Running parallel with, and sometimes overlapping, the Left's infection by anti-semitism as an ideology is a chauvinistic attitude towards Jewish culture. The content of Jewish culture is never actually discussed by the Left. Jews are viewed as one-dimensional people. We are defined in terms of any combination of four variables: from one point of view we are defined in terms of religion or zionism, an irreligious, anti-zionist Jew is simply deemed not to exist; from another point of view our existence is reduced to being either aggressors through zionism or, less frequently, victims through anti-semitism.

Genuine questions which should be of concern to socialists—such as the class content of Jewish culture, or the effects of imperialism on that culture, or whether it is possible to talk of a single Jewish culture, or what is positive, and why, about that culture—are hardly ever mentioned. Instead there is the assumption that Jews should forget their culture and assimilate. This chauvinistic and reactionary attitude is also one that has long been held by the Western European diaspora leadership, which believes that assimilation is the route to 'acceptance'. It also accords with the practice of imperialism of which the British is probably the best and most successful example. Thus British imperialism, following its Christian tradition, is an expert at engulfing, invalidating and then destroying all 'alien' forms. When confronted by a socialist tradition, which in practice advocates the same process, it is no wonder that progressive Jews find it hard to assert an identity that is both Jewish and socialist.

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© 1984 Steve Cohen, edited and produced by Libby Lawson and Erica Bunnan.
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