Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Semitism’
Rhea Wolfson Speaks of Racist Abuse: “Pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense.” Says Leading ‘anti-Zionist’.
Rhea Wolfson is a breath of fresh air.
Like many activists I was very pleased to see a fresh face standing for the Centre left Grassroots Alliance slate for Labour’s NEC along with the other strong candidates, Ann Black, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Christine Shawcroft, and Pete Willsman.
Reflecting the diversity of the democratic socialist, labour spectrum reflected on this list, which includes those from all parts of this tradition, Rhea is an activist with her own views. She immediately attracted criticism, from the Progress Right-wing of the party, from the Eustonites, and, as can be seen from her own account, from others who have nothing to do with the labour movement or any form of left.
Harry’s Place – the ‘Eustonites’ – singled her out.
Saul Freeman wrote,
Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.
If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left.
He appeared to suggest that her opinions fitted in a box that included the Stop the War Coalition, amongst people who, “who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy”.
Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?
Harry’s Place was not the only critic.
Rhea has written her own account – which should be read.
On Tuesday afternoon, I announced that I was standing for election to represent Labour Party members on its National Executive Committee. My first 24 hours as a candidate were a crash course in why so many are reluctant to put themselves forward. In less than a day I have faced racist and sexist abuse through social media, directed to both my family and me, been smeared by Tory blogs, and had senior figures in my own party attack me unfairly.
My day got worse from here. The right wing blog Guido Fawkes then picked up the story. This led to more attention and more hatred on social media. And I presume it was thanks to this coverage that I won the attention of the far-right.
A neo-Nazi blog covered my candidacy. There, I am described as a ‘dirty Zionist Jewess’. The writer has publicised my twitter account and instructed its readers to send Nazi images to me. The comments on the page include photoshopped images of me in a gas chamber. More harrowing still, they have shared my sister’s Twitter handle and suggested that she be targeted too.
This is such pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense. Those of us who have actually been active in the anti-fascist movement, you know actually facing up to fash and driving them off the streets, would find this pathetic. I’ve been targeted for close on a decade by Redwatch – Southern Coast, a neo-Nazi site dedicated to physically targeting anti-fascists for attacks in the street or home or both. People on it have been attacked but we don’t moan. I’ve been attacked but you just put it down to experience.
Those who wish can try to finish this particular line of thought on the original site.
Greenstein added, in response to the suggestion that Rhea should be entitled to a Safe Space that,
Tony Greenstein is currently believed to be appealing against his suspension from the Labour Party.
By contrast how is the labour movement reacting?
Left Futures reports.
GMB condemns antisemitic abuse of centre-left candidate for Labour executive
GMB Scotland today utterly condemned the vile antisemitic abuse suffered by their Glasgow Branch Secretary, Rhea Wolfson, who is standing for a position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
A spate of deliberate attacks on social media by Nazi propagandists occurred following confirmation of Rhea’s candidacy and GMB Scotland have said they will bring these hate crimes to the attention of the police, while using every tool at their disposal to flush out the online racists.
Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:
There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind in our politics or society and Rhea has the total solidarity of her trade union in the face of this vile abuse.
Rhea is a hugely talented and principled activist; a popular and respected member of our union in Scotland and beyond with an established track record of campaigning for social justice and human rights.
We can’t let this hate go unchallenged. What sort of message would that send out to young people of all backgrounds who may want to get involved in making our communities and workplaces more fair, peaceful and prosperous?
GMB Scotland looks after our members and we call on all representatives from across civic society and politics to condemn these hate crimes.”
Like many others who were involved in forming and supporting the Grassroots Alliance when it was set up in 1998 I can say that all this brings back recollections of the response of those hostile to it at the time. *
This piece, which enjoyed cult status in some quarters (though not, for reasons which become immediately clear, amongst those individually singled out), brought us back down memory lane.
WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.
The International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, and political home to Paul Foot) and sections of my own Communist Party were hostile to the IMG. “IMG, IMG, idle sons of the bourgeoisie”, was one little chant that we all enjoyed in those far-off days. Hour after hour we would sit up debating with IMG members the virtues and vices of Ernest Mandel’s critique of the Neither Washington Nor Moscow problematics.
Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.
As always. Nice to see you again, comrades. But “centre-left”? Please.
