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A frenzied witch-hunt is not the way to combat antisemitism or any form of racism

Jacqueline-WalkerLast week Jackie Walker, Vice-chair of Momentum‘s national steering group (of which I am chair) was suspended by the Labour Party pending investigation of remarks she made in a Facebook conversation. These were brought to the party’s attention by the Jewish Chronicle whose coverage does not describe them as antisemitic though it does claim in a headline (not supported in my view by the text of the article) that she “claimed Jews caused ‘an African holocaust’“.

Jackie Walker is a longstanding anti-racist activist of both African and Jewish heritage, who was instrumental in ensuring that Nigel Farage was defeated in her home constituency of Thanet. The conversation was one about her own heritage, and the roles of both victim and perpetrator played by her own direct ancestors. Some of her direct Jewish antecedents were, according to her own genealogical research, involved in the financing and operation of the slave trade. It was a serious discussion about how one is a victim or perpetrator “to some extent through choice” in the context of her own heritage and current debates about racism. In my view, the tone and context of that conversation makes absolutely clear that nothing about it were antisemitic.

Unfortunately, it is hard to conduct a rational debate about antisemitism and other forms of racism in the presence of a “lynch mob” whose interest in combatting racism is highly selective. I refer to those who seek primarily to serve the interests of the Tory party, highlighting allegations of antisemitism in the days immediately prior to an election whilst simultaneously either ignoring or in some cases actively promoting islamophobia (like the campaign against Sadiq Khan) and racism based on skin colour (like Boris Johnson’s remarks about “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles” when he “didn’t mean to be racist“). If you want an extreme example of this, look no further than former Labour Party speechwriter and researcher turned Sun journalist censured by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) for crudely mocking a woman’s gender identity and her disability:

For many Muslims the anti-Semitism is visceral, an ingrained part of their unpleasant ideology. For the idiotic white lefties it is an adjunct to their self-loathing and hatred of firstly Britain and second the West. In both cases it is predicated as much upon envy – at Jewish success, worldwide and in Israel – as anything else. If you handed over Israel to the Palestinians they would turn it into Somalia before you could say Yom Kippur.

Identifying real antisemitism is often not a simple matter, involving shades of grey not “black and white” judgements, which does not, in my view, justify a one-size-fits-all “zero-tolerance” approach. Antisemitism must not be judged solely on the words used but on tone and context. And whilst much greater awareness is needed of how the choice of language can alienate people and cause unnecessary offence (like the use of the word “Zionist”) the most serious cases, the ones which should be dealt with most severely, do involve more than just a poor choice of language. Others are best dealt with by education and training, whilst some allegations turn out not to involve antisemitism at all.

The Labour Party is ill-equipped to deal with such complex issues in its current disciplinary process. It doesn’t help that established practice is routinely to suspend from membership pending investigation. I’ve criticised this before (though in the case of Simon Danczuk I do think that suspension was eventually justified). Essentially, the Labour Party also has procedures which deny those charged with anything the normal principles of natural justice which Lord Denning summarised as for the accused to:

know the case which is made against him. He must know what evidence has been given and what statements have been made affecting him: and then he must be given a fair opportunity to correct or contradict them…. Whoever is to adjudicate must not hear evidence or receive representations from one side behind the back of the other.”

Suspension from membership of the party does affect peoples’ reputation. It was used in Jackie Walker’s case by the media to validate suspicion. To use it routinely whilst denying the accused any prior notice of anything about the charge is like operating a system of justice without provision for bail or any hearing prior to imprisonment. It is wholly unacceptable that the Compliance Unit of the Labour Party is able to suspend based on the agreement of just two managers without the prior knowledge of the accused, and often denies the accused adequate information of what they are accused throughout the proceedings.

If you consider the words quoted in the Jewish Chronicle alone without a proper consideration of the tone and context, and without speaking to Jackie as I have done, you might well reach the wrong conclusion

[(not quoted – Ed) My ancestors were involved in both and] as I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews… Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice.”

The phrase “the chief financiers” in particular may have led to someone in the Compliance Unit ticking the antisemitism box and pressing the “suspension” button. That was the wrong call, through a process that is quite simply not fit for purpose. And I suspect it may have been done without proper consideration of the sensitivities surrounding historical analysis of the slave trade that is every bit as shoddy as Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators on which Ken Livingstone based his highly unfortunate statements on Hitler and Zionism. There are already enough tensions between different faiths and communities that have been put under strain by the current focus on antisemitism rather than racism in all its forms – which was part of what Jackie was concerned about in her conversation.

The action of the Compliance Unit unfortunately fuels concern about a witch-hunt and directs it the “Israel lobby” since on this occasion – unlike virtually every other – the accusation originally came from the Israel Advocacy Movement, an organisation that appears to be on the fundamentalist wing of pro-Israeli organisations. It is linked (through its chair) to the Campaign against Antisemitism which I have criticised before and has pretty robust views on British Muslims, based on