A cure for the summertime blues

Last summer was Labour’s most difficult one since Jeremy Corbyn got elected leader. Politics had been paralysed by Brexit. That paralysis was a deliberate Tory strategy to diffuse the energy and passion of the insurgency through which Labour won back millions of voters in the 2017 election campaign. The Tories used that Brexit-focused paralysis to stifle debate of any other contentious issues. Corbyn’s “centrist”, ie right wing, opponents within the party played along to weaken Corbyn’s position. In spring 2018, a “crisis” around accusations of historical antisemitism deliberately timed and engineered by a diverse range of pro-Tory and pro-Zionist  forces, drew in various anti-Corbyn elements ,

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Defector Berger

(especially Luciana Berger who has since defected, having inflicted maximum damage). This limited the impact Labour could make in the local elections in May 2018. Gains that they made nationally were offset against relatively poor results in a small number of councils and particular wards. These were repeatedly attributed by mainstream media to Labour’s “failure” to stamp out antisemitism.

Once those elections were done, the accusations magically started to fade. Newspapers who apparently had no trouble finding several “antisemitism” stories a week to generate screaming front page headlines in the run up to those elections, were running out of material by June and were just recycling tired, old accusations. Labour were lulled into thinking they were over the worst for the moment.

Far from it. Their opponents used June and July 2018 to store up potential cases, just as they are surely doing right now. When last year’s summer recess came, the Tories breathed a sigh of relief. They were still standing, battered and disunited, but without excessive scrutiny of their lack of progress on key domestic issues as well as Brexit. And whilst the antisemitism allegations were almost entirely focused on social media posts, attributed shutterstock_1086217508to Labour or Corbyn fans (often without proof), the Windrush scandal which surfaced in early April, and claimed Amber Rudd’s scalp, was all but drowned out. This scandal was so much bigger than loose or OTT language in a tweet that could be labelled as “antisemitism”. Windrush reflected cruel government policies over several years, the Hostile Environment, centrally implicating Theresa May, which had devastating and dehumanising real life impacts especially on Britain’s longstanding Caribbean community.

No doubt Labour was looking forward to getting out and about during last summer and creating a stir in the marginal seats, exposing the government ‘s failures and putting forward its own clear and costed transformative policies. But it didn’t work out like that.

Tory politicians went off for their holidays but left a key task for the Tory-friendly media: to find and publish as many new smears around Labour and antisemitism as possible. The national newspaper headlines and the BBC radio headlines were dominated almost every day through the summer recess by distorted and invented slurs against the Labour Party viz-a-viz Jews, which in most cases had little substance, but spread the poison.

This summer it is essential that Labour is well prepared for a similar onslaught, has a strategy to manage that inevitable attack, and finds a way to get its own positive agenda and radical policies into the headlines. At the same time it needs to re-invigorate its younger constituency, whose energy and commitment has been sapped by the stifling effect of the stalemate over Brexit and the failure of Labour to articulate its complex but principled policy in relation to Brexit in a convincing and positive way.

Labour needs to be confident about quickly identifying and dealing with real antisemitic incidents (there are some), while also being confident about condemning the cynical way that its opponents are trivialising it by using it as a factional political weapon.

Labour needs to call their bluff.  It needs to show that whilst the Labour Party has been speaking out against racist and fascist tendencies nationally and internationally, antisemitism in society has grown on Theresa May’s watch as have much more frequent instances of racism against Muslim communities and several other minorities. It needs to seize the moral high-ground and say this is hardly surprising given the alliances the Tory Party has with Trump and with very right wing antisemitic and Islamophobic parties in Europe. The Labour Party needs to emphasise that they wish to work with the Jewish community and other minority communities in tackling the threat of the Far Right together. And if the self-proclaimed “leaders” of the Jewish community are so blinkered and prejudiced that they refuse to play ball, then Labour should not plead with them, but go over their heads and build links with grassroots Jewish bodies who will.

Labour has to speak loudly and directly about the problems directly facing young people ZeroHoursImage– knife crime, zero-hours contracts, student fees, housing problems, and tap into the militancy they are showing especially around climate change. Labour’s positive statements towards the school students striking over the climate emergency, and their determination to lead a green industrial revolution have shown the way to go.

Labour has developed a set of great policies in the last three years, but hasn’t always promoted them as sharply as they could. These have to be promoted in ways that play up the fundamental class divides in British society, that illustrate the real fault lines which are much bigger and more significant than Leave/Remain. Labour needs to be controversial. Corbyn got a brilliant response when he talked before the 2017 election about the “rigged system” and how he would refuse to “play by the rules”. He got a similar response when he said more recently that the bankers are right to be scared of him. We need so much more of this, and not from Corbyn alone.

In this respect the likely coronation of a blunder-prone, racist liar, right wing populist and fan of Trump, as leader of the Tory Party, opens new opportunities to challenge forcefully his cutting and privatising agenda around the NHS, education, social care, youth provision, the environment, workers’ rights, council housing, legal aid, public ownership etc as well as challenging his racism head on and promoting a range of serious plans on equalities issues.

But, if Johnson wins, it also creates new dynamics around the Labour strategy re Brexit. We are in the endgame now, faced with an opponent who is actively seeking a “No-Deal Brexit” that will inflict enormous damage on ordinary people’s livelihoods. Labour has to champion those people. Its challenge is to do so in a way that enthuses, energises and draws in enough support across the Remain/Leave divide, while sidelining the purists, the “ultras”, on either side who stereotype their opponents but offer no solutions. And it must fully

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Laura Pidcock

utilise the most powerful emerging talents such as Rebecca Long -Bailey, Laura Pidcock, Richard Burgon and Dan Carden, alongside stalwarts such as Dianne Abbott and John McDonnell in doing so.

If Hunt wins the Tory race, and tries to show he is more moderate and less personally obnoxious than Johnson, much of this still stands. Hunt represents class privilege and a privatising agenda too, but the key now, whoever Labour face, is to sharpen up Labour’s messages and take them out to the public, especially in the key Tory/Labour marginals in the Midlands and the North of England. This time, there is a cure at hand for the summertime blues, and the prize will be a government of social justice sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

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Never forget – except when it comes to Trump?

US President Donald Trump arrived in London today. Labour politicians, such as Jeremy Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 12.00.18Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry and Sadiq Khan have led the way in decrying this invitation to him on the basis of his record of racist statements and actions.

Leading figures from minority communities have spoken out, but there is a strange silence from those who regard themselves, and are treated by the government and media, as Jewish community leaders.

