Yesterday, 27 September 2017, The (London) Times (‘Red Box’/Comments section) published a succinct ‘comments’/article by Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, headed:
‘HOW MANY MORE TIMES MUST WE CONDEMN ANTISEMITISM IN LABOUR’
I may be asked by Karen and/or The Times to remove the article from this blog for reasons of copyright – I hope not:
“This time last year I wrote for Red Box a piece headlined How has it come to this? that outlined my shock and dismay that I was finding myself having to defend the truth of the Holocaust at a political party conference.
I thought – or at least hoped – this was an exceptional circumstance, a one off, an aberration.
At the time, I couldn’t quite believe I was having to defend the basics of the events of the Holocaust. Or that I had to explain why there are not two sides to this story. Or that I had to explain why this constituted antisemitism. Above all, I couldn’t believe that those casting doubt about the truth of the Holocaust were not being widely condemned.
And yet here we are, one year on.
Maybe this year we’ll call this piece Here we go again or Déjà vu.
There has been progress, for example the work led by the Jewish Labour Movement, to try and establish a rule change which will make discrimination against any minority group a named offence in the Labour rule book, including antisemitism.
But we need to take an honest look at where we are.
Ken Livingstone is still a member of the Labour party, even after claiming that there was “real collaboration” between Jewish people and the Nazis – a pernicious and highly offensive remark.
We have elected Labour politicians suggesting that antisemitism has been “weaponised” – a suggestion that it is being used to promote some other agenda.
And we even have activists handing out material at the Labour party conference quoting Reinhard Heydrich, one of the leading architects of the Final Solution.
How many times do we need to explain the hurt and offence that it causes when people question the truth of the Holocaust? How many times do we need to explain that there are survivors – who lost their homes, communities and entire families – still among us, who register these comments with disbelief?
How many times do we have to defend basic truths that should be considered sacrosanct?
We have all been alarmed by the rise of the far-right around the world in recent months, culminating in the terrible events in Charlottesville in August. And equally we worry about the far-right gains in the German elections for the first time in decades.
Yet, it is all too easy to point the finger at events elsewhere – sometimes we need to look in our own backyards and admit where the problems lie. And there are problems here.
We need our political leaders, from all parties, to take a stand and say when a line has been crossed. We need to be clear that antisemitism will not be tolerated, and it needs to be reflected in concrete action. We need our leaders to be clear that they will not stand by as the truth of the Holocaust is undermined on their watch.
Maybe next year Red Box won’t need me to comment on the Labour party and antisemitism. I truly hope so.”
One of the comments on the article, posted on The Times Online, is this:
“I loathe Ken Livingstone and have no time for people who whisper denigrating comments about Jews (which I hear from time to time, well outside of Labour Party affairs, in which I take no part).
But I still have not had any reasonable perspective offered, on how one addresses revulsion at the state of Israel’s political practices, especially but not exclusively its treatment of Palestinians, without being anti-Semitic. You can be disgusted by a state but not have hatred towards its people.”
“If you are “disgusted” by the State of Israel, I would see that very differently from you having an issue with the policies of Netanyahu’s Government – two very different things! I am no fan of Netanyahu and I do not believe that he is a leader who can lead us to a better future (neither I do believe that Abbas can or will lead his people to a better future – for a start, he could stop financially rewarding the families of killers like the terrorists who killed 3 Israelis yesterday and he could stop the sort of celebrations that occur in Palestinian villages when such atrocities are perpetrated).
BOTH sides need new, courageous leaders who genuinely want peace for Israelis and Palestinians, i.e. an Israeli leader who wants peace for BOTH and a Palestinian leader who wants peace for BOTH. However, if you were to vilify Netanyahu but not other leaders in the region, and elsewhere, who are guilty of horrendous acts of violence, again, I would call that hypocrisy bigotry and antisemitism. For instance, I see very little mention anywhere of the fact that about 800,000 Jews were expelled from, or had to leave, Arab countries in the 20th Century. Do you know about the massacre of Jews in Hebron in 1919? Did you know that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem enjoyed friendly chats with Hitler? The biggest example of this bigotry, racism and hypocrisy is the United Nations. Atrocities all over the world but it devotes the vast majority of its time to criticising Israel.
