This morning Jackie Walker was interviewed by John Humphrys on the Today programme (1:23). He did not do a very good job. She was introduced as having been suspended for comments she made about Israel. Although a discussion of Israel prompted her remarks, this isn’t an accurate summary of the reasons for her suspension. He also failed to pick up on the significance of the term ‘chief financiers’ or take issue with the dubious nature of some ‘historical’ accounts of the relationship between Jews and the transatlantic slave trade.
Frustratingly, Humphrys’ line of questioning, even though it failed to probe the real problems with what she said, was open to a charge of unfairness. He claimed she’d said in effect, ‘let’s get over the Holocaust’ (not really) and then said that there was no need for her to ‘invoke the Holocaust’ (when she wasn’t the first to mention it in the original Facebook conversation), and then claimed she implied ‘the Jews had it coming, almost’.
Jackie Walker spoke snidely about those concerned by her comments, implying that they weren’t doing as much as she had to combat racism. Her certainty as to the righteousness of her position was reflected in the way she invoked Pastor Niemöller’s famous poem when interviewed on Russia Today. Slugger O’Toole has just written a thought-provoking post on this topic.
I thought he could have been still more explicit on the self-regarding perversity of her identification with the poem. By a sleight of hand she weaponises a poem which is focused on the dangers of ignoring antisemitism, amongst other forms of persecution, in order to defend herself from a charge of antisemitism in the name of freedom of speech:
if we don’t all stand up for issues like freedom of speech, that they will pick us off one by one.
Clearly there are Labour members who’ve said worse things than Jackie Walker. The CST’s concerned response to her suspension being lifted focused on the lack of an apology from her or some censure from the party, rather than demanding she should have been expelled. Over on Shiraz Socialist Jim Denham cautiously supports her reinstatement, while taking clear issue with her remarks. But her use of Niemöller strikes me as a subtle form of Holocaust inversion. She has accused the Jewish Chronicle of cynically pressing the case against her ‘for their own political interests’, and in quoting Niemöller to defend herself casts those worried about the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party as modern day Nazis.