Joshua Weilerstein, artisti director of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, lives in London and can see the changes that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has permitted in its attitude to one particular minority. Here’s his impression:
I’ve lived in the UK now for one year. A year in which the occurrence of Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by 16%. Not entirely coincidentally, it was a year where the leader of one of the two major political parties refused again and again to condemn openly anti-Semitic statements from within his own party.
Don’t forget that the Jewish people in your life are a minority as well. Don’t forget that we live with our own traumas, having been chased around the world for 2000 years and nearly annihilated just 75 years ago. It often starts with tropes and stereotypes about Jews and money.
I have no love for the Israeli government and I’m hoping against hope that the election this April will end the reign of Netanyahu. The Israeli government, AIPAC, and the cynical use of Israel by the religious right in the US is all open for criticism, but please notice when that criticism slips into anti-semitism, whether intentional or not.
Over the last few years, a remarkable transformation has taken place where the voices of minorities are being heard in a way that they haven’t in decades. Everyone has been challenged to listen, to learn, and to understand the perspectives and traumas that minority groups live with every day. Don’t forget that Jewish people live with traumas as well, and please listen if they tell you that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.
Obviously Jews don’t speak as a bloc – and I bet there will be many disagreements with specific instances where anti-Semitism has been alleged. And too often, ANY criticism of the Israeli government is immediately accused of being anti-Semitic, which is obviously not the case. But language matters, and if anti-Semitic dogwhistles and tropes are mainstreamed, then we are in big trouble, with no chance of moving forward and finding solutions together.