I should point out that Liz had nothing to do with the IMG whatsoever.
That was before the Web, Twitter, Trolling, and when the likes of Saul and Greenstein could only grind their teeth in their basements amid the smell of damp socks.
At least Aaronovitch could do funnies.
*The Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centrist democratic group within the Party, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing and the Editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left. Wikipedia.
Opportunism, loud-mouths, and more than distasteful allegations have marked the anti-semitism controversy embroiling the British left, and the Labour Party in particular, in recent days.
Some say, with justification, that the issue is being used as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn.
In our view Corbyn has responded with measured dignity, and John McDonnell has expressed the wishes of many.
For those – and there are great numbers of us – who follow what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, there’s a lot happening which is causing us burning concern.
It’s hard not to feel that with millions of refugees in the Middle East, many of whom are desperately trying to enter Europe, with Islamists from ISIS committing real genocide, with mass killings by the Assad regime, with murders by the Shariah enforcing A-Nusra Front, religious sectarian hatred involving the wholesale religious cleansing of the region, that this British row is irrelevant in the face of events that really matter.
There are, nevertheless some deeply thought-out reflections on the controversy.
Ross Wolfe’s Reflections on Left antisemitism, towers over many analyses.
Bob makes the point about the famous ‘Brenner’ book: Lenni Brenner says Ken’s wrong. He links to an interview (IB Times) with David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group who states, “”badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture”.
This is worth – critically – thinking about: The Livingstone Formulation – David Hirsh April 29, 2016 .
Significantly for left as a whole Jon Lansman has just published an important piece on Left Futures which is headed, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’
I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.
Clearly if need there were this is a case in point: “Normal service to be resumed as the UKs Zionist political class push the country towards the 19th century.“
But it is not just language but politics which are at stake.
A serious argument is that, as John Rees argues, there is a case for a “secular, democratic state across historic Palestine (which) has nothing in common with anti-semitism.” (Counterfire)
What the revolutionaries wanted was a democratic, free, non-oppressive and non-exploitative society. The Palestinian revolution is no different. It does not want to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’. In the founding statutes of the Palestine Liberation Organisation demanded a democratic, secular state in which Jews and Arabs could live in peace in the historic land of Palestine, as they did before the forcible exclusion of the Arab population that was the necessary precondition of the establishment of a religiously exclusivist state in 1948. The exclusivity of that state is nowhere more obvious than in the fundamental ‘law of return’ in which a Jew from any part of the globe, no matter if they have never had the remotest contact with the Middle East in their lives, can migrate to Israel and become a citizen, but no Palestinian refugee forced from their home can exercise a legal right to return.
That state, its extensions and colonial conquests, its racist laws, checkpoints, walls and settlements will have to be completely overthrown before that vision of a homeland for both Palestinians and Jews can be realised.
The often toted alternative, a two state solution now sadly and disastrously accepted by the PLO leaders, is actually a retreat in the face of the argument that Arabs and Jews must have racially exclusive states because they cannot live together. That is wrong, and so unworkable. It would, indeed it has, perpetuated war in the region, and will not abolish it.
It would be important, for this to be more widely accepted, for those who accept Ress’ view to clarify how they see the role of Hamas and Hizbollah in this overthrow. and the creation of a democratic secular state.
Socialist Worker published this, August the 5th 2014 which puts forward one position.
(This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas)
We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.
We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.
We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.
From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.
It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.
Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.
Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.
Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.
But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.
This is the rub: very very few people have the slightest confidence, let alone belief, that Hamas (a key actor on the ground in any future settlement, rather than the Lebanese Hezbollah), are committed to a “secular, democratic state”.
To say the least.
Yet those who use the language of a “resistance” have locked Hamas into a fight with “Zionism” and “Imperialism” with their “unconditional” but not “uncritical” support.
Perhaps one of the many reasons why people look to the Two State position is that they cannot possibly see any democratic way out of the conflict which involves Hamas playing the determining role that Mostafa Omar supports.
Ken Livingstone “really sorry” for “upsetting people” – but defends remarks about Hitler and Zionism. as a “statement of fact”.
Always Pleased with Himself.
