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Taking On Anti-Semitism for Our, and Everyone’s, Liberation

Our lives as Black people, seldom easy, are being set up to be even harder. This is happening to all targeted people. As fear bites and tensions grow, divisions are encouraged and our early undischarged experiences of being considered “less than” can leave us vulnerable. Unity is vital.

When we stand visibly as proud Black people alongside Jews—a group that has been set up to play the role of our oppressor—we step outside the whirlpool of fear and internalised oppression.

Let us rise to be powerful and principled, and speak out about anti-Semitism.

Many of us in the West think of and have experienced Jews as white (even though some Jews are not white and have been targeted by racism). In our childhoods, many of us knew Jews as landlords, shopkeepers, debt collectors, teachers, social workers—all middle-agent roles. Could Jews have acted differently in those roles or refused them? That question is not ours to ask, except as we discharge any resentments that lurk in our hearts and minds.

In England, when the “ugly face of capitalism” is the headline, invariably a Jew is selected to be that face. This is a common form of anti-Semitism. Capitalism is the product of white Gentile activity, yet Jews are made the target of anti-capitalist sentiment.

The Dutch Gentile ruling class sent Jews to the Dutch colonies to be the colonizers—to once again do the dirty work of the Gentile owning class and be the face of oppression. Jews have been hated, isolated, and treated as “white” by people targeted by racism, while white Gentiles do not really accept Jews as “white.” Is privilege at that cost real privilege? Is it privilege when a history of persecution and death, and the vulnerabilities that come from that, is exploited and used against you?

Here in England, Jews are pulling in to themselves as anti-Semitic speech and actions are on the rise. And the people targeted for acting out anti-Semitism are disproportionally people targeted by racism. Why is this? Are we as a group more anti-Semitic? No. The oppressive society is targeting both groups at once and, more important, is pitting us against each other.

Many Jews have stood with Black people, even losing their lives for it. This is significant. However, it is not in itself the reason we must stand with Jews. We must do it because we cannot let ourselves be drawn into leaving Jews isolated. In being set up to play middle-agent roles, Jews have become isolated from other oppressed groups, including ours. We will not collude with that trap.

Does this mean that we do not challenge Jews on racism? Of course not. When we join forces with Jews, we want closeness, connection, and a real relationship. And it is from that motivation that we challenge racism: “I want you, beloved Jew, and any racism you carry will stand in the way of our having each other.”

We belong to Jews and Jews to us. And the delightful thing is that the forces of oppression do not expect this alliance—like they do not expect, as Harvey Jackins talked about, the owning class coming over the hill to join the ranks of the working class. United, Jews and people targeted by racism are a powerful force. Let’s be that force.

We can and will do this because we are that big and that passionate about having a world with no divisions that works for everyone. Let’s do it. Let’s make this difference, for our own liberation.

I recently spoke out about anti-Semitism at a Black non-RC discussion about current affairs. First there was silence, then a little tentative curiosity, and then everyone moved on to more familiar territory. A powerful woman from Ghana followed me out and asked to meet with me. I see this as a start, and I’m looking forward to more.

One additional thing: our RC literature is a great starting place to learn about anti-Semitism.

Dorann van Heeswijk

London, England

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of African-heritage people

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00