These include organisations who show a special interest in digging out antisemitic material posted on social media, and Facebook posts, tweets and memes in relation to Israel (often contested) that they regard as antisemitic.

Do they not remember the social media behaviour of the US President in the run up to the vote that elected him?

trump meme clinton star of davidHave they forgotten the meme he used from a far-right/white supremacist site showing Hilary Clinton against a backdrop of dollar bills with the comment “most corrupt candidate ever” encased in a 6-pointed Star of David?

Have they forgotten that in November 2017 he was retweeting Islamophobic tweets from Britain First – a fascist group that splintered from the BNP, not to mention the several times he retweeted from far-right neo-Nazi accounts such as @WhiteGenocideTM, whose profile locates the account holder in “Jewmerica”?

Have they blanked out of their minds his astonishing comment about “very fine people” at the Charlottesville protests, where alongside anti-black racism, hundreds of marchers were chanting “Jews will not replace us”?

Do they not recall one of the last videos that Trump put out just before the presidential Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 11.50.27election that fingered three wealthy Jews — George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein – in which he railed against “those who control the levers of power in Washington”, the “global special interests” who “do not have your good in mind”?

The silence of the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council, the Chief Rabbi, and the Campaign Against Antisemitism over Donald Trump’s visit is absolutely shameful.

No to antisemitism and all racism, and no to hypocrisy

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), rightly supports Palestinians facing daily racism and every repressive and deliberately humiliating facet of occupation. It supports the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the land from which they were ethnically cleansed. It has occasionally had to deal with so-called supporters who have joined the organisation as a cover for their antisemitic worldview. And it has acted against them.

Just coincidentally, in the run-up to a national Palestine demonstration this weekend (assembling at Portland Place 12 noon), that bastion of anti-racism, the Evening Standard, has investigated the output of PSC’s local branches and claims to have uncovered antisemitism expressed by some members or supporters of PSC.

On the face of it some of these claims are regrettably true, others are instead crudely expressed opposition to Zionism/Israeli repression rather than antisemitism. But as regards the real cases it would have been better if they had been challenged and dealt with when they occurred. Hopefully they will be dealt with now.

afif_headshotAfif Safieh, the PLO representative in London during the 1990s, who set about building close relations with Jewish supporters of human rights, always condemned antisemitism in the clearest terms, and repeatedly told Palestinians and their supporters that antisemites are no friends of the Palestinians or the Jews. PSC would be well advised to act decisively, as it has done in the past, against individuals trying to piggy-back their just struggle for antisemitic purposes.

The Board of Deputies,  are nothing if not predictable. As well as condemning PSC, they are calling on Jeremy Corbyn to dissociate himself from the organisation. Corbyn has supported PSC for decades precisely because of their opposition to racism and because of their advocacy of human rights and equality. He supports PSC for the very same reasons that his Conservative political opponents, with their longstanding record of friendship with racist regimes, largely do not support Palestinians, any more than they supported black victims of South African apartheid.

As for the Board of Deputies, well, we know they are anti-racists… (the sentence is not finished yet)… when it suits them. They will condemn most antisemitism, but not the institutional racism in Israel against Ethiopian and Mizrachi Jews. They say nothing when Netanyahu-supporters here tell left-wing Jews to “go back to Auschwitz” or call them “kapos”. They treat with kid-gloves the antisemitism expressed by Netanyahu’s closest allies in central and Eastern Europe.

They will condemn Islamophobia in British society but will not go as far as supporting Muslim organisations who have rightly called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party. They will tread ever so carefully when it comes to questioning the Tory Party’s real and verifiable links and alliances with right wing and far right antisemitic parties in Europe, and often choose to say nothing at all.

And who can forget how the Board’s previous president, Jonathan Arkush, rushed to tryScreen Shot 2019-05-08 at 19.38.07 and be first to congratulate Donald Trump on becoming US President, despite his open Islamophobia, anti-Mexican racism, anti-refugee rhetoric and actions, a lifetime of hanging out with white supremacists and his frequent use of the White Power hand signal.

Many Jews will be joining the march on Saturday for Palestinian rights too, or expressing solidarity with the marchers – not because they are antisemites – but because for them, racism is absolutely indivisible. Any kind of racism is wrong, whether expressed against Jews or any minorities, including those who profess to support progressive causes. It is also  wrong when it is expressed by the Israeli Government against Palestinians through the Apartheid Jewish Nation State law, or in the repeated acts of incitement and violence by settlers against Palestinians.

Do take a minute to recall who was the guest of honour in Israel on the day that the execrable  Nation State law was passed – the antisemitic and Islamophobic Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orban,. And he will be Donald Trump’s guest next Monday. Despite Pittsburgh, despite the synagogue shooting in San Diego, both carried out by far right white supremacists, despite Trump and Orban’s shared conspiracy theories about the Hungarian Jew George Soros, don’t hold your breath waiting for the Board of Deputies to speak out.

The silence has got to end

Less than 24 hours after it emerged that leading Tory Brexiteers “jokingly” refer to themselves as “Grand Wizards” – a term borrowed from the Ku Klux Klan, the former Tory Undersecretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Suella Braverman, told a meeting in London this morning: “We are engaged in a war against cultural marxism. We’re engaged in a battle against socialism”.

That Tory politicians think the Ku Klux Klan is a subject for puerile humour tells us just how little Black people’s lives matter for them. Klan members, of course, also propagate Nazi-style antisemitism.

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Suella Braverman

As for “Cultural Marxism” this is a term popularised by far right, white supremacist, antisemitic, conspiracy theorists, directed initially at the mainly Jewish Frankfurt School Marxists whom they accused of undermining the Western world. It was a term liberally used by Anders Breivik, the neo-Nazi who massacred 69 young socialists at a youth camp in Norway in July 2011 and eight others in a separate car-bombing two hours earlier.

If this doesn’t persuade those spokespersons who claim to lead the Jewish community to pause their all-out war on Jeremy Corbyn – a politician whose anti-racism pulses through his veins – and to look at the kind of ideological world that the right-wing of the the Conservative Party now inhabits, then perhaps nothing will.

Some mainstream Jewish and Israeli newspapers have at least picked up on the “Cultural Marxism” references but from the Board of Deputies of British Jews there is silence on this matter. It is not that they are taking a day off today they have been busy tweeting away. Because today is a special day for them, almost ranking as a new Jewish holiday.

