And more on Antisemitism on the British Left

I apologize if I seem to be banging on about this subject of the antisemitism that has taken over the British Labour Party, but every time I think they have hit bottom, they dig some more.

Here are a few articles worth reading, and what makes a couple of them stand out is that they were written by non-Jews. The antisemitism has reached such levels that even the Gentiles are protesting.

Labour MP John Mann (who has a respectable record fighting antisemitism in his party and is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism) writes “I’m not Jewish but whatever I talk about I receive antisemitic abuse“:

Labour MP John Mann

I made my Question Time debut last week as a Labour MP. I was asked about Theresa May, about Brexit, about allegations of rape and how to deal with them and about statues of Margaret Thatcher. I talked about my work as a constituency MP, and as the longest-serving member of the Treasury Select Committee. I discussed my work against child sexual exploitation and abuse and spoke about the economy and immigration. And yet, when I looked at my phone, I found I had received anti-Jewish abuse and an antisemitic death threat on social media. I am not Jewish, I didn’t talk about Jews and I didn’t discuss the Middle East.

This isn’t the first time. I can speak out about knife crime and drugs and the tweets come in – “who is paying you to do your work” “Why don’t you admit you’re in the pay of the Israeli government” and the like. It is not just tweets though. One Labour party member called me a “CIA *******” for dealing with the “antisemitism nonsense” following an appearance I made on the Daily Politics at Labour party conference talking about the Brexit. Not all, but the vast majority of these attacks have come from self-identified “left-wing” activists or Labour party supporters.

Anti-Jewish hate and invective is becoming so obsessive, so fervent that irrespective of what an anti-racist activist is discussing, antisemitism is the online reaction. Last week, Phillip Collins, in the Times, highlighted the problem of Left wing antisemitism and the obsessive hate of Israel. He pointed out that most of the statements people make are not actionable. The death threat I received will be, but much of the abuse fell into the other category. As he said: the “tone of voice, the severity, the passion, the elevation of an issue that should be one among many to a defining idea of political identity.” ”It connects to a loathing of America and of capitalism and of alleged western interference in the Middle East. For the uncomplicated racist, hatred of the undesirable people is the starting point. For the complicated, confused leftist, the denigration of a people is their conclusion.”

But now it’s one step further. There’s a group-focussed enmity. Anyone who calls out racism, or seeks to address anti-Jewish hatred is a target. It’s even now the case that allegations of antisemitism are being inferred or created and attributed to Jews in order to try and diminish the charge when one has not been made. This of course, undermines victims of antisemitism and their right to define such abuse and call out the abusers.

I expect Labour to call out the anti-Semites. When someone with a public platform in the party tweets a racist slur or alleges antisemitism is fabricated, they must be called out. Each and every Labour MP has a duty to speak. We cannot ask other party’s to deal with issues of antisemitism in their parties if we don’t call it out in our own.

We all have a responsibility to call out antisemitism. Any MP should be able to appear on a public show about the key policy issues of our time without being subjected to racist abuse. If we can’t defeat racism, then it’s not the politicians we need to be questioning but rather our future as a civilised society.

Philip Collins in the London Times, quoted above in John Mann’s article, writes that Labour’s Antisemitism is worse than it looks (£): (h/t Benji P). He begins his piece with a reflection on Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, and continues (emphases are added):

The political left in Britain has a serious problem with the Finkler question and it erupted again this week. A dispute has broken out which has the unlikely cast of the renowned cat-impersonator George Galloway, the comedian and writer David Baddiel and the founder of Momentum and member of the Labour Party governing body, Jon Lansman. Mr Galloway started it by calling Baddiel “a vile Israel-fanatic” which accusation he later refined to suggest that Baddiel was prone to using the label of “antisemite” as a slander. Mr Lansman waded in to declare his solidarity with Baddiel who, as a “non-Zionist” is neither vile nor a fanatic.

 

Mr Galloway responded to Mr Lansman’s implication that he was antisemitic with a threat to sue for defamation. If this unseemly case ever wastes the time of British justice I will root without equivocation for Mr Lansman. That said, this brief exchange was by no means a contest between a knight and a knave and, if Mr Lansman is to become a power in the land, we need to understand the full implications of his position.

Mr Galloway signed off with a threat that revealed his confidence that his view is widely shared on the left. He suggested that he would call Jeremy Corbyn as a witness in his defence. Indeed, Mr Galloway is right to suppose that Mr Corbyn shares a less vehemently expressed version of his own confused certainty. Mr Galloway is never overtly antisemitic — he is far too canny for that. Instead, he alleges that Israel is a country born of colonial conquest which means that the Zionists are the racists. To this historical fiction, the Galloway leftists usually add a critique of acquisitive capitalism which elides neatly with the perennial tropes of antisemitism: the usurious, monied, wandering Jew. You can get a glimpse of a whole pathology without anyone ever actually spelling it out.

