Wednesday, May 20, 2020

UK: Anti-Semitism runs deep in Britain and cuts across party lines (Labour and Conservative supporters)

Via Unherd - Matthew Sweet:
Anti-Semitism runs deep in Britain.  There is a strong native tradition in this country and it cuts across party lines.

[…] The journal Political Quarterly has just published the first academic study of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis. Its authors are the sociologists Ben Gidley and Brendan McGeever, and the historian David Feldman — all attached to the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck University of London.

Their purpose is not juridical. They are not, like the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, investigating whether unlawful acts have been committed by the party or its employees or agents. Instead, they have crunched data on the views of Labour and Conservative supporters, and examined the language with which the arguments of the crisis were advanced, by those who believe Jeremy Corbyn to be a conscious, unconscious or perhaps semi-conscious anti-Semite, to those who regard the whole business as a smear campaign calculated to damage his electoral prospects.

Their conclusions will comfort few. Conservative voters, the data suggests, are more likely to assent to an anti-Semitic proposition than their Labour equivalents. These numbers are alarmingly large: added together, they work out as about 30% of the population. So why has Tory anti-Semitism failed to become a source of controversy? Because, Gidley and his co-authors argue, a tradition of Left-wing thinking about capitalism — the view that it is a system rigged by a powerful elite — raises questions to which anti-Semitism provides simple answers. […]

The most emphatic point made by Gidley, McGeever and Feldman is a conceptual one. They suggest that most of the participants in the crisis — from Jeremy Corbyn to Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis — are guilty of the same intellectual error. They have chosen to characterise anti-Jewish racism as a poison, a virus, a disease — a foreign pollutant that has breached the defences of a 120-year-old British institution. “Figures on all sides,” the article concludes, “conceive antisemitism as an exogenous force which contaminates and spoils the political body it inhabits.”

Rather as the 1999 McPherson Report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence rejected the “bad apple” theory in favour of the less localised and dismissable concept of institutional racism, Gidley and his co-authors want us to reject the reassuringly alien idea of the virus. “If we should use a metaphor to comprehend anti-Semitism,” they argue, “it is not virus but reservoir: a deep reservoir of stereotypes and narratives, one which is replenished over time and from which people can draw with ease.”
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