One year ago today, the Board of Deputies (BoD), then led by the Donald Trump admirer,  Jonathan Arkush, had his finest hour. He was teaming up with the Jewish Leadership Council, Tory Politicians, and the then Labour politician, Luciana Berger, to organise the “Enough is Enough” anti-Corbyn demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Given that part of their rhetoric was to allege that Corbyn has shared platforms with people of very questionable views, Arkush and Co seemed intensely relaxed at taking support on that demonstration from Norman ‘cricket-test’ Tebbit and a host of bigoted DUP MPs.

At the time I drew attention to the “stench of hypocrisy” surrounding this event welcomed so wholeheartedly by the Tory Party and the Tory-supporting press, given the direct and verifiable links of the Tory Party with antisemitic and Islamophobic parties and governments in Europe, such as Orban’ Fidesz party in Hungary, Law and Justice in Poland, the Sweden Democrats, not to mention the National Alliance in Latvia whose members recently supported the annual parade of Latvian Waffen SS veterans. The Board of Deputies has registered little more than a murmur of concern regarding Orban. In Europe antisemitism and Islamophobia ride in tandem yet the BoD refuse to support the calls of Baroness Warsi and a host of Muslim organisations for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party. They seem to regard anti-racism as a “pick and choose” activity. It is not.

But beyond the so-called “jokes” about the murderous KKK, and the casual antisemitism in fhostile-environmentar right tropes about “cultural marxism”, there is the brutality of the Hostile Environment for black and brown minorities in Britain, invented by Theresa May and renewed just as viciously by Sajid Javid, with May’s approval.

We are one year on from the “Enough is Enough” demonstration. We are also just over a year on from when the Windrush Scandal was exposed. Antisemitism is growing in British society alongside other racist hatreds and bigotry. All of this is happening on the watch of the Tory Party. But the only media focus on racism is on allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party – an issue inflated by false allegations parroted by a compliant media. (Of Margaret Hodge’s recently submitted 200 cases only 20 involved Labour Party members).  Recent statistics released by the Labour Party’s General Secretary revealed that they involved less than 0.1% of the members of the Labour Party. However small it is that must be addressed, but any objective analyst would conclude what is going on in the Tory Party right now, and with the power and influence they and their racist allies have in several nations, is far more serious.

The silence from the Board of Deputies and their allies has got to end. Anti-racist Jews are saying loud and clear: open your eyes, open your ears to what the Tories, who you think are your friends, are actually saying and doing.  You need to tell them: “Enough is Enough!”

 

The anti-antisemitism that actually promotes Jew-hating

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Siobhain McDonagh

The right wing Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh recently castigated the “hard left” for their strident opposition to capitalism. She told Radio 4 presenter, John Humphrys that “anti-capitalist politics are at the root of antisemitism.” Humphrys is no friend of the Left, but was taken aback. He asked her whether she believed that “to be anti-capitalist you have to be antisemitic.” Astonishingly, she replied, ”Yes”.

It was an appalling slur by a Labour politician on everyone who is consciously fighting poverty, austerity, homelessness, and zero hours contracts in capitalist Britain, to label them antisemitic, but it also revealed the ignorant and harmful stereotypes that are actually shared by right-wingers about Jews, even those that think of themselves as pro-Jewish. McDonagh thinks all Jews are rich capitalists.

More traditional right-wingers go further. They portray Jews as money-obsessed individuals who not only flaunt their wealth but use it to control the media and governments. But in the planet’s largest capitalist empire, it was an avaricious Episcopalian Christian capitalist who moulded these ideas into a Jewish conspiracy theory in the 1920s. Henry Ford, founder of a global car-industry, spread this poison through his widely read publication, Dearborn Independent. He blamed the First World War on an international plot by Jewish bankers and heavily promoted the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a document forged by the secret police in Tsarist Russia in which Jewish financiers and revolutionaries allegedly plot world domination.

Ford’s chief admirer in Europe, Adolf Hitler, denounced left-wing political enemies as “Judeo-Bolsheviks”. His Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels declared that “Yiddish is the secret language of Bolshevism.”

McDonagh could defend her comments though, by citing Jews who themselves identify the Jewish community in general with capitalism, property and banking, and cast the left as anti-capitalist antisemites.

Richard Mather, who writes for several Jewish and Israeli publications, argued in the Jerusalem Post (June 2017) that: “the British Labour Party’s call for the seizure of property,” was “part and parcel of the antisemitic class warfare politics …increasingly prevalent in England.”

The chief perpetrator, though, is former Daily Express leader writer, Stephen Pollard,

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Stephen Pollard, who at least demolishes the stereotype of the “cerebral Jewish intellectual”

editor of the Jewish Chronicle since 2008.

Last September, Jeremy Corbyn released a video with a tweet: “Ten years ago today the financial crash began. The people who caused it now call me a threat. They’re right. Labour is a threat to a damaging and failed system rigged for the few.”

Pollard tweeted in response: “I keep thinking it can’t be, surely it can’t be. But the more I think about It, the more it seems it really is. This is ‘nudge, nudge, you know who I’m talking about don’t you?’ And yes I do. It’s appalling”

I tweeted “Stephen Pollard and Jeremy Corbyn. One of them seems to think all bankers are Jews. Clue: it is not Jeremy Corbyn.”

Two weeks later the Jewish Chronicle published an article with the extraordinary title: “The thought of Jeremy Corbyn as PM has Jewish investors running for the hills”. It was written by Alex Brummer, a frequent contributor to the Daily Mail. The Mail supported Mosley and Hitler in the 1930s, and, in 2013 expressed its own “nudge, nudge” antisemitism by excoriating Labour leader Ed Miliband’s dead father, as an unpatriotic east European refugee from the Nazis insufficiently grateful to Britain for giving him sanctuary.

In my 61 years I’ve never met a Jewish banker. I’ve met unemployed Jews, Jewish decorators, post-office workers, van drivers, taxi drivers, shopworkers, social workers, secretaries, teachers, pharmacists, and several comedians. One Jewish comedian Arnold Brown, from an impoverished Glasgow family, remembered school pupils who sneered at him and told him all Jews have loads of money. He said “I went home and started lifting up the floorboards.”

More seriously, the stereotype of Jews, money, and financial control are crucial to the far-right, who flood the internet with world Jewish conspiracy theories, as they try to divert anger among those who suffer the brutal injustices of capitalism, not against the capitalist class as a whole, but against individual Jewish representatives of that system, whether Rothschild, Goldman Sachs, or George Soros. From populist right wing regimes in Poland and Hungary through to Donald Trump, the Hungarian Jew George Soros has been accused of using his money to support migrants and refugees and finance anti-government demonstrations.