This is a familiar and dismal story yet perhaps it was Mr Lansman’s contribution that was the more intriguing, and not just because he is now a central figure in Labour’s command structure. Mr Lansman leapt to support Baddiel on the stated proviso that the latter was not a Zionist. The implied logic here is that, if Baddiel were vocal about the right of Israel to exist, then solidarity with him might be withdrawn. He merits support, in other words, not because calling someone a vile Israel-fanatic is diabolical but because he is on the right side of the imperial argument.

Zionism, which in fact originated as a liberation movement and the search for a place of safety, is recast, by Mr Lansman’s implication, as an ideology of oppression rooted in an act of conquest in 1967. The two thousand years of migration, the sense of the return as a spiritual as well as a geographical exercise, are ignored. This looks like power politics pure and simple. Baddiel has shown himself not to be complicit and has therefore proved his credentials as someone worthy of solidarity. Not as a Jew but as a “non-Zionist”. As Howard Jacobson has said, “those who say they are against Zionism but not Jews are speaking in riddles”. It seems to me that Mr Lansman reveals as much with his defence as Mr Galloway does with his attack.

The Labour Party is led, indeed, by a man who only ever talked to one side, who called himself a friend of Hamas, a body which seeks the destruction of the Jewish state; a man who happily took money from Press TV, a channel owned and controlled by the Iranian government which denies the truth of the Holocaust. The home affairs select committee concluded that institutional antisemitism thrived in the Labour Party. Mr Corbyn did commission a report into the issue but it proved to be a lot better at getting Shami Chakrabarti into the Labour Party than getting antisemites out.

This is not the sort of prejudice that can be settled in court. Only the true cranks voice straightforwardly actionable statements of hatred.

Here are the key words which were quoted by John Mann:

The left’s antisemitism is in the tone of voice, the severity, the passion, the elevation of an issue that should be one among many to a defining idea of political identity.

It connects to a loathing of America and of capitalism and of alleged western interference in the Middle East. For the uncomplicated racist, hatred of the undesirable people is the starting point. For the complicated, confused leftist, the denigration of a people is their conclusion. The ingenious ones among them even sound as though they arrive at their argument with great reluctance. This is the mindset that might one day inform British foreign policy and, if that is a realistic prospect, then it is the errors hidden in Mr Lansman’s world view that will matter more than the errors evident in Mr Galloway’s.

Since Mr. Collins cites Howard Jacobson’s book, it is only fitting to quote Howard Jacobson in his own New Statesman article on modern antisemitism: To truly remember the Holocaust, we must stay alert to prejudice”:

Modern antisemitism – same as the old

The modern anti-Semite is more subtle than his great-grandparents. He doesn’t smash our windows or our bones. He insinuates himself into consciences that are already troubled and works on spirits that are already half-broken. And we are too responsive to his serpent insinuations. When the history of Jew-hating in our time comes to be written, Jewish collusion in it will feature heavily.

To the question I don’t have – but is something like, “How do any of us, as Jews, fulfil the great task imposed on us?” – here is my part-answer: stop apologising and resist the sirens who would lure you on to the rocks of guilt and self-dislike, singing of Jewish materialism, Jewish legalism, Jewish exclusivism, Jewish supremacism, Jewish imperialism, Zionism…

Decisive in Corbyn’s emergence as a folk hero is the triumphant amnesia of the young. Of the history of socialism in the 20th century, of the dogmas that still exert a hold on ideologues such as Corbyn, causing him to turn his face away whenever words such as Jew, Israel or anti-Semitism are spoken – some boast of knowing nothing. What does it matter? We weren’t there. “What you don’t understand about my generation,” one young journalist wrote after last year’s election, “is that we don’t know or remember who Gerry Adams or Hezbollah were – so when you tell us that Jeremy Corbyn was their friend, we don’t care.”

Considering how easy the Internet has made it to find out about the past, such ignorance is surprising. But every promise of enlightenment the Internet has made, social media has broken. It revels in the selfish minutiae of the now; having neither eyes nor ears, its stock in trade is malicious rumour. People retweet what they will not take the time to confirm – a slander; a conspiracy theory, of which the Holohoax is just one; or a malevolent meme such as that posted by a Labour politician three years ago – “I have often said the Holocaust victims who died with dignity must be turning in their graves at the horrors done in the name of Judaism.”

How are we to describe the obscenity of that? Can the tweeter truly be so ignorant of what went on in the camps that she can speak, nostalgically, of Jews dying in them  with dignity? Or is there method in the ignorance, truth playing second fiddle to propaganda – Jews dying with dignity in the horrorless Holocaust only to show up how little dignity Jews of our age grant those they kill in horror-filled Israel?

