No one has ever asked me to get off a plane before certainly no one has ever assumed I am a terrorist. I don’t have a clue how it feels to have eyes staring at me with fear, seeing people whispering and pointing at me just because I’m a visibly Muslim person or because I spoke a few words of Arabic on my mobile phone as I put on my seatbelt. I don’t have a clue because I’m a light skinned, blue eyed Ashkenzi Jew, Islamophobia is something that I, by definition, am never going to have to cope with.
As a light skinned Ashkenazi Jew there are forms of prejudice I experience that others will never experience or have to deal with. While hatred is common to all human beings and hatred of the ‘other’ is something too many of us have had to endure we each endure it in entirely different ways. One would think recognising that is a no brainer particularly in a party that drones on ad infinitum about how it’s the anti-racist party. But it isn’t a no brainer. Instead Jews are being dictated to by supposed anti-racism campaigners about what does and does not constitute prejudice against them.
I’ve never been called a “Zio” before and if I have and I can’t remember, mainly because I only knew it to be an insult when the media told me it was. The need to highlight specific names as terms of abuse reeks of a necessity to deal with antisemitism only superficially, antisemitism isn’t really about words or abusive names, it’s about ideas. Like the idea that Jews are responsible for the slave trade, like the idea that Jews secretly run the world and are responsible for all the suffering within it. Ideas like the one that the Board of Deputies are a bunch of hook nosed misers sitting in a back office in London plotting their assault on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Like the idea that every Jew is a representative of a sinister conspiracy called Zionism on whose behalf he or she acts with every word they utter.
Unless of course they constantly spew bile about their own people and hold up a big banner saying “Free Palestine”. Like the idea that it’s acceptable to force Jews to choose between believing in national self determination for their people on the one hand and acceptance by the party and the clique on the other. Like the fact that if you’re a Zionist Jew and therefore one of the vast majority of Jews, your feelings with regards to antisemitism are dismissed as being Zionist, regardless of whether the person making their feelings known is the Chief Rabbi or the Board of Deputies and represent tens of thousands of British Jews.
However if you’re an individual anti-Zionist Jew your message is promoted, shared and respected as if it’s representative of some previously unknown groundswell of Jewish opinion.
Take the pro-Palestinian lobby group Europal Forum. They’ve just published an activist booklet for people to download from their website. In that booklet the following statement is made about Jews;
“Discrimination against the Jewish people, commonly known as anti-Semitism, is just as abhorrent as any other form of racial or religious discrimination. For that reason, anti-Semitism must always be opposed— vigorously.”
One wonders what kind of activists Europal Forum has if they need to be told something so obvious so explicitly. The above quote is merely the preface to a bolder statement;
“When Israel and its supporters seek to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, in what they are calling the ‘New anti-Semitism’, they are deliberately seeking to silence any criticism of the crimes that the state of Israel, in the name of Zionism, commits and abets.”
The plot thickens. But who is a Zionist? How to distinguish between Jews you’re allowed to hate and those whose complaints of antisemitism need to be taken seriously?
Euopal have the answer and in the very same booklet compiled a list of Zionist organisations. Included on the list is the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Chronicle. In one swoop classifying the political representatives of British Jewry, those responsible for the security of British Jewry and those giving a voice to British Jewry as the enemy. For activists reading and believing this booklet these institutions have nothing to do with Jews, they’re Zionists and therefore racists not to be believed. Whenever an individual writing against Israel and/or against the Jewish community “as a Jew” publishes an article their activists will have that message validated to the detriment of their understanding of reality.
Of course even to buy in to their description of Zionism and the Israeli state is at best to buy in to an inaccuracy as to what Zionism is and the motivations of the Israeli government are. At worst it’s to believe a lie perpetuated to silence the Jewish community when attempting to defend itself against antisemitism.
The vice chair of the hard left Momentum movement Jackie Walker was suspended and then reinstated to the Labour Party over comments she made blaming “Jewish financiers” for the slave trade and lamenting the Jewish role in an “African Holocaust”. Her defence is that her statements are factually true and that she has Jewish heritage. Her partner Graham Bash wrote a scathing blog post in her defence. He prefaced his piece with the words “as a Jew”, he concluded his piece as “an anti-racist, international socialist.” In between he laments what he calls an attempt;
“To cynically use rare examples, and usually false allegations, of anti-Semitism as part of a McCarthyite witch hunt against supporters of Jeremy.”