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Bundist rally on International Workers’ Day, Warsaw 1933

When McDonagh, Mather and Pollard repeat stereotypes of Jews as capitalists, they not only feed these conspiracy theories, but also erase an outstanding tradition of Jewish anti-capitalism. People know the famous Jewish revolutionaries, like Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemberg, Emma Goldman, but it was in mass Jewish workers’ movements such as the Bund, and among the Jews so numerous in socialist and communist parties over the last 120 years, that anti-capitalism was ingrained. In 1902, a Russian Jewish bookbinder, Semyon Ansky, wrote a Yiddish song to honour the Bund’s struggles for social justice. The movement adopted it as its anthem. One powerful verse translates as:

“We swear to the heavens a bloody hatred against those who murder and rob the working class. The Tsar, the rulers, the capitalists – we swear that they will all be devastated and destroyed. An oath, an oath, of life and death.”

Today, I will march and speak for the Jewish Socialists’ Group on the national demonstration in London against racism and fascism. We will protest against all racism including the antisemitism that has resurfaced menacingly, especially in central and eastern Europe, but also, as last September’s Pittsburgh synagogue massacre demonstrated, in Trump’s America.

At street level, far right organisations concentrate physical attacks more frequently on Muslims, Roma, migrants and refugees, but when they want to explain to their supporters who they believe holds power in the world they fall back on Jewish conspiracy theories as surely today as they did in the 1930s. The fight against antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-migrant propaganda are absolutely linked and we must combat them together.

This article was published in the Morning Star 16th March 2019

Now, who has got a problem with discrimination?

Yesterday, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, a body created by the Labour Party, when in government, announced that it is following up dossiers of complaints about antisemitism in the Labour Party submitted by the self-styled “Campaign Against Antisemitism” (CAA) and the Labour Party affiliate, the Jewish Labour Movement, and may launch a formal investigation to see if Labour has discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.

CAA sound plausible by their name. Let’s hope the EHRC carries out due diligence on them though before going any further. To get a flavour of what CAA are about, EHRC may wish to investigate CAA’s petition launched last August which started life as “Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite and must go”. They were compelled to change it to “…antisemite and the Labour Party must act.” They also edited the original text supporting their  original petition which contained the libelous claim that Corbyn had been “seeking out and giving his backing to Holocaust deniers” since he became Party Leader.

CAASNevertheless the petition attracted a large number of signatures including many from Israel and America. Signatories were also invited to leave comments. I would strongly recommend that the EHRC ask the CAA for a full list of the comments that were originally published on the petition and were left there by the CAA for several days before they were forced to remove them, after people protested and complained to the Charity Commissioners.

Here is a small sample of some of the comments that were left there by this body that is accusing others of discrimination that I gathered in a short perusal of them:

“corbyn is a danger to the uk he hates the uk and white men he is skum”

“He is disgrace to the people actually born and bred in this country”

“We are an island and cannot take any more migrants, and he would welcome a million more”

“Corbyn is a communist and terrorist supporter, he is persecuting the Jews who are peaceful people unlike the immigrants he wants to flood the country with”

“This pond scum should not be allowed to be a public figure”

“This man is a treasonous snake who is of grave danger to our country”

“Jeremy is a cunt”

“Corbyn is a dirty nazi”

“It would not surprise me if he had Mein Kampf by the side of his bed.”

“This piece of terrorist loving anti-Semite scum is poison.”

“Let’s get this bastard!”

“I would prefer for someone to shoot him”

Given the racist abuse and death threats that the CAA accepted and tolerated on its petition until it was forced to remove the comments page , is the CAA the kind of organisation the EHRC really wants to cooperate with?

And is the Jewish Labour Movement, currently playing a game of brinkmanship with the Labour Party, over whether it might disaffiliate, proud of its association with CAA in this approach to the EHRC, given the kinds of views that CAA published on its petition?

From one hostile environment to another

Last weekend far-right, identitarian and neo Nazi activists from several European  countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden, descended on the Bulgarian capital Sofia. They were joining their local Bulgarian counterparts, who included Kruv i Chest (Blood and Honour), National Resistance and Byal Front (White Front) for the annual “Lukov March”. This march commemorates  Hristo Lukov leader of a pro-Nazi Bulgarian legion, who was assassinated by two Bulgarian anti-fascist partisans in February 1943.

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Lukov march 16 February 2019

The two partisans were Ivan Burudzhiev, who fired the first shot, and Violeta Yakova, a Sephardic Jewish communist who fired two more shots and killed him after the wounded Lukov fought back and shot Burudzhiev. Yakova was later hunted down by the Bulgarian security forces (she had also assassinated the pro-Nazi chief of the Bulgarian police). In June 1944, she was captured, tortured and killed in the city of Radomir. After the war she was recognised as a “national heroine” and a memorial statue stands in Radomir today

 

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Violeta Yakova memorial

There were hundreds of counter-protesters to the Lukov march this year, organised through Antifa Sofia. They confirm that alongside openly Nazi parties there were participants from IMRO – the Bulgarian National Movement, who are part of the United Patriots alliance that is a partner in the Bulgarian government.  More significantly for anti-racists and anti-fascists in Britain, IMRO are members of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group of the European Parliament that is dominated by Britain’s Conservative Party and the Polish Law and Justice Party – a party that has antagonised Jews within and beyond Poland with its Holocaust revisionism and outlawing of narratives that suggest there was collaboration by some Poles with the Nazis as they exterminated Jews. The Bulgarian IMRO have helped to mobilise for the Lukov march, alongside other ultra-nationalists and open antisemites, for several years running, yet they  were welcomed into the Conservative Party’s European-group in 2014 by David Cameron.

Since Theresa May became leader in 2016, she has not questioned the participation of IMRO in the Conservatives’ Euro group, but has the gall to throw cheap accusations at the Labour Party, with regard to antisemitism, despite the Labour Party’s long record of involvement in anti-racist and anti-fascist causes.

The number of far-right and openly Nazi groups participating in the Sofia march last weekend (some of whom are banned in their own countries) is testimony to the alarming growth of Islamophobic, anti-Roma and antisemitic forces across Europe. All of them were boosted by Donald Trump’s election in America, and they benefit too from Trump’s former advisor, Steve Bannon’s, growing operations in Europe.

