This is a guest post by Eve Garrard
Jackie Walker, not content with claiming that Jews were the chief financiers of the slave trade, has also said that antisemitism charges have been “exaggerated for political purposes”, and “the most fundamental aim of such allegations ….. is to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”, and “silence” his supporters. (See Anoosh Chakelian in the New Statesman here). Furthermore, warming to her theme, she says that some of those who are criticising her for her antisemitic remarks (referencing Jeremy Newmark and the Jewish Chronicle here) do so out of racism towards a black woman.
There’s an interesting gap in the logic here. Walker deploys a version of the Livingstone Manoeuvre in seeking to dismiss charges of antisemitism by declaring those making them to have covert motives – such allegations are really designed to weaken Jeremy Corbyn. This means that those who level them are being deceitful and cunning, they have ulterior and disgraceful motives. (Her further declaration that antisemitism charges are weapons of ‘political mass destruction’ adds the clotted cream to this poisonous coffee by suggesting that those who are involved in making these scurrilous and mendacious charges have extraordinary and malignant powers.)
But the thing I’d like to focus on is her purported explanation of why people should make such dreadful charges against her. It’s because they’re racist, she says, and she’s a black woman. And the interesting logical gap she needs to bridge is why charges of antisemitism should be treated as false and manipulative, whereas charges of anti-black racism should be taken at face value.
Now, I don’t doubt that Jackie Walker is a black woman, as she tells us. But if she’s thinking that gives her claim of being the target of anti-black racism some special authority, then she has to accept that Jews making charges of antisemitism also have special authority to do so. We can be sure that that’s not what she wants to claim. (Neither do I, for that matter, but what’s sauce for the goose etc etc.) So the supposed authority of the victim won’t bridge the logical gap for her.
Jackie is also Jewish, as she so very frequently tells us – perhaps this is supposed to account for the disparity in her treatment of different kinds of racism. But it’s hard to see how it can do so, unless she’s thinking that being Jewish, she has special authority to call out lies supposedly made by Jews, since she herself, being Jewish, can’t possibly be antisemitic, so must be telling the naked truth when she accuses Jews of some malpractice.
Does this bridge the logical gap? Does it explain why it’s ok for her to dismissively treat Jewish charges of antisemitism as dishonest and manipulative, but not ok for the rest of us to dismissively treat her own charges of racism in the same way? Well, no, it doesn’t. It relies on the assumption that Jews can’t possibly be antisemitic. But this assumption would be funny if it weren’t also tragic. Throughout history some Jews have sought to escape the hostility that so often targets all Jews by putting themselves ostentatiously on the side of the hostile ones, and hoping to count as ‘good Jews’, not to be targeted. This motivation, though not an admirable one, is understandable and sad. Of course, there are various other reasons for Jewish antisemitism, but its existence can’t plausibly be denied.
On the basis of the assumption I’m criticising here, Jews of this kind are absolutely invaluable to those who are hostile to Jews in general or to the Jewish State – they provide moral and political cover against any charges of antisemitism that might be thought to flow from that hostility. (We can’t be antisemitic, we have a real live Jew here who agrees with us!) We might, following a splendid precedent provided by those who dismiss Israel’s well-known acceptance of LGBT groups and individuals as mere pink-washing, refer to this as Jew-washing. Jackie Walker is industriously engaged in Jew-washing her toxic views just as clean as she can get them. She does not, however, succeed. Her hostile treatment of charges of antisemitism is noticeably different from her unquestioning deployment of charges of anti-black racism, and such double standards call out for justification, or failing that, explanation. In the absence of any justification, the explanation is unlikely to be a creditable one.
A postscript on apologies:
Walker has now apologised for her remarks. Unfortunately her apology misses the mark by several hundred miles. She says that “If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.” Doubtless her remarks have caused offence. But that’s not what’s wrong with them. What’s primarily wrong with saying that Jews were the chief financiers of the slave trade, or that the proceedings on Holocaust Memorial Day say nothing about other genocides, or that Jewish concerns about antisemitism in the Labour Party are nothing but a malicious plan to bring down Jeremy Corbyn, is above all that they’re false.