One of the most striking things about the woke new left, including sections of the Corbynista left, is that they see racism everywhere except in relation to Jews.
So these are the kind of people who, if Katy Perry wears her hair in cornrows, they will start talking about white supremacy. They will literally use the words white supremacy.
If Jamie Oliver makes jerk rice, Labour MP Dawn Butler will have a meltdown and talk about ‘cultural theft’. This is the racist co-option of other people’s lives, they say.
As for Islam – virtually every criticism of Islam is chalked up to racism these days. Witness the fuss over Boris Johnson’s jokes about women who wear the niqab. You’d think he was Goebbels the way people reacted. Basically, if you don’t curtsey every time you pass a woman in a niqab, you’re racist.
But when it comes to the Jews, it’s an entirely different story.
So someone can paint a mural in east London showing hook-nosed men trampling all over humankind and these same people will be like: ‘Oh that’s a nice painting, I can’t believe they’re taking it down.’
Or more seriously, there can be a firebombing attack on a synagogue and some people will say, ‘We don’t know for sure if this is racist… let’s not jump to conclusions.’
This actually happened, in Germany, in 2014. A synagogue was firebombed and some green activists and others argued that it wasn’t an anti-Semitic hate crime – it was a statement about Israel and its actions in Gaza. In 2017, a court agreed with them: it ruled this was arson, not hatred.
Even more strikingly, Jews can be massacred in public and some people will say, ‘Come on, we don’t know the whole story, let’s not be rash’.
So when four Jews were murdered at a kosher deli in Paris shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, we had Karen Armstrong, the religious correspondent, saying it wasn’t an act of anti-Semitism but rather a response to the situation in Palestine.
Other left-leaning people in the media were most worried that there would be an Islamophobic backlash in response to the deli massacre and the Charlie Hebdo massacre. So even when there is racist violence against Jews, some people think to themselves, ‘Oh no… I hope the Muslims are okay’.
The same people who are myopically obsessed with racism, and who see it in every film, every innocent conversational question, every celebrity’s hairstyle, never seem to notice racism when its target is the Jews.
They go through life wearing these super-sensitive racial goggles, but those goggles always seem to stop working when Jews are involved.
They see racism where it clearly does not exist – in rice or a pop star’s outfit – but they cannot see it where it clearly does exist: in racist caricatures of Jews, in placards branding Jews ‘the New Nazis’, in violent attacks on synagogues.
This is such an alarming disparity that it deserves serious interrogation. My view is that it tells us a great deal both about racism and so-called anti-racism in this era of identity politics.
About anti-racism, it tells us that this is no longer a serious or progressive pursuit. If it were, we might expect that it would notice – and ideally organise against – the recent outbursts of hatred for Jews in Europe, during which a Holocaust survivor has been burnt to death, Jewish institutions have been attacked, and military men have been posted at Jewish schools to protect children.
Instead, the new ‘anti-racism’ is really a form of social and linguistic etiquette. Its aim is not to confront racism but to police what people say, to police culture, to police interpersonal relationships, all under the guise of managing relations between the races. It’s a new form of racialised governance.