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# the past didn’t go anywhere: making resistance to antisemitism part of all of our movements, by April Rosenblum (2007)

The official PDF of The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere is available directly from April Rosenblum’s website, HERE.

Feel free to copy and distribute this…

#### Controlling the World / the Government

The idea that Jews control the government or the world began with traditional Church authorities passing down images of Jews as a group in league with the Devil, with special powers from the Devil that gave them evil control over earthly events. Christian rulers furthered the myth that Jews were in control, by sticking Jews in the ‘face of power’ roles with which everyday peasants interacted (ie, tax collectors).

As European culture grew more secular, the idea was modernized, and brought to a new level of worldwide fame in the form of 1903’s Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery. During the Nazi years, this European propaganda was imported to non-European cultures, such as Arab countries, where oppression of Jews had previously been based not on myths of Jewish world power, but on simpler notions that Jews ought to stay in their place as 2nd-class citizens.

Left Examples: Activists expanding criticism of the ‘Israel Lobby’ to present Israel as the ‘tail wagging the dog’ that controls U.S. policy. The grassroots news websites and protestors’ signs that joined in spreading false internet rumors of an Ariel Sharon quote on Israeli radio: “We, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.”

### Causing the Wars / Causing the Loss of Wars

Sign, Feb. ’03 anti-war protest, S.F.

Somebody should write a pamphlet for activists just about how to respond when Jews get blamed for wars – it happens so regularly you can set your watch to it. Jews were the default “outsider” group in so many societies; always handy to target when things went wrong. What’s more, Jews were treated so badly in many of these societies, it was usually easy for people to imagine that the Jews wished another country would take over and change their conditions. We can see this as early as 711, when the Muslim Moors conquered Spain. Christian Spaniards thereafter claimed the Jews had invited the Moors in.

In the past century alone we’ve had the 1894 Dreyfus Affair (high officers framed a Jewish captain for treason, and France exploded with anti-Jewish vitriol); the 1918 accusations by Germans that they had lost the World War because the country’s Jews had conspired a “stab in the back” against Germany; populist agitation before WW II in the U.S. and after it in Europe, blaming Jews for bringing them into “the Jews’ war” (in places like Poland, Holocaust survivors were murdered as they left the camps by Poles who blamed them for the war); 1950s anti-Communism, which drew attention to Jewish progressives as a suspected “fifth column” seeking America’s downfall to the Reds, and executed the Rosenbergs for supposedly giving away ‘the Bomb’ to the Soviets; Arab Jews being treated as an enemy within by their governments; and everywhere, suspected of “dual loyalties.” Jews have so often been accused of shirking wartime duty that Jews in many countries maintain committees which defend Jewish veterans and keep records of the names and numbers of Jews who served and died in the line of duty, knowing they will literally need to prove their sacrifice next time the accusations return.

Left Example: Claims that the U.S. wouldn’t be in Iraq if it weren’t for a nefarious Jewish influence (the state of Israel and its lobby controlling us, a clique of Jewish neo-cons who’ve gotten the nation all off course, etc.). Anyone who’s been paying attention to Bush’s own vision, or to U.S. foreign policy since 1898, could have guessed we’d be trying to score one for the empire — with or without those neo-cons. As always, the big winner from these accusations is the corrupt government at fault for the war.

#### With all the time they save by not running the world, what do Jews think about?

• as mixed Jews, wanting to honor all sides of our heritage.

• as secular Jews, fighting assumptions that Jewishness and Judaism are one and the same.

• as questioning Jews, asking ourselves: am I a secular Jew, a synagogue Jew – or both?

• as Jews of color, confronting Ashkenazi dominance in Jewish society, organizing ourselves to get just treatment, and preserving and cherishing our own cultures.

• as Israeli Jews, facing everyday economic worries, decisions about army service; and finding words to explain to outsiders that Israel isn’t just a bad occupier or someone’s imaginary, idealized holy land, but the real place we come from… with all its shades of gray.

• as Jews living outside of large Jewish communities, figuring out how to even find other Jews – and gaining courage to ‘come out’ as Jews at work & school, when the reactions may not always be positive

• as working class Jews, fighting our invisibility in the American Jewish community (and, among non-Jews, in general)

• as a people that’s had so many reasons to hide, reclaiming beloved languages and culture that genocide, expulsion and assimilation have separated us from.

• as observant Jews, struggling to maintain our traditions without getting left out of our secular friends’ lives.

• as queer Jews, wishing we didn’t have to hold one side of ourselves back depending on which community we’re with.

