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San Jose State University
One Washington Square, San Jose, California 95192
Can Progressives be Anti-Semitic?
Antisemitism on the left is difficult to recognize because it does not come dressed in a Nazi uniform and it does not openly proclaim its hatred or fear of Jews. David Hirsh will look at the kind of antisemitism which is tolerated in apparently democratic and progressive spaces: trade unions, churches, left-wing and liberal politics, social gatherings of the chattering classes and the seminars and journals of radical intellectuals, constituencies which consider themselves to be wholly immune to antisemitism.
This antisemitism is insulated by a layer of discourse that casts suspicion against anybody who experiences it, analyses it or opposes it; it casts them out of the community of the oppressed and of the progressive. It analyses how criticism of Israel can mushroom into antisemitism and it looks at struggles over how antisemitism is defined.
The talk focuses on ways in which those who raise the issue of antisemitism are often accused of doing so in bad faith in an attempt to silence or to smear. Hostility to Israel has become a signifier of identity, connected to opposition to imperialism, neo-liberalism and global capitalism; the ‘community of the good’ takes on toxic ways of imagining most living Jewish people.
About David Hirsh:
David Hirsh is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He wrote his PhD at Warwick University on crimes against humanity and international law, and his first book, ‘Law against Genocide: Cosmopolitan Trials’ was based on his thesis. It won the BSA Philip Abrams prize for the best first book in sociology in 2004.
David’s new book, out in August 2017, is ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’. It combines narrative and case study with sociological analysis and theory to understand the controversial and contested phenomenon of antisemitism on the left. It is not a critique of the left but a contemporary history of how things may go wrong.