Statistics from surveys across Europe have shown a rise in antisemitic incidents ranging from physical threats and violent assaults, daubings of synagogues and cemeteries, to verbal abuse and incitement on social media. In pretty much every country concern about this is expressed first and foremost towards the governing party in each country. They are the people with the power to take action internally against far right groups, to promote educational work, and exert a positive influence on the national atmosphere towards one that promotes respect for minorities.

It is absolutely astounding that in Britain, where antisemitic incidents have been growing year on year recently under the watch of a Tory government, infamous for the hostile environment it has operated towards migrants and refugees, aided and abetted by the pro-Tory press, that undoubtedly boost the rhetoric of Far Right ideologues, that the fire has been misdirected away from the Tory Party and towards the Labour Party. It was misdirected there again yesterday, as one of the excuses for their door-slamming exercise by the Independent 7 who have splintered from the Labour Party.

They began to plan their departures in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, a

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Angela Smith at the launch

democratic decision that they refused to accept then, and again in 2016 when he was emphatically elected again by the membership. And while they were busy denouncing the party they have just left, as “institutionally racist and antisemitic” at their somewhat shambolic launch, one of their number, Angela Smith, made a disgraceful racist comment. Equally disgracefully, the figure among the 7 who has made the biggest noise around antisemitism (Luciana Berger), has not even commented on her colleagues’ remark, which was broadcast live yesterday.

That is not to say there are no incidents connected with Labour Party members. There have been many allegations, though 40% of the incidents reported to the Labour Party since April last year, for which Labour members were being blamed, were found to have nothing to do with any Labour Party members, and in a further 20% of cases the investigations found no evidence of a case to answer. In the remaining 40% of cases, mostly to do with social media comments, including hyperbolic comments about the Israeli government and military’s racist and repressive actions, there have been a range of sanctions and 12 members were expelled.

Woman-and-man-at-Windrush-protest-1024x683Such hyperbolic comments, sometimes mixed in with antisemitic tropes, are undoubtedly hurtful and need to be exposed and challenged. They also taint rather than help the Palestinian cause they allegedly support, but can anyone seriously suggest that such social media comments compare in any way with the Tory Party’s openly hostile policies towards the Windrush generation and a range of migrants and refugees, that have seen them lose their livelihoods, become destitute and face forcible deportation? Or can unpleasant social media posts really compare with the Tory Party’s verifiable links and collaboration since 2014 with a party that has participated with neo-Nazis  marching in Sofia not just last weekend but for several years in a row. We need to call out antisemitism wherever it appears, but we also need some perspective about where the real boost to the antisemites, racists and fascists in Britain and the wider world is coming from in 2019.

 

 

 

 

What do the Wavertree members want and what do they need?

Liverpool is a red city. A real Labour stronghold. Whenever Corbyn or McDonnell appear there, they attract huge enthusiastic crowds, but some of its MPs are out of kilter with that mood. Not least the right wing Labour MP Luciana Berger, parachuted into Liverpool Wavertree by Tony Blair against the local party’s wishes.

She has made no effort to accommodate to that mood. In a recent radio interview Berger was asked 10 times if she would welcome a Corbyn-led Labour Government. She kept evading the question, saying ‘well, Brexit”, finally mumbling through her political constipation that she would prefer a Labour government to a Conservative government, but without saying his dreaded name.

Before the Referendum, her opposition to him was a simple Right/Left matter. It was compounded, though, by her holding a leading position in the pro-Zionist, Blairite-dominated, Jewish Labour Movement, antagonistic to Corbyn for his known pro-Palestinian views (though some JLM members would surely have acknowledged his longstanding commitment to anti-racist causes).

Corbyn himself held out an olive branch to Berger when he was first elected leader. He offered her the significant Shadow Cabinet portfolio of Mental Health. She did it for five minutes then spat it back at him when she resigned her post to join the chicken coup plotters attempting to force Corbyn out undemocratically. The right wing of the PLP attempted to overturn a decisive vote by the membership. So Berger is no stranger to using very undemocratic ways and means.

Last week she let the Observer know that she and two other named Labour MPs and three unnamed Labour MPs were seriously considering leaving Labour to form a new “centrist” party in the near future.

She doesn’t have to be a personal fan of Corbyn to assure her local members that she will work tirelessly to return a Labour government but it seems she can’t even do that. In these circumstances what is wrong with local members putting forward a vote of no confidence. If she is right that this is simply the action of a few unhappy local members, then she has nothing to fear. But of course Berger does fear the outcome. So she and some supporters in the PLP, and compliant media, throw accusations of antisemitism into the mix.

Let me be clear. The JLM, of which Berger is chair, regularly accuse political opponents within Labour/the left of being antisemites/soft on antisemitism, “antisemitism enablers” and “antisemitism deniers”. She has been a victim of horrible antisemitic abuse, principally from far right sources, though she has made unsubstantiated claims that this has come too from left wing Labour members. (I have tweeted her in the past to enquire how many LP members she has reported for antisemitic abuse – and she has not replied).
I stand with any politician, against racist abuse including antisemitism. I recognise that antisemitism within society is growing alongside other hatreds, and that not everyone on the left is as aware as they need to be about this.

That, however, has nothing to do with the right of her local members to question her performance as a Labour Party representative, in a similar way to local members asking questions of non-Jewish Labour MPs such as Chris Leslie, John Mann, Chuka Umunna etc. who also, it seems, constantly attempt to undermine Corbyn,

Berger’s own attempts to raise concerns about antisemitism within such arguments, are compromised by her selective attitude to anti-racism and the alliances she makes with people tolerating racism and seeking to undermine Labour.

She was the leading Labour voice at the “Enough is Enough” demonstration in Parliament Square in March 2018, fronted by self-defined Jewish “leaders”, the most prominent being the then president of the Board of Deputies, the Tory, Jonathan Arkush. Many Tory politicians were present including Norman “Cricket Test” Tebbitt , DUP MPs such as Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley Junior, and others who had not distinguished themselves in the fight against racism.

This protest took place shortly after the then Tory Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, had warmly welcomed Orban’s election in Hungary. Orban’s campaign there centred largely on attacking the Hungarian Jewish figure George Soros in unmistakably antisemitic terms. A few weeks earlier the Tories principal partner in their European Parliament group, the Polish Law and Justice Party, outlawed commentary on the Holocaust that implicated Polish individuals.

Many of the contested charges against Labour and Corbyn on antisemitism related to historical cases. The timing of this event on Parliament Square, a few weeks before local government elections, was transparently about damaging Corbyn in particular and Labour in general just weeks before those local elections.

