- In Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire’s new book* (as excerpted in The Times) on the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Murray gives us a revelatory remark about the limits on Corbyn’s empathy: “He is very empathetic, Jeremy, but he’s empathetic with the poor, the disadvantaged, the migrant, the marginalised, the people at the bottom of the heap. Happily, that is not the Jewish community in Britain today.” The most interesting implication of this remark is that Jews mustn’t be successful, if they want to prevent the far Left** seeing them as rich and privileged and hence unqualified to be the targets of racist hostility. (There’s often a performative self-contradiction involved in this view, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment.) This attitude has a closely-related predecessor: it’s been obvious for a long time that the far Left feels able to extend its sympathies to Jews only if they suffer at the hands of the violent and deadly Right. Indeed, resisting antisemitism from the Right is the subject of a certain amount of boasting on the part of the relevant sections of the Left – see Cable Street ad nauseam. Dead Jews are ok as objects of sympathy, so long as they’ve been killed by fascists. But live ones, fighting today to remain that way, not so much. (Particularly if their fight is successful.) The current iteration of that attitude looks at Jews who integrate well into their surrounding culture, and who are successful therein while retaining some very distinctive features of Jewish identity and solidarity, and sees them as people who aren’t appropriate objects of anti-racist concern. Hostility towards them can’t be racist, since they are too strong and powerful to suffer from racist animus, so no empathy is called for or available. Behind this view seems to lie the old and dubious claim that racism equals prejudice plus power, hence those who are themselves powerful (eg, on account of being wealthy) can’t be the target of racism.
Firstly and obviously, many Jews aren’t wealthy. Of course some are, and many Jews are successful in ways which aren’t adequately measured by considerations of wealth, such as intellectual or artistic excellence. But on the view which Murray articulates and which Corbyn seems to hold, all of these Jews, rich and poor, distinguished and undistinguished alike, are excluded from empathetic consideration. What’s really interesting about this failure of empathy is that it’s supposed to be justified by the success which Jews as a whole are thought to possess. It looks as if the message of all this is that for Jews in general to be protected against antisemitism by the far Left, they need to be unsuccessful. Jews mustn’t thrive. However, even that dismal conclusion isn’t the complete story of this dispiriting feature of the far Left’s attitude towards Jews. Leave aside the fact that Germany in the last century proved that neither wealth, nor other kinds of success, could protect Jews against murderous racism when it’s backed by the state – in such circumstances power is evanescent while prejudice remains hideously real and effective. Consider instead the fact that there are other ethnic groups who are universally accepted by the far Left to be the targets of racism, and hence proper recipients of empathy and sympathy. But they don’t seem to provoke the non-empathic response when they’re rich and successful. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone from the Left saying that they don’t find successful black people to be ones they can empathise with, or denying that successful black people can be the targets of racist hatred. On the contrary, they’ll often campaign quite properly for black success to be better recognised and rewarded, and for persons of colour, rich or poor, to be better protected against racial hatred. So if Jewish success precludes empathetic support from the likes of Mr Corbyn, I don’t think it can just be the success itself that’s undermining the empathy. Contrary to what Murray suggests, it looks like it’s the Jewishness that’s doing the anti-empathetic work for the far Left, just as it does for the far Right.
*Pogrund and Maguire, Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn (publication date 03/09/2020) **There are honourable exceptions to this general remark about the far Left – see for example the AWL, and a number of independent-minded individuals. But they’re not the dominant force in the far Left.
This is a guest post by Eve Garrard
- The announcement of “normalisation” between Israel and the UAE, and the subsequent abolition of the UAE’s Israel Boycott Law could be the start of Realpolitik in a region better known for religious intransigence. It may be a false dawn, but we must hope that it’s the first step towards a lasting peace. Let’s apply some Realpolitik.
1. Unless the map is very large Israel is difficult to spot amongst the overwhelmingly Arab/Muslim territory so if it was “aggressive and expansionist” how far could it get? 2. Removal of this small speck could only be achieved militarily, and Israel has nuclear weapons…. 3. Borders can be fluid. The map of Europe has changed significantly, and often, since the demise of the Roman Empire and who knows what the 21st Century will bring when there are well over a hundred disputed borders around the world. When Israel/Palestine – which is fundamentally a local dispute about land and borders – is put in context, many start wondering why it receives disproportionate attention. There are two main groups that seek Israel’s removal. The first are the Left, most of what they say about Israel is fiction, the rest is just made up. Much comes from the Corbynite (anti-imperialist, Marxist, revolutionary) worldview, influenced by Cold War Soviet propaganda and misinformation. One branch of the cult describes Israel as: “a favoured ally and junior partner of the imperialist hegemony.” They don’t have a problem with Russia or China!
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The second are Islamists and it’s worth remembering some of the differences between Islam and Christianity, which has a lot of extremely unpleasant “baggage” as Richard Dawkins outlines: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Christianity, and the “West”, were transformed by the reformation, renaissance and enlightenment and modern adherents tend to be cafeteria Christians; the Ten Commandments, Jesus and the New Testament. Islam also predates, but missed, the reformation, renaissance and enlightenment, and has equally unpleasant ”baggage”. There are Muslims who seek peace with Jews, but this is thin on the ground in the Middle East and proselytising Islamists are generally more influential than fundamentalist Christians. Radical/fundamentalist/proselytising Islam has been important in preventing links between Arab states and Israel, great credit must be given to the UAE for circumventing this. The effects of generational/political change cannot be underestimated. The Sudan, which has recently experienced regime change, has been suggested as likely to follow the UAE and, other than the current government being transitional, there doesn’t appear to be any fundamental objections. If more states follow the UAE and, essentially, say that the Islamists are naked things could get interesting. It’s getting over that “hump” and seeing the world differently. If Israel is, somehow, going to disappear then a Palestine “from the river to the sea” is a reasonable objective. Accept that Israel isn’t going away – Realpolitik – and different objectives are required.
