Dear AJDS members and supporters,
This issue of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society’s newsletter, Just Voices, is focused on antisemitism. This is a broad topic that encompasses many different and related phenomena, past and present. It deserves our attention now no less than ever, especially since it is largely neglected in the Left, and concerns many developments within mainstream culture, including the American government openly spouting antisemitic views. Increased violence against Jews can be physical, but also rhetorical. At the same time, it is important to define new antisemitism, which stifles criticism of Israel, blames Islamic terrorism as the source of all conflict, allows Nazis to march in our name and defines many non-Zionist activists as self-hating Jews.
If you’re reading this and wondering about the spelling of ‘antisemitism’ used here, it is the one currently preferred by many scholars and institutions. I go along with the reasoning of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), who’ve rejected the hyphenated version of the word: “IHRA’s concern is that the hyphenated spelling allows for the possibility of something called ‘Semitism’, which not only legitimizes a form of pseudo-scientific racial classification that was thoroughly discredited by association with Nazi ideology, but also divides the term, stripping it from its meaning of opposition and hatred toward Jews” (read more of the IHRA’s memo here).
Antisemitism requires constant redefinition: where is it located? What are its social and historical contexts? How does it manifest across the political spectrum? How has it been used to provide a platform for Islamophobia? What spaces can we create to challenge antisemitism? And how might we understand Jews along a spectrum defined by skin colour; are Jews White, and what is Whiteness? As written elsewhere, “Race is not just a matter of skin pigmentation or ethnic background. It is determined by both individuals and their observers, and the boundaries of who’s in or out of one group or another change constantly” (Emma Green’s in The Atlantic.
Antisemitism(s) cannot be fully covered in one issue of our newsletter. As such, this collection of articles is a beginning, and includes predominately Jewish perspectives on antisemitism. We are keen to provide more voices from other communities on countering antisemitism therein, as well as writing about Jewish and non-Jewish apologists for antisemitism in Palestine and the Arab world.
The views expressed in Just Voices are not official positions held by the AJDS. When in the last issue of this newsletter the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948 was described as a cataclysmic event, this was my personal view. Only AJDS statements reflect positions agreed upon at an executive level. The AJDS does not have a unanimous position on the subject of 1948 in Israel/Palestine.
Thank you to all those who helped and contributed to this edition of Just Voices.