Redefining antisemitism

Julia Bard reviews Antony Lerman's new book, a detailed account of the prolonged and determined attempt to change the generally understood meaning of antisemitism

Redefining antisemitism

Antony Lerman’s new book Whatever Happened to Antisemitism? documents the process by which Jewish leaders in the diaspora along with successive Israeli governments have tried to wrench the definition of antisemitism into a shape that conforms to the interests of Zionism over the protection of all Jews, whatever their ideological allegiances.

In a review of the book published in Jacobin magazine, Julia Bard of the Jewish Socialists' Group gives a picture of the political context in which these moves were made, describing the pressures placed on young Jewish antiracists to stay away from the Anti-Nazi League in the 1970s, as the far right was growing in numbers and confidence, and racists were attacking minority communities in British cities.

She argues that, although the official institutions of diaspora Jewish communities were acting in line with Israeli interests, they were also motivated by domestic politics and an imperative to police and restrain radical activism in their own communities.

The draconian measures that have been used to attempt to create an orthodoxy of the concept of "new antisemitism" – which argues that Israel is a proxy for the real, diverse and conflicted Jewish world and therefore opposition of Israel's policies and actions is equivalent to an attack on Jews – have undermined the need to understand, perceive and challenge actual antisemitism, alongside and in solidarity with other communities under attack.

Read the review here.

Posted: 22 September 2022