‘Combatting Anti-Semitism Is A Matter For Everybody’

'The EHRC report on Labour’s antisemitism under Corbyn is highly damning. I don’t feel vindicated. Just empowered to continue being loud.'

Anti semitism facebook

by Eve Barlow |
Updated on

I am trembling and I am crying as I type this today.

The EHRC report on Labour’s antisemitism under Corbynis highly damning. 'Unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.' I don’t feel vindicated. Just empowered to continue being loud, no matter how much people shame and abuse, how many people I have lost, nor how great the personal threat to my own life and livelihood. I will never be silent. thanks to all who took action, who inspired me, who I speak to still every day.

The responses to today’s news by the Corbynites prove that the culture of Corbyn lives, but this action is the first major commitment by the labour party to rid itself of the disease of antisemitism, and we shall see whether the party will ever be a safe space for Jews again. to those who continue to look away, who continue to blame and shame us, who continue to deny or belittle us, goodbye. he will never stop gaslighting us, and neither will you.

I live by myself in a one-bed apartment in Los Angeles. I felt comfortable until last winter, before the UK general election. I came back to my apartment every evening, sat on my sofa and I felt not calm solitude but stark isolation. And this was pre-Covid, before I would spend more than six months solo waiting out a pandemic.

But that isolation wasn’t a patch on last winter because, thousands of miles from my family in the UK, I went through something alone. They were the only people I could talk to when the walls were closing in, when all my non-Jewish friends and colleagues were in agreement about who they were voting for to save humanity – Jeremy Corbyn, a man who allowed anti-Semitism to thrive in the Labour Party. My Jewish life, my Jewish humanity mattered not. It was an inconvenience that I was concerned with Jewish survival.

I talked for hours about how scared I was, exchanging strategies to determine where might be safest for us to cultivate our lives. I didn’t sleep. I cried to my therapist about my parents in their seventies; would they leave the UK if they had to? For many British Jews, this is familiar. You might ask why I felt so nervous, having already moved to another country. Anti- Semitism is a global problem. Jews are a small, diverse and dispersed people. But we are one people, and the trends that emerge in one society are a warning siren of trends that emerge in others.

Anti-Semitism is called ‘the world’s oldest hatred’. It has not survived through generations without constantly mutating, without becoming institutionally entrenched. It is not exclusive to one side of the political aisle. It is not dependent on class or education. According to Facebook’s vice-president of content policy, the decision to ban all Holocaust denial content was made alongside ‘the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people’. The Holocaust was not the first attempt to extinguish us. We utter the phrase ‘never again’, but if we don’t consider what those words pragmatically mean, specifically what they mean to Jews, then the Holocaust will not be the last attempt to erase us.

The first time I learned that most people I know have no idea what it’s like to be Jewish came when I wrote about anti- Semitism for Grazia back in 2015. I was deeply attuned to a feeling that the UK had become a precarious place for Jews, and it formed part of my reason for moving abroad, especially after Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. The piece was received by some with concern, by others with surprise and, sadly, by some former colleagues with gaslighting. I was glad that I wrote it, but I wasn’t eager to keep being loud because I knew that it would create trouble, particularly in the progressive circles to which I belonged.

To be a vocal Jew is to be a ‘bad’ Jew. The non-Jewish world allows Jews to assimilate when we’re quiet about our struggles but stand firmly in solidarity with others. Why can’t it be both? I command allyship. I demand a place under the roof of human rights advocacy. But when I tweet about Jewish issues, they are deemed out of touch with the most crucial forms of oppression.

I have been unfollowed by musicians who are scared by my reclamation of the word Zionist (a word akin to ‘feminist’; one that protects a Jew’s right to self-determine in their indigenous homeland). Peers and trolls have slandered me as racist, a baby killer and ‘blood-thirsty’. I regularly receive rape and death threats from leftists and white supremacists.

But I’ve realised that it is untenable for me to have a public platform, to talk about intersectionality in feminist and queer spaces, while excluding my most vulnerable multitude at the expense of my own life. It was a mistake to stop speaking up. I’ve been rectifying this since 2019, when I adopted a new rule of thumb: tweet like you’ve already been cancelled. It was non-Jewish people who wanted to learn who helped me arrive here, as did a handful of Jews, who then grew to thousands as my dedication became a daily pursuit on social media. If you want people to see your humanity, you have to show them it. Along with my friend Ben M Freeman, an educator with a decade’s experience in Holocaust education, Jewish identity and anti-Semitism, we began running webinars. We believe that education is the leading form of activism. To date, we’ve run more than 20, and more than 1,000 people worldwide have attended.

Anti-Semitism doesn’t blindside me. My catchphrase for 2020 is ‘shocked but not surprised’. Was I shocked that Wiley went on a 48-hour Twitter tirade spewing every anti-Semitic trope, unchecked by the gatekeepers of that website? Yes, but not surprised. Was I shocked that a man hung a banner from the 405 freeway in LA saying ‘Jews Want A Race War’ and no mainstream media reported it? Yes, but not surprised.

Jew-hatred is a conspiracy theory, a web of lies, a syphilis of the mind that’s greatly pleasurable to those who engage in the sport of it, even if those engaged are in denial about the root. The saddest part is that anti-Semitism ultimately hurts the non-Jewish world. Jewish communities have survived for more than 3,000 years to bring brilliant ideas, beautiful customs, ground- breaking art and mighty heart to the societies we seek to be part of. When society turns against its Jews, it is an indication that something is rotting. Combatting anti-Semitism is not a matter for Jews, it is a matter for everybody. If you’re not engaged yet, then why not?

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