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Left-wing antisemitism may be defined as anti-Jewish sentiment found on the left-wing of the political spectrum. This sentiment has been asserted in relation to some 19th and early 20th century socialists, Stalin and left-wing sympathisers with the Palestinians. The charge is typically rejected by those so accused.
19th and early 20th century
According to American scholar Walter Laqueur, before World War II antisemitism was mostly found on the right. William Rubinstein states that pre-war antisemitism was "a right-wing response to the presence of a politically, economically and socially deviant Jewry". Most early social democrats and communists agreed that antisemitism was the socialism of fools and rejected it. Examples of the left opposing antisemitism include the Dreyfus Affair and the Battle of Cable Street, and they typically condemned the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire.
However, William Brustein and Louisa Roberts argued in their 2015 book The Socialism of Fools?: Leftist Origins of Modern Anti-Semitism that many 19th-century European socialists felt "deeply ingrained antipathy" towards Jews, in common with then prevailing views. Brustein and Roberts claim that such left-wing antisemitism rested on three pillars, namely opposition to exploitative capitalism, including the role of Jews, to religion, including Judaism, and to nationalism, including Jewish nationalism and separatism. Karl Marx has been described as employing antisemitic stereotypes in his analysis of the economic and social position of Jews in European society, though others challenge this.
In the Russian Civil War, the Jews regarded the Red Army as the only force which was able and willing to defend them from pogroms by anti-communist forces. The Soviet government outlawed all expressions of anti-Semitism, with the public use of the ethnic slur жид ("Yid") being punished by up to one year of imprisonment, and tried to modernize the Jewish community by establishing 1,100 Yiddish-language schools, 40 Yiddish-language daily newspapers and by settling Jews on farms in Ukraine and Crimea; the number of Jews working in industry had more than doubled between 1926 and 1931.:567 At the beginning of the 1930s, the Jews were 1.8 percent of the Soviet population but 12–15 percent of all university students. The share of Jews in the Soviet ruling elite declined during the 1930s, but was still more than double their proportion in the general Soviet population. According to Israeli historian Benjamin Pinkus, "We can say that the Jews in the Soviet Union took over the privileged position, previously held by the Germans in tsarist Russia".:83
Between 1936 and 1940, during the Great Purge, and after the rapprochement with Nazi Germany, Stalin largely eliminated Jews from senior party, government, diplomatic, security and military positions. From 1948 until Stalin's death in 1953, there was further persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union. Jews were branded "rootless cosmopolitans" or "Zionists" and accused of anti-Soviet activities. The campaign culminated in the Doctor's Plot of 1953. Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda campaigns maintained that there was a Jewish world conspiracy. The term Zionist was often substituted for Jew to avoid the appearance of antisemitism. Other Soviet bloc countries followed suit: the best known is the 1952 Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia, but East Germany, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia also targeted Jews, as part of wider campaigns of repression.
Left-wing parties opposed the right-wing Israeli Likud government and Israeli policies after 1967. Many on the left sympathise with the Palestinians in the Israel-Palestine conflict, with some being active in such organizations and campaigns as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestine Solidarity Movement, War on Want, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and Divestment from Israel. New antisemitism is the concept that a new form of antisemitism has developed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, tending to manifest itself as opposition to Zionism and criticism of the Israeli government. For example, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism includes references to Israel in seven of its eleven examples of antisemitism. Some reject the concept: thus in May 2017, Stephen Sedley said: "Anti-Semitism, where it manifests itself in discriminatory acts or inflammatory speech, is generally illegal. Criticism of Israel or of Zionism is protected by law. The IHRA working definition conflates the two by characterising everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic".
Since 2015, there have been allegations of antisemitism in the British Labour Party. Some left-wing Jewish groups have disputed the antisemitism claims, including Jewish Voice for Labour, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Socialists' Group, Jewdas and Independent Jewish Voices; all of whom have said that accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party have a twofold purpose: firstly, to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel in order to deter such criticism and, secondly, to undermine the Labour leadership since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015. According to a 2018 poll commissioned by The Jewish Chronicle, 85% of British Jews believe that Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite. Defenders, including Jewish Voice for Labour, have cited his record of opposing and campaigning against racism and antisemitism as well as supporting Jewish communal initiatives.
A study into contemporary antisemitism in Britain by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in September 2017 found that "Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the 'slightly left-of-centre,' the 'fairly left-wing' and the 'very left-wing' – exhibit higher levels of anti Israelism than average." It went on, "The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population." It continued: "However, in relation to anti-Israel attitudes, the very left-wing lead: 78% (75–82%) in this group endorse at least one anti-Israel attitude, in contrast to 56% in the general population, and 23% (19–26%) hold 6–9 such attitudes, in contrast to 9% in the general population. Elevated levels of anti-Israel attitudes are also observed in other groups on the political left: the fairly left-wing and those slightly left-of-centre. The lowest level of anti-Israel attitudes is observed in the political centre and among those who are slightly right-of-centre or fairly right-wing." The report found that "...anti-Israel attitudes are not, as a general rule, antisemitic; but the stronger a person's anti-Israel views, the more likely they are to hold antisemitic attitudes. A majority of those who hold anti-Israel attitudes do not espouse any antisemitic attitudes, but a significant minority of those who hold anti-Israel attitudes hold them alongside antisemitic attitudes. Therefore, antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes exist both separately and together." The study stated that in "surveys of attitudes towards ethnic and religious minorities... The most consistently found pattern across different surveys is heightened animosity towards Jews on the political right..." and that "The political left, captured by voting intention or actual voting for Labour, appears in these surveys as a more Jewish-friendly, or neutral, segment of the population."
- Antisemitism in the British Labour Party
- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
- Criticism of the Israeli government
- Israel and the apartheid analogy
- New antisemitism
- Soviet antisemitism
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