…to name a few.

#### Controlling the Banks

Many myths, such as that Jews control the media, the banks and Hollywood, came from the concentration of Jews in certain fields due to institutional discrimination. For centuries in Christian empires, Jews were not legally permitted in mainstream professions. They often survived by working at trades forbidden to, or considered ‘beneath’ Christians – like professional acting, or collecting taxes or rent. One such job was moneylending. Although some Jews were moneylenders and benefited from economic privilege, most remained poor, and the classic dynamic of anti-Jewish oppression went on: Jews who got to work did so at the price of everyday exposure to the violence and anger of poor peasants in debt; rulers got to use them as scapegoats in times of economic instability. The attacks that got channeled toward Jews were absorbed by the few money-lenders and the poverty-stricken majority alike.

Learn more: It gets easier to identify and reject antisemitism when you recognize the classic myths and their history. Take time to educate yourself on myths such as: that Jews control Hollywood or the media, that Jews killed Jesus, that Jews kill and/or eat gentile children (the Blood Libel), that Jews were at fault for the creation of racism (the ‘Hamitic curse’ charge), and more.

### Tips for every activist

Whether you’re a Palestine activist or not,
1) Help activists around you follow the tips from p. 19.
2) Don’t think using the word “Zionist” instead of “Jew” means you’ve avoided antisemitism.
3) When people raise talk of antisemitism, train your mind to not go automatically to the Israel/Palestine conflict; consider the issue in its own right. Both are separate, vital issues that demand our concern.

Fighting anti-Jewish oppression does not equal organizing against bad things Jews do and saying that will help end hatred of Jews. It means actively combating both anti-Jewish actions and beliefs, whether they come from overtly antisemitic movements or groups you think are cool and want to team up with politically.

– Mainstream Jews often feel more entitled than they should to accuse your work of antisemitism. But many radical Jews have the opposite problem: We tend to doubt and dismiss ourselves when we notice anti-Jewish patterns happening. This holds our whole movements back. Help us out: Give us the space all oppressed groups should get, by letting us err on the side of noticing antisemitism “too much” as we figure it out.

Understand that Jewishness is a cultural identity, an ethnic identity and a religious (or non-religious) identity. Understand that racism plays a key part in anti-Jewish oppression, even if you retain the word racism to refer to people of color.

Learn about and support Jews of color. Educate yourself about global Jewish communities and histories, and speak out in your organizing to ensure that the voices of Jews of color are heard — including the Jews of color who are sitting in front of you, asking you to listen. Don’t assume that the Jew you’re speaking to is Ashkenazi, or that the person of color you’re speaking to is not Jewish.

In antiracism trainings, acknowledge that antisemitism has historically been a major form of racism, and can still take the form of racism, as when people characterize Jews as sub-human or demonic. Don’t assume that someone bringing up antisemitism is trying to avoid focusing on racism. Taking a moment to affirm the importance of radical organizing against antisemitism strengthens your analysis, and allows you to maintain your chosen focus on racism against people of color.

Have a plan in your organizations for what happens when it appears something antisemitic (or racist, homophobic, etc.) has been said or done. What will be said and who will say it? How will people check in with the Jews present later to support them and/or correct harm done? Be serious about carrying it out every time.

– Jewish internalized oppression is intense, and it’s often invisible to those of us who are most affected by it, or whose ancestors were deeply impacted by it. Don’t tokenize Jews by choosing ones who don’t think antisemitism is a big deal to represent the Jewish perspective in your events.

Recognize that either antisemitism will be fought and ended by the Left, by our grassroots justice & liberation movements, or it will not be ended. No matter what the Right pretends to care about, it is not in the Right’s interest to end anti-Jewish oppression. Stop waiting for someone else to do it.

### What will happen if our movements don’t act?

If we remain passive about anti-Jewish actions in our ranks and the world, we will put Jews in increased danger. That’s all the reason we need to change.

“UNCLE SHAM WANTS YOU”: A Neo-nazi anti-war poster uses Jewish-control mythology to depopularize the Iraq war. Seen in New York City, 11/06.

In the larger world, our passivity will also help to strengthen white supremacy – its organized movements, and the whole culture that sees whites as good and pure, and Others (like people of color and Jews) as the ones messing everything up. We’ll help Europe evade responsibility for the damage done by colonialism, as Europeans blame Israel for anti-Western feelings and instability around the world. We’ll aid reactionary regimes and movements everywhere that seek to boost themselves by blaming their own actions on Israel, as the President of Sudan does when he claims the Darfur genocide is a hoax perpetrated by Israel.

