience of left wing politics (especially in the ILP) as of his later alliance with nazism/ fascism.

  3. Evan Says:

    I’ve attended talks where pro-Israel speakers, on mentioning anti-Semitism, are shouted down with the words “Arabs are Semites, most Israelis are European!” (whither Sephardim/Mizrachim?) or “European Jews cannot possibly have an historical or cultural connection with Palestine because they are white!”, or thereabouts. Funny being told that you aren’t “white” or “European” enough to be European, but too “white” or “European” to be considered “indigenous” to the Middle East.

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    Evan’s comment, like Phoebe’s post gets to the nub of antisemitism.
    At the heart of modern antisemitism is the equivocation of the Jews
    they are at once powerful and powerless, they are at once at the heart of things (government, media) and outsiders,
    they are at once European and “Oriental”,
    they are at once “white” and “not white”,
    they are at once part of the West (“Judeo-Christian”) and of the “East”,
    they are at once aliens in Europe and aliens in the Middle East; they are at once homeless and at home everywhere, they are at once the harbingers of modernity and the epitome of the post-modern
    they are at once the most ethical of people and the most unethical of people
    they are the most persecuted and the greatest of persecutors……………

    • Bill Says:

      What’s the line? (and more importantly, who here coined it?) “Don’t be here, don’t be there just don’t be.”

      Also re: Evans comment on how antisemetic apologists claim that Jews aren’t the only Semite (or not even Semites), like the recent scholarly paper form Blackwell et al, the “Semetic” origin of anti-semitism is a lie. It was originally coined to give Jew-Hatin’ an intellectual edge — re-marketing a failing brand. Anyone using that lie should be called out in.

      • Paul M Says:


        The quote, to the effect that in the 1930’s the graffiti read “Jews to Palestine” and now it reads “Jews out of Palestine” — don’t be here; don’t be there; just don’t be — originated sometime around 2001 or -2 with Amos Oz who, unfortunately, doesn’t contribute here (at least not under his own name).

        As for “Arabs can’t be antisemites because they’re semites”; I think it’s a helpful and virtually infallible guide. Anyone who peddles that line is effectively giving out calling cards that say “Hello. My name is ___ and I’m an antisemite.”

  5. Absolute Observer Says:

    What does the left-liberal Independent newspaper have in common with white supremacists, ultra-nationalists and various far-right groups?

    Jewish Power’s ability to determine the actions of (seemingly independent) national governments.

    “Zionist Occupation Government or Zionist Occupied Government (abbreviated as ZOG) is an antisemitic conspiracy theory which holds that Jews secretly control a given country, while the formal government is a puppet regime.[1]
    The expression is used by antisemitic groups such as white supremacists in the United States[2] and Europe,[3] ultra-nationalists such as Pamyat in Russia, and various far-right groups, including some in Poland.[4]
    The word “Zionist” in “Zionist Occupation Government” is derived from the ideology of Zionism, the movement for support of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. As the conspiracy theorists chiefly name countries outside that area, the usage of Zionist in this context is misleading, and intended to portray Jews as conspirators who aim to control the world, as in the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[5][6]”


    “The British government have, once again, bowed down to the demands of the pro-Israeli lobby. According to the evidence, it is clear who is guilty of behaving unreasonably.”


    Yesterday’s Independent had a four-page piece by Robert Fisk headlined United States of Israel? and illustrated by a full-page, full-colour US flag in which the stars are replaced by Stars of David.


  6. Frank Adam Says:

    Surprising number of Jim Crows involved responding to P…. Colour is offside under the UN and Euro Declarations of Human Rights; besides maritime Europe’s empires initially got footholds abroad by siding in local disputes which were not mealy mouthed about who was, “One of us.” Historically the Moslem World created itself as armed missionaries in the phrase of Robespierre that original Leftist. This was not only in the original Arab conquests, but the utter imperialism of the Moghul conquest of Hindu India and the Turkish 400 years in Greece and the Balkans with its two attacks on Vienna and regular slave raiding across Eastern Europe – the harvest of the steppes. Strange to note: most current active trouble spots of the Old World are jihadi stoked along the frontiers of the Moslem Crescent – in their phrase, “From the Ocean to The Gulf.”