The problem then becomes the Palestinian leadership, Corbyn’s “friends”, who seek Israel’s destruction so fund rockets, tunnels, incendiary balloons and pay to slay. They see the glass as half-empty and have consistently rejected peace deals. Let’s postulate a Palestinian leadership that accepts Israel’s right to exist and sees the glass as half-full – Realpolitik. By not funding attacks and not tolerating freelance fanatics there is little for Israel to retaliate against. Several commentators have concluded that if Israel puts down its arms there’s genocide, if the Palestinians put theirs down there can be peace. The next step is a Realpolitik inspired deal; only the Israelis and Palestinians have to agree, but both need to win – and lose. Accepting that possession is nine-tenths of the law Israel keeps some – but not all – of the territory it currently has. This is its win/lose, but they also get peace. The Palestinians get more than they had, but not everything they might want. That’s their win/lose, but they get a state with lots of petrodollars heading towards it. A lesson from Northern Ireland is to ignore the “Palestine Industry” as their fundamental objective is the destruction of Israel. They’d have to argue against a deal between others because they didn’t like it! Over time they’d wane as supporters would leave and replacements would be difficult to recruit. In a region known for religious fanaticism it’s certain third parties will try to derail any agreement by perpetrating atrocities and it will be particularly important that Israel keeps its nerve. If sufficient Arab states follow the UAE and they’re then prepared to reform – or replace – the Palestinian leadership it’s possible.
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- The debate regarding the slave trade has been largely hijacked by the anti-imperialist and, supposedly, anti-racist (Corbynite) left who seek to pile the sins of the world, past as well as present, on Britain, the US, NATO, the West and, of course, Israel whilst ignoring aggressive expansionist nations such as Russia and China. Amongst their favourite descriptions of their opponents are, of course, imperialist and racist – we’ve all seen how anyone concerned about immigration is, automatically, racist, no wonder the working classes have deserted Labour and reached the Conservatives via Farage. Anti-black racism is at the top of their hierarchy – Jews are white (even the black ones!) and prosperous, so are oppressors, not the oppressed – so they concentrate on the transatlantic slave trade which they see as a consequence of imperialism and racism.
Although peripheral to this piece it must be noted that the transatlantic trade was just part of a long – and extremely unsavoury – history. By the time Europeans – initially the Portuguese in the 15th Century – started exploring down the west coast of Africa, Africans had been enslaved for centuries, if not millennia, through the existing markets to the north in the Mediterranean and east in the Indian Ocean. Africans undertook the initial enslaving and the first transaction was an African selling another African. Africans also became wealthy as part of the process. Slavery has been around for millennia and depends upon one thing, owning and having complete control over another human being is either permitted, or not forbidden, in a particular society/culture. When British abolitionists started what was to be a long, but ultimately successful, campaign it was uncertain as to whether slavery was legal, or not, in Britain. The Romans and Nazis, amongst others, enslaved many – but didn’t discriminate – and for long periods of history those defeated in a war expected to be enslaved. The image of a white holding a whip over a black is only part of a very large picture. Clearly racism can be involved, the obvious way to oppose abolitionists is to try and demonstrate that the enslaved are inferior and deserving of enslavement but it’s important to realise that whilst slavery and racism can go together, ether can exist without the other. As part of the leftist assault on everything we hold dear, “Rule Britannia” is now under attack, the contentious line being: “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.” It was even contended by a contributor to that bastion of impartial and balanced reporting, Radio 4’s “Today” programme, that as it dates from 1740 – when Britain was involved in the transatlantic slave trade – it referred to others, not Britons, being slaves. Let’s go back to the era from which “Rule Britannia” dates and look at both of the first two lines: “Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves! Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”
Too many lefties and BBC producers (is there a difference?) have either a selective, or even reversed, knowledge of history – think of the “wrong kind of socialism” argument! The origins of the modern Royal Navy lie, at least partly, in the need to deal with piracy. Britain has long been a maritime trading nation and too many merchant ships and their cargoes were being lost to pirates. The merchants paid some more tax which financed a larger navy, fewer ships were lost and, before you know it, you’re in a virtuous circle. “White slavery” conjures up a scantily clad blond on cushions in an oriental harem on the lurid cover of a cheap paperback novel. But for many centuries it wasn’t fiction, rather a horrific reality for many Britons – and others – and a threat hanging over more. The Barbary Coast was at the western end of the North African coast – modern Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia – and for centuries the home of pirates who ranged far and wide, including the eastern North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, enslaving those they could capture from ships and coastal settlements. The intensity increased in the 16th century and was not finally eliminated until the 19th Century. When “Rule Britannia” was composed Britons had been taken and enslaved for well over a century, but the power of the Royal Navy was increasing, and this provides a perfect context. The BBC may be broadcasting this fine piece without the lyrics, but that doesn’t stop us adding them in our living rooms!
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