Asked if he was sorry, Mr Livingstone said: “I’m sorry to Jeremy and to the Labour Party,” but followed it up with saying, “It wasn’t me that started this.”
Asked if he regretted his comments, he said: “How can I regret stating the truth.”
Offering a rather qualified apology for his remarks, he said: “I’m sorry that I’ve said that because I’ve wasted all this time.” He says he wants the focus to be on the upcoming elections.
Ken Livingstone remained defiant over the Labour anti-Semitism row he fuelled – and used a rape comparison when asked about his suspension from the party.
He said: “If a woman turns up at a police station and says, ‘I’ve been raped’, the police have to investigate that.
“And as I’m on the national executive that oversees those investigations, you understand that person should be suspended.
“Given a lot of Labour MPs are accusing me of being anti-Semitic, that’s really something the party has to investigate.”
Livingstone’s narcissistic ‘politics’ have now reached their terminus.
Anybody wishing to go further into this topic – there is also a rebuttal of Livingstone’s source Brenner on Facebook by Jewish Socialist leaders – should read begin with these contributions:
Timothy Snyder, Yale University history professor and author of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (2015) BBC.
It is inconceivable that Hitler could have wanted to move Jews to Israel, because there was no such place in 1932.
Using the word “Israel” when what is meant was “the British mandate of Palestine” has the unfortunate consequence of stripping away the actual historical context and putting the words “Hitler” and “Israel” in the same sentence.
Hitler was not a supporter of Zionism.
He believed, on the contrary, that Zionism was one of many deliberately deceptive labels that Jews placed upon what he believed to be their endless striving for global power and the extermination of the human species.
From Hitler’s point of view, Jews were precisely not normal human beings because they did not care about territory, but cared only about global domination.
“He was supporting Zionism” is categorically false and reveals a total and fundamental misunderstanding of what Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all about.
Tens of thousands of German Jews did emigrate to Palestine before British policy made this all but impossible. And some German officials did take an interest in Zionism. But there was never a German policy to support Zionism or a future Israel.
On the contrary, the German orientation in the Middle East was to support Arab nationalism. The official German policy, enunciated clearly in 1937, was to oppose the creation of a State of Israel.
Before, during and after 1932, Hitler referred to the Jews as a problem for the entire world, not simply for Germany.
When the Holocaust took place, the vast majority of Jews killed were people who lived beyond Germany.
Both in theory and in practice, Hitler’s extermination of Jews was international, applied to millions of people. For this reason as well, it is logically inconceivable that his ideas could ever have been limited to sending German Jews to Palestine.
Well before 1932, in his book Mein Kampf, Hitler had made clear that the Jews were, in his view, a “spiritual pestilence” that had to be removed from the face of the earth in order to rescue the human species, the natural order of the planet, and God’s creation.
It was not clear just how this could be carried out; but there is no sense in which the idea of deporting Jews to Palestine is sufficient to this vision.
Just to cite one passage:
The picture painted by Brenner is one of reactionary Ukrainian pogromists gaining the full collaboration of the Zionists. But the facts are as follows: the Ukrainian nationalists came to power on a socialist and inclusive platform; but the Zionists anticipated pogroms and tried to prevent them, while boycotting the government blamed for the subsequent atrocities. Brenner’s brief treatment of these events is a tissue of distortions and falsehoods.
Brenner is a propagandist, not a historian, and only a fool or a knave would rely on his books.
Again to quote some passages,
The Nazis’ plans for “concentrating” Jews in specific territories, be they Palestine or Madagascar, had nothing whatsoever to do with self-determination. These were expressions of the complete opposite: the use of force to strip Jews of all their rights, property and dignity.
As was proved by the establishment of the General Government in central Poland in October 1939, the Nazis were not in the least concerned that the territories where they intended to “concentrate” Jews were in a position to help their populations sustain themselves. They were looking for dumping grounds for Jews and other “undesirables”. These people were at best treated as ‘assets’ to exploit or, later, a stock of slave labour, and at worst simply expected to die of disease and starvation.
Any claim that Nazis and Zionists ever shared a common goal is not only cynical and disingenuous, but a distortion of clearly established historical fact.
