What I find generally very difficult to explain – and also what people find hard to hear – is that there are antisemitic tropes that are used by both white supremacists (no surprise there) but also by leftist intersectional anti-racists. One stubborn trope is the issue of double loyalty, loosely defined by ‘you say you are loyal to us, but actually your loyalty lies somewhere else’. That somewhere else has been many different things in the history of antisemitism, and presently it often refers to a ‘secretive Zionist agenda’. And if loyalties are doubted or even surrounded by suspicion, how can a Jewish organization be part of the anti-racism movement in the first place? This question came up last week and it set a whole train of thoughts and conversations in motion.
When a Dutch Jewish social justice organisation that works on local Dutch efforts towards anti-racism and discrimination is accused of being indiscriminately pro-Israel and therefor precluded from the anti-racism conversation, this is uncomfortable and feels unfair. But it might be used as an opening for conversation, and so one might wonder about the reasoning behind it. One obvious reason may lie in the fact that many organizations, including Jewish organizations, conflate Jews and Israel in various ways, and Israel’s track record where it comes to human rights and inclusiveness does not make a pretty example. The troubling thing is that these accusations readily come in the form of this antisemitic trope of double loyalty and this trope has been around long before Israel became a country, so it carries the weight of a long and often painful history.
The double loyalties trope is one of the causes that make the anti-racism movement so fundamentally unsafe for Jews, even though Jews remain among the most exposed to racism. It is unsettling to be excluded from the anti-racism conversation based on a persistent antisemitic trope that is normalized in these spaces. But it shows that antisemitism cannot be understood through those merely visible anti-Jewish actions (something that anti-racists will unequivocally stand up against) but rather in the upholding of a (trope) system that transforms Jews into the Other. The double loyalty trope is the gatekeeper at the entrance of the anti-racism movement.
How then can we get out of this negative downward spiral lined with hidden antisemitic discourse and move forward? I think that we need to have a conversation together and recognize that antisemitic rhetoric is much more widespread than we tend to think. In doing so, all of us in the anti-racism movement must be critical and self-reflective instead of writing one another off before we have even started or at the first signs of discomfort. It is a necessary prerequisite if we are to move forward in this, together.
By the way: An excellent read on how this trope manifests itself in our times can be found in this informative New York Times article.