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The New Anti-Dreyfusards

Zionism and State Antisemitism in the West

April 16, 2023

Whatever Happened to Antisemitism? Redefinition and the Myth of the "Collective Jew"
by Antony Lerman

Most European and North American countries define antisemitism in a strange way, conflating criticism of a state with criticism of a people. Perhaps most strange is that antisemitism needs to be codified by statute—there is no other form of racism or bigotry defined the same way, linked to the formation of a single state, or requiring law makers to enforce not only its prohibition but its definition.

According to the now widely-adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, it is racist to declare Israel as racist; it is racist to single Israel out for criticism, and it is racist to compare Israel’s actions, no matter their character, to those of Nazis. Even the staunchest opponents of antisemitism should admit this position is gratuitously political.

It’s been over a century since antisemitism became rooted in the modern politics of electoral parties, human rights discourse, and state formation. The fin-de-siecle trial of a Franco-Jewish army officer for treason, and the subsequent pogroms in French cities, may seem a bare footnote compared to organized Tsarist state violence against Jews and the Nazi Judeocide; still, it was significant insofar as it was the first time antisemitism became an explicitly political movement. That is, the Dreyfus Trial was the first time antisemitism—as a cause—was championed first by a populist Right and then, soon after, confronted by an emergent populist Left.

As the writer and French socialite, Baroness Steinheil, wrote in the aftermath of the Dreyfus Trial, the cause of Dreyfus “is no longer between Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards, but between the Republic and enemies of the Republic, between radicals and socialists on one hand, Royalists and ‘anti-Semites’ on the other.” The historian, Stephen Wilson, writes of the trial that it was at this moment that Dreyfus “moved completely into mythology.” By this, Wilson meant that the facts of the case and details of Dreyfus’s life were subsumed by their abstraction into political discourse. On the Right, the neo-fascist Action Francaise saw Dreyfus and his supporters as a threat to the purity of the French nation. For the left, which included much of the intelligentsia, nascent human rights groups, and most importantly, burgeoning socialist parties, the defense of Dreyfus was a defense of the ideals of liberal democracy—whether Dreyfus supported such ideals himself, or not.

While anti-Jewish bigotry and violence preceded Dreyfus by at least a millennium or two, it is important to acknowledge how the Dreyfus Trial, in Hannah Arendt’s words, became the “episode […] offering a foreglow of the Twentieth Century.” It is not merely that Dreyfus functioned as a scapegoat for a nation experiencing the many crises of modernity. Social forces with little else in common formed a politics around his guilt—or his innocence. Economic nationalists, conservative Catholics, and militarists did not share much in common; it was the trial and the figure of Jewish treason that united them.

In many ways, the calamity of the Holocaust overshadows the Dreyfus era and makes anti-Jewish bigotry appear something both outside of politics and even outside of the normal functioning of the world. The Dreyfus Trial appears by comparison rather quotidian. In that sense, the politics it represents is far more relevant to our own epoch than the cataclysm it precedes. Despite many declarations that “antisemitism is over” in the West, antisemitism has not left the political arena. Indeed, figurative representations of Jews are as crucial to political discourse as ever, even if in ways that crucially break with discourses of the early Twentieth Century.

As Antony Lerman charts in his recent book, Whatever Happened to Antisemitism?, the politics of antisemitism still play a major role in European affairs, where they decide elections, shape political coalitions, and arrange narratives by which states align their interests. Most recently, as Lerman documents, antisemitism played a leading role in defeating perhaps the most progressive politician and political movement to come within a hair’s breadth of leading a major European country in over half a century.

By Lerman’s own telling, this “new antisemitism” is merely a utilitarian narrative, intended to smear a left-wing candidate. Yet, the narrative against Jeremy Corbyn is not merely against the left. It constructed a new politics of Jewish interest, re-aligning a British state around a definition of Jewish identity. This “mythologization” of a new Jew—against democracy, clannishly mobilized to defend Israel, and focused on the persecution of its enemies—is materially our new Shylock bent on his pound of flesh. It is an image mobilized by the very state that declares it defends him.

As some may remember, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party in an activist upsurge, before helping to achieve what Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch described as Labour’s “largest increase in its vote in any general election since 1945.” While Corbyn had been a left-wing Labour Party MP for many years, the movement that placed him at its head was a bottom-up, grassroots attempt to end both the rightward turn of British political life since Thatcher and the neoliberal hollowing out of “New Labour” since the early 1990s. It was the greatest political challenge to ruling class orthodoxy since the 1970s.

