left-wing antisemitism (an updated post)

DEFINING LEFT-WING

Before reading this post, I recommend that you read my post A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES, as it will provide important context.

LEFT-WING POLITICS are politics that support social equality and egalitarianism, in opposition of social hierarchies. Civil rights movements, the feminist movement, anti-war movements, and environmental movements all fall within the spectrum of left-wing politics and ideology. Communism, anarchy, progressivism, and socialism also fall within the left-wing spectrum.

The terms RIGHT and LEFT in respect to political ideologies and beliefs were first coined following the French Revolution. 

Although left-wing politics advocate for equality, they’ve been riddled with antisemitism from their very onset (that is not to excuse the right from perpetuating antisemitism, either). 

 

WHY THE JEWS?

To understand why the left — motivated by social justice and egalitarianism — has left Jews out of the equation, we must first understand antisemitism and antisemitic tropes.

Antisemitism is known as “the world’s oldest hatred” because it’s a 3000+ year old bigotry. It permeates everything in our world today. It’s embedded into the very structure of our institutions, our languages, the media and art we consume, and more. It’s also one of the two building blocks of white supremacy (the other being anti-Black and anti-indigenous racism). 

Millennia-old antisemitic tropes characterize Jews as all-powerful and wealthy puppet masters. Because left-wing politics function in opposition of social hierarchies — and because of this supposed “power” that Jews have — it makes sense that a society that hasn’t yet come to terms with its antisemitism would scapegoat Jews. 

This scapegoating is insidious. It utilizes euphemisms (especially after the Holocaust): Zionists, globalists, and more.

 

REVOLUTIONS & THE JEWS

Because of our perceived position in society — the “rich and powerful” and “dual loyalties” tropes — Jews have been the natural scapegoats in numerous revolutions in distant and recent memory. 

Many of us are familiar with the manner in which Hitler scapegoated Jews for Germany’s losses in WWI. But the left is not immune to this phenomenon.

Some examples of the left scapegoating Jews include: the Bolshevik Revolution (even though many Jews were Bolsheviks), anti-colonialist movements in Algeria, the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, and the rise to power of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. 

Because antisemitism is cyclical, rising during times of social unrest, today we see leftists scapegoat “Zionists” for police brutality in the United States. 

 

“GOOD” JEWS

Since the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, the left has demanded that Jews relinquish parts of our identity — mostly our peoplehood and our identity as a tribe and a nation — for us to be welcomed into their spaces. 

That is, the left has enforced a “Good” Jew/“Bad” Jew binary on our people. Only when we abandon the parts of ourselves that make them uncomfortable are we deemed “Good” Jews. 

But assimilation has never protected us. No matter how hard Jews in Europe tried to assimilate during the Enlightenment, their communities were still decimated in the pogroms of the late 19th/early 20th centuries and the Holocaust. 

 

THE USSR & THE JEWS 

Perhaps the most devastating example of left-wing antisemitism is that of the Soviet Union. Please see my post ANTISEMITISM IN THE SOVIET UNION for a more detailed account.

At the start of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917-1923), the Bolsheviks officially denounced antisemitism. But because Russia had been riddled with antisemitism for far too long, this made no difference. Many Bolsheviks confounded the Jews with the bourgeoisie that they were fighting against. Antisemitic violence was widespread.

After WWII, when antisemitism became heavily associated with Nazism, the USSR shifted its strategy, targeting Jews under the guise of “anti-Zionism” instead. Much of the anti-Zionist rhetoric we hear today echoes the anti-Zionist campaigns of the USSR.

Stalin had plans for the ethnic cleansing and possible genocide of Jews, but thankfully he died before any of this was carried out. In his wake, Khrushchev denounced nearly every aspect of Stalinism — except his antisemitism. 

Following the Six-Day War, the situation for Jews in the USSR became unbearable. Many tried to emigrate to Israel but were forbidden from doing so. These Jews were known as “refuseniks.”

 

TODAY

These days, left-wing antisemitism is usually perpetrated under the guise of supporting Palestinians. While advocating for Palestinian liberation is certainly important, it’s not necessary to gaslight Jews about our identity and the antisemitism that we experience in order to do so. 

Jewish safety and Palestinian liberation should not be mutually exclusive. 

Groups like BDS collectively punish individual Jews — going so far as to boycott kosher foods in the diaspora or attacking synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses — for the actions of the Israeli government. Targeting Israelis for simply existing is also a xenophobic manifestation of antisemitism (though not all Israelis are Jewish. See my post WHERE XENOPHOBIA & ANTISEMITISM MEET). 

Prominent left-wing political figures such as AOC, Jeremy Corbyn, Shaun King, Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar, and more have continuously perpetrated antisemitic tropes. This isolates Jews and leaves us vulnerable to antisemitic attacks from both the left, white supremacists, and every antisemite in between (see ANTISEMITISM & WHITE SUPREMACY).