There is a growing debate in the USA about Critical Race Theory (CRT). Peculiarly enough, CRT’s opponents insist that the ‘Marxist’ discourse must be uprooted from American culture and the education system. I am puzzled by it, as I cannot think of anything more removed from Marx’s thinking than CRT.
Marx offered an economic analysis based on class division. For Marx, those at the bottom of the class stratum were destined to unite regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Marx as such was race-blind. However, his vision was unifying as far as at least the working class are concerned. But Critical Race Theory aims in the complete opposite direction. CRT’s advocates believe that people are and should be defined politically by their biology: by their skin colour, often by their gender and/or sexual orientation. CRT attempts to fight racism, not by eliminating it but actually elevating biological determinism into a constant battleground.
Critical race theorists aren’t too original on that biological determinist front. Already in the late 19th century, Zionism called the Jews to identify politically with their biology. Hitler’s call for the Aryan people to do the same happened about two decades later. Ironically, even the so-called Jewish ‘anti’ racists within the ‘Jews only’ anti-Zionist political cells (such as JVP, JVL, IJAN) follow the exact Zionist and Hitlerian agenda. They also insist on identifying politically and ideologically as ‘a race.’*
One may wonder at this stage why people within the conservative right refer to CRT as ‘Marxist’ despite it having nothing to do with Marx and having much to do (ideologically) with Zionism and Hitlerian biologism. One option is that people within the American Right believe that the reference to Marx communicates well with their supporting crowd. Another slightly less genuine option is that Marx is a code name for a ‘subversive Jew-related discourse.’ The American conservative universe is largely inspired by Israeli nationalism, however it is disgusted by Soros-type cosmopolitan interventionism. The American Right may be using codified language to tackle its own paralysis. It clearly struggles to call a spade a spade.
Considering the above it is fascinating to examine the Jewish American take on the CRT debate.
Last month Jewish Historian Henry Abramson used the Jewish Telegraphic Agency platform to inform us that “anyone teaching the past by skipping over the unpleasant parts isn’t teaching history. They are engaged in propaganda.” This firm statement took me by surprise. Like Abramson I oppose all forms of memory laws that restrict the free historical discussion. Yet, Jewish institutions are invested heavily in policing the historical debate. They often castigate as Holocaust Deniers everyone who dares to question the primacy of Jewish suffering or even offer a slightly unorthodox vision of WWII. The Jewish intellectual tradition isn’t famous for its list of historical texts either, quite the opposite. There is a complete lack of Judaic historical texts in between Flavius Josephus (AD37-AD100) and Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891). The rabbinical universe has tended to skip the historical tradition because the Talmud and Torah are there to determine the manner in which Jews react to the universe around them. Israeli historian Shlomo Sand has pointed out that the Jews and Zionists in particular largely invent their past to fit with their political, existential, and spiritual interests. Maybe it shouldn’t be down to Jewish institutions to preach how to discuss the past.
Abramson is upset by the fact that in “nearly two dozen states, the movement to impose restrictions on the teaching of history is gaining momentum.” Abramson is also upset by the new Polish memory law and Putin dictating a vision of the Holodomor. Maybe before I delve into Abramson’s concern, I should mention that using Google search, I didn’t manage to find any opposition made by Abramson to the Israeli Nakba Law that similarly restricts the discussion on the Israeli 1948 ethnic cleansing crime.
Abramson claims that opponents of CRT attempt to avoid the discussion over the “controversial and painful moments in America’s history.” I am not sure that this is the case. I am not sure that America can or even intends to deny its problematic abusive past, but I do know that every black academic who attempted to discuss the role of Jews in the African slave trade has witnessed hell breaking loose. I highly recommend Abramson and everyone else read Prof. Tony Martin’s spectacular The Jewish Onslaught , a reportage of an orchestrated and abusive Jewish institutional campaign against a Black scholar who didn’t follow the script and tried to examine what was the role of some Jews in the African Slave Trade.
For Abramson and others, CRT is a study of the impact of systemic racism. It is the adherence to the belief “that the legacy of slavery is baked into American society and culture to such a degree that African-Americans continue to suffer long-term, systemic economic harm.” It suggests that discussing reparations should be on the national agenda.
The truth of the matter is that many of those who oppose CRT would agree with Abramson that racism is alive and kicking in the USA. A few may even suggest using America’s aid to Israel as reparation for the black slavery’s offspring. Would the JTA, AIPAC or Abramson join such a call for overdue justice? I doubt it.
The JTA insists to give the impression that Jews and Blacks are both share a similar marginalized past. Abramson writes: “Blacks were, like Jews, forbidden to buy homes in newly developed suburbs, while white Americans received help from the government to purchase homes in these leafy neighborhoods and to build generational wealth.” Yet, there is one difference our Jewish ‘historian’ forgets to mention: Jews immigrated to America voluntarily. For them, America was a ‘Golden Medina’ (Golden Land), the true promised land of free opportunities and ultimate capitalism. Blacks, on the other hand, made their way to the ‘land of the free’ chained in salve ships. Jews came to America in their search for better life, they faced obstacles but prevailed, and are now amongst the most privileged ethnic groups in the USA, if not the most privileged. Blacks were brought over to be exploited as slave labour. They had a very different beginning in the USA. The attempt to compare between the two is intellectually dishonest to say the least, but it may come to serve a purpose.
A decade ago in a rare moment of honesty, Philip Weiss, the dominant contributor to the Jewish pro-Palestinian outlet Mondoweiss, admitted to me in an interview that it wasn’t altruism that motivated his pro-Palestinian stand. It was “Jewish self-interest.” I learned a lot from this encounter with the Jewish activist and since then I have been very suspicious of Jewish solidarity projects. I somehow always see the self-interest popping out at one stage or another.
Jewish institutions and individuals have been involved in most solidarity projects in the last century. They insist to save the working class, to universalize civil rights, to liberate women and gays, and of course the transsexual. The outcome has never been too good. Instead of marching society forward as a whole, we ended up with an amalgam of conflicts that practically resembles the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
If you ask yourself why the Taliban managed to take over Afghanistan in 72 hours, one possible answer is that Jews for Taliban is yet to be formed. The same applies to the Hezbollah and Iran. If you ask yourself why it is taking so long for Palestine to emancipate itself, it is partially because its discourse of solidarity is defined (literally) by the oppressor.
If America or anyone else wants to fight racism for real, the way forward is to seek human brotherhood as opposed to inducing victimhood. If the JTA or any other Jewish institution cares for blacks for real, then embrace the Nation of Islam today before sunset. Encourage Black critics and intellectuals to look fearlessly at Jews and at the African slave trade. Show us an example of great transparency. Lead the way and be light unto the nations for the first time in history instead of expecting the rest of humanity to zigzag endlessly around your sensitivities.
* Yours truly believes that Jews are not a race, however, not being a race doesn’t stop people identifying ‘as a’ race.