Thus the moral seesaw on which Holocaust relativists love to frolic – the contestable atrocity that was the Holocaust now rising, now falling, but always ultimately outweighed by the incontestable outrage that is Zionism. It was played upon again in a fringe meeting at last year’s Labour Party Conference where that prize catch, an Israeli anti-Zionist, argued for the necessity for the party to discuss everything openly, including the Holocaust. “Holocaust yes or no?” he posited, as though the truth of Auschwitz waited on a thumbs up/thumbs down decision. Holocaust: like or dislike? It was a line of enquiry that was given a definitive thumbs up later in the day when a distinguished British film director and member of the Labour Party appeared on the BBC to defend it.

And one more item to finish up (for now – this appears to be an unending subject): it emerges that during the debate in the British Parliament about whether to ban Hezbollah in its entirety or “only” its “military wing“, the Shadow Home Secretary, Labour’s Diane Abbot, ordered Labour MPs to oppose a total ban of Hezbollah!

Jeremy Corbyn famously called Hezbollah “friends” during a meeting in Parliament in 2009.

Ahead of the debate the Shadow Home Secretary sent a briefing note to Labour MPs urging them to not to back the motion because it would hinder peace talks in the Middle East.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

The document –  obtained by the Jewish Chronicle – read: “There is a balance between making absolutely clear our abhorrence of using violence to achieve political ends and at the same time encouraging organisations down an effective democratic path.

“Full proscription could be a move against dialogue and meaningful peace negotiations in the Middle East.”

Jennifer Gerber, head of Labour Friends of Israel, slammed the Labour frontbench for actively ordering its MPs to block the banning of Hezbollah.

She said: “It is sadly unsurprising that the Labour frontbench would issue a statement on Hezbollah which fails to support banning the terror group in its entirety, and which makes no reference to its virulent antisemitism, its desire to annihilate Israel and its appalling role in propping up Assad’s murderous regime in Syria.

“It is, moreover, utterly delusional to think that, having wreaked death and destruction throughout the region, Hezbollah can play any role in promoting peace. We would urge Labour’s leadership to listen to this afternoon’s debate and reconsider its position.”

Reading the stories above, wading through pages of antisemitic tweets, comments and facebook posts from people who are “only anti-Zionist, I have nothing against Jews”, I don’t know whether to boggle at their ignorance, their stupidity or their malice.

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10 Responses to And more on Antisemitism on the British Left

  1. Pingback: And more on Antisemitism on the British Left – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Reality says:

    This is so depressing.It looks like any Brit especially those in key positions are damned if they are”Pro Israel/against anti semitism”,or if known to be anything they work for will be twisted against them and following that against the Jews.A highly dangerous and volatile situation.I hope the Jews watch out for themselves.

    • anneinpt says:

      Precisely. It used to eb on the fringes of the extreme left but it’s worked its way through to the mainstream left almost. Only the few “sane leftists” as Brian Goldfarb calls them are left (scuse the pun) and they are demonised and villified. It’s a terrible situation for non-Jews as well as Jews. They’ve all gone mad.

  3. Jeff Polaski says:

    Well, I thought about us retiring somewhere nice, but we’ll just have to leave whatever you call that island out for the next century or two.

  4. Pingback: And more on Antisemitism on the British Left |

  5. Brian Goldfarb says:

    David Baddiel actually went a little further. While in his original article (or statement) he hadn’t mentioned Israel or being a Zionist, while acknowledging his being Jewish, in a response to (ungorgeous George) Galloway, he did bring in Israel and then invited Galloway to bring in his lawyers.

    Baddiel can probably afford to face off to Galloway in court. Who knows the nasty Galloway might lose this time.

    John Mann deserves all the support and praise he can get. His bravery is outstanding and he knows no fear. He even came close to physically (as opposed to just verbally) attacking the loathsome Livingstone after the latter’s disgraceful appearance on television, announcing that “real antisemites don’t just hate the Jews in Israel, but also the Jews in Golders Green and Stamford Hill”, as if this let him off the hook of antisemitism.

    • Brian Goldfarb says:

      I’ve now found that original reference and it’s here: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/im-a-bad-jew-and-its-a-label-i-wear-with-pride/ (although I found it reprinted in The Jewish News Online), and in this article, David Baddiel responds to Galloway as follows:
      “Since I’ve always made it entirely clear that my attitude to that country [Israel] is entirely meh, I think we can only conclude that by “Israel fanatic” George just means Jew. Vile Jews. And that therefore he is an anti-Semite. Now let him come at me with his stupid [expletive deleted] lawyers.”

      I bet Galloway won’t. That comment looks entirely too near the knuckle for that.

      Indeed, Galloway’s defence would look just like a prime example of the “Livingstone Defence (copyright David Hirsh of engageonline.

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