3 Book event at JW3: Robert Fine & Philip Spencer, Dave Rich and David Hirsh; with Lesley Klaff

Why are there three new books on left antisemitism?  hear Robert Fine & Philip Spencer, David Hirsh and Dave Rich talk about their books; and hear Lesley Klaff respond to the discussion.

1 October 2017, 4.00PM, JW3.

Tickets available here; buy them soon, they might sell out. 

Chaired by Sasha Roseneil.

Robert Fine and Philip Spencer’s book ‘Antisemitism and the Left’ worries about and describes the return of the ‘Jewish Question’.  They go back to key debates on the left in the past concerning antisemitism, involving Hegel, Marx, Arendt, Adorno and Horkheimer.  They show how left antisemitism has always been vigorously opposed by influential people within the left and they aim to learn from how they did it.  They show how the so-called ‘Jewish Question’ is never really about Jews but is always really about antisemites; rather they are interested in the antisemitism question.


David Hirsh’s book ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’ begins with the Livingstone Formulation, describing how Jews who experience antisemitism are treated with more suspicion than are the people who actually stumble into antisemitism itself.  It goes on to look at how antizionism and hostility to Israel, with its antisemitic discourses attached, moved into the mainstream of the Labour party from the extremist fringe and at the rise of Corbyn.  The book goes back to struggles over the boycott of Israel within the academic trade unions and it goes on to look at more conceptual issues about how we can understand this kind of antisemitism.


Dave Rich’s book, ‘The Left’s Jewish Problem’ traces Jeremy Corbyn’s issues with Israel and antisemitism back to their roots.  It looks at antizionism in the Soviet Union and how that politics was reconfigured in Britain in the 1970s and 80s.  He focuses on the student movement at this time and how the Israel-Palestine conflict was forced through template of the anti-apartheid movement; this led to campaigns to boycott Israel and it also led to the claim that Zionism is simply a form of racism which must be opposed by all antiracists.  Dave Rich tells the story of campaigns by antizionists to ban student Jewish societies and how hostility to Israel often manifested itself as hostility to the Jews who were said to support it.


Robert Fine is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Warwick University.

Philip Spencer is Emeritus Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Kingston University and a visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London.

Dave Rich is an Associate Research Fellow at the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism. @DaveRich1.

David Hirsh is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London @DavidHirsh.

Lesley Klaff is Senior Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University.

Sasha Roseneil is Professor of Sociology and Executive Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Essex University  @SashaRoseneil

On ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’ – the new book by David Hirsh

‘For more than a decade, David Hirsh has campaigned courageously against the all-too prevalent demonisation of Israel as the one nationalism in the world that must not only be criticised but ruled altogether illegitimate. This intellectual disgrace arouses not only his indignation but his commitment to gather evidence and to reason about it with care. What he asks of his readers is an equal commitment to plumb how it has happened that, in a world full of criminality and massacre, it is obsessed with the fundamental wrongheadedness of one and only national movement: Zionism.’ — Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University, USA


‘David Hirsh is one of our bravest and most thoughtful scholar-activists. In this excellent book of contemporary history and political argument, he makes an unanswerable case for anti-anti-Semitism.’ — Anthony Julius, Professor of Law and the Arts, UCL, and author of Trials of the Diaspora (OUP, 2010).



“David Hirsh writes as a sociologist, but much of the material in his fascinating book will be of great interest to people in other disciplines as well, including political philosophers. Having participated in quite a few of the events and debates which he recounts, Hirsh has done a commendable service by deftly highlighting an ugly vein of bigotry that disfigures some substantial portions of the political left in the UK and beyond.” — Matthew H. Kramer FBA, Professor of Legal & Political Philosophy, Cambridge University, UK


“A fierce and brilliant rebuttal of one of the Left’s most pertinacious obsessions. What makes David Hirsh the perfect analyst of this disorder is his first-hand knowledge of the ideologies and dogmata that sustain it.” – Howard Jacobson, Novelist and Visiting Professor at New College of Humanities, London, UK


David Hirsh’s new book “Contemporary Left Anti-Semitism” is an important contribution to the literature on the longest hatred. Coming at a time when there is appropriate attention to a resurgence of populist, classic right-wing anti-Semitism, Hirsh’s work is a reminder that delineates in detail, using Britain as a jumping off point but speaking more broadly, left-wing anti-Semitism is more challenging to identify but is no less pernicious than its right-wing counterpart. In a highly polarized world, understanding anti-Semitism from wherever it emerges is more vital than ever. Hirsh makes a large contribution toward that imperative.” – Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO, Anti-Defamation League, USA