While Corbyn’s opposition to the politics of austerity and privatization earned him the ire of both the press and the political establishment, the charge that he was an antisemite is ultimately what garnered the most media attention and, as Lerman lays out, cost him not only his leadership but the election. The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews accused Corbyn of “declaring war on Jews.” Three Jewish newspapers in the UK ran the same headline, claiming Corbyn was an “existential threat” to Jewish people. Tory leader James Cleverly threatened that “Jews would leave England” if Corbyn won, although in retrospect that was perhaps Cleverly’s own wishful thinking. The storm around Corbyn seemed so fierce that most Britons believed over one-third of the Labour Party had been brought up on charges of antisemitism—an inflation by order of three thousand times the actual number of charges. I remember a story in the U.S. Forward in which a British Jew related that seeing Corbyn riding the train occasioned her to think about what her grandparents would do if they confronted Hitler.

Yet, as several studies and articles have made clear, the “propaganda campaign” against Corbyn and Momentum went far beyond the Jewish press to include nearly every press outlet in the U.K. This encompassed everything from the liberal Guardian to the centrist BBC, to say nothing of the right-wing, Murdoch-owned channels and papers. The “process of vilification” included “major inaccuracies and fabrications” at all levels of coverage, obscuring the ironic fact that the Labour Party, and Momentum especially, was actually less antisemitic on average than the whole of British society, and certainly a great deal less antisemitic than the Tories. Corbyn’s major sin—beyond failing to condemn an antisemitic mural fast enough—seems to have been his support of Palestinian liberation and his hostility to the Israeli state. And while this may explain some Jewish denunciation of Corbyn, historian Deborah Lipstadt’s comparison of Corbyn to Trump, and the Forward’s comparison to Hitler, seemed so outlandish it staggers reason. One would think Momentum had promoted Oswald Mosley, rather than an activist-turned-politician who fought fascists in London’s East End in the 1970s, attended seders with progressive Jews, had good relationships with the Jewish community in his district, and had never been known to utter a single antisemitic sentiment.

Not only were Jews more likely to be a target of antisemitism, but many of the claims carried with them more than a whiff of antisemitism themselves.

Ostensibly, the accusation against Corbyn and Momentum inverted the inherited Twentieth-Century alliances around antisemitism in place since the Dreyfus Trial: right-wing antisemites, left-wing antifascists. It was the left suddenly accused of antisemitism and the right making the accusations. Neoliberals in the Labour Party, Tories, moderates in the intelligentsia, and Jewish elites all seemed to agree that the left was the major source of antisemitism in the U.K.

And yet, as Lerman notes, it was a curious war on antisemitism waged in Britain that “has so many Jews in its sights.” Compared to the run-of-the-mill, gentile Labour Party member, Jewish members were thirty times more likely to be expelled from the Labour Party than were non-Jews. Leaders in the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour were three hundred times more likely to be expelled—for antisemitism during the Corbyn affair—than were non-Jewish members of the Labour Party. Those expelled included Israeli activist and scholar, Moshe Machover, and Labour leader, Naomi Winbourne-Idrissi. In fact, there were even calls to expel the entirety of Jewish Voice for Labour, all in the name of making the Labour Party safe for Jewish members.

In the narrowest sense, the reasons for targeting Jewish members of Labour were straightforward. Jewish members of Labour—and especially Momentum—were outspoken in their defense of Corbyn and in their insistence that claims of antisemitism by the press and conservative Labour leaders were overblown. Their claim to represent another Jewish position in the battle created an obvious difficulty for the Corbyn-as-antisemite narrative the press wanted to peddle. Additionally, like many solidarity campaigns throughout the world, progressive Jews are also outspoken advocates for Palestinian liberation, often motivated by a personal stake in a just outcome for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And yet, the persecution of so many left-wing Jews in Labour needs a further explanation than sheer happenstance. American anthropologist, David Graeber, living then in London, made it clear that “crying wolf” about antisemitism not only hurt the left, but was a danger to him as well. When there are “real [fascist] wolves at the door,” making false claims of antisemitism for political gain is dangerous for Jews. As a book editor for a left press in England said to me personally, the Corbyn Affair was the first time, as a non-observant Jew, that he felt “dangerously visible” in England, as Jews were suddenly held to be responsible for defeating the most progressive candidate in England in a generation.

