Culture, Global, Identity, Politics

Playing the Jewish Card in Politics

Is anti-Semitism the litmus test? An opinion column in today’s Globe and Mail suggest that,

Since anti-Semitism is now symbolic of all racism and persecution, denouncing it can act as a sort of shortcut to prove compassion: I oppose anti-Semitism, therefore I can’t possibly be mean. It’s like a “get out of meanness jail free” card. It may be sincere or cynical; what I’m talking about is its political function. Asked yesterday in the House about defunding the multi-faith group, John Baird said his party opposed anti-Semitism at the 2001 Durban conference. It was bizarrely irrelevant, but he played the card. (Twice, actually.) Jews themselves sometimes play the Jewish card when they equate criticism of Israel to the “new anti-Semitism,” so as to reject it.

The argument seems to be that politicians (here, the author is talking specifically of the “mean” Tories) are making sure to give examples that demonstrate that they are not anti-Semitic so that they can a) get the Jewish vote and b) demonstrate to others that they’re not racist. I find the whole premise bizarre. First, the Canadian Jewish population is tiny. Yes, it is localised across several electoral ridings in Canada (especially in Toronto and Montreal), but for the party as a whole to take this on methodically seems like a waste. Second, what does it mean to “play the Jewish card”? Are Jewish voters really so singularly focused that they will vote for a politician who references anti-Semitism? Are non-Jewish voters really likely to equate anti-Semitism with all other racism and buy the act as well?
I’m curious as to reactions to this column. (And to the inclusion of that final sentence in the above-quoted paragraph.) Thoughts?

One thought on “Playing the Jewish Card in Politics

  1. I think I buy it – it places where anti-Semitism is barely present – like Canada, it’s a free diversity card. It demonstrates liberalism without requiring action. So it’s not an appeal to Jewish voters, it’s an appeal to voters who get antsy about racism, but don’t think too deeply about it.

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