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17 Dec 2023

Masha Gessen, antisemitism and tokenization

Today I was accused of "tokenization" in sharing this powerful essay by Masha Gessen on Mastodon (see the reactions under this post). Because of the character limit of a Mastodon post (at least on my server), I decided to turn my response into a little blog post.

In short, the principle that I was accused of violating looks like this: as an outsider to a community, I should not share/boost the view of a minority of that community, when that view disqualifies the concerns that are held by the majority of that community.

By sharing the article by Masha Gessen, which allegedly represents a minority position within the Jewish community, I have violated this general principle. In fact, the accusation goes, I have cynically used Gessen as a "token" - as an instrument to justify my own bigotry.

As such, I am no better than (for example) white Trumpists who share/boost "Kanye West quotes" that play down the severity of the history of slavery in the United States (a minority position in the black community) to justify their own racism.

The implication is, that as a non-Jewish person, I cannot share/boost the rejection (by an alleged minority of the Jewish community) of the the IHRA position (supposedly the majority position in the Jewish community) that says that it is antisemitic to call the Israeli state a colonial, racist project.

I see how boosting Kanye West and boosting Masha Gessen is similar in some abstract sense: both are instances of an outsider boosting a minority-held disqualification of majority-held concerns. Yet I disagree with the conclusion that this makes them equally morally problematic.

This is no ethical rocket science. Boosting a minority position that tells the majority to "stop whining" about the colonial, racist injustice it has historically experienced (Kanye West) is wrong. Boosting a minority position (represented by Gessen) that tells the majority (represented by the IHRA) to stop obscuring (and justifying) the racist and colonial oppression of another community is right.

Tags: blog english politics

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