By Haleigh Whisted
David Hirsh, senior lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, gave a lecture on the recognition of anti-semitism in democratic societies and his book titled “Contemporary Left Antisemitism” Thursday afternoon in Francis Scott Key Hall. The Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies hosted the event.
“My new book surveys some of these methods of understanding of anti-Semitism,” Hirsh said, “and it looks at some of the rhetorical and discursive forms that denial and counter-accusation characteristically take.”
The senior lecturer continued by analyzing how to define anti-Semitism and used real world examples of hostility toward Jewish people. Hirsh said Great Britain now has a Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who “articulated his political support of the anti-Semitic movements Hamas and Hezbollah.”
While Hirsh focused particularly on anti-Semitism in Britain, he also mentioned President Donald Trump and his “final day campaign video” being “identical to classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.” America is seen as having just as many anti-Semitic situations as Britain, Hirsh said.
An anonymous junior history major at this university stated that she attended this lecture because “…people talk about right-winged anti-Semitism, but they don’t often talk about left-winged anti-Semitism which is increasing and more pervasive in society…and the manner in which Israel is being criticized in various institutions and organizations is anti-Semitic, and I think it is important to have people talk about that.”
A “phenomena” is occurring where people in both the right and left wings are able to accuse the opposite side for committing anti-Semitism, says Hirsh. But, if neither side openly talks about their own political party’s anti-Semitic ways and attempts to deny their side of the blame, Hirsh explained that both parties are not truly opposing anti-Semitism.
“There is a certain ingrained tolerance of anti-Semitism that I find very troubling,” Judith Hallett, a classics professor said, “and a lot of it has to do with the fact that academics tend to be very tolerant, they listen to different viewpoints… but they don’t get upset.”
Audience members described their first-hand experiences with anti-Semitism at this university and asked questions about how to deal with these experiences when faced with them.
“Jews are considered as white, and that, if you are white, then it is said that you cannot be a victim of racism,” Hirsh said.
He said this is part of the reason why anti-Semitism is not discussed as openly as other things like sexism, racism or xenophobia and why it seems to be more tolerated.
History professor Emerita Sonya Michel said after the lecture, “I learned the ways in which people on the left twist things around in order to come up with expressions of hostility toward the Jews…and that while his examples were drawing from the British left, it’s still a similar situation here in the U.S.”