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September 21, 2018 6:58 am

A Liberal View on the Left and Antisemitism

avatar by Joshua Curiel


UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn outside his London home. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville.

As a center-left liberal, I feel uniquely qualified to discuss the problem of antisemitism in the progressive community — where opposing Israel is on the rise. Why is this happening? Because protesting Israel makes you seem “progressive.” It means that you’re socially aware and fighting against a supposedly tyrannical regime. You are supporting the struggle of an oppressed people at the hands of white colonialist supremacy. Zionism is racism, and Israel is evil — end of story.

Except that it’s complete and utter nonsense.

Zionism is the support for, and affirmation of, the Jewish right to self-determination in the Jewish people’s indigenous homeland of Israel. It’s the Jewish civil rights movement. It’s the struggle of a native people who were oppressed for thousands of years, expelled from dozens of lands, and killed and persecuted wherever they went. It is the celebration of the return home after millennia of diaspora, of surviving and flourishing against all the odds.

This sounds like something that liberals would wholeheartedly support, right? It seems not. The dominant narrative on the far-left seems to be that Israel is Nazi Germany 2.0, and that Israelis are white Europeans who colonized the land of “Palestine” after World War II. The screams of “apartheid” and “genocide” go unquestioned.

Nobody talks about the 850,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands. Nobody clarifies that Israeli Arabs have all the same rights as Jews in Israel, or that Arabs hold seats in the Knesset, serve in the military, and are doctors, celebrities, shopkeepers, lawyers, and teachers. Compare that to Jews in Arab lands — who can’t become citizens and are barred from owning land (often under penalty of death). And nobody mentions the thousands of Palestinians who are treated at Israeli hospitals and employed by Israeli businesses. Israel is simply evil, end of story.

Antisemitism is the acceptable form of bigotry on the Left — sometimes thinly veiled as “anti-Zionism,” which is essentially antisemitism with a different name. Liberals, especially students, are expected to hate Israel in the name of being progressive. Jewish students are painted as privileged racists unless they disavow Israel and abandon their people. Palestinians become pawns in the game of Jew-hatred, and the world falls for it.

Liberals in the US, UK, and around the world need to address this antisemitism problem head on. If there was an Islamophobic incident, you can bet that it would be dealt with much more swiftly. Antisemitism is tolerated because of liberal hypocrisy. If the left wants to have any true credibility, it must acknowledge and confront this problem.

Joshua Lizarraga-Curiel is a center-left political activist, living in London, who happens to be Jewish.

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