“David Hirsh has rightfully emerged as an important voice on the issue of contemporary antisemitsm. He writes with passion but with balance and offers insights, to which we may have been previously oblivious, but, after reading what he has to say, seem utterly obvious. This book is not just for those who care about prejudice and antisemitism. It is also a must read for anyone who cares about the contemporary political landscape. It is a wakeup call for those who believe in the ideals and objective of leftist politics.” – Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University, United States


“David Hirsh is not only one of the foremost analysts and authorities on contemporary antisemitism, he is also one of its most redoubtable opponents.” Mark Gardner, Director of Communications, CST, UK



“David embodies what academia should be about – nuance, balance, careful evaluation of the merits of every perspective put forward, when disagreeing, doing so in a measured, respectful manner that deals with the issues not personalities, a willingness to subject his views to rigorous critical scrutiny and where called for adjust his views accordingly – he puts all too many of his academic humanities colleagues to shame. Listening to him is an intellectual treat. This fight is about more than Israel. It’s about restoring intellectual honesty and professional integrity to the world’s institutions of higher learning, which have largely been hijacked by intellectual frauds, moral charlatans and witch-hunting ideological bullies.” – Wendy Kahn, National Director, South African Jewish Board of Deputies.


“David Hirsh is a relentless investigator into one of the darker corners of contemporary left discourse, always shining a probing, revealing light.” Jonathan Freedland, Author and Journalist, The Guardian, UK



“The rise of anti-Semitism on the British left — which reached its apex in Jeremy Corbyn’s capturing the leadership of the Labour Party — is one of the most confounding, and worrisome, developments in contemporary Western politics. A man of the left himself, David Hirsh understands this phenomenon better than anyone, and has the battle scars to prove it.” James Kirchick, Foreign Policy Analyst and Journalist, USA


“In his book Contemporary Left Antisemitism David Hirsh proves himself to be our foremost diagnostician of a dangerous malaise: antisemitism among people who consider themselves progressive and antiracist. Building on masterly analyses of a series of contemporary case-studies, and approaching antisemitism as a sociocultural and institutional framework rather than a product of individual prejudice, Hirsh exposes the hostile assumptions and defensive obfuscations of left antisemitic discourse, from the continued use of blood libel and conspiracy theories to the implication of inherent deviousness to Jewish motives – the historically shocking observation that many antiracists ‘have been educated to recognize the accusation of antisemitism, rather than the antisemitism itself, as the dirty trick’. Honest, precise and unwavering, Hirsh’s writing is publicly-engaged scholarship at its best. This deeply insightful book is indispensable not only for those wishing to understand contemporary left antisemitism, but for anyone concerned with the moral health of democratic political culture.” – Paul Frosh, Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


In Contemporary Left Antisemitism, David Hirsh takes on those in Britain and elsewhere who have embraced an anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal political view and think of themselves as members of the community of the good, but in recent decades have also embraced toxic ways of imagining most Jews. Such “progressives” participate in antisemitism even as they insist they stand against it. They practice a discursive intolerance, expressed in insults, exclusions, purges, and boycott; at the same time, they accuse Jews of crying antisemitism in bad faith.They pour new life into a powerful tradition of accusing the Jew, updating it for a new era.

Hirsh further suggests that the new antisemitism cloaked as antizionism emerges when progressive politics are shaped by identity and position rather than by commitment to shared democratic values. These good folks think in simple binaries casting Israel as bad and Jews as privileged. The world they see is divided by opposed camps and they cast their lot uncritically with the victimized and the resistant.

Hirsh’s study is a useful guide to this new politics and intolerance, which has spread in recent years also to the United States and especially to its universities. Hirsh’s account teases out its key features and assays its impacts – on unions, the courts, the Labour Party, the universities. It is also a powerful story of marginalization and the effort by a brilliant scholar to define an empirical methodology for study of antisemitism and to speak back effectively against bigotry. – Ken Waltzer, Professor Emeritus, Social Relations and Policy, Michigan State University

Buy the book here. 


