Facing Anti-Semitism to Fight It

Historically, anti-Semitism in France and Europe has its roots in the construction of a white and Christian European identity from which Jews are excluded.

In the 19th century, anti-Semitism took the form of otherness and racial inferiority. The history of anti-Semitism is thus closely linked to the history of colonialism. It obviously culminated in the horror of the Nazi genocide, with the sinister marriage of technical modernity and Nazi racial ideology. This anti-Semitism, present in the deepest roots of the West, has not disappeared today.

Taking the measure of anti-Semitism today cannot do without empirical and material research, which some sociologists have sought to do. These studies show that “old anti-Semitism” persists as a basic framework rooted in French society, and allows conspiracy and/or anti-Semitic ideas to spread all the more easily.

Contrary to an idea advocated by the proponents of the “new anti-Semitism”, the Israeli-Palestinian question plays a less important role than clichés related to money and power in the persistence of anti-Semitism.

Data from police sources (and therefore necessarily partial) show a trend that is stagnating or even decreasing in the recurrence of antisemitic acts. At the same time, there has been an increase in Islamophobic acts. The Jewish minority remains by far the most accepted and tolerated minority in France.

If anti-Semitism is not the most virulent racism today, it does not mean that it is no longer found in everyday life, that we are dealing with the far right or in our relations with state agents and officials, particularly in the police apparatus, especially when we are Jewish and of the working class.

Memory of Genocide, Zionism and “State Philosemitism”

It was not until the 1970s that the Jewish memory of the genocide could be told and – the result of militant and associative work, particularly against Holocaust denial and the extreme right – that the state’s responsibility was finally recognised in 1995.

But this recognition has a cost: that of depoliticisation and recovery. A double movement takes place. On the one hand, the public expression of anti-Semitism is becoming largely politically and socially repressed, and therefore costly. The fight against anti-Semitism is on the public agenda and receives the full attention of public authorities, anti-racist associations and the media.

On the other hand, anti-Semitism is used as a stigma against post-colonial immigration, proof of its permanent non-integration. From the 2000s onwards, this trend developed in favour of the idea of a “new anti-Semitism”.

After having participated in the extermination of the European Jewish world, the State erected itself as the official protector of Jews, implementing moral and symbolic anti-racism at little cost, while persisting in denying colonial crimes and perpetuating its racist practices.

The collateral damage is the Jewish minority itself, essentialised and unilaterally tied up on the side of power. This is what we mean by “State philosemitism”.

It must be understood that this policy is not made for the love of Jews, quite the contrary. It reproduces and perpetuates the symbolic otherness of the Jews and their exclusion from a full and legitimate place in the national community. If we allow ourselves to refer to “Judeo-Christian roots of France” or to formulas such as “who touches a Jew, touches the Republic”, it is only if we remain in our place: the least Jew possible, the most Western possible.

A third term is added to this equation: Zionism. The identification of Jews with the West requires the identification of Jews with Israel.

The state of Israel, not as a Jewish State but as a European State in the Middle East, participates in our “laundering” as long as it guarantees Western interests in the Arab world. This philosemitism is also a philosophy of philosophy.

Philosemitism is an Anti-Semitism

The “philosophical reaction” of which Ivan Segré speaks, as the “new European philosemitism” described by Yitzhak Laor, is therefore above all the production of a reactionary and racist discourse in the name of the fight against anti-Semitism and the defence of the State of Israel. We can speak of “state philosemitism” when this discourse, taken up and assumed by governments, is translated into public policy.

There is no question of “Jewish privilege” that would translate into concrete benefits for Jewish people. On the contrary, this policy deprives us of our own history, exposes us to social resentment and maintains the illusion of the State of Israel as a “safe haven state”. It is this policy that keeps the fascinating theme of “Jewish privilege” alive, not those who denounce it!

This policy is dangerous for us. Our ability to look at and analyse the persistence of anti-Semitism is undermined by the instrumentalisation of anti-Semitic acts. This instrumentalisation makes the ground fertile for true anti-Semites-false anti-Zionists and testifies to the total absence of a real will to fight anti-Semitism.

What we can call “state philosemitism” must therefore be taken for what it is: a policy of preserving the white character of the nation-state, turned against the post-colonial working classes, and using the Jewish minority as a shield.

This is not only an anti-Semitic policy because it assigns us to a place as Jews, but also a policy that produces anti-Semitism in that it allows the worst anti-Jewish clichés to spread all the more easily. By denouncing this policy, we accuse the State of not caring about the fate of the Jewish minority and of using us to relegate other minorities.

Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Zionism

As we have said, anti-Semitism in France has its roots in the construction of a white and Christian Europe’s identity, it is inextricably linked to colonial history. The fight against anti-Semitism can only be anti-imperialist and anti-colonial. This position is only the logical conclusion of our characterisation of anti-Semitism and its persistence.

We have a Jewish voice that is particularly aware of the depth and violence of the imperialist system. Our history is a testament to this. Our enemy is identified: whether it takes the form of the French state, the American state or the Israeli state, we see in it the same system of white supremacy and international division of labour for the needs of capitalist exploitation.

Our anti-Zionism flows logically from this position. We consider Zionism both as a reactionary response to the question of anti-Semitism and as a product of Western imperialism. It inevitably involves the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the denial of their fundamental rights.

As a result, it offers the Israeli and Palestinian populations only endless war and barbarism. We certainly do not make anti-Zionism the mandatory prerequisite for the fight against anti-Semitism. However, for our part, we do not separate these two fronts (the fight against anti-Semitism and the fight against Zionist rule and colonialism in Palestine) which are part of the same struggle for the equality and dignity of all. The coherence of our political commitment leads us to stand alongside all oppressed peoples.

Therefore, our anti-Zionism is a struggle against what the Zionist movement has actually produced, namely an imperialist and Western state organising the spoliation of Palestinians and the maintenance of Western hegemony in the Middle East region, and is an integral part of our anti-imperialist struggle. Moreover, we fight Zionism less as an abstract nationalist project than as a modality for the exclusion of Jews from the societies to which they belong and as a deadly impasse for Jews.

Our Political Anti-Racism

The fight against anti-Semitism cannot be satisfied with just the right thing to do. Combating anti-Semitism implies being able to look at it in a way that is detached from any abstraction and able to identify the conditions for its development and persistence.

Beyond an obvious criticism of this ideology, an effective fight against anti-Semitism requires us above all to understand how it works in a particular context. It is this contextualisation, although necessary, that we are accused of when we talk about “minimizing anti-Semitism”.

As for us, we assume our responsibilities by fully involving ourselves, together with our allies from other racialised minorities, in building a political anti-racism front that is the only one capable of fighting the battle against the racist policies of the state and raising the issue of full equality.

The issue of anti-Semitism cannot be separated, in the context of political struggles, from other forms of racism. Nor can structural racism be understood outside the analysis of Western supremacy in international relations when it is understood as the perpetuation of colonialism, beyond the disappearance of its structures and visible in the international division of labour, what is meant by the expression “world coloniality”.

Political and decolonial anti-racism is therefore much more than simply recognising the structural nature of racism. It is a declaration of war against the inequalities and oppressions that make up the system.

To those who would like us to endorse racist and anti-social policies in the name of the fight against anti-Semitism, or to those who would like us to accept identification with the Israeli state, we answer: Doykheit and Mimouna. We’re here, we stay here, we fight here.

  • The National Coordination of the French Jewish Union for Peace, 13/03/2019

This article is adapted courtesy of Indymedia Nantes. Published under a Creative Commons license. Photograph courtesy of Mark Dixon. Published under a Creative Commons license.