It is beyond argument that antizionism is, on the whole, a vehicle, today’s vehicle, for, as I think I said before, spreading antisemitism around the world. It is possible to have an issue with the very concept of the state of Israel without being antisemitic but I believe that it’s rare because what one is saying in that scenario is that he/she does not believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. The vast majority of, for instance, members of the DBS are, to a lesser or greater extent, antisemitic. Antisemites like to socialise with their own and they can be sure that if they cosy up next to a bunch of BDS ‘campaigners’, they’ll be amongst friends! I’ve seen calm people try to engage DBS rabble rousers in informative, educational debate but they are shouted down – they will not listen. They are blinkered by their racism.
I hope that the above helps to provide some clarification.
Have a good evening.”
No reply by the guy has been published.
Also yesterday, I was reading about the odious Ken Loach (or as I call him, Ken Loach, the cockroach), his rejection of the accusation that antisemitism is rampant in the Labour Party (ironic that as antisemitism is rearing its ugly head in the Party, Loach returns to it) and his comments on Holocaust ‘denial’:
Why do I bother??!! I knew what would follow….
Someone tweeted in reply a comment to this effect (he seems to have deleted the tweet!):
“Leave them alone, they’re good, kind people who care about other people….”,
to which I replied:
“David Irving?!?!?! and that toad Loach who denied the holocaust today. Did the victims tattoo their own arms?”
He went quiet for a few minutes and then he tweeted this:
“Save your bile for a Tory Gov’t responsible for freezing the elderly, making the disabled suffer & killing people over the past seven years.”
I left the ‘conversation’ there – the guy, at best, doesn’t care about antisemitism or, at worse, he, himself, is as antisemitic as David Irving so, either way, it wasn’t worth me spending another second of my time on him.
This guy’s profile on Twitter:
Now, objectively, your own politics aside, regardless of whether or not you think, for example, that pacifism is bonkers and is just another word for appeasement or surrender, that’s not the point – the point is this:
‘humanist’, ‘socialist’, ‘pacifist’
You are unlikely to associate those characteristics with someone who doesn’t care about antisemitism or who is antisemitic (not really any difference between the two). I have NO doubt that if I’d tweeted about the injustices of other forms of racism and bigotry, he’d have been tweeted:
“It’s terrible, it’s terrible, we must do something about it….”
And what about Corbyn in all of this, if – just if – he’s not antisemitic himself, why does he, a supposed anti-racist, why does he ‘enable’ it in his Party, why does he let it run amok (the Chakrabarti Peerage sickening scandal reflected his position)? I believe that he, and millions around the world, see Jews as being the ones with their hands on the tiller, they see Jews as being a piece in the jigsaw of globalisation and capitalism and, therefore, we are ‘fair game’, Jews, they believe, are the perpetrators, not the victims, of globalisation and capitalism – and, in their eyes and warped minds, Israel is a reflection of the Jews’ ‘expansion’. Corbyn et al hate globalisation, they see winners and losers, they believe that the winners win by trampling on the losers and they see the Jews as doing the trampling – the old antisemitic trope is alive and well! ALL political (and religious) extremism is dangerous, Far Right and Far Left. It’s a misconception to think that the Far Right has a monopoly on populist hate-fill demagoguery – it’s on the Far Left, too!
This is antisemitism and, to this supposed humanist, socialist and pacifist, it’s irrelevant. It is crucial that we, as Jews, and we, as part of a society of people who genuinely care about the human rights of all members of society, it is crucial that we appreciate the importance of the above observation.
Antisemitism is everywhere, not just in groups of skinheads wearing a white t-shirt emblazoned with swastikas, not just in pockets of the Lib Dem Party (how long did the Party prevaricate before suspending the repellent Jenny Tonge? I don’t think they expelled her….), not just in the Far Rights groupings of the Tory Party, no, it’s alive and thriving in Corbyn’s Labour Party which is all the more tragic considering that the Labour Party (of old) was the ‘natural’ political home of the UK Jewish Community. Oh, and with the reference to Jenny Tonge in mind, I believe that Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said some time ago that if she wanted to join his Party, she’d be welcome.