At this point, it’s nearly automatic for those on the left to suggest that the claims against Corbyn were exaggerated and that his critics played fast and loose with antisemitism to destroy a popular progressive candidate. Yet, the claim that the campaign itself was a form of antisemitism needs further elaboration than Lerman offers. Not only were Jews more likely to be a target of antisemitism, but many of the claims carried with them more than a whiff of antisemitism themselves. Cleverly’s comment—that Jews would leave Britain if Corbyn were elected—implied not only that Jews were of the means to leave, but that their loyalty to England was conditional: that they are “rootless cosmopolitans” rather than indigenous citizens of the Isles.

And there is something not unlike the charge against Dreyfus that, at least in appearance, a small number of Jews in England could stop a grassroots upsurge at the polls in its tracks. Already perceived as shadowy and powerful, the message one might hear was that Corbyn offended the Jews and must go. If the image of the Jew is one of clannish elitism, then suggesting that Jews are not only the enemy of Labour, but of an expanding democracy, seems almost made to order by the far-right. Heiko Khoo, a British Labour activist turned to the right, summarized this view in a public Facebook post: “Let the Board of Deputies of British Jews select Labour Party’s MP. So much easier!”

While antisemitism takes many forms in late capitalism, from far-right conspiracy theory to old fashioned Christian supersessionism, I would argue that the British elite’s campaign to stop Momentum is antisemitism’s modern state form. While Jews may have once been essentialized as a marginalized population associated with communism and usury, they have now been essentialized rather as gatekeepers of Western legitimacy at home and abroad. As sociologist Sai Englert writes, Jews are “increasingly cast, by Western states, as the defenders of the legitimacy of the Western world when facing the Global South, as well as Black and Asian populations at home.” Jewish leadership, often feeling the sting of their marginalization, found this change “highly attractive” as a route “towards integration and acceptance within elite circles, which had remained, until then, closed off to them.”

It is not a paradox then to claim that conservative Labour leadership, along with traditional reactionaries in the Tory party, found this myth of the new collective Jew a highly effective bludgeon to conceal their more ordinary fear of higher taxes and a greater share of the national wealth going to workers and the poor. That many in the Jewish elite found Corbyn similarly appalling suggests less that they are dupes but rather that they see their own interests—in class privilege and Jewish nationalism—in line with British elites more broadly. A war on antisemitism means, then, a war on working-class, left-wing Jews. These are not contradictions but structural homologies. That Boris Johnson and Theresa May can consort with Viktor Orban while denouncing Corbyn is a feature, not a bug.

This is not to say that this was only an intra-Jewish conflict. Muslim as well as Black Labour members were singularly targeted. One of the more remarkable persecutions was of Black Labour activist Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled for antisemitism because he accused Corbyn’s enemies of working “hand-in-hand” with the conservative British press—which, by any reasonable standard, they were. Accusing Wadsworth of an “antisemitic trope” despite the veracity of his claims, his lack of knowledge of such tropes, and his lack of awareness of the Jewish identity of the Labour members he accused, didn’t matter. And indeed, the association of Corbyn with Muslim Labour members and his support for Palestine were seen as not only antisemitic, but as examples of his own dual loyalty and lack of proper Britishness.

At the risk of making a calculated absurdity, I would argue that the Corbyn Affair is our postmodern, Twenty-First Century Dreyfus Trial. I am of course not arguing that Corbyn was transformed into a Jew, but rather that this modern political formation of Jewishness allowed for political interests, with seemingly little in common, to align over a collective project. Tories, neoliberal Labour leaders, the Guardian newspaper, Jewish elites: this is an otherwise unlikely coalition, but just as Action Francaise coalesced around the persecution of an obscure artillery officer, so too did the forces of neoliberalism coalesce around the image of a left-wing Jew-hater. Both the trial against Alfred Dreyfus and the witch-hunt against Corbyn were absolute fabrications. Like the violent pogroms against French Jews, the mass expulsions of Jews from the Party many of them had helped build only came later. In other words, in the modern world, the politics of antisemitism precedes the actual Jews it targets, or in this case, claims to protect.