Inside our movements, overlooking attacks on Jews will lure us into alliances with Far Right movements and visions. We will lose effectiveness at challenging the global systems we’re up against, as our perceptions of new social developments are clouded by misjudgments of who are our allies and enemies. New activists, and people on the edges of our movements, will be allowed to hold onto wrong analyses of who has power in this world and where problems stem from.

We will lose valuable activists in our ranks who are uncomfortable with the targeting of Jews they’re noticing around them. And on the most every-day level, we’ll continue to enable jerk-dominance of our movements, attracting the sorts of activist leaders who used to get a kick out of making rude comments about people of color, and now enjoy getting to shock everyone with anti-Jewish declarations, without getting ‘caught.’

Nov. ’03: The bloody prayer shawl of a Jewish victim in the simultaneous bombing of Istanbul’s two most active synagogues. 27 people were killed and 300 injured by bombs set to go off during services.

Most immediately, we’ll leave Jews without hopes for solidarity, for alternative means of self-defense. As Jews flounder for ways to protect themselves, we’ll continue to push them into the waiting arms of the Right, with its visions of empire and Armageddon. That’s dangerous to Palestinians, to Jews, and to the world.

### But what if we succeed in this?

But there’s another future in our grasp. One that follows in the footsteps of the many radicals who have stood up against antisemitism, like French Socialist Jean Jaures and lesbian feminist Black radical Barbara Smith.

Clearsighted activists for generations have understood that there’s a bonus that comes from taking this struggle on: Antisemitism is a warning sign that tells us we’re not giving people a clear answer about where injustice originates, and what would solve it. Fighting it sharpens our analysis and forces us to get better at articulating our beliefs to a mass audience. If we say, ‘The problems in the world do not come from the Jews,’ it forces us to answer: What do they come from? When the Left takes on antisemitism, it will be strength training to help us gain the abilities we need to reshape the world.

A truly radical remaking of the world will include Jewish liberation: the condition in which Jews in every place in the world will live free from fear, free from threat of being targeted as Jews, and where our safety never depends on pleasing or remaining useful to any ‘side’, be it powerful elites or peoples’ movements. In which we will live free of pressure (from ourselves or others) to blend in or assimilate; unashamed of our Jewish looks, languages, rituals and distinctive behaviors; and Jewish culture will be nurtured in all its diversity. In which those Jews who wish to will be able to participate in collective self-determination as a people, and/or live in autonomous Jewish space. In which Jews will be capable of defending ourselves, but will be defended and shown solidarity by groups around the world.

True Jewish liberation requires the commitment and action of both Jews and non-Jews worldwide, and is incompatible with the oppression of any other group: because no human group is expendable in revolutionary change.

When the Left finally gets that – not just about Jews but about liberation itself – then our efforts will truly make another world possible. Because the Left is not a mercenary army: We’re not just in this to win, choosing sides and then fighting blindly for whatever side we’re on. We’re in this to make a different world. And taking on anti-Jewish oppression is the act of building a Left not confined to reaction, but propelled by a deeper vision of a world we would actually want to live in.

See you there!

## Glossary

antisemitism – The system of ideas passed down through a society’s institutions to enable scapegoating of Jews, and the ideological or physical targeting of Jews that results from that. The term was first popularized in 1879 by German anti-Jewish racists who sought to build specific movements against Jews as an inherently inferior and threatening race (versus a religion, which could be escaped through conversion). For how it works, see p. 4-5.

Ashkenazi – Refers to descendants of Jews who settled in Europe, in countries such as Russia, Poland, Germany, Hungary and others, and shared common cultural features such as Yiddish language. Ashkenazi Jews currently make up the majority of Jews in the U.S., Latin America and Canada.

Blood Libel – The anti-Jewish myth, beginning in the 1100s, that Jews seek out and kill non-Jewish children. In its classic form, it accuses Jewish communities of seeking the blood of gentiles to use in Jewish religious rituals; for instance, as an ingredient in Passover matzah.

diaspora – refers to the breaking up and separating of the members of a people, and the geographically
scattered communities that they create in the course of their travels.

gentile – (noun) A non-Jewish person; (adjective) non-Jewish. [From the Latin gens, clan.]

internalized oppression – The effects of a group’s oppression and dehumanization, as manifested within the oppressed group itself, in its individuals or its communities. A Jew coping with internalized oppression might believe stereotypes about Jews, point undeserved blame at other Jews, feel shame or disgust at parts of their looks or behavior that they think of as Jewish, feel general low self-esteem, find it hard to take a stand against antisemitism, or feel a desire to emphasize to others how different or separate they are from other Jews. See p. 6.