We wonder how Livingstone – not to mention others, such as George Galloway, square up to this (Wikipedia):
From late 1944, Joseph Stalin adopted a pro-Zionist foreign policy, apparently believing that the new country would be socialist and would speed the decline of British influence in the Middle East. Accordingly, in November 1947, the Soviet Union, together with the other Soviet bloc countries voted in favour of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine,[which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. On May 17, 1948, three days after Israel declared its independence, the Soviet Union officially granted de jure recognition of Israel, becoming only the second country to recognise the Jewish state (preceded only by the United States’ de facto recognition) and the first country to grant Israel de jure recognition.
Golda Meir was appointed Israel’s minister plenipotentiary to the Soviet Union, with her term beginning on 2 September 1948 and ending in March, 1949. During her brief stint in the USSR, Meir attended Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at the Moscow Choral Synagogue.
In addition to the diplomatic support, arms from Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet bloc, were crucial to Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. During the war, the Soviet Union supported Israel when it was attacked by Arab countries that opposed the 1947 United Nations General Assembly resolution for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
Detailed articles. The forgotten alliance. The establishment of Israel owes much to the Soviet Union and the wide range of support — diplomatic, demographic and military — it offered the young state. Michel Réal. (Quand l’Union soviétique parrainait Israël. Michel Réal . Le Monde Diplomatique September 2014.) Aux origines du soutien soviétique à Israël. Gabriel Gorodetsky. le Monde Diplomatique February 2016.
Livingstone: “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel.”
27 April 2016
Earlier today, JLM National Chair Jeremy Newmark made the following statement about events following the revelation that Naz Shah MP had posted antisemitic statements on Facebook some time before her election as an MP:
“Naz Shah is a politician who is clearly on a political journey, from a Respect firebrand in the choppy waters of local Bradford politics to the Labour Party. She courageously stood up to George Galloway’s bigotry at the General Election. However, her historic remarks and posting were repugnant and completely unacceptable.
Her contrition expressed over the past day seems to be genuine and sincere. This is part of that journey. We are optimistic that she will now take steps to deepen her understanding of Jewish identity. We do not ask or expect her to mute her criticism of the actions and policies of the Israeli government. We do ask and expect her to build upon her apology and contrition with a programme of education and action that includes standing up to anti-Semitism on the left and within the Palestine Solidarity Movement.”
Shortly after this statement was released it was announced that Shah had been suspended. Jeremy Newmark commented:
“The suspension of Naz Shah by the Labour Party is fair and consistent. I hope it will provide the context for a programme of education as we, at JLM, have set out.”
Jim comments on Shiraz Socialist.
It was right and also inevitable that Naz Shah was suspended from the Labour Party following the revelation of anti-Semitic Facebook posts suggesting that Israel should be “relocated to the US” and likening Zionism to al-Qaida (made, incidentally, before she was an MP).
In her defence it should be noted that (1) she made an immediate and unequivocal apology, with no attempt to claim that this was just “anti-Zionism” and (2) she has been brought up in a political culture in which saying offensive things about Jews, Israel and Zionism is considered acceptable and in which many people don’t even recognise that anti-Semitism is much of a problem: check out Ken Livingstone’s reaction, for instance.
(More on site…)
I note in passing that the Facebook post – which Shah did not create – was shared by many people, that it was one of many virulent posts circulating during the Israeli military actions against Gaza.
I, like many, opposed these armed repressive actions, and said so.
If some people got caught up in their emotions and have since, as Shah has, thought through her politics on a democratic basis then all credit to them, and to her.
This response does not help (Politics Home).
Speaking to BBC Radio London, Labour NEC member Ken Livingstone accused the “Israel lobby” of a campaign to smear its critics as anti-Semites, after Labour MP Naz Shah was suspended for sharing a post calling for Israel to be relocated to the United States.
“She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over the top but she’s not anti-Semitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic…
“It’s completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians.
“And there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.”
“As I’ve said, I’ve never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic, but there’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this…
“Let’s look at someone who’s Jewish who actually said something very similar to what Naz has just said. Albert Einstein, when the first leader of Likud, the governing party now in Israel, came to America, he warned American politicians: don’t talk to this man because he’s too similar to the fascists we fought in the Second World War.
“Now, if Naz or myself said that today we would be denounced as anti-Semitic, but that was Albert Einstein.”