Israel, Schlemiel Among Nations

As a survey of this landscape, Lerman’s book is a granular look at both the assumptions and many of the sources behind this new state project to (re)define antisemitism. Naming this “fight against antisemitism” an “emerging transnational field of governance,” Lerman impressively lays out a wide range of state and non-state actors. These include the European Commission, pro-Israel NGOs, the Israeli state, U.S. State Department, politicians, experts, think tanks, and academic networks. This array of institutions have organized since the mid-1970s to declare the defense of Israel as the primary goal in the fight against antisemitism. In doing so, they have identified Palestinian solidarity networks and the left more broadly as their primary enemy.

To suggest the Mossad is a bumbling Shylock would be a laughable proposition if it weren’t so dangerous.

It’s important to note, such a shift in the global discourse around antisemitism did not emerge organically out of the founding of the Israeli state. Rather, Israeli wars, including the initial fight against the British, the 1948 and 1956 Arab-Israeli Wars, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants, were framed as political questions over national identity, land, and citizenship. Hannah Arendt wrote “Zionism Reconsidered” in 1947, as it became clear that Ben Gurion was to accept the “Revisionist” line of a maximalist Jewish ethno-state. There, she framed the conflict as between the “Arab masses” and European settlers—not antisemites against Jews. While Israeli’s lightening victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War may have, in Norman Podhoretz’s words, “converted the Jews to Zionism,” it did not look like that at the time, either to Jewish Zionists or in the wider youth culture. Not only did the New Left in the U.S. and Europe begin to see the Palestinian liberation struggle through the lens of anticolonial revolution, but many young American Jews in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Youth International Party (Yippies) came clearly down on the side of Palestine. As Jerry Rubin famously declared, “if Moses were alive today he’d be an Arab revolutionary.”

Given the victory of Zionism culturally and politically in the United States, it may seem surprising that the new Zionist militants of the 1960s were quite pessimistic about their fortunes. Some of this pessimism may have just been rhetorical posturing, as U.S. press coverage of Israel after its victory over Arab Nationalism was glowing. U.S. policy elites eagerly welcomed their new super-client state into the fold after Israel demonstrated its prowess at defeating Soviet allies. No “Israel lobby” was even needed at the time to secure enthusiastic U.S. support. Yet, among Jewish youth in the U.S. and a rising tide of Third World solidarity abroad, the new Zionists saw an uncertain future. Meir Kahane, the right-wing American populist who spearheaded the new Zionist consensus at the end of the Twentieth Century, dedicated his signature work, Never Again, to the new Jewish left in the U.S. He lamented that young Jews are “not emotionally involved with Israel,” but rather march “for all sorts of strange causes named Vietnam and Laos and Angola and Mozambique.” An array of prominent Jewish liberals, from Seymour Martin Lipset and Nathan Glazer to Irving Howe, met in 1970 to unanimously express anxiety about the New Left and the way it eroded the “once unassailable support” Israel had among U.S. progressives.

Yet, it was the twin votes in the United Nations General Assembly—one in 1973, comparing Israel to South African apartheid, and another in 1975, declaring Zionism a form of racism—that brought a new coalition together to defend Israel. In an opening salvo by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein in The New Antisemitism (1974) quickly define Jews’ new enemies. They absolve Christianity of any role in antisemitism, arguing that both Protestantism and Catholicism have welcomed Jews into a new inter-faith defense of liberalism and capitalism against the threat of Communism and radicalism. Against this “Judeo-Christian West,” Israel has been targeted by both Black nationalism and Third World revolution. This revolution is not against racism or colonialism, but a “violent racism” itself, arrayed against liberalism and democracy. Jews, they argue, as representatives of liberalism and democracy both in the Middle East and in the U.S., are the natural target of this “new totalitarianism.” It is Black Power, in Forster and Epstein’s telling, along with its allies on the left, that is the new threat to Jewish well-being.

For Lerman, the “new antisemitism” thesis did not just constitute a new politics but a new Jewish subject. The subtitle of Lerman’s book, “The Myth of the New Collective Jew,” poses that the “new antisemitism thesis” constructs not just a list of enemies—Black Power, the left, Palestine solidarity movements—but also poses Israel as a stand-in or signifier of the Jewish people globally. Historically, “Am Yisroel,” the people of Israel, referred to the imagined collective, as distinct from “eretz Yisroel,” the land of Israel, whether the Biblical Hasmonean Kingdom or city of Jerusalem or area that now contains the contemporary Israeli state. But the “new antisemitism” thesis, as laid out by the ADL, AIPAC, or the anti-Corbyn Labour Party, suggests that the Israeli state is the “figurative Jew” among nations, singled out unfairly and held to account not for its crimes or its power, but rather out of an eternal antisemitic animus. Thus, to attack Israel is no different from attacking Jews on the street; a call to boycott Israel over human rights abuses is the same as Nazis boycotting Jewish businesses.

