'Z' WORD | The Company They Keep: Antisemitism's Fellow Travellers
anthony julius | july 2008
" IN APRIL 2005, THREE Jewish members of the National Union of Students (NUS) executive in the United Kingdom resigned from their positions. One of them, Luciana Berger, the NUS "anti-racism convenor," explained her position to the union's conference:
"This year, a comment was made in a Student Union saying that burning down a synagogue is a rational act. When asked to comment, National Executive Committee members could not even bring themselves to condemn that statement. Over five months ago serious complaints were lodged about antisemitic comments made by an NEC member in a public meeting. There is yet to be any form of official response to these complaints. [...] While I accuse no one of antisemitism, this year NUS has been a bystander to Jew-hatred." 
The question arises, is it right to characterise as antisemitic those adverse stances towards Israel and the Zionist project that are derived from false facts, and / or are malicious, and / or are taken without regard to Jewish objections, and / or resonate with antisemitism's history and / or deploy antisemitic tropes? Mostly, the answer is "yes" - particularly when several of these features are combined. But in certain instances, the answer might be, "no" - or "not quite."
First, the affirmative answer might be a tactical mistake. It might be received as merely abusive - no more than a piece of name-calling. It often serves as a mere provocation, inviting the tedious riposte, "I am not an antisemite, indeed I deplore antisemitism, I am instead a partisan of the Palestinians, you are making a false accusation of antisemitism against me to squash my unanswerable case, etc." Why, then, take this step, one which almost always signals the end of any useful exchange of views, and instead inaugurates the trading of insults, the argument no longer being about the coherence of the stance, but instead about the respective moral character of its advocates and critics? 
Second, the affirmative answer might be premature. Antisemitic anti-Zionism is so much part of the zeitgeist, it is reasonable to assume that many of the people who draw upon its tropes do so without reflection. If they are open to correction when the provenance of their language is pointed out to them, they are not antisemites. Antisemites are obdurate in their Jew hatred. They display their antisemitism as much in their response to challenges to their discourse as in the discourse itself. They will respond, that is, with counter-accusations; there will no pause for self-interrogation. Further, these counter-accusations will tend to trade on the ugly characteristics typically attributed to Jews - the use of their power or money to silence truth-tellers, the exploitation of their historic suffering to gain present-day advantages, a ready resort to character-assassination or smear, and so on.
Finally, a "yes" risks lumping together two kinds of people. For the first kind, antisemitism determines their positions; they embrace Jew hatred; they acknowledge and welcome the antisemitism of others. For the second kind, antisemitism is not relevant to the positions that they take; they do not recoil from antisemitism when they encounter it; they are insensitive to the presence of antisemitism in their own positions or in the positions that they support. They may not be antisemites themselves, but they collude with antisemitism. They are often found defending antisemites - not guilty of the offence themselves, but quick to champion others who are guilty of it. The distinction I am drawing is between the culpable adoption of antisemitism and a culpable indifference towards it. Many "new anti-Zionists" bear this latter, lesser responsibility. They share space with antisemites, untroubled by the company that they keep; they comprise a species of "fellow traveller" ("bystander" does not quite do the vice justice), the kind of person ready to overlook or excuse everything that is vicious in the cause he supports, the protagonists he admires. "
Con't'Z' WORD | The Company They Keep: Antisemitism's Fellow Travellers"> here. This is a long article but very good. Next section: The Soviet Analogy
Julius has recently written a book entitled "Trials of the Diaspora" reviewed in the Telegraph here, favorably, and of course there are the unfavorable ones as well.