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The Case of Judith Butler: The Anti-Semitism that Defines Today's Western Left

As the British writer and left-wing intellectual Norman Geras discussed at the YIVO conference on Jews and the Left, the left in his own Britain made opposition to Israel its main focus and concern, and has willingly joined hands with anti-Semites. Geras writes:

At the same time, that affinity has now been compromised by the existence of a new climate of anti-Semitic opinion within the left. This climate of opinion affects a section of the left only, and not the whole of it. But it is a substantial section. Its convenient alibi is the state of Israel -- by which I mean that Israel is standardly invoked to deflect the charge that there is anything of anti-Semitism at work. Israel, so the story goes, is a delinquent state and, for many of those who regard it so, a non-legitimate one -- colonialist, imperialist, vehicle of oppression and what have you. Similarly, diaspora Jews who defend Israel within their home countries are not seen as the conduit of Jewish interests and/or opinion in the normal way of any other democratic articulation; they are treated, rather, as a dubious force -- the notorious "Jewish lobby" -- as if their organized existence were somehow improper.

Speaking about the British newspaper The Guardian, Geras writes:

This once great paper of British liberalism now provides space on its opinion pages for the spokesmen of Hamas, the contents of its programmatic charter notwithstanding; provides space on its letters page for philosophers justifying the murder of Jews; and provides space on its website for people who deploy well-known anti-Semitic themes even while professing that they have nothing whatever against Jews.

His point speaks directly as well to Judith Butler, whose support of Hamas is justified by her in precisely the terms that Geras notes the British leftists use as rationale for their anti-Semitism.

Geras concluded his remarks by saying:

We now know, as well, that should a new calamity ever befall the Jewish people, there will be, again, not only the direct architects and executants but also those who collaborate, who collude, who look away and find the words to go with doing so. Some of these, dismayingly, shamefully, will be of the left.

Judith Butler is one of those Americans who now has helped, despite her own so-called explanations, the campaign to delegitimize Israel. But in contrast to Professor Landes, I would argue that this new anti-Semitism defines the left today. Landes writes that Butler’s entire audience is on the left; as he tells her, “that’s where you get your kudos.”