Article by Balazs Berkovits

The historical crises of the first two decades of the 21st century, from 9/11 to the coronavirus pandemic and further, have prompted much discussion about conspiracy theories and their detrimental impact on the public sphere, public reason, democratic institutions, and, indeed, democratic political regimes. This renewed interest has been kindled in particular by the ever-growing presence of different, so-called “alternative” news outlets that reject mainstream news media coverage and framing. At the same time, conspiracy theories are linked to the concept of social critique and critical social science in general: there are debates in which they are discussed in relationship with the proper operation of democracy, contrasted to the rule of an antidemocratic elite. However, if conspiratorial criticism is simply taken as just another anti-hegemonic form of critique, as it is frequently done in some critical interpretations, then an important point will be missed, namely that it may turn out to be antisemitic. Conversely, it is equally or even more problematic if anti-hegemonic critique turns into antisemitism due to a conspiratorial worldview.

Since the 7th of October we are appalled by the continuous flow of reactions denouncing Israel and only Israel. We are especially appalled by those that come out of academic institutions, articulated by scholars and intellectuals. But should we be surprised and shocked? Was this response to the atrocities committed by Hamas, aided by their civilian Palestinian collaborators, not entirely predictable? Have not these same people, departments, student bodies, activists, etc. been saying the same thing for at least the last two decades? Of course, they have, and a number of them didn’t even hide their glee as the full story of the massacre, the sexual violence and the kidnapping emerged.  

How did Jews come to be defined as white? The answer can be found in a relatively new form of critical discourse, presently in vogue, in which ‘whiteness’ functions not as an empirical descriptor, but a politico-moral distinction. Read the second part of Balázs Berkovits’ essay on the implications of this shift, “What Color Are the Jews?”

How did Jews come to be defined as “white” by a critical discourse in vogue today? Why do we label Jews as dominant or privileged – and Israel as a colonial entity practicing apartheid motivated by Jewish and white supremacism? Part one of an essay by Balázs Berkovits on the supposed color of Jews…

With the support of:

Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.