Tuesday 31 December 2019

Antisemitic daubing - who has the right to protest about it?

Every group, nation, or minority experiences struggles over what ideas dominate. However you see yourself - in terms of your group your nation, your minority, perhaps you've seen this process going on: people claiming, for example, that there is a 'right' way for your group to think, behave or act. Or that there is a 'mainstream' way and other ways are not legitimate. 

Part of what's gone on with Jews and the Labour Party, I believe, has running through it tensions about precisely this matter: who speaks for Jews? Who represents Jews? 

As it happens, the UK's 284,000 Jews make up a hugely diverse population whether that's seen in terms of lifestyle, employment, beliefs, religious practice, manifestations of culture or indeed along any lines of culture you would like to think of. One view of this is to acknowledge it and celebrate it. Another is to treat it as if this variety doesn't really exist. Another view is that the variety is awkward and that things should be done to get some kind of unity or homogeneity to it all. 

Here's how I think this applies to what's been going on recently, in particular on twitter where the vigil held in protest against the daubing in Hampstead in North London has provoked some bitter exchanges: 

(the paras that follow were originally tweets) 

If one’s view is that Corbyn is an antisemite and a Corbyn government would have been an existential threat to Jews, I speculate as to why a greater enemy than me isn’t the Jewish Lab candidates. All I do is sit on my tukkhes and tweet.

I’m beginning to wonder if something else is happening: some kind of unspoken struggle for hearts and minds over who has the right to speak. (We used to call it ‘hegemony’ in the ‘discourse’).

Antisemitic daubing is an attempt to intimidate Jews of all backgrounds and affiliations. North London is a place where this variation in Jewish culture and religion is very marked. Antisemitic daubing doesn’t threaten one kind of Jew more than another. Any Jew or group of Jews could/can show their resistance to that intimidation in whatever way they want.

One show of resistance by some Jews doesn’t exclude another group of Jews from showing their resistance in whatever way they want. Only if a group is seeking ‘hegemony’ (authority, domination) over others does it become an issue.

The discourse around me as being self-hating [there's been a lot of it going on on twitter!] is an attempt to delegitimise my type of Jew (however that’s perceived).There are many secular and radical traditions that are easily hidden, forgotten or sat on in this debate.

It’s no more relevant whether this is a ‘minority’ or ‘not mainstream’ than it is to say Philip Roth is not as mainstream as Alan Dershowitz. Cultural politics is not only about numbers. It’s also about attitudes and sharing thoughts and feelings.