Of course, as Lerman points out, the analogy falls apart upon even casual inspection. The popular Zionist consensus among world Jewry was a short-lived phenomenon, existing only from the 1970s until the mid-2000s. Already a growing number of Jews, especially younger Jews, increasingly see Israel in terms largely like those of the supposed “roaring antisemite” Jeremy Corbyn himself: as an apartheid state built on stolen land. A young Christian is likely in the U.S. to be a more fervent Zionist than a young Jew. There is no sense in which Zionism could be said to represent a collective Jewish aspiration. Given the rifts between Israeli and U.S. Jewish politics, diasporic Jews and Israeli Jews not only disagree on fundamental issues, but on  the very notion of what it means to be Jewish.

And yet, more than the opinion of Jews, to equate a state with living and breathing humans, Lerman argues, is a “category mistake.” No state is the moral or embodied equivalent to a human. Not only are states engineered to manage and mediate internal class conflict, but they are (in the Weberian sense) instruments of violence. To call for major changes to the Zionist state, for instance, to grant what international law already requires—that all people under its jurisdiction have equal rights and access to the law, services, education—is only violence against Jews if one imagines that Jewish people can only be represented through one particular regime of racialized power.

This gets to Lerman’s most critical point: that the “myth of the collective Jew,” Israel as the schlemiel among nations, not only deflects from Israel’s human rights abuses, but also dismisses the epochal shift in Jewish life since the mid-Twentieth Century. Rather than focus on Jewish victimhood, Lerman suggests we focus on the question of “Jewish power.” Not only do Jewish organizations not disavow such power, Lerman argues, but Zionist organizations from the ADL to AIPAC revel in their ability to influence politics, spend money on political races, and rub shoulders with the rich and powerful. Indeed, in the last election cycle, AIPAC spent millions of dollars to unseat candidates that it found too critical of Israel, from Black socialists in Pittsburgh to Jewish synagogue presidents in suburban Michigan. And this is to say nothing of Israel, which is far from a national schlemiel: if anything Israel is a regional hegemon—and the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East. To suggest the Mossad is a bumbling Shylock would be a laughable proposition if it weren’t so dangerous.


Jewish Power or Jew-ish Power

Lerman’s critique of Jewish power and the way it wields antisemitism to its own ends is a welcome rejoinder to decades of appropriation of antisemitism’s actual dread legacy—let alone to the very real harm organizations such as the ADL and AIPAC do. Numerous academics, educators, and politicians have been targeted and have lost their livelihoods over their legitimate criticism of Israel. The IHRA has been adopted by many states and institutions in the U.S. explicitly and implicitly, with scholars from Norman Finkelstein to Rabab Abdulhabi to Steven Salaita harassed and denied employment for criticism that, if leveled against any other state (including the United States!), would be permissible. And this harm is not limited to the professional world in the United States; more importantly, it denies Palestinians living under occupation and continual threat of displacement the international support they require just to live in dignity with their basic human rights respected.

That Jews are often in the crosshairs of these campaigns against "new antisemitism" should be enough to suggest that perhaps fighting antisemitism is not the campaigns' actual mission.

Yet, Lerman’s critique of Jewish power is in many ways a mirror image of the Jewish powerful he critiques: too focused on what he calls “Jewish particularism,” the near obsession with the radical uniqueness, and perhaps even otherness, of Jews. While the Jewish establishment of the U.K. certainly stoked the fires of the war against Momentum, it was a campaign primarily waged by the leadership of the Labour Party and the British Press. As Lerman himself notes, neither the U.K. nor France has anything like the “Israel lobby” the U.S. has. And yet, despite this absence of organized “Jewish power,” each has gone even further in their prosecution of Palestine solidarity activists (in the name of defending Jews!) than has the US. Not only has Labour successfully purged nearly all of its pro-Palestine left, but France has adopted the IHRA and has declared anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism—a charge that in France carries with it real sanction. Even in the U.S., the small Jewish population (roughly 1.5 percent of nation’s total) is dwarfed both numerically and politically by Christian Zionists. While both major U.S. political parties are Zionist, it should be noted that it is in the Democratic Party—with which the vast majority of American Jews identify—that a major debate about Israel has erupted, forced by supporters of Bernie Sanders, America’s best known Jewish politician.