Jews – A globally-dispersed, multi-ethnic culture linked by a religion, Judaism. Many Jews practice the religion; others are ethnic, secular Jews. See full definition on page 5.

Jewish liberation – The condition in which Jews in every place in the world will live free from fear, free from threat of being targeted as Jews, and where our safety never depends on pleasing or remaining useful to any ‘side’, be it powerful elites or peoples’ movements. In which we will live without pressure (from ourselves or others) to blend in or assimilate, unashamed of our Jewish looks, languages, rituals and distinctive behaviors, and Jewish culture will be nurtured in all its diversity. In which Jews will be capable of defending ourselves, but will be defended and shown solidarity by groups around the world. In which those Jews who wish to will be able to participate in collective self-determination as a people, and/or live in autonomous Jewish space. True Jewish liberation requires the commitment and action of both Jews and non-Jews around the world, and is incompatible with the oppression of any other group.

Jews of color – Jews and Jewish communities who are excluded from white privilege generally, and/or from Ashkenazi privilege in the Jewish community. Includes Mizrachi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Jews from other non-European communities worldwide, people of color who have embraced Judaism, and Jews of mixed heritage whose ancestry includes Jews of color. Jews of color currently make up the majority of Jews in the state of Israel.

the Left / Leftist – The diverse spectrum of social change movements, organizations and individual activists who seek to transform society into one which distributes resources justly, and lacks hierarchies of race, gender, religion, etc.

Mizrachi – Refers to Jews descended from the longest continuous Jewish communities in the world, founded after the destruction of ancient Israel, in countries such as today’s Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and spoke languages such as Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian.

Old Left – Refers to the mass movements and party organizations that flourished into the 1930s and ’40s in the U.S. and were greatly wounded by McCarthyism. Old Left groups largely defined themselves in relation to European movements and theories, as opposed to the New Left which emerged after McCarthyism and Civil Rights, and took particular inspi ration from global anticolonial struggles.

Orientalism – A discourse that portrays peoples and cultures of “the East” (Arabs and Jews, East Asians, South Asians, etc.) as essentially different from Europeans. Frequent themes include portraying them as dishonestly or manipulatively intelligent, overly sensual, warlike, mysterious, having ‘primitive’ tribal loyalties, etc. Also the term for classical Western study of “Oriental” cultures.

pogrom – A mass action of planned or spontaneous violence and property destruction directed against a marginalized community. The word was first widely used to describe government-condoned mob attacks on East-European Jewish towns.

Protocols of [the Elders of] Zion – A forgery written around 1897, first published in 1903, and used by Czarist secret police for years as a tool to inspire mass mistrust of the growing revolutionary movement and modernization. The text presents itself as minutes of a secret meeting of world Jewish leaders who lay out their plans to use both capitalism and anti-cap italist revolution to seize control of the world. A continual bestseller, it is often summarized or cited by antisemitic political leaders and social movements.

the Rosenbergs – Ethel & Julius, z”l. Jewish Communist couple executed in 1953 based on largely fabricated evidence that they gave nuclear secrets to the USSR. The case, which targeted their politics, was highly publicized to inspire fear and hysteria against Leftists.

secular – Non-religious.

Semite / Semitic – Linguistic term created by European Orientalists for the language family that includes Arabic, Amharic, Hebrew, Tigrinya, Maltese, Aramaic and others, which was then imposed on groups like Arabs and Jews to categorize them as a separate race.

Sephardi – Refers to the worldwide descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who, when made refugees by the Inquisition, fled to, and founded new communities in, places such as North Africa, Turkey, the Americas, and parts of Europe. Examples of Sephardic languages are Judezmo/Ladino and Hakitia.

Zionism – One form of Jewish nationalism, based on the philosophy that a Jewish state (or cultural center, in some forms of Zionism) ought to exist, as a refuge for Jews and/or to ‘normalize’ Jewish existence, and that it should exist on or within the area of ancient Israel.

Ilan Halimi, z”l, killed at 23. Paris, Jan. ’06.

z”l – Abbreviation for zichrono (or zichrona) l’bracha: May their memory be for a blessing. Saying used in Jewish custom to commemorate the lives of loved ones.

