Enzo Traverso, a professor of humanities at Cornell, advances a twofold argument in The End of Jewish Modernity. The first is that the Jewish condition has become so normalised in the liberal west that traditional anti-Jewish hatred has all but vanished. The second is that it has not so much disappeared as morphed into Islamophobia. Both contentions are seriously askew.
The first would seem to have much going for it. Traverso points to the lurid Dominic Strauss-Kahn scandal in 2011, in which a wealthy descendant of rabbis and freemasons hired a fleet of expensive Jewish lawyers to defend himself against charges of rape.
‘One need only imagine the portrait of such a character that would have been penned by Édouard Drumont or Léon Daudet, by the pencils of Toulouse-Lautrec or the crayons of Caran d’Arche,’ Traverso writes. Yet the old anti-semitic tropes remained untouched: ’Everyone, even the most cynical, feared that by using these they would only discredit themselves.’
If ever an ideology had outlived its usefulness, anti-semitism would seem to be it. But appearances can be deceptive; anti-Jewish prejudice is not going away anytime soon. This is particularly so now that the global capitalist crisis is nearing full boil. Flashpoints abound: Israel, the perceived Jewish role in finance and also a continued Jewish prominence on the left. Any of these could trigger a conflagration.
The idea of Islamophobia as anti-semitism redux also seems to have something in it. ‘The beards, tefillin and kaftans of the Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe … correspond to the beards and veils of the Muslims of today,’ Traverso observes. ‘In both cases, the religious, cultural, clothing and dietary habits of a minority are mobilised to construct the negative stereotype of a foreign body that cannot be assimilated . . . In political terms, the spectre of Islamic terrorism has replaced that of Judeo-Bolshevism.’
This is too easy. As striking as such similarities may be, it’s the differences that make the phenomenon so difficult to combat. Islamist terrorism is not a revolt against capitalism. On the contrary, it is a product of a modern capitalist economy that places vast sums in the hands of Persian Gulf monarchies whose only exports are fossil fuels, Wahhabist bigotry and jihad. These are some of the most right-wing states in modern history, yet everyone patronises them, from Barack Obama to François Hollande, in order to keep the oil flowing.
It is not petty prejudice that drives Islamophobia, consequently, but petrocapitalism in an advanced state of breakdown. Economics come first – yet they hardly seem to enter into Traverso’s field of vision.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry
Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram
Momentum Kids: the parental is political
Momentum Kids is not about indoctrinating children, but rather the more radical idea that children have an important role to play in shaping the future, writes Kristen Hope