I made Aliyah, from the UK, with my family in 2012, just over 5 years ago. At the time, I was ‘frum’ (religiously observant) – I appreciate it’s a relative term, so to clarify, modern da’ati (for the unacquainted, religious but not beard, black hat, all the garb). I had ‘blind faith’, I ‘believed’, and part of the reason, my personal reason, for wanting to make Aliyah was my Judaism, my wish to live in the (religiously speaking) Jewish ‘Homeland’. My wife still ‘believes’, the kids go with the family, or my wife’s, flow, but I’ve lost it – completely. I don’t believe in god, I think that religion is a dangerous, divisive anachronism blah blah blah…This has caused me a problem. One of the reasons for my making Aliyah, just one, but a big one, no longer exists – one of my motivations for moving here was my religion and now that it has gone, practically speaking, I don’t have that to help me feel comfortable and at home here.
Carrying on from “religion is a dangerous, divisive anachronism”, it’s no surprise that I believe that the separation of Church and State is crucial if a State is going to be democratic (for me, religion is incompatible with religion), if a State is going to be fully-inclusive and is going to respect human rights. The moment the leader of a country, a Prime Minister, a President, takes orders from a supernatural being, the moment he/she believes that he/she is being instructed by a supernatural being to run a country in a certain way, when he/she forms policy on the basis of what a ‘god’ told him/her to do, i.e. when no human being, no person, can influence him/her otherwise, there’s trouble ahead!
Where does that leave me vis a vis Israel as a Jewish State (a question which might have occurred to you)?
(Stick with me here….there is a “but….”)
On the one hand – just the one hand! – there is part of me which thinks that after WWII, Jews, if they’d been thinking rationally (of course, rationale and religion don’t sit comfortably together), they’d have realised that there is no god, that, therefore, the whole Jewish thing, clearly wrong (religiously) should be binned and we, as a people, should assimilate fully into societies across the globe (yes, I know, not everyone wanted us). Following this train of thought, no god, religion dangerous and anachronistic, the importance of the separation of Church and State, there is no space for the idea, the concept, of a Jewish State….
I’ve been expanding my thinking over the last few days, been questioning my own definition of Israel.
As aforementioned, antizionism, the denial of the Jewish People’s ‘right’ to self-determination, particularly against the backdrop of 20th Century history, it, on the whole, goes hand in hand with antisemitism. Antizionism is the vehicle which antisemites use to drag their antisemitism around or it’s a politically acceptable cloak under which hides the racists’ antisemitism. Israel fulfils that important role for antisemites. Rather than attack us as Jews directly and personally, antisemites can do it indirectly, under cover, by attacking and vilifying Israel. On this basis, we’d be in a far worse mess if we didn’t have Israel standing as a buffer between the antisemites and ourselves!
So, taking that forward, as I abhor any and all bigotry and hatred, and regardless of whether or not Jews binned Judaism and Jewish identity, the haters will never let us forget that we are Jews (they want to kill us, they don’t want us to take that pleasure away from them), the fact that the attacks and slurs against Israel are antisemitic, are racist, THAT is my motivation for standing up for the State of Israel. If I walk away from Israel on the basis that I don’t believe in the concept of a Jewish State, if I walk away just because I believe that it’s a nonsense to argue that a supernatural being gave us the land, I am walking away from the bigotry, the racism, the hatred, the antisemitism directed at Jews via the medium of Israel.
Netanyahu’s Government policies are not a matter for this blog but I will repeat that I think he’s a poor leader – I think he’s stale and antagonistic towards the Palestinians and I don’t believe that he’s genuinely interested in a two-State solution but I feel the same way about the PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The mindsets have to change – cut out the religion, the “God gave it to us” game of tennis, backwards, forwards, backwards, forwards…we need to think in secular, pragmatic, human terms. We need to introduce the concept of ‘sharing’ into the negotiations. Decades, centuries, of brainwashing and indoctrination, on both sides, have made it very, very difficult to break the cycle of violence, intolerance, hatred and mistrust, the deadlock, but that is the direction in which he have to go. Too many people, on both sides of the divide, and further afield, have interests in keeping the hostilities going. In order to sideline these negative forces, a lot of bridge-building work will have to be done by ‘ordinary’ people, by that I mean people who are not ‘in power’, ‘ordinary’ people with ‘extraordinary’ talents and abilities, with courage, humanity and belief in their fellow-man and a better future. Today’s ‘leaders’ are a lot more interested in their personal positions, their own power, than in the people for whom they are supposed to be working.
Reasons to be cheerful? I don’t know. I find myself in a place of despondency at the moment.
Reasons to be here, yes, I think so…