The seeming success of the largely Jewish Israel lobby, or at least its most visible face, should not, in the words of Englert, “be laid at the door of lobby itself and its supposed extraordinary power.” Rather, its success is rooted in the fact that it travels with the current of Western states and their ideological and geopolitical interests, not against it. Like many critiques leveled against Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby, its inaccuracy is not in the crimes it documents. AIPAC is a nefarious, powerful institution that works day and night against the forces of justice and reason. Yet, Walt and Mearsheimer pose a rational U.S. foreign policy that has been somehow deformed by this pernicious lobby. One wonders if we should be as scandalized by their ignorance of U.S. foreign policy—or their belief that American empire is at its heart democratic and vulnerable to public pressure—as by their assumption of the sinister power of The Jews.

Yet, U.S. and European support for Israel and its definition of antisemitism is not merely a quid pro quo. Postwar and post-Nuremberg U.S. imperialism required more than just a “white man’s burden” to justify its expansiveness across the globe and its repression of dissent at home. It seems no coincidence that the discourse of antisemitism is deployed against critics of U.S. imperialism after what was arguably the U.S.’s largest anti-imperialist movement in history: the student and Black power New Left. Defending Jews is not only a replay of America’s last “just war” against the Nazis. It also allows power the necessary cover of victimhood to exercise soft (or even not-so-soft) power. Jewish disavowal, and often sheer ignorance, of what their institutions do is cause enough to focus on a true accounting of the institutions’ power. Yet, to suggest that a Jewish tail wags the American and European dog strikes me as simplistic. Even while I cannot say Lerman is too critical of Jews, he is also far too nice to our gentile cousins.

That Jews are often in the crosshairs of these campaigns against “new antisemitism” should be enough to suggest that perhaps fighting antisemitism is not their actual mission. Indeed, the ADL has a long and storied history of refusing to fight actual fascists, literally on their doorstep. Even as far back as the 1970s, the ADL instructed Jewish activists in Chicago not to oppose Nazi organizing in a Jewish suburb—going so far as to undercount the number of Nazis in the area by a factor of a hundred. And this is to say nothing of the cover the organization ran for Trump and Zionist right-wingers. Yet saying this does not delve into the way, as Lerman points out himself, “new antisemitism” is not about Jews per se, any more than the old antisemitism was. “Antisemitism” is a transnational modality of power and governance used to shore up the legitimacy of Western state power and attack its critics. This is as true of neo-Nazis as it is for defenders of Israel, who use Jews as a shield for their domestic and international articulations of capitalist power and empire.  Many who deploy such rhetoric may not think themselves antisemites. Yet, that Jewish bodies are used as proxies for Western power is merely the latest iteration of Christian states reflecting their own purpose on their proximate other.

Lerman seems to have no theory of antisemitism himself, other than that antisemitism as a force is more or less over and that the “Israel question” has replaced the “Jewish question” in salience and import. Israel is, in some ways, he suggests, in “thrall of a dangerous version of Jewish particularism.” By this, he means that a focus on Jewish oppression and trauma led Jews to their own virulent form of ethno-nationalism. As a corrective to the paranoid style of Jewish leaders—that we are all on tracks laid down to Auschwitz and we need a garrison state in order to survive— Lerman’s book throws much-needed lukewarm water on this self-generated house-fire.  It would be hard to point to any country in which Jews are in immediate risk of annihilation. Still, Lerman’s book either fails, or is unwilling, to account for both the recent revitalization of political antisemitism and, perhaps more importantly, the way in which the figurative Jew is mobilized by imperial states for their own ends. As Theodor Adorno noted in a speech about fascism in the late 1960s, “in spite of everything, anti-Semitism continues to be a ‘plank in the platform.’ It outlived the Jews, one might say, and that is the source of its ghostly nature.” While Lerman is absolutely correct to point a righteous finger at both a Jewish apartheid state and the diasporic institutions that support it, he makes the mistake that Adorno would not permit: antisemitism is not about what Jews do. It is about how the figure of the Jew functions for the non-Jew.



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