Monday, November 19, 2007
Combatting anti-Semitism of "the Left"
Over the last few years, university students and trade union members in Canada and the U.S. have begun to note a preponderance of anti-Israel literature, activity and thought. Often spearheaded by left-leaning organizations and leaders, campaigns continually crop up calling for divestment and boycott of Israel for one reason or another.
It's easy to think in black and white terms, left vs. right, right vs. wrong when it comes to Israel, especially as a Jew faced with both overt and covert anti-Semitism on a daily basis. But in a world that can seem increasingly hostile to Jews, Israel and those sympathetic to both, it's helpful to be reminded that not all of those on "the Left" are inherently anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.
Jews and students in North America who cringe when they hear about unions or campus groups continually trying to foster divestment campaigns against Israel, or other such activities, would do well to check out the following site to read reams of leftist diatribe against those "leftists" who would couch anti-Semitism in their ostensibly anti-Israel positions.
Engage is a website based in Britain. Born out of the need to speak out against the UK's recent battle with the British University and College Union's – the country's largest academic trade union – call to its members to boycott all of Israel's academia. Engage exists as a challenge to "contemporary anti-Semitism... a resource that aims to help people counter the boycott Israel campaign in general, as well as the the assumptions and misrepresentations that lie behind it."
Editor David Hirsh has put together a very interesting forum for readers to peruse. The site makes no bones about the fact that it is part of a "left wing campaign" to fight against neo anti-Semitic manifestations. So it isn't an easy read for the more right-wing supporters of Israel.
It's informative, engaging (no pun intended) and a good way to get a glimpse into the mindset of the left. Here's how Engage describes itself:
"Engage is a left wing campaign. We "support" neither Israel nor Palestine; we support a cosmopolitan or internationalist politics that supports those who fight for peace and against racism within both nations. We are not a "Jewish" campaign, whatever that might mean. We do not speak "as Jews" but as socialists, liberals, trade unionists or academics. A number of the people centrally involved in Engage are not Jewish.
"Engage comes out of a socialist tradition that maintains a skeptical view of nationalism. We do not see nationalism as necessarily racist or evil, but neither is it our own tradition; we are not nationalists. To the extent that nationalism defines community, and as far as nationalism represents a collective response to oppression, or a means of self-defence, we recognise that nationalism sometimes plays a positive role. Yet nationalism always also has potential to exclude those who are not thought of as being part of the nation and it has the potential to set one nation against another. This does not mean that we hope that nationalism (or particular nations) can be wished away or artificially destroyed. It means that our perspective is not one that puts any particular nation first, but one that aspires to a world in which people can enjoy guaranteed rights irrespective of national identity.
Engage is a single issue campaign. It focuses on one issue, antisemitism, and is therefore concerned also about the demonization of Israel, and of Jews who don't think of themselves as anti-Zionists. We believe that a new commonsense is emerging that holds Israel to be a central and fundamental evil in the world. We disagree with this notion and we think that it is dangerous. The danger is that this kind of thinking may well lead to, and license, the emergence of a movement that is racist against Jews in general. "
Regardless of your political orientation, there's some fascinating reading to be had on Engage. But that's just my opinion. What do you think?