On August 25, anti-Israel group IfNotNow hosted a webinar entitled “Fighting Antisemitism, Racism, and For #OurFuture,” together with panelists from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Dream Defenders, and Working Families Party. It might as well have been entitled “How To Blame All Antisemitism on the Republican Party” because that was the underlying message of the event. You can find the full webinar here:
In helping their listeners learn about antisemitism, they point out every possible dog whistle, microaggression, and antisemitic trope they could find coming from conservative Americans. These include some that some most people wouldn’t even consider antisemitic, such as “Every conspiracy theory is antisemitic” and “the word ‘socialist’ is an antisemitic dog whistle”. But as staunch defenders of the Jewish people, who can blame them for becoming just a little overzealous in their readiness to see Jew-hatred around lurking around every corner? As one of the most oppressed people in history, we must be always on our guard, right?
And yet IfNotNow is not equally defensive against antisemitic tropes and microagressions from the left. In fact, they insist that false accusations of antisemitism on the left are “an explicit project of the right” to create divisions within social justice movements. Jews, and white Jews in particular, need to learn to overlook these offenses in order to preserve solidarity with other oppressed people and to not “exceptionalize” antisemitism. “This is not the oppression Olympics!” and “we all have dirty laundry”, instructs Nalini Stamp of Working Families Party. In fact, the webinar teaches us, Jews are overly sensitive to these “small incidents of antisemitism” within “the movement” and need to get over themselves.
As Leo Ferguson of Jews for Racial And Economic Justice, a lead author of their publication, “Understanding Antisemitism,” says in the webinar:
“I say this with love and understanding to the white Jews out there…when you have a history of trauma, it can make folks be really pretty self-focused, there’s a kind of self-absorption…Jews often have a really intense reaction to what feel like very small incidents of antisemitic misunderstandings or people bringing up tropes that they don’t realize are antisemitic and the…reaction comes from people not remembering what a tiny tiny tiny minority we are..in the United States and in the world…and the expectation that everyone should have the level of cultural competence for your culture, that it’s like ridiculous……as a Black Jew, if I stepped away from the community every single time a white Jew said some stupid stuff that’s racist, I would have no community with white Jews…if we want to stay in a relationship and build together, it’s incumbent on us to have…that understanding that you are not the center of the world.”
Why the discrepancy between IfNotNow et al’s overly sensitive, hair-trigger response to antisemitism on the Right while gas-lighting Jews about antisemitism on the Left? Because it’s really not about fighting antisemitism at all. The panelists are all activists; none have any academic credentials in the study of Jewish history. Two of the three aren’t Jewish and aren’t affiliated with Jewish organizations. It’s all about pushing a particular political agenda, one that makes Jewish lives secondary to “solidarity with our comrades in the movement”.
Why anyone would look to this group to actually learn about antisemitism and how to combat it is a mystery.