Defining anti-Semitism


Sir, – Congratulations to Dr Ronit Lentin on the bizarre intellectual gymnastics in which she engaged when addressing the scourge of anti-Semitism in her recent letter (Letters, April 9th). While acknowledging anti-Semitism “is real and should be taken seriously”, she dismisses all definitions of anti-Semitism as preventing “the understanding of racism as a colonial technology of power aimed at maintaining white supremacy”. She then fails to take anti-Semitism seriously, illogically asserting that there should be no talk of it but only talk of Palestine. There is, of course, no reason why we should not talk of either or both as separate and also as interconnected issues.

The tragically long and enduring Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not the root cause of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism preceded it by millennia. Unfortunately, the existence of that conflict has provided a fertile backdrop to the global spread of anti-Semitism and the conflict’s use as a Trojan horse by anti-Semites to promote hatred of Jews.

The adoption by some Palestinian leaders and their supporters, both domestic and international, of anti-Semitic tropes and the incitement and glorification of the murder of Jews has contributed to this and also acts as a barrier to conflict resolution. There is no reason to believe that should the conflict ever be resolved the poison of global anti-Semitism will disappear.

The rabid and lethal anti-Semitism that over many centuries in various parts of the globe resulted in Jews being targeted and vilified, required to wear identifying symbols, persecuted, forcibly converted, discriminated against, prohibited from various economic activities, tortured, driven out of and denied entry into various countries, made to live in ghettos, maimed and murdered, and which reached a crescendo with the horrors of the Holocaust, had nothing to do with “a colonial technology of power aimed at maintaining white supremacy”. Nor did the anti-Semitism the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission identified as contaminating the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party. Nor does the growth of present-day anti-Semitism, including recent attacks on Jewish people and institutions in England, Belgium, France, Germany, the United States and elsewhere. Such attacks have been perpetrated not only by white supremacists but also by Muslim fundamentalists.

On a lesser but more personal note, as a white Irish member of Ireland’s small Jewish community, “ colonial technology of power” to maintain white supremacy has no relevance to my being spat at and also called a dirty Jew on Dublin’s streets when a TD, my being targeted with anti-Semitic abuse on social media which still occurs, the posting to my home when minister for justice of ashes together with images of skeletal concentration camp survivors and Nazi symbols, the emailing to the Department of Justice of abusive anti-Semitic emails nor to the variety of bogus conspiracies in which I was wrongly alleged to be engaged as minister for justice which received widespread publicity and too much credibility.

For those who don’t know, fake conspiracy theories have a strong and long-standing historical connection with anti-Semitism.

What any of my personal experiences of anti-Semitism or most of those of the Jewish people over millennia have to do with Dr Lentin’s “colonial technology” construct is something of a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

An intellectual attachment to this abstruse narrative is, I believe, best explainable as a construct resulting from falling deeply into an ideological rabbit hole totally disconnected from the real world. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.