The only person who knows why Bash blanketed most allegations of attacks against his own people as “usually false” is Bash. The allegations I have seen point to an overwhelming amount of both expression of and support for anti-Semitic views in a Party which is currently investigating itself over precisely this issue. But Jews won’t be silent or silenced about antisemitism, not in the Labour Party and not anywhere else either and certainly not by Graham Bash. The Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Ephraim Mervis stated forcefully:
“But to those people who have nevertheless sought to redefine Zionism, who vilify and delegitimize it, I say: Be under no illusions – you are deeply insulting not only the Jewish community but countless others who instinctively reject the politics of distortion and demonization. To those who so eagerly reach for a vicious Holocaust reference in order to exact the maximum amount of pain and offence upon “Zionists”, I say: You are spreading that ancient and insidious virus of anti-Semitism.”
But of course rather than his words receiving the weight and gravitas one would expect when spoken by someone in his position they were simply swatted aside. After all the Chief Rabbi is just another one of those Zionists. Ken Livingstone certainly disagreed, he said:
“Blurring these two things [criticising Israel and being antisemitic] undermines the real importance of antisemitism, because a real antisemite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate their Jewish neighbour in Golders Green or in Stoke Newington. It’s a physical loathing.”
Rather than listen to Jewish leaders Livingstone dictates to them. Livingstone is just one of a number of important Labour Party politicians who think that they have to the right to dictate to the Jewish community over what they are allowed to be offended by. The trump card is to find a Jew like Bash who will preface his comments with the words “as a Jew”.
In terms of numbers it is telling that Jews for Justice for Palestinians sent a letter to the Guardian signed by 87 self-defining Jews to complain about the chief Rabbi’s words. Those people were from a range of different ages and backgrounds and had their words of dissent against the community highlighted by the publication. When the head of Birmingham Jewish Society sent an open letter to Malia Bouattia to call her out on her antisemitism over 300 Jewish student leaders signed it in a show of frustration over the lack of support in the wider student world for Jewish concerns over her comments. There are tens of thousands of Jews in the UK for whom the chief rabbi was speaking and every time he, the board of deputies of British Jews and any of the other groups speak about antisemitism. Yet the Guardian publishes letters from the same tired bunch of people every time there is an opportunity to attack the views the rest of them hold so close to their hearts.
The groundswell of Jewish frustration over constantly being targeted over their support for a Jewish national homeland is palpable. Jew baiting politicians such as Livingstone and the dozens of others who are being suspended (not expelled) from the Labour party provide shocking evidence for just how bad the problem is.
Walker and Livingstone believe what they say. They think they’re under attack for stating the truth. They aren’t alone, there’s a reason antisemites tend to stick to their guns no matter what pressure they come under. Many of them simply think they’re speaking the truth. When Walker writes on her Facebook page;
“One of the worse fears I have to claims of anti-Semitism as promoted by the Jewish Chronicle and the right is they will, and want to, for their own political interests, see the rise of anti-Semitism. We must not let this happen.”
What both Europal Forum and Walker have in common is their inability to take seriously any talk of antisemitism when it comes from the Jewish Chronicle and, let’s face it, any representative Jewish organisations because all representative Jewish organisations are, by virtue of representing their members/readers Zionist. Furthermore it has gotten to the stage where anyone mentioning antisemitism is immediately vilified as an enemy of free speech and a racist in favour of the murder of Palestinians.
Frankly the views of Walker and her cronies wouldn’t be especially problematic were it limited to a few hard left kooks but, since the election of a hard left kook to the head of the Labour Party this is now a massive problem for the Jewish community. It is the only ethnic minority in the UK that has to deal with an assault on its honour by nutters elevated to positions of responsibility. Just how this is going to end is still unclear but what is certain is that there are a great deal of people in the Labour Party who see every suspension for antisemitism as a Zionist attack and every Zionist Jew as an enemy. These people were once members of a marginal faction within the Labour Party, now they are on the ascendant and the battle that is ongoing for the soul of the Labour Party will affect no minority in quite the same way as it will affect the Jews. I hope the Chakrabarti inquiry will help but I have to say, I very much doubt it will.