How do you think Labour members in Wavertee felt when they witnessed their MPs most prominent contribution to Labour’s local election campaign being an attempt to sabotage it? Given the number of historical allegations involved, there was nothing to stop Berger waiting a few weeks until after these elections (and after more anti-racist Labour councillors were hopefully elected) to raise these matters, nothing except her clear desire to damage the Labour Party while Corbyn is at the helm.

Berger’s uncritical collusion with Tory racists continued the following month. The Tories had cynically called a Commons debate on antisemitism unrelated to any motion. It was aimed at piling pressure on Corbyn, even closer to local election day.

By now, though, the Tories were reeling from the Windrush Scandal. The day before the antisemitism debate, David Lammy made his powerful speech about the victims of the Tories’ hostile environment and the “national day of shame”. After that intervention, we may have expected any Labour members participating in the antisemitism debate, called by the Tories, to at least question the Tories’ double standards on racism whether it was Windrush or dodgy alliances in Europe.

Berger had ample time to make all her points. She was warmly cheered by the Tories after a speech which contained not a word about hostile Tory policies and alliances. It focused on the abuse she had suffered, and directed blame for it towards Corbyn and his supporters.

Her tunnel vision and hypocrisy on these matters is abundantly clear, and really her contempt for her local members should not be indulged by those who know better.

Far right footprints?

IMG_8048My anti-fascist antennae were twitching today. Before heading back to London from a few days break in Stow in the Wold, we took a short diversion to visit to Moreton in Marsh, a small market town at the head of the Evenlode valley, just a few miles a way.  We found a good parking spot on the High Street, opposite a pub – a 17th century coaching inn –  with a George cross flag: the Redesdale Arms.

Now that was a familiar name. “Family connection with Oswald Mosley. Lord Redesdale. Big-time antisemite!” I muttered to my partner.

034769_0b84a3dbWe didn’t go in there but took a little walk round the town. Many of the buildings on the High Street, were of similar age to the inn. As we returned to the car we stopped by a plaque on the side of a large impressive building that stood a paved area in the middle of the High Street. It was Redesdale Hall. The plaque helped me to piece together the connection. The building was put up by the 1st Baron Redesdale the Lord of the Manor in Moreton in Marsh, whose name was Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford.

In 1936, two days after the Battle of Cable Street, Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British220px-Diana_Mitford_Photo Union of Fascists, was in Berlin to get married for the second time. It was a small ceremony away from the attention of the press, in the House of the Goebbels family. Goebbels was chief Propaganda Officer for the Nazis at the time. Hitler was there as Guest of Honour. Mosley’s wife to be was Diana Guinness, who had previously been married to the aristocrat and brewing heir, Bryan Guinness. They divorced when after she started an affair with Oswald Mosley. Her maiden name though was Diana Mitford. she was one of the four Mitford sisters (Diana, Jessica, Unity, Nancy), and a first cousin, incidentally, of Clementine Churchill, Winston Churchill’s wife. Winston Churchill was one of a group of four political figures who were close friends spending many hours at clubs in the late 1920s and early 1930s discussing economics and politics. The other three were Harold Nicholson, John Maynard Keynes and Oswald Mosley.

After Diana’s divorce from Bryan Guinness in 1932, she moved into a flat in Belgravia round the corner to Oswald Mosley, but he was still married to his ailing first wife, Cynthia Curzon, daughter of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India. Cynthia died in 1933, and Oswald wouldn’t leave her before then to live with his lover, Diana.

The first Baron Redesdale,  who paid for the Hall to be built in Moreton in Marsh was Diana’s grandfather. Her father, Algernon’s second son, David Freeman-Mitford, second Baron Redesdale, was the one I had remembered encountering in my researches for my book, Battle for the East End, published in 2011.

I’m glad I recognised the name today because it added other pieces to the jigsaw, as I looked up further information on Diana’s father. He was a hereditary member of the House of Lords, who attended the House conscientiously. Through the 1930s, both he and his wife Sydney, had developed a strong liking for fascism, and he became known more widely for his far right views and especially his open antisemitism.

SSredesdale

Lord Redesdale, 2nd Baron Redesdale

The 2nd Baron Redesdale was initially scornful of his daughter Diana’s enthusiasm for Hitler. As a British ultra-nationalist and xenophobe he was known to be dismissive of, and insulting about, both French and German people, describing them as “frogs” and “huns”. His wife Sydney, Diana’s mother, shared Diana’s enthusiasm for the Führer. After they all went to a Nuremburg rally in 1938 they were of one mind in their admiration for Hitler.

In the late 1930s, Lord Redesdale was a member of several far right bodies populated especially by the upper classes, such as the Link, the Anglo-German Fellowship and the Right Club. The latter had been formed by the Tory politician and antisemitic obsessive, Captain Archibald Ramsey, described by the Daily Worker as Britain’s “number one Jew-baiter”.

One more piece of the jigsaw. Oswald Mosley worked hard to build four large fascist branches in the East End. Two of the biggest were in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, where a layer of the working class lapped up Mosley’s increasingly strong antisemitism. More than 30 years earlier, though, much of the groundwork had already been laid by a populist right-wing anti-immigrant body called the British Brothers’ League. Their number one target was Jewish immigration.

One of their key figures who spoke at their largest local rallies was Major William Evans-british-brothers-league-posterGordon, a former Army captain in India, who later served as a diplomat in the British Raj. In 1900 he became the Tory MP for Stepney, in London’s East End. Evans-Gordon was a powerful lobbyist for the Aliens Bill, Britain’s first modern immigration law, passed by Lord Balfour’s government in 1905. A year before that act was passed Evans-Gordon’s niece,  Sydney Bowles, married Lord Redesdale, 2nd Baron Redesdale.

Facing up to antisemitism – real, denied and invented

Paper presented at an international symposium on the “Resurgence of Antisemitism: Realities, Fictions and Uses”, Brussels 12/13 December 2018

I want to start with some personal biography. My grandparents came to Britain as Jewish child immigrants from Poland and Ukraine in the early 1900s. I grew up in an economically struggling Jewish family in inner London, that gradually became more comfortable.

My extended family were mostly Labour voters, plus some communist-supporting relatives. My family were traditional; not very religious, not actively Zionist. They had no family in Israel, but sympathised with Israel at a general level.,

I became involved in socialist politics and antifascist activism when I was around 16 years old. My first demonstration was against the National Front, a group formed in Britain in 1967 by convinced Nazis, who recruited a wider layer of supporters from all classes, by condemning black immigration and promoting British nationalism.

