Guardian contributor’s tweet shows how ‘privilege’ narrative obfuscates antisemitism

In his essay at Tablet titled ‘How Anti-Racism Erases Antisemitism’, John-Paul Pagano addresses the “discussion on the left about the experience of ‘privilege’ and the desire to reevaluate racism in light of the dynamics of power” and reaches the troubling conclusion that this narrative can “encourage the age-old and often murderous bigotry against [Jews]”.

The rhetoric of “privilege” can encourage antisemitism, Pagano writes, because “antisemitism doesn’t work like most forms of racism, which denigrate their victims as inferior”. Antisemitism is unique, he argues, “in that it often perceives its target—Jews—as having too much privilege and assails them for it”.

Antisemitism, he adds, “is a conspiracy theory which holds that “the Jews” (who enjoy a good measure of economic and social success, especially in relation to many Muslims) are an evil elite…”the ultimate bearers of privilege”.  

If you want to see how this moral calculus plays out, see the following tweet last year by an pro-Palestinian American academic named Moustafa Bayoumi, who’s latest attack on Israel was published by the Guardian today (Sept. 6).  Bayoumi’s tweet came a week after the deadly jihadist terror attacks in Paris last year, including the assault on a kosher supermarket which killed four. 

There’s so much to unpack in these few words.

First, as we noted in our own tweet, the fact that French troops must protect Jewish schools (private or otherwise) “underscores” many things which are far more important than “class divisions”, such as the dangerous increase in antisemitism in France, where half of all racist attacks in the country take Jews as their target though Jews number less than 1% of the total population.  Indeed, the evidence suggests that Muslims represent a disproportionate percentage of the perpetrators of antisemitic violence in France.

Addressing the specific claim in his tweet, the putative ‘disparity’ in private schools can partly be explained by the fact that French Jews are increasingly the target of antisemitic attacks in public schools.  In a recent article at JTA (How Paris public schools became ‘no-go zones’ for Jews), the president of CRIF attributed the flight of Jewish students from public schools in part “to “a bad atmosphere of harassment, insults and assaults”.

Indeed, the rising levels of antisemitism in France has caused a record number of Jews to flee the country, which in part helps explain why the narrative of privilege rests on such a specious premise.  

First, as Pagano argued, the complaint that Jews are privileged (or, as it’s sometimes framed, beneficiaries of “white privilege”) actually incites classic antisemitism by framing Jews as the controlling elite.

Second, the exodus of relatively prosperous (“privileged”) French Jews due to antisemitic attacks disproportionately carried out by poorer (“not privileged”) Muslims demonstrates that “privilege” (loosely defined as social, educational and economic success) does not necessarily protect you from the dangers of racism – whether it’s the racism from the ruling majority or from a ‘marginalized’ minority. 

Characterizing Jews as a privileged group both incites and obfuscates anti-Jewish racism, and in fact “underscores” the broader danger of buying into the kind of pseudo-intellectual political jargon which often serves as an alibi for modern antisemitism.

10 replies »

  1. Adam good article (I also read the Pagano article)

    But in addition to your analysis, the fact that there are 717 Jewish private schools and only 2 Muslin private schools, if the numbers are even correct (anyone checked?) has everything to do with Muslims and not with Jews. If the Muslims want more private schools I presume there is no law stopping them from building them (yet, anyway – that could change as the French grapple with the Islamic threat).

    Its oddly reminiscent of the way Israel is blamed because there are so fewer casualties among Israeli than Gazans even though Hamas etc. fire rockets indiscriminately into Israeli homes. The idea, presumably, that its not fair that so few Israelis are killed when attacked. Now its not fair in France that Jews have built so many schools while Muslims have not.

    Of course, Jews have a 2,000 year lead over Muslims in France, and as far as I know, have never launched a terror attack against French citizens there.

    • From my understanding, one reason why there are so many Jewish private schools in France is because the French public school system is nastily anti-Semitic.

      It’s not like French Muslims haven’t been attacking and murdering Jews at school for the past decade.

    • not that it changes the antisemitic intent of his tweet very much, but there are clearly more than just 2 moslem schools in france – i think he meant that only 2 of them have police protection.

      which is totally reasonable, since the most numerous and violent attacks have been committed BY moslems, not against them.

  2. Typical the Islamofascists are whining that their victims have fled their attackers and are now protected from those same attackers.

    Islamofascism is akin to Nazism and all of them must be treated the same as their friends

  3. a society which rewards the poor for being poorer, is known as communism.

    notice that there is absolutely no positive aspect to one group having achieved more success (despite intense historic challenges against them in this case).

    however, if we are not concerned with recognising any positive factors of success, how will we lift up the poor or allow them to produce more? in fact how will we have anybody producing wealth?!!!

    yes it is a most backward ethos.

    and the important perception made in this article, for those who stand against antisemitism and antizionism, is that any love affair you have with the Left will increasingly catch you out and cost Jewish lives.

  4. Jew-bashing is beyond sick – it plunges head-first into stupidity. Jews do well in society because they are hard-working, fiscally savvy, and not too proud to do the jobs no one else wants. Muslims are (with few exceptions) notoriously lazy and squeamish about literally everything. I am sick to death of watching industrious, intelligent people being punished by ignorant couch potatoes for the “crime” of making a living. You want a better life? GET OFF YOUR ASS and make one. Learn from the Jews, don’t attack them.