He hit back at Lord Levy’s criticism of the leadership’s response to the anti-Semitism storms in Labour.
“After Jeremy became leader I was having a chat with Michael and he said he was very worried because one of his friends who was Jewish had come to him and said ‘the election of Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the same as the first step to the rise of Adolf Hitler to power’.
“Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.”
There are many aspects to this controversy, which has been envenomed by Livingstone’s comments.
One is the claim that some people are deliberately making wild claims about antisemitism on the left which may, as Livingstone alleges, be connected to a broader attack on the socialist left.
This indeed happens and could be seen on Newsnight yesterday.
Lady Neuberger claimed the issue in Labour was “attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader”, and “an issue within the hard left”.
A measure of how wide Neuberger was prepared to extend her net was that she included ‘Militant’, that is the Socialist Party in the charge.
This is a good illustration of just twisted the debate has become.
The Socialist Party has been both an opponent of boycotting Israel and a supporter of the right of the Jewish people to their own state (Boycotts of Israel: Will they help the Palestinians?)
Israeli Jewish workers are also inevitably alarmed when some of the staunchest advocates of boycott action in Britain and elsewhere, such as the SWP, have a record of opposing the right of the Jewish people to their own state. Whereas in the case of South Africa, a majority of black workers there supported international sanctions against the ruling white elite, Israeli workers are not in agreement with sanctions against Israel.
A boycott under these conditions is a mistake, and a gift to the Israeli right.
The Palestinians and the Israeli Jews have a right to their own separate states. But achieving such states, with lasting, peaceful co-existence and decent living standards, will be unviable on a capitalist basis.
The only way that will be possible, will be on the basis of Israeli workers building the workers’ movement in Israel to challenge the power, profit and prestige of the Israeli capitalist class, and of Palestinian workers also building their own united movement.
I would say that the Socialist Party reflects what is in fact the mainstream left position of the issue, although one can be, to say the least, sceptical about the possibility of socialist states in the region.
If many of us are opposed to the policies of the Israeli government, if we are critical and the structures it is built on, we continue to hold to this two-state position. Equally we have every sympathy for the Palestinians, their plight, and efforts to create their own independent state and society.
Another is the fact that in some quarters of the left, notably those influenced by the ‘anti imperialism of fools’, there is a strain of hatred against ‘Zionism’ which shades into antisemitism.
Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler’s support for Zionism indicates that his claim about never hearing anti-Semitic remarks in the Labour Party disproves the widely-held view that he loves the sound of his own voice.
But everybody else heard him.
In response all I can say is that if that if anybody thinks for one fucking minute that the majority of the left, and the part of it the Tendance belongs to, will ever stop fighting antisemitism and will cease from defending the right of the Jewish people to determine their own future and state, and that they have any sympathy for would-be genociders, they are fucking joking.
from the Jewish Socialists’ Group
Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.
Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy beyond the Pale.
Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.
A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.
The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now, did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:
• The Conservative Party
• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources
• Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary Jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative Party, who are running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader David Cameron has referred to desperate refugees, as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.
We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.
While some of the Jewish Socialists’ points about the origins of the present furore are borne out by the facts there remain problems about this statement.
Apart from underestimating the growth of overt antisemitism, not just from stray comments but from full-blown Ant-Semites of the type described by Sartre in Réflexions sur la question juive, this downplays the extent to which by denying the right of Israel to exist at all – and thus of the Jewish people where large numbers wish to – has a coherence within the framework of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.
Support for the view that Socialist Fight’s claims about a ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’ at the heart of world-wide Zionism, may seem a lunatic fringe affair.
But backing, sometimes unconditional, for the Islamist Hamas – which makes no secret about its hatred of the Jewish population in the Middle East – on ‘anti-imperialist’ grounds is much more widespread.
We note that within the Labour Party and the wider left there are strong critics of these positions, and that John McDonell has been sufficiently concerned to issue a declaration calling for there to be no place for antisemitism in the movement.
This careful and lucid examination of the media-famous incidents ignores the points raised in the previous two paragraphs: Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do.
Malia Bouattia: “Condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia.”
Anti-Jewish Riots and Killing in Constantine 1934.
Malia Bouattia, new President of the NUS, stood on a radical grassroots platform and made headlines last year after opposing a motion to condemn Isis reports the Guardian.