I went to that demonstration with several Jewish friends from a Zionist youth group. I had illusions then about Israel/Palestine that I discarded long ago. Perhaps only one or two of those  Jewish friends I attended the demonstration with, would define themselves as Zionist now. People can be persuaded to rethink by convincing arguments and evidence. Today though, many leftists are better at condemning and proclaiming than persuading.

I broke with Zionism as a result of my deepening involvement in anti-racist and anti-fascist politics, alongside a more serious engagement with the realities in Israel/Palestine.

Today, there is little involvement of left-wing or liberal Zionists within the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement in Britain. Debates around Zionism and antisemitism have become more toxic within the left. Many Jews claim that the left does not take antisemitism seriously, that it trivialises the existence of antisemitism; or dismisses it as a few cranks holding old prejudices. Many leftists insist it cannot be compared with the institutional racism that blacks, Muslims, migrant workers, and refugees suffer every day. There is some truth in all these assertions but we cannot generalise. Many left-wing Zionists are quick to label people antisemites who make genuine observations about the impacts of different kinds of racism.

brick-lane-black-white-unite-2In the 1970s I was inspired by slogans: “Black and white, unite and fight”, “self-defence is no offence”, and especially by: “here to stay – here to fight!”, which argued that the struggle was not only against discrimination, but it was also a positive assertion of the right of minorities to live as equals and develop their distinctive identities and cultures.

Another slogan from that time disturbed me: “Yesterday the Jews, today the blacks”. at street level, the National Front targeted Caribbean and Asian communities, but fascists do not replace targets: they accumulate them. Antisemitism still played a significant role for the fascists then and now. Two publications from that period explained this well: Racism, Fascism and the Politics of the National Front: a pamphlet, by David Edgar, a left wing playwright; and a book called Fascists: by Michael Billig, a social-psychologist, based on interviews with middle-rank National Front activists.

Edgar argued that although most fascists surface campaigning directed itself against non-white immigrants, the ideology shared by the movement’s inner-core said immigrants themselves were merely pawns of more powerful forces who promoted multiculturalism to undermine the white race. Who were these forces? The Jews. Billig’s book showed that the higher up the movement you moved, the more you were exposed to “world Jewish conspiracy” ideas of classic Nazi antisemitism.

the-43-groupMany people assume that, in Britain, you have to go back to the 1930s to find Jews in the front line at street level from fascists. You don’t. Just after the war, between 1946 and 1950 fascist groups re-emerged promoting antisemitism, but were beaten back by a physical anti-fascist campaign organised mainly by Jewish ex-army  servicemen and women called the 43 Group.

In the 1960s, thousands of anti-fascists broke up a rally where the platform had a banner across it saying “Free Britain from Jewish control”. In the early 1960s protests fringe far-right groups in Britain held banners proclaiming “Hitler was Right”. Those banners disappeared from view for nearly 50 years, as fascists began to use code-words to express antisemitism. But in the last few years similar banners have reappeared.

hitlerwas rightIn America, and especially in central and eastern Europe, antisemitism is still the glue that holds  neo-Nazis’ worldview together, that explains global economics and politics.

Racism against black and brown minorities in Britain has deep roots in Britain’s imperial and colonial past. Negative stereotypes of inferiority sustained themselves long after the Empire collapsed. They are still woven through institutions such as police, the criminal justice system and the education system.

Antisemitism has other deep roots in Britain society. Sometimes it has overlapped with more familiar anti-immigrant racism, but more often it stereotypes Jews not as inferior but as an intelligent, alien clique conspiring to undermine the nation

The mass immigration of Jews to Britain took place mainly between 1881 and 1905. In00aliensA2 1905, the Government passed the Aliens Act, which dramatically reduced Jewish immigration. The  Prime Minister who pushed it through was Lord Balfour, who, 12 years later, promised Palestine to the Jews. Balfour was responding to grassroots campaigning from organisations such as the British Brothers League, whose activists were from struggling working class communities bordering Jewish enclaves.

People whose work was precarious, and whose housing conditions were poor, were convinced by the League’s middle-class leaders, such as Major William Evans-Gordon, that all their problems were caused by immigrants. Some politicians and many newspapers described Jews as dirty, diseased, parasitic, culturally inferior, alien, as well as being criminals and anarchists.

Both Evans-Gordon and Balfour were personal friends of a young Zionist called Chaim Weizman, who later became the first President of Israel. Evans-Gordon and Balfour were Christian Zionists and imperialists in foreign policy but antisemites domestically.

The everyday racism Jews suffered at this time, though, was largely from white workers who saw them as rivals for scarce resources. It was very similar to the xenophobic prejudices later experienced by Caribbean and Asian immigrants,

Oswald MosleyA more ideologically articulated antisemitism emerged in the 1930s. The British Union of Fascists, formed by Sir Oswald Mosley in 1932, portrayed working class Jews as rivals for the indigenous working class, but focused more on alleged machinations of wealthier Jews. It portrayed them as immensely powerful, accused them of controlling the economy, the media, and the political system. From autumn 1934 Mosley made antisemitism the central plank of his fascist ideology, defining a battle between “the cleansing spirit of fascism” and Jews as “an unclean, alien influence in our national and imperial life”.

Mosley preferred Mussolini to Hitler, at first, but in early 1936 his movement became the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists, and embraced Hitlerite antisemitism. Street-corner speakers for the movement still cast Jews as criminals, bad landlords, and rivals for jobs and homes, but they also described Jews as “rats and vermin”, “subhumans”, a “pestilence”, or a “cancer” that had to be removed,

Antisemitism proved popular among sections of all classes in the population. The fascists had 500 branches around the country including 20 branches at  fee-paying schools for the wealthy. This helped to sustain an antisemitic mind-set among sections of the upper and upper-middle classes after World War 2, as they reached adulthood.

I sense that antisemitism in Britain is rising today together with other hatreds. That subjective perception is supported by the principal organisation collecting data on antisemitism – the Community Security Trust (CST) – a mainstream Jewish body that work closely with the police. They also work closely with the main institution claiming to represent the Jewish community – the Board of Deputies of British Jews – but are independent from it.

In political terms CST personnel comprise right-wing Labourites and mild Conservatives. They are pro-Zionist, and defensive about Israel, but not Netanyahu supporters. However, they are an increasingly reliable source of information on the kinds of incidents that occur and the profiles of the perpetrators. Mostly now, they differentiate between politically motivated abuse relating to Israel and Zionism and antisemitic abuse. They reject claims by Jews of antisemitic incidents which do not show a clear antisemitic intention. Their end of year report for 2017 recorded more than 1,300 incidents but left out several hundred more where anti-Jewish motives could not be proven.

