Where Did The Past Go?
August 27, 2019 9:02 AM   Subscribe

European-derived antisemitism functions by locking Jews into middle agent roles: once some Jews have climbed to the middle rungs of society’s ladder of race and class privilege, then, during times of economic downturn and social instability, Jews as a group “can be perceived as the ones ‘in charge’ by other oppressed groups,” who are encouraged to “fix [their] gaze on an imagined group of greedy, powerful Jews at the root of the world’s problems.” Ben Lorber for the Jewish Current on April Rosenblum’s influential pamphlet.
posted by bq (9 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
As Sino-Indonesians, Gujarati-Kenyans, Lebanese West Africans, and others can attest, there are lots of openings in the scapegoat caste niche.
posted by ocschwar at 10:14 AM on August 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

As Sino-Indonesians, Gujarati-Kenyans, Lebanese West Africans, and others can attest, there are lots of openings in the scapegoat caste niche.

(Tiger mom) Amy Chua discussed this in her 2003 book World on Fire. Whether the positioning is intended by elites or an accident of migration history the results are dangerous for the "foreigners" positioned just above the most oppressed. I saw how this, along with misunderstood etiquette, played out when Korean families opened corner grocery stores in predominantly African-American Brooklyn neighborhoods and it did seem similar to some of the historical Jewish experiences.

Thanks for the article which gave me a new tool to understand this history.
posted by Botanizer at 10:39 AM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

See also: Ottoman Armenians.
posted by The Tensor at 12:11 PM on August 27, 2019

This guy wrote an entire blog post about somebody else's article, but couldn't be bothered to link to the original! Sheesh.

If you actually want to read April Rosenblum's The Past Didn't Go Anywhere:posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2019 [13 favorites]

Thank you!
posted by bq at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's a crazy amount of antisemitism denial and gaslighting on the left. The marchers at Charlottesville chanted "Jews will not replace us". Since then there have been at least two synagogue shootings. Jews continue to disproportionately be the victims of hate crimes: according to this Twitter thread 33 of 55 reported hate crimes in NYC were against Jews. And here's an article where the author is trying to find a paradigm that will allow people on the left to accept that Jews really are the victims of oppression without considering that maybe the people the author are talking to are actually antisemites themselves. It's almost ironic.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:44 AM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

The plight of the Jewish leftist laid bare: if you don't try to address anti-Semitism on the left then you're part of the problem; but the minute you try to do something about it Jews to your right will accuse you of not doing it right and being naive (or occasionally something much worse).

In any event, anti-Semitism education and training like the type described here is pretty much bog-standard among most American Jewish organizations in communities where anti-Semitic violence has occurred. The idea of Jews being deliberately placed as both oppressors and oppressed by those in power throughout history is fairly well-accepted. Indeed, it can be argued that understanding that power dynamic is actually one of the bedrock principles for understanding how pernicious anti-Semitism is.

I will say that I find the laying of two explicitly right-wing attacks and a string of hate crimes so far unlinked to any ideology but anti-Semitism at the feet of leftist Jews to be in extremely poor taste. That this is done in the context of a wave of of white supremacist and anti-Semitic attacks from within the Jewish community, including attacks on Jews of color, is especially troubling.

BTW, I'd like to point out that Jewish Currents is one of the few Jewish publications that hasn't actually been pulling stupid "both-sides" games regarding white supremacy, and is a fantastic publication, especially if you're unfamiliar with the history of Jewish leftism in the US.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:24 AM on August 30, 2019

Zombieflanders, the whole point of the article is that facts alone weren't enough to convince the author's friends (or really the author) that antisemitism is something real. It had to fit into the proper ideological framework.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:55 AM on August 31, 2019

Yeah, it's kind of jarring that the author goes from talking about synagogue shootings to saying things like:
In recent years—due to shifting political realities and the work done by Rosenblum, Kent, and many, many others—Jewish activists have indeed found firmer footing in the baseline assertion that antisemitism remains a real, active force in our society. These activists are now faced with attending to the specifics of the middle agent analysis, striving for deeper understanding and more effective organizing strategies.
Really? That's what they're faced with?

I found the original pamphlet Harvey Kilobit linked to very well-written and well-reasoned but it sure seems like the author of the OP article ought to be much more outraged that his non-Jewish friends on the left ever gave him pushback about the reality or seriousness of anti-Semitism, whether or not he's prepared to include their attitudes as part of what the pamphlet discusses.
posted by XMLicious at 4:24 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

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