    A lot of today’s disciples of the Henry Ford school of “History is bunk,” should all the same swot if not history, then census reports. Over half of Israel’s Jewish population is in families that fled Arab countries: Morocco, Iraq, Yemen…. If there is any comparison with the Arab World it is the Egyptian majority of the Arab world’s internal migration visible in the toponyms Masri/Misri. If it is OK for Egyptians to migrate to Turkish or British Palestine and to Persian Gulf countries and North Africa as labourers, technicians and teachers, then it is OK for Jews from Arab countries to migrate to Israel.

    As regards “Left Antisemitism” it has in part migrated from the long and honourable anti-clericalism based in the Protestant Reformation and thence the English Civil War and French and Russian Revolutions and the US Founding Fathers keeping “establishments of religion” out of US government – God bless ’em! Many against Israel take objection to its religious definition but then turn a Nelsonian eye on Pakistan, or the C of E; and I have heard a French Leftist admit with a sigh… “qu’en verité La France est un pays de reference Catholique.” Most funny peculiar of alll are Irish anti-Zionists forgetting that Ireland like Poland, Greece and Spain defined themselves by their Christianity’s variant against the Moslems, British and Russians or Germans. Religious identity is part of everybody’s identity, history and sociology. It takes time, peace and patience to ease it out of interfering with secular business and government. Half the trouble in the current Arab World is the overzealousness of fundamentalists who think imposing the relative minutiae of Moslem rites and village purdah by law and force is more important than the nitty gritty of funding education and health and stimulating the economy.

    The other Left problem with Capitalism and Israel is the displacement psychology of mackerel fishing to avoid the difficulties of shark fishing. Too many people in the first half of the 20th century treated Marx and the USSR as a Bible in the manner of the Papacy confining Galileo for the sake of ideology and institutional discipline instead of making a serious effort to deal with the observed evidence in real time. (Strictly GG was put under house arrest NOT because Copernican theory and GG’s telescopic observations were wrong; but because of a disciplinary offence – he had been told NOT to teach them till the Church could reconcile them with dogma. That GG had written a mocking book against his opponents that touched on the discipline and good conduct of the service did not help him.)

    When after 1945 the USSR reverted to plain Russian power interests and after Hungary 1956 and CZ 1968 was seen to have run out of practical libertarian ideas to bring on the bright sunlit uplands of economic justice, those who were still concerned and outraged about the problem abandoned the Western proletariat for luxuriating in never had it so good prosperity; then abandoned the Third World proletariat to its now independent ruling capitalists because they were politically independent when maritime Europe’s empires closed. This left them with a problem of what to pursue by way of bringing on the millenium especially as Third Worlders want to join the First World by development or by migrating. At the same time they overlooked that most conflicts in the ex-colonial, now Third World were succession wars for the fruits of office. Both the Apartheid Era and the Arab vendetta against Israel are in this category; but because of their imperial primary education view of the World, so blinkered self-importance, too many “Leftists” out of sublimated religious cultures /backgrounds think these two conflicts will have more effect on bringing down Capitalism across the World than their substance as trade and GDP involved warrants. They also for some reason can not comprehend that the Arab propagandists taking them for a ride are anything but Enlightenment libertarians, but straight old clerical fascists. Still if it makes them feel warm inside to be kicking traditional fall guys…..

  7. Kritik & theory « Anti-National Translation Says:

    […] Exchange with Michael from Archive Fire regarding Marxism and the Environment // David Hirsh: Why is there antisemitism on the left? Phoebe and Moishe// Timothy Hall: Subject, class, and the Hegelian legacy in critical social theory // Adam […]

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