For those who have been following the Labour party and the row over anti-Semitism, this week revealed some shocking developments in the saga. In May Labour secretly suspended 50 members over racist and anti-Semitic comments. This comes as Jeremy Corbyn and his Momentum supporters pushed a radical shift in the party. Lets look examine in a little depth some of the comments made and we will see what is fundamentally wrong.
The Vice Chair of the National Steering Committee of Momentum, Jacqueline Walker, was suspended for anti-Semitic comments on Facebook where she alleged that Jews were the chief financiers of the African slave trade which she described as an “African Holocaust.” Later she was the first of the members suspended to be reinstated to the party. She is, however, a prime example of where criticism of Israel spills over into anti-Semitism and remains unrepentant about it.
Walker denied the “allegations” and pointed to her anti-racism campaigning as a defence. She and her supporters alleged that this is a Tory attempt to discredit her and Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who expresses legitimate criticism of Israel.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not an attempt to smear or discredit, the discrediting is a result of what is coming out from the very mouths of the people making such vulgar and unfounded accusations, that if said about any other group in hyper-sensitive, politically correct British society there would be uproar over.
No one denied that Walker has campaigned against racism or condemned her for legitimate criticism of Israel. The numerous examples of her legitimate criticism of Israeli policy were not cited as evidence as anti-Semitic remarks she has made.
It is possible that Walker and others may not be aware of their own prejudice towards Jews and anti-Semitic views and may not have intended to offend Jewish people with these remarks. But this does not change the fact that they are anti-Semitic and hurtful to the Jewish community, and the claim that this is to do with criticism of an Israeli policy or even Zionism are unfounded and ignores the evidence that was brought forward.
Walker followed in the footsteps of the Former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, of misrepresenting history who suggested that Hitler supported Zionism.
Walker wrote, “My ancestors were involved in both – on all sides and as I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews… and many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade… We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice.”
Walker engaged in historical revisionism and focused on issues regarding Jews and the slave trade which has nothing to do with Zionism and Israel. Such claims are a product of groups like the Nation of Islam, a branch of the Black Nationalist Movement in the United States and its propaganda. They published a book titled The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. Eli Faber, professor of history at CUNY and author of Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight criticizes the claim that Jews were involved disproportionately to their numbers. “The numbers just aren’t there to support the view,” said Faber. “Jews were involved, but to an insignificant degree. That doesn’t absolve them of that guilt, but everyone made money off African slaves: Arabs, Europeans, Africans.”
Walker turns the Jews into guilty “perpetrators” of an “African holocaust.” In a later comment she wrote “How about some real history rather than the narrative of zionists? And what do you think the Jews should do about their contribution to the African holocaust? What debt do they owe?” These claims are used as an attack on so called Israeli claims of immunity from criticism and a right for Zionists to “do what they want,” but she has accused Jews alone of being solely and primarily responsible for the slave trade. She went on to say, “it’s also important to know all the bits of Jewish history, including the nasty bits like their involvement in the Caribbean.”
She talked about “Jewish particularism which counts their suffering above all others… Jews may be leaving Europe, but it strikes me that between Muslims and Jews in Europe the most persecuted group are Muslims.”
As a matter of fact on September 9, 2015, an article in the Spectator, reported the Met Police released latest hate-crime figures for London. They show that offences against Jews have risen by 93% over the past year, while offences against Muslims have risen by 70%. This doesn’t mean that Muslims are not also victims of hate crimes that also deserve attention, but she consistently ignores hard facts in order to assert propaganda and fantasy as reality.
Regarding the slave trade, a New Statesman article from August 2013 reported, “In February 2003 a UNESCO Conference on “Arab-Led Slavery of Africans” was held in Johannesburg.
The Conference’s final communiqué condemned slavery in all its forms, but went on to declare that “the Arab-led slave trade of African people predates the Trans-Atlantic slave trade by a millennium, and represents the largest and, in time, longest involuntary removal of any indigenous people in the history of humanity.” Since then a silence has descended on the debate.”
Yet this “real history” is inconvenient to Walkers pro-Palestinian “narrative.” I don’t suppose Walker would dare to suggest that the Arabs owe anything for their contribution and “ongoing” contribution to the “African holocaust.”
Walker’s comments fall under the EUMC working definition of Anti-Semitism under the following heading:
“Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.”
Barton Creeth in an article on May 29, 2016, commented on how once again, in order to defend herself she falsified history. She quoted the famous Niemöller poem, “First they came” and said “If they can do this [suspend her] to me they can do it to anyone.”