The new president is a controversial figure among many students, coming to prominence in the national press after speaking against an NUS motion “to condemn the IS and support Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”.
The motion failed to pass and Bouattia said she had objected to the wording, issuing her own statement expressing solidarity with the Kurds against Islamic State and condemning the group’s “brutal actions”.
“We recognise that condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia,” she said at the time. “This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.”
Obviously this issue interests an audience on the left far wider than the student movement.
A particularly ridiculous response is offered by Lindsey German of Counterfire, who simply ignores the subject of the Kurdish fight and ISIS and states this,
Her most recent profile has been round a series of meetings opposing the government’s Prevent strategy. Her background as someone of Algerian descent gives her a first-hand knowledge of imperialism and racism. That means she understands the concerns of many of the students she will be representing.
The backlash against her has begun on day one. She will need all the support and solidarity that she can get. But today marks a victory for those who oppose war and racism. And a defeat for those who don’t.
We note that anybody from an Algerian background, which saw a civil war in 1991 break out between the repressive Algiers state and violent Islamism (MIA, GIA, GSPC and the still active, Al–Qaïda au Maghreb islamique, AQMI) should express a position not just on imperialism and racism, and not only the blood-drenched Algerian military, but on a very specific type of racism and persecution: that embodied in various forms of Islamism (Guerre civile algérienne).
This is what she says,
….describing how her family had been forced to flee civil war in Algeria when she was child .
“I know too well the price of terrorism, the consequences of racism and oppression,” said Ms Bouattia, a leading figure in the Students Not Suspects campaign against the Prevent anti-terrorism agenda.
“I saw a country ripped apart by terror and was forced into exile,” she explained, adding: “I know too well the damage done by racism and persecution.”
She explained how her university lecturer father was almost killed by a bomb and her school had been attacked by gun-wielding militia, causing her family to flee.
“I know many of you will have seen my name dragged through the mud by rightwing media, and might think I am a terrorist and my politics driven by hate,” she said, adding: “How wrong that is.”
Bouattia comes from Constantine, Algeria.
The city is also infamous for the French far-right Parti Social Français, PSF, and their successful efforts to incite Muslims against Algerian Jews that led to the antisemitic pogrom of 1936 (link gives another version of the causes) in which 25-34 Jews were killed and some 200 stores were pillaged. There is a long history of anti-Semitic activity in Algeria (by both pieds-noirs and Muslims) and the Vichy regime instituted official anti Jewish legislation.
In the present example 1941 around 18 to 20% of the City’s population were Jewish.
There have been no Jewish community in Constantine since the end of the Algerian war of Independence.
We would be interested to hear her views on this and more details about her – horrific – experiences in Algeria.
Indeed we would be curious to know how the Algerian civil war was a creation of ‘imperialism’.
But it is about a contemporary Islamist movement, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that the present controversy has erupted.
Here is the background: Report on that Motion (2014) by Daniel Lemberger Cooper
Two motions debated at NUS NEC
The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/Palestine. I urge you to read the motions before continuing.
The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).
The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.
(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)
Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?
The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.
The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.
The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.
The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.
These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.
The situation is desperate.
In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.
It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.
However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!
It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive criteria – solidarity with the oppressed.
Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world
The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty published a short time afterwards some important qualifications about this report: Fact and fiction about the Kurdistan row in NUS.
Daniel Cooper: I objected to Malia opposing the motion on Iraq proposed by me, Shreya Paudel and Clifford Fleming, and responded to her claims that it was Islamophobic and pro-imperialist. Some people have claimed I misrepresented Malia. The only justification I have heard for this is, firstly, that I did not state that Malia condemned ISIS. That is because it was so blindingly obvious: before the right-wing attacks on Malia, the idea that anyone on NUS NEC would not condemn ISIS had not even occurred to me. And, secondly, that I failed to report that Malia offered to support a different motion on Kurdistan at the next NEC if it fitted with her politics. Whether or not I should have reported this or not, it is hardly decisive! Does anyone seriously believe that if I had stated either of these things it would have prevented right wingers distorting and making use of what I wrote?