David Hirsh will be talking about his book…

(not all of these events will be open to the public – more details to come)

August. 29-31 Athens.  European Sociological Association Conference.
 3  London.  Jewish Labour Movement Conference in London.
 5  Ottawa.  Showing the film Whitewashed and talking about the  book.  Evening.
 6  Duluth, MN.  Temple Israel Learner’s Luncheon and public talk in the evening.
 7  New York.
 8  New York.  West End Temple, Queens. Evening.
 10-11  Yale University.  Conference: Racism, Antisemitism and the radical right. Yale Programme for the Study of antisemitism.
 14  University of California, Berkeley. Israel Studies seminar, lunchtime.
 14  San Francisco State University. Public lecture. Afternoon.
 18  East Lansing.  Michigan State University, lunchtime.
 18  Ann Arbor.  Eastern Michigan University, evening, public lecture.
 19  University of Wisconsin, Madison.
 24  Manchester (UK), book launch.  Evening.
November 5, Haifa University lunchtime
 5 November, Jerusalem panel.
 7 November 14.00 Bar Ilan University
 7 November 17.00 Tel Aviv University (Museum of the Diaspora)
 TBA Hebrew University, Jerusalem
14 Berlin
15 Koln
December 25. Limmud.  One event around “Whitewashed”.  A separate event around the book.
January 9.  Edgware United Synagogue.
February 18.  Vienna. Conference on antisemitism and antizionism.

Planning events in Brussels and in Germany too.

“Conspiracy”  by Marlon Solomon showing in Manchester, July 23rd to July 28th.

Many of you will know Marlon as a blogger who often writes about antisemitism

“Marlon’s a Jew. This didn’t bother him until he realised that some people he knew didn’t believe the Holocaust happened. A darkly comic tale of one man’s journey through the conspiracy underworld. Marlon examines why conspiracy theories are more popular than ever and how fake news gives rise to ancient slander. A comic tale which is no laughing matter.”
You can purchase tickets for his show in Manchester here. 

Bongani Masuku and COSATU found guilty of antisemitic hate speech in the SA Equality Court

On 29 June Judgment was handed down in Johannesburg’s Equality Court, unequivocally upholding a South African Human Rights Commission ruling that Cosatu international relations spokesman Bongani Masuku had been guilty of anti-Semitic hate speech.

In 2009, he threatened at Wits University to mobilise Cosatu members on campus to make life there “hell” for people he called “Zionists”. He threatened violence, “with immediate effect” against families in SA whose children had moved to Israel and served in its army.

He threatened concrete harm against people who lived in Orange Grove, known as a Jewish neighbourhood, who did not agree with him about Israeli politics. On a website, Masuku wrote about the overwhelming majority of living Jews, those who in one way or another identify with Israel, as though they were supporters of racism and fascism.

To drive his point home about those Jews, including those who live in SA, he wrote Hitler was their friend.

Masuku said those Jews he defines as “Zionists” should be forced out of SA.

He threatened to make the people in SA, whom he defined in this way, drink “bitter medicine”.

Follow this link for a piece by David Hirsh in the SA press, which outlines the importance of the case.

Masuku and COSATU persistently mis-represent what they did as “criticism of Israel” and as “solidarity with the Palestinians”: “This was not just a trial against COSATU and its International Secretary, Bongani Masuku,” said COSATU, “but effectively a trial against workers rights to offer solidarity, freedom of expression and the struggle for justice and dignity for all.”

Follow this link for the response from COSATU

In its response COSATU divides Jews into good Jews and bad Jews, Jews who are with the struggle and Jews who are against the struggle.  The representative institutions of the Jewish community are defined as being pro-aprtheid, pro-imperialist, dishonest, Zionist and racist.  On the other hand, COSATU says that “The proud record of heroic Jews in our ranks, who selflessly fought against apartheid, such as Joe Slovo, the former Chief of Staff of the ANC military wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), Dennis Goldberg Rivonia trialist with former President Nelson Mandela, and many other great stalwarts of our revolution, will forever inspire our struggle for full equality, freedom and justice for all.”

This dishonest characterization of South African Jews portrays most ordinary Jews who identify, in one way or another, with Israel as being racist and pro-apartheid while it portrays antizionist Jews as the only good antiracist Jews.

In the trial before the Equality Court, COSATU relied upon the expert testimony of an antizionist Jew, Steven Friedman.  The judge was clear in his judgment that “as a Jew” does not constitute expertise.  He wrote that Friedman’s evidence was “trite” and “partisan”.  He wrote: “Although the evidence shows that Friedman has immense interest in these matters, these have not been the focus of his academic career”.

Follow this link for the full judgment.

Follow this link for the expert witness testimony of David Hirsh, which explains the issues in the case and which goes through the complex relationships between hostility to Israel, antisemitism and Jewish identity.

We in Britain first knew of Bongani Masuku in 2009 when the University and College Union (UCU) invited COSATU to send a delegate to a behind-closed-doors conference on boycotting Israel.

A year later, UCU had time to think carefully about what Mr Masuku had said, and to understand the significance of the Human Rights Commissions finding of antisemitism.  Michael Yudkin, a world renowned scientist, took a motion to UCU Congress from the Oxford branch. The motion said‘Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.’  UCU Congress explicitly refused to dissociate itself in that way from Mr Masuku’s antisemitism.