“On the RT programme, explaining Niemöller and the poem to the interviewer, she said: “An absolutely extraordinary man. He wasn’t Jewish. He was a Christian pastor. And he was actually tortured and killed by the Nazis—He was German—for standing up against the Nazis. And he wrote this extraordinary thing, which is that if we don’t all stand up for issues like freedom of speech, that they will pick us off one by one.
“First they came” is an fascinating text to quote in the context of an argument about whether or not Labour has an anti-Semitism problem, not the least because it is about the intellectual cowardice among German intellectuals during Hitler’s rise to power. It is not mainly about controls on free speech, but rather the moral weakness of those that said nothing—falsely and selfishly believing they would be spared…
What’s so amazing about Walker’s use of the poem, and subsequent reading of the poem, is that she seems totally oblivious to the fact that Niemöller was lamenting his own sinful past and previously-held anti-Semitic views. It’s an apology of the deepest order—from an anguished soul. He’s not lamenting the Nazis, but that good men like himself fell into the sin of indifference and Jew hatred.
Walker’s history is, interestingly, completely wrong. Niemöller lived until 1984. He wasn’t killed by the Nazis. In fact, in 1933, he welcomed the arrival of Hitler, had private conversations with Hitler when he first came to power, and held deeply anti-Semitic beliefs himself. He even offered to fight for Hitler’s Germany as late as 1939. While Niemöller was imprisoned by the Nazis, and likely risked death, it was another famous German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed by the Nazis. What’s fascinating about Niemöller is that he changed, and came to look back in shame at his own actions and previously held beliefs. “I have sinned and my people have sinned,” he wrote later in life, reflecting on his own, and wider German society’s, complicity in the Holocaust. So in regards to “First they came…”, the poem is, at least partly, a personal reflection on Niemöller’s own shame for not speaking up for the Jews.
This brings me to what an honest, and morally reflective response to accusations of anti-Semitism (indeed all racism) might look like. Walker is a lifelong anti-racism activist. And we need strident voices to speak out against Israeli aggression against Palestinians. But her comments about “many Jews” being the “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” are not only historically inaccurate—despite the best attempts of the KKK and Nation of Islam to perpetuate the myth of Jewish dominance of the slave trade—but offensive. They play into the trope of the controlling, world domineering, singularly evil Jew.”
The Labour party under the instruction of Jeremy Corbyn launched an investigation into whether or not Labour has an anti-Semitism problem. This week at a Labour event he gave a presentation of the report which has been described by Stephen Pollard as “one of the most extraordinarily appalling events in the history of the Labour Party.”
Corbyn himself holds views that are highly controversial on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and has been challenged over comments where he described the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends. He has not retracted such comments and was recently attacked by Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament over it. Who said that Labour cannot be expected to fight such beliefs within the party when the leader of the party holds them himself, by supporting organizations that believe in murdering Jews wherever they are.
In presenting the report on anti-Semitism Corbyn denied that Labour had an anti-Semitism problem but then caused outrage when he said “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu Government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.”
Corbyn pointed out that the report recommended that Labour leaders should not use comparisons between Israel and the Nazis but then equated democratic Israel under the Netanyahu government with the barbaric ISIS and other so called Islamic organizations, presumably similar Islamist terrorist groups. This comparison Corbyn does not see as being objectionable.
Corbyn and anyone for that matter can be critical of Netanyahu’s government and its policies, but to equate them with ISIS or the Nazis is perverse and is not legitimate criticism – It is libel.
Corbyns words on close examination do not in fact condemn the spreading of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is merely condemning people for assuming that individual Jews are supportive of or involved in them. Earlier in the presentation Corbyn said:
“To assume a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy… is just wrong.”
So once one discovers that this hypothetical Jewish person lives in North London and has made a donation to the UJIA or the JNF, now one can condemn him/her. In the worldview of Corbyn and the Labour members who have been called out for anti-Semitic views of Jewish or Zionist conspiracy theories – these theories in variant forms are believed to be true.
Israel is considered to be a barbaric state, with wealthy and powerful supporters in the media and lobbying groups, that should be condemned for racism and not to be associated with by anyone. In the same way that people expect Muslims to condemn terrorism and hate speech in the name of Islam.
If a British Jew or anyone were to support Israel, this would make them a legitimate target for abuse and false accusations of supporting racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses… etc by Corbyn, which he and his supporters would insist is legitimate criticism and silencing of free speech.
The point of contention is that they are not legitimate criticisms, they are claims as we saw an example of above, often based on falsehoods and libels regurgitated by the most extreme factions in Palestinian society.