## Further Resources:

Note: Second dates indicate most recent editions. *= Good starters for a basic collection

Anti-Jewish oppression’s history: The Devil and the Jews by Joshua Trachtenberg (1944/1984); Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism by George Mosse (1985); Protocols of Zion [documentary] by Marc Levin (2005); Constantine’s Sword, by James Carroll (2001); Russian Antisemitism, Pamyat, and the Demonology of Zionism, by William Korey (1995); *”The Longest Hatred,” in New Internationalist 372 (2004) [See links]; Antisemitism in America, by Leonard Dinnerstein (1994/1995)

Jewish history: A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People, Eli Barnavi, ed. (1992/2002); *The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, Paul Mendes-Flohr & Jehuda Reinharz, eds. (1980/1995); Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, by David Biale (1986); Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America, by Michael Staub (2002); www.newjewishagenda.org, [website] by Emily Nepon (2006); *The Holocaust in American Life, by Peter Novick (1999); *Jewish Issues in Multiculturalism: A Handbook for Clinicians and Educators, by Peter Langman (1999);

Radicals on antisemitism: “That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic: An anti-racist analysis of left anti-semitism,” by Steve Cohen (1984/2005) [See links]; *”The Cyclical Nature of Jewish Oppression,” [skit] by Progressives Challenging Anti-Semitism Among Progressives (1998)[See links]; *Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, by Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt & Barbara Smith (1984/1991); “Anti-Semitism,” [speech] by Cherie Brown (2004) [See links]; The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism On the Left, by Michael Lerner (1992); Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives, Jewish Voice for Peace, eds. (2004/6th ed.)

Jewish identity & liberation: *Chutzpah: A Jewish Liberation Anthology, Steven Lubet & the Chutzpah Collective, eds. (1977) ; *The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage, Loolwa Khazzoom, ed. (2003); *The Issue is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence & Resistance, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (1992); The Colors of Jews, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (forthcoming); Davita’s Harp [novel] by Chaim Potok (1985/1996); *”‘I’m Not White, I’m Jewish’: Standing As Jews in the Fight for Racial Justice,” [speech] by Paul Kivel (1998), [See links]; “How Did Jews Become White Folks?,” [short essay version] by Karen Brodkin (Sacks) from Race, Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek, eds. (1994)

Bringing an understanding of Jewish oppression into Israel/Palestine/Jewish-Arab work: *”A Big Piece is Missing From This ‘Peace’,” by Loolwa Khazzoom, in Clamor #5 (2000) [See links]; “O Havruta O Mituta: How to Strengthen the Palestine Solidarity Movement By Making Friends With Jews,” by Guy Izhak Austrian (2003) [See links]; Jews and Arabs, by Albert Memmi (1975/1976)

Organizations (from varying perspectives): Facing A Challenge Within, www.facingachallenge.com; Political Research Associates, www.publiceye.org; Engage, www.engageonline.org.uk/home; Catalyst Project, www.collectiveliberation.org

Deconstructing anti-Jewish myths: See a list of excellent web-based articles, broken down by myth, at www.pinteleyid.com/myths.html

(Links to the original resources are in many cases no longer active )

### Source

Notes

1 It is somewhat misleading to distinguish between Arabs and Jews. Millions of Jews are of Arab (& Persian) descent, and experience the profiling other Arabs are subject to, as well as racism in the Jewish community. The term ‘Semite” was itself an invention of European Orientalists, imposed on Jews and Arabs. A Jewish family, highly prominent in banking, particularly in the 19th century. Marx’s words contrasted sharply with Jews’ reality; Jews in Marx’s own Prussia had still been in vast poverty as of the early 1800s. Marx himself had been baptized Christian by his Jewish parents to avoid the anti-Jewish discrimination that so often barred Jews from employment. A segment of primarily Spanish and Portuguese Jews took part, alongside white gentiles, in the slave trade. Jews’ discomfort with acknowledging this has held back our ability to build alliances of trust with African American activists, and some in those communities have channeled their disappointment into antisemitism, blaming Jews for slavery as a whole. American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major Right-wing, pro-Israeli expansionism lobby group. For instance: An anti-Zionist might rationally oppose Zionists’ having consciously established a state where they did, knowing that this would lead to dispossessing the Palestinian people. A Zionist might observe that Jews’ vulnerability was linked to being a permanently small minority and support Jews having one place where they are the governing majority.

### 2 comments to the past didn’t go anywhere: making resistance to antisemitism part of all of our movements, by April Rosenblum (2007)

• […] capitalist societies chose Jews to embody the most obvious symbols of capitalist oppression. As April Rosenblum defines it, “Antisemitism’s job is to make ruling classes invisible. It protects ruling class power […]

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