Follow this link for the motion which was passed at UCU Congress, refusing to dissociate itself from Bongani Masuku’s “repugnant” views.

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s piece in the Jewish Chronicle about Masuku and the UCU.

Follow this link for the analysis written by Jeff Samuels QC of the Masuku judgment. 







Masuku should say sorry to South Africa – David Hirsh

This piece, by David Hirsh, appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, 7 July 2017.

We in Britain first knew of Bongani Masuku in 2009 when the University and College Union (UCU) invited Cosatu, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions, to send a delegate to a behind-closed-doors conference on boycotting Israel.

We learned that Mr Masuku, Cosatu’s delegate, had been conducting a campaign of antisemitic intimidation in South Africa.

That year, at Wits University in Johannesburg, he had threatened to mobilize Cosatu members on campus to make life ‘hell’ for people there who he designated as ‘Zionists’. He threatened violence, ‘with immediate effect,’ against families in South Africa whose children had moved to Israel and served in its army.  He threatened harm against people who lived in Orange Grove, known as a Jewish neighbourhood, who disagreed with him about Israeli politics.

On a blog, Mr Masuku wrote that Zionists were supporters of racism and fascism; and to drive his point home he wrote that Hitler was their friend. He said that Zionists should be forced to leave South Africa.  He threatened to make Zionists drink ‘bitter medicine’.

We reported these concerns to UCU officials in Britain but we were told that they did not respond to gossip on websites.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies took Mr Masuku to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), arguing that he was guilty of antisemitic hate speech.  The SAHRC is a constitutional body of the new antiracist South African state. It looked at the evidence and found Mr Masuku guilty; it ordered him to apologize to the Jewish community.

Mr Masuku ignored the finding and refused to apologize.  The Palestine Solidarity Movement, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign and Cosatu stood by him.  They said that these allegations of antisemitism were a dishonest and disgraceful ruse by the South African Jews to silence criticism of Israel.

Even after the Human Rights Commission had found Mr Masuku guilty of antisemitism, the UCU in Britain still hosted him and paid for his trip.

A year later, UCU had time to think carefully about what Mr Masuku had said, and to understand the significance of the HRC’s finding of antisemitism.  Michael Yudkin, a world renowned scientist, took a motion to UCU Congress from the Oxford branch. The motion said‘Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.’  UCU Congress explicitly refused to dissociate itself in that way from Mr Masuku’s antisemitism.

With Bongani Masuku still scornful of the HRC’s finding, the HRC, together with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, took the Masuku case to the Equality Court in Johannesburg, asking for the finding to be legally enforced. The case was heard in February this year.  I was asked to appear as an Expert Witness for the HRC and to explain to the court why what Masuku had said and written was antisemitic.

Cosatu put up a formidable defence. Bongani Masuku had been making criticisms of Israel, it said, and he had been campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinians.  Cosatu produced a Jewish antizionist as an expert witness, who claimed that nothing Masuku had said could be interpreted as being antisemitic, since it only targeted Zionists, not Jews.  I explained to the court something of the complexities of Jewish identity and history. I told the court that it is wrong to ask what Zionism really is; the relevant question is what Bongani Masuku means by ‘Zionism’ as he strives to force the identity upon his enemies, and by which he designates them as racists, fascists and friends of Hitler.

It seems inexplicable that the Palestine Solidarity movement, the boycotters and the University and College Union stood by Bongani Masuku to the bitter end, in the face of such evidence.  But to admit that hostility to Israel is sometimes antisemitic would fatally disrupt their strategy of complete denial and counter-accusation of Zionist conspiracy to smear and to silence.

The constitution of the rainbow nation aims to maintain respectful co-existence between different communities in South Africa.  In this spirit, Mr Masuku is ordered to apologize to the Jewish community. I think it would have been more powerful if the court had ordered him to apologize not to the Jews, but to the constitution and to the state itself.  Antisemitism is not only a harm to Jews, it is a harm to the whole community.

This piece, by David Hirsh, appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, 7 July 2017.

Follow this link for the full judgment.

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s expert witness statement.

Follow this link for Jeff Samuels’ commentary. 

How racism and conspiracy theory creeps into legitimate discourse – Anti-Nazis United

Blogger ‘Anti-Nazis United’ has followed some connections online and shows us why people need to be extremely careful about what sources they rely on and with whom they end up in conversation.  Follow this link to ‘The Atlantic, the Left and the infection of conspiracy thinking, even close-by Labour MPs.’

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