The AWL now comment,
The controversy surrounding Bouattia’s attitudes to Islamism and to anti-semitism over the last two weeks is not simply a matter of interpreting this or that comment at a meeting, or exchange on the internet. It has deeper political roots, which we are precisely attempting to sketch out here
Last year, Bouattia denounced a left-wing motion to NUS NEC in support of the Kurdish national liberation struggle as “racist” and “imperialist” and helped get it voted down. This sparked wide criticism from Kurdish and left-wing students, but when some right wingers including in the press noticed this and tried to whip up a storm against her by absurdly and shamefully portraying her as a supporter of Daesh, she responded by whipping up a storm against the proposer of the motion, Workers’ Liberty comrade Daniel Cooper.
We remind the movement of this because we believe that Bouattia behaved like a petty and unprincipled factionalist, putting her resentment at her bad luck, her prestige and the chance to attack a political grouping she doesn’t like above the massive issue of the Kurdish struggle. Although the NEC eventually, two months later, passed a motion about Kurdistan, NUS circles spent far more time and energy on the row than on supporting the Kurds. So much for anti-imperialism!
We have little confidence that an NUS led by Malia Bouattia would be more habitable for political minorities and dissenters, more democratic or more serious about political debate and discussion than one led by Megan Dunn.
There remain a host of other issues about the new NUS President, not least the fact that some on this left backed her.
That is a matter for students.
The Gerry Downing-Socialist Fight style anti-imperialism of fools which led, and justified a rejection do support for the Kurdish people in their hour of need signals a broader problem.
The central question for a wider activist public is: what is Bouattia’s stand on Islamism?
How does she qualify, judge and assess the different Islamist movements?
If she does not support the misguided state ‘Prevent’ strategy does she offer any other way of combatting and fighting these anti-working class, anti-liberal, anti-feminist, anti-left, and violent groups?
Zionists to the Gulag: the “excellent Houria Bouteldja (Richard Seymour).
The left-wing political scientist, Thomas Guénolé, recently (18th March) rowed with the spokesperson of the Parti des Indigènes de la République, Houria Bouteldja on the French television (France 2) programme, “Ce soir (ou jamais !)” sur France 2 (Atlantico).
He took out a photo of her posing with the slogan, Zionists to the Gulag (note, which adds, Peace, mais gulag quand même, but Gulag even so).
“si une femme noire se fait violer par un homme noire, il est légitime qu’elle ne porte pas plainte pour protéger la communauté noire”.
If a black women is raped by a black man, it’s right that she does not go to the police in order to protect the black community.”
On gays, “comme chacun sait, la tarlouze n’est pas tout à fait un homme. l’arabe qui perd sa puissance virile n’est plus un homme”.
Everybody knows that a poof is not completely a man, the Arab who loses his potency is no longer a man”.
Her reply was to state that she couldn’t give a toss what Guénolé thought, and that his fundamental accusation against her was that she was not white.
Now is the time to return to a critical examination of the ideas of this person and her group.
Houria Bouteldja, the “excellent Houria Bouteldja” as Richard Seymour calls her (here), is the spokesperson for the Indigènes de la République. She is known to the American left from the reprinting of their statements by the International Socialist Organization, and a star article, with Malik Tahar Chaouch, translated by somebody who should have known better (The Unity Trap) in the oddly named Jacobin, which claims to be ‘reason in revolt”.
Her group, which opposes “race-mixing” and attacks the “philo-Semitism” of the French State, amongst many other criticisms of ‘Jews’ and ‘Zionists’ has also received a respectful audience in Britain, including a ‘Blog’ and billing at meetings of the Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Commission. Verso has published a book recently criticising French secularism by one of the Indigènes’ ‘white’ supporters, the former leftist and self-styled ‘feminist’ Christine Delphy..
Rumours that an English version of Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous is in preparation at Verso, with an introduction by Ian Donovan have been strongly denied.
This is not a translation of Segré’s tonic review of Bouteldja but a discussion of some key points. The article begins with a summary of the authoress’ views which will perhaps explain that the prospect of a full account of the text – after all a honest attempt to make intelligible a picture of the world that bears comparison with such landmark thinkers as David Icke – would be hard to accomplish. But we salute comrade Sergé for having waded through this singular oeuvre. This is just to make known to an English speaking audience some of his main points
Sergè provides an outline of the Bouteldja contribution to historical materialism. White imperialism since the key date of 1492 is structured by racial inequality. With this legacy imprinted across every ‘white’ society, legislation for equality puts ‘whites’ (blancs) first and relegates the “indigenes” (indigenous, that is, native American, African Blacks, Arabs from the Maghreb from 1830, and the peoples of Asia). As part of this process white women’s rights have been obtained through both their owns struggle and through the existence of imperialism.