There is no excuse for people defending terrorist organizations and terrorists. This week Nadiya Al-Noor, a young Muslim interfaith activist with a focus on Jewish and Muslim communities wrote an open letter published in the Times of Israel following this week’s brutal murder of a 13 year old Israeli girl, Yaffe Ariel, was murdered in her own bed by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist who broke into her home.
“Let me tell you something. Stabbing pregnant women in the stomach is not “resistance.” Shooting people at a cafe is not “resistance.” Driving your car into pedestrians is not “resistance.” Bombing a bus is not “resistance.” Breaking into a woman’s home and murdering her in front of her children is not “resistance.” And stabbing a little girl to death in the one place where she was supposed to be safe is certainly not “resistance.” Terrorism is not resistance. Terrorism is an unjustifiable crime.
Muslims around the world are constantly decrying ISIS and most terrorism in the name of Islam. I know Muslims who are interfaith activists, peace advocates, doctors, gay rights activists, and more. We sincerely hate ISIS and terrorism with a passion. We’ll stand up against the persecution of Christians, atheists, Hindus, Shias, Ahmadis, and anyone else who is persecuted. We will sob to the heavens if a Palestinian is killed, but when it comes to Palestinian terrorism against Jews, we either turn a blind eye to it, or we twist the story to make the terrorists into the victims. This is unacceptable.”
What is missing from the worldview of the Corbynites is any compassion or interest in the lives of Israelis. They are right to have concerns about the peace process and Palestinians. They can join the conversation over Israeli security policies such as the effectiveness as a deterrent and morality of something like house demolitions of the homes of Palestinian terrorists. What they don’t offer though is any concern for the welfare and security of Israelis. If people have better suggestions of an alternative that can be taken the least bit seriously, Israel is only too willing to hear them. In spite of what they think, Israel does not enjoy ruling over millions of Palestinians.
Blaming everything on Israel, whitewashing and ignoring Palestinian rejection and incitement is exactly what leads eventually to Israel’s demonization which becomes anti-Semitism in the kinds of examples we see above, that Israel is somehow inherently racist and immoral. The reality is much more complex, and not as simple as lumping Israel, Zionism and all of its supporters into a category of Jews equivalent to Muslims supporting ISIS.
A good Jew to Corbyn is the Neturei Karta, or a small minority of anti-Zionist Jews who are not representative of the majority of British Jewry or world Jewry as a whole for that matter.
Labour’s anti-Semitism problem is not as the report suggests due to using the occasional inflammatory rhetoric. It is based on subscribing to historical fictions and false narratives that lead to stereotypical views of Jews that Israel is then labelled with. Corbyn is incapable of fighting anti-Semitism because he cannot identify it even within himself, how can he be expected to identify it elsewhere?
Labours anti-Semitism problem is obviously not of the same form of Hitlers racial anti-Semitism. But hatred of Jews never manifested itself only in that form. In the beginning of the period of the Enlightenment anti-Semites did not hate Jews for their race, as Hitler did. They were willing to accept and embrace all Jews as individuals as long as they were willing to assimilate and abandon their Jewish beliefs. In the Medieval period, this was much the same, Christians were open to Jews as individuals if they would abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity. If they lived today with our terminology they would say “no I don’t hate Jews, I am just voicing legitimate criticism of Judaism.”
Labours anti-Semitism takes on a similar form. Today Israel is central to the Jewish identity for the majority of Jews and plays a key role in their identity. It is not a few Israeli policies that are being criticized, it is the existence of the state itself and the Jews connection to their homeland.
In summary, they are attacking the core of Jewish beliefs and identity in our day, no differently than the anti-Semites did prior to the rise of the Nazis. Hitler did not offer Jews a way out, Corbyn does. But what is he offering in terms of a Judaism he sees as legitimate?
A Jew who is willing to remain silent as anti-Semitic hate speech and violence increases throughout Europe, a Jew who disapproves of Israel, the only place in the world that offers a reliable refuge for such Jews to flee to, but would gladly support its dissolution or destruction. It is essentially a Jew who will take abuse and shut up about it without fighting back, that is left defenceless.
These are the Jews that the Labour Leftists can accept, dead Jews. They of course would never condemn Jews who were victims of the Holocaust. They can do no harm, only the survivors who refuse to allow the spread of the very ideas that dehumanized Jews and lead to boycotts and their isolation that will enable another attempt to exterminate the Jews to happen again. These are the Jews he is against, those that will stand up against people like Corbyn who condones those who have sworn to finish what Hitler failed to do.
They want us to be powerless and defenceless with nowhere to go. We know anti-Semitism when we see it, and it is staring us directly in the face.