The publication of a paperback edition of Dave Rich’s Everyday Hate has made me consider how the anti-Semitism discussion has moved on since 7 October. It has become harder to downplay the pernicious effects of identity politics and Islamism than in February 2023 when the hardback edition was published.

Sadly the debate has not shifted because of the force of my arguments but because of the impact of the 7 October atrocities. Hamas’s role in the pogrom has made it harder to avoid discussing Islamist anti-Semitism – although its role in the West is still often played down. And the upsurge of anti-Semitism on university campuses has focused attention on identitarian anti-Semitism.

 Of course many on the pro-Israel side of the debate were already aware of these problems but were nervous of discussing them in public. Since 7 October avoiding the debate has become harder to do.

Meanwhile, those on the anti-Israel side, although generally claiming to oppose anti-Semitism, continue to focus on what they call the far right. To consider anti-Semitism more broadly would expose their complicity in the problem.

I first reviewed the original hardback edition of the book in April 2023 on this site. Back then I tried to get a balanced view of what I considered the book’s strengths and weaknesses. 

On the positive side I argued that: “the book works well as a primer for those who know little or nothing about anti-Semitism. It provides a lucid introduction to such flawed notions as Jews as Christ killers and the blood libel. It also explores stereotypes such as the link of Jews to finance and the idea that they are all rich.”

However, I also contended that the book had three key weaknesses. The most fundamental was its underestimation of the discontinuities in anti-Semitism. That is how its character has fundamentally changed over time. From my perspective anti-Semitism has to be understood in its specific contexts rather than as a timeless scourge. That necessitates a concerted effort to understand its different forms.

I argued back then that this ahistorical approach led to two key problems in tackling contemporary anti-Semitism. First, it made it harder to recognise the dangers of identity politics. It was easier to buy into the erroneous argument that contemporary “anti-racists” are potential allies of Jews rather than pre-disposed to anti-Semitism. Second, it meant that the threat posed by Islamism to Jews could be played down. For the record, I mentioned that Rich rejected these criticisms when I put them to him at a meeting at the Wiener library in London.

I was then asked to write an extended version of the review in the May issue of the Fathom Journal. I think the reason for the request was that the other reviews of the book had been almost wholly positive. The publication wanted an alternative view.

At about the same time as the extended review appeared I published an article on the Radicalism of fools arguing that Joe Biden’s plan to tackle anti-Semitism trivialised the problem. The president’s focus back then – just over a year ago – was almost entirely on the extreme right. It was a perfect illustration of my point on the downplaying or totally ignoring of identity politics and Islamism.

Fast forward to 7 October and beyond and things have changed. It has become harder – at least on the pro-Israel side – to ignore the forms that exist beyond the extreme right.

In the case of Everyday Hate the new edition includes a new preface and two new chapters. The first looks at the reaction to the events of 7 October and their aftermath. The second examines leftist support for the anti-Israel cause. Islamism and identity politics can no longer be played down so easily.

Nevertheless – to Rich’s credit – he argues there are still phenomena which are difficult to explain. In the first new chapter he refers to “the mystery of why this conflict excites and animates like no other” (p259). More questionably he also refers to anti-Semitism as a “virus” even though, by his own account, he does not like the terminology (P263). 

In the second new chapter he usefully refers to the idea of settler colonialism being viewed as Israel’s “original sin”. In this he refers to authors such as Frantz Fanon, a prominent mid-twentieth century French Afro-Caribbean radical, and Joseph Massad of Columbia university.

Although the debate has moved on in important respects, and this should be recognised, there is still an awful lot of confusion. For example, there is little understanding that woke anti-Semitism (even if the label is disputed) is fundamentally different from left anti-Semitism historically. Many maintain the forlorn hope that identity politics can be tweaked to make it more Jew-friendly. Nor is the distinction between Islam and Islamism generally understood. And the challenge of identifying the historical specificity of anti-Semitism – rather than portraying it as a new manifestation of the oldest hatred – remains elusive. 

The aftermath of the 7 October Hamas pogrom in Israel has made the rethinking of anti-Semitism a more urgent task than ever. Both the extent and character of anti-Semitism is changing. Tragically the open expression of anti-Semitic views is once again becoming respectable. It has also become clearer than ever that anti-Semitism is no longer largely confined to the far right. Woke anti-Semitism and Islamism have also become significant forces.

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