The fault lines lie deep. The French declaration of Human Rights (first version, 1789) was inspired by the African Declaration of Independence of 1776, created on the basis of the massacre of the indigenous population. Indelibly marked by its murdering, enslaving colonial origins the bourgeoisie invented the category of the white race to divide, and to prevent any alliance with its indigenous slaves. For those in the Third World today even those of immigrant descent, including herself, are ‘white’ from the fact of living in (imperialist) Europe.
Amongst the many discoveries Bouteldja makes during her exploration of the history of ‘white’ imperialism is Sartre. He is the incarnation of the French left, even the revolutionary left. As such, in the allegory for the history of that left, he was botha fighter against French colonialism and a supporter of the creation of the state of Israel. The author of Réflexions sur la Question Juive, was a ‘Zionist’. That affiliation cannot be tolerated: “Fusillez Sartre !” (shoot Sartre!). The thought could be developed…..Sartre is an emblem, a symbol of the gauche Française. Should they also be shot?
It can be seen that Boutelja has a keen interest in the ‘Jewish Question’. For her, anti-Zionism is the crucial issue: confrontation between the indigènes and the ‘whites’, a clash over the State of Israel, is the site of a historic battle between “us” (her side) and “you” – well, you. She reveals the Jewish task, “they have been chosen by the West” for three cardinal missions: to settle the crisis of moral legitimacy for the white world – the result of the Nazi genocide – to sub-contract republican (that is, French) racism, and to be the armed wing of Western imperialism in the Arab world. (“élus, par l’Occident », et cela « pour trois missions cardinales » : « résoudre la crise de légitimité morale du monde blanc, conséquence du génocide nazi, sous-traiter le racisme républicain et enfin être le bras armé de l’impérialisme occidental dans le monde arabe » (p. 51).
From the – reasonable – point that the Shoah was an extension of colonial barbarity into Europe itself, the zoological view of history as a struggle for mastery between ‘races’ that would resort to extermination – to the other two ‘missions’ is not a leap, but a change of topic. Bouteldja considers that the “Arab essence” and ‘Arab land” is colonised by the Jews – Israel- as a result of a conscious ‘white’ decision, “they have offered Israel to you.”
It is without surprise that we learn that Bouteldja rejects “white rationality”.
This is the leading Indigène’s alternative: Allah Akbar! “In Islam divine transcendence induces humility and a continuous awareness of transience. The wishes, the projects of the faithful are marked by cries of ‘in cha Allah’. We begin one day and we will end one day. Only the all-powerful is eternal. Nobody can rise up against Him. Only the proud believe that they can. From this pathology of pride are born the blasphemous theories of the superiority of Whites over non-Whites, of the superiority of men over women, of the superiority of the human race over animals and nature. One does not need to be a believer to interpret this philosophy and apply it to the mundane. (*)
Followers of the Qu’ran have never been known to practice slavery and religious or racical superiority….
The Charnel House has published an excellent translation of earlier critique of this group: Toward a materialist approach to the question of race: A response to the Indigènes de la République.
* … Allahou akbar ! Et il ajoute : Il n’y a de Dieu que Dieu. En islam, la transcendance divine ordonne l’humilité et la conscience permanente de l’éphémère. Les vœux, les projets de ses fidèles ne sont-ils pas tous ponctués par ‘in cha Allah’ ? Nous commençons un jour et nous finissons un jour. Seul le Tout-Puissant est éternel. Personne ne peut lui disputer le pouvoir. Seuls les vaniteux le croient. De ce complexe de la vanité, sont nées les théories blasphématoires de la supériorité des Blancs sur les non-Blancs, de la supériorité des hommes sur les femmes, de la supériorité des hommes sur les animaux et la nature. Nul besoin d’être croyant pour interpréter cette philosophie d’un point de vue profane » (p. 132).