Their facts indicate a significant, and gradually increasing level of attacks on Jewish individuals, sometimes on groups (such as schoolchildren), and on Jewish institutions such as  synagogues and cemeteries. A  typical attack involves verbal abuse, threatening behaviour and sometimes physical assault.  Victims of assaults are often ultra-orthodox Jews, attacked for how they dress. Muslim girls and women wearing the hijab face similar street harassment.

The language used in many attacks frequently references the Holocaust and Hitler. Jewish communal leaders claim that the principal threat to Jews in Britain comes from the Left, but where the CST can identify perpetrators, the majority are white far-right. However, increasing numbers of incidents are perpetrated by other minorities, who themselves experience racism. These perpetrators often utilise the same Hitler and Holocaust tropes.

The far right have flooded the internet with poisonous antisemitic ideas, alleging Jewishjacob-rothschild conspiracies by “Rothschild bankers”/”Rothschild Zionists”. These powerful conspiracy theories are entering mainstream and minority cultures.  Sometimes, they are unwittingly shared by Leftists who think they are sharing anti-capitalist or pro-Palestinian material. They are tainting both of these just struggles.

Jewish establishment responses to antisemitism and the far right, and to racism in general in Britain, have long been inadequate but have also undergone significant historical shifts.

Today the Board of Deputies seem to see antisemitism everywhere. Yet in the 1930 when working class Jews faced sustained abuse and assaults from organised fascists, the Board of Deputies and the principle Jewish establishment newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, dismissed the fascist threat as exaggerated, and treated the perpetrators merely as “Hitler copy-cats”.

They refused to believe that antisemitism could flourish in a country they characterised as fair, decent and tolerant. When that movement terrorised Jewish communities and threatened to march through the Jewish working class heartland, the Deputies and the Jewish Chronicle advised Jews to stay indoors and avoid protest actions that might lead to disorder. The community completely ignored them and inflicted a peoples’ defeat on the fascists through mass street action, in October 1936 in what became known as the “Battle of Cable Street”. Soon after that, Jewish leaders began to argue that Jewish behaviour was provoking antisemitism.

In the 1970s and early 1980s when the National Front were mainly targeting blacks and Asians – though antisemitism had not disappeared –  Jewish “leaders” acknowledged the problems were principally caused by the far right, but they trusted the same state authorities who were frequently mistreating immigrant communities to deal with it.

IMG_2856When a mass and broad-based anti-fascist movement – the Anti-Nazi League – was created by leftists in 1978, the Jewish establishment tried to dissuade young Jews from joining it, claiming that some ANL leaders were known for anti-Zionist activism. I believe that the Jewish establishment was less worried about Israel than the prospect of young Jews associating with militant leftists.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) –a radical fringe group – openly challenged communal leaders  and helped recruit Jews to the Anti-Nazi League. A bigger confrontation with the Deputies came in the early 1980s. The JSG obtained and released information kept under wraps by the Board of Deputies about an increasing number of serious antisemitic incidents in London perpetrated by the far-right. Jewish leaders attempted to hide this from the community, because it might have alarmed the community or encouraged Jews to make common cause with other minorities. They preferred to deal with it privately in close cooperation with state authorities.

Contrast that with recent years where Britain’s Jewish leaders see antisemitism everywhere including where it is not present at all. This has coincided with their adopting a much more strident and explicit anti-left agenda, especially after Jeremy Corbyn, a pro-Palestinian radical socialist, became leader of the Labour Party. There is another paper at the conference on this so I won’t intrude on that, but just make a few observations.

The left, in its many organisations, have been the strongest and most militant fighters against racism and fascism in Britain, but they have not always recognised the continuing presence and significance of antisemitism.

Some elements of the left for whom Palestinian concerns are very important, who recognise that antisemitism provides the self-justification for Zionism, mistakenly believe that giving attention to antisemitism weakens their support for Palestinians. It doesn’t. Jewish communities are increasingly  polarising over Israel/Palestine and Zionism. Every reliable survey of Jewish community opinion in Britain shows a decline in self-identification with the term “Zionist” – down from more than 70% to 59% in the last decade. Increasing numbers of Jews speak out for Palestinian rights. Those numbers would be greater still if Jews felt that those speaking up for Palestine also consistently denounced antisemitism.

Jewish community leaders speak and act as if there is rampant antisemitism on the left. They cynically conflate opposition to Israeli policy, and critiquing of Zionism, with antisemitism. They promote the lie that Zionism is an intrinsic and eternal part of Jewish identity rather than it being one of several political ideologies that were vying for support among Jews at the end of the 19th century

There are two errors frequently made on the left that make it open to criticism from Zionists. Leftists often refer to Israel when mean the Israeli government or the Israeli

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Israeli anti-government protesters

military, or Israeli settlers. This homogenises Israeli Jews and erases the internal opposition. There are growing numbers of brave but harassed oppositionists within Israel – who are a mixture of anti-Zionists, non-Zionists, and left-wing Zionists. How they define themselves is less important than what they do. The left in Britain and elsewhere in Europe should recognise and broadcast what Israel’s internal opposition is doing.

The other error is to frequently make analogies between Israeli state practice and Nazism. This accusation seems more intended to wound rather than enlighten. It reveals a lack of historical understanding or empathy with Jews under Nazism. Racist discriminatory aspects of Israeli government policy are certainly similar to practices in the very early years of Nazism, but there are perhaps closer similarities with other racist, ultra-nationalist regimes, or with ethnic cleansers, for example, during the Yugoslav wars.

Why are we obsessed with making analogies? We can find all the arguments and evidence for promoting Palestinian justice in the practices of Israeli governments and institutions that are about dispossession, exclusion, discrimination and oppression. We don’t need to invoke Hitler.

Despite these errors, it is the left that consistently exposes and combats those who genuinely threaten the future well-being of minorities in Britain today. Leaders of the Jewish community highlight any perceived antisemitism on the Left even if the evidence is flimsy, yet they are silent on  regimes in central and Eastern Europe where antisemitism rides in tandem with Islamophobia, anti-Roma prejudice and other forms of bigotry,  where such regimes are friends with Benjamin Netanyahu.

We are entering a dangerous period with regard to the growth of the British far-right where the traditional alliance between the Left and the Jewish community has broken down. We urgently need to fix this.