Hostility to Israel and Antisemitism: Toward a Sociological Approach – David Hirsh

This paper, by David Hirsh, is published in the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, JSA Vol 5#1 2013.

Download the paper on PDF by clicking here.

ABSTRACT

Sociology is not immune from the ambivalence toward antisemitism that has haunted anti-hegemonic intellectual and political traditions. Yet in this paper, I argue that the resources of sociology can be mobilized to examine the ways in which antisemitism is sometimes manifested in discourses and movements against Israel and Zionism, even those which think of themselves as antiracist.

This paper does not present an overview of [debates around the ‘new antisemitism’], but instead focuses on evidence and analysis relevant to three key theoretical aspects of them:

• Antisemitism should be understood as a social phenomenon that is not reducible to the intent or the self-consciousness of the social actors involved. Antisemitism is a social fact that is produced through shared meanings and exclusions; it is not an individual moral failing.

• Difficulties of understanding are raised by the shift from explicit and self-conscious racism and antisemitism to discursive and institutional forms of racism and antisemitism. This paper discusses methodological questions concerning how to recognize racism and antisemitism when it is not straightforwardly observable in an unmediated way.

• Anti-Zionism tends to understand Israeli nationalism in a spirit that diverges from standard sociological approaches to nationalism. In this regard, this paper points toward a critique of conceptualism and a defense of a more materialist cosmopolitanism. Sociological approaches to  the study of nationalism can help signpost us back toward understanding Israel as being a worldly material phenomenon rather than an ethereal and unique signifier. Sociological approaches can steer us away from ways of thinking about the world that give extraordinary explanatory power to Jews.

Download the paper on PDF by clicking here.

David Hirsh is a sociology lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London.

5 Responses to “Hostility to Israel and Antisemitism: Toward a Sociological Approach – David Hirsh”

  1. Something for almost everybody! | SOLAR PLEXUS Says:

    […]  Hostility to Israel and Antisemitism: Toward a Sociological Approach by David Hirsh – only for those with a serious interest in the question and plenty of time and patience available. […]

  2. Barbara Mazor Says:

    Well, I took the time to read the paper and I thought it was really thoughtful and informative. I don’t have a background in sociology. I speak American, not British. Dave, would you mind to explain what you mean when you use the word “discursive”?

    Thank you.

  3. ctomatis Says:

    David, very interesting stuff as usual. However, couldn’t you be accused of the same error that paper tries to correct by attributing essential qualities to some actors which appear to be unblemished by what they actually do? I’m thinking, for example, of your description of Milne as “antiracist” a line or two before you quote him as refusing to recognize the racism of Hamas. We can’t know the workings of Milne’s soul, we’ve only got his writing to go on. So how come he gets to be described as “antiracist”? There are other examples of the same sort of thing in the text.

    And one more thing,

    “Antisemitism is a social fact that is produced through shared
    meanings and exclusions; it is not an individual moral failing.”

    A social fact can constitute itself as a moral failing in me if I uncritically internalize and reproduce it, no?

  4. Fathom – The Corbyn left: the politics of position and the politics of reason Says:

    […] world’s Jews. (For further analysis of antisemitism of which the carriers are not conscious, see Hirsh 2013.) The boycotters seek to punish Israel for human rights abuses and to hold all Israelis […]

  5. The Corbyn left: the politics of position and the politics of reason – David Hirsh | Engage Says:

    […] world’s Jews. (For further analysis of antisemitism of which the carriers are not conscious, see Hirsh 2013.) The boycotters seek to punish Israel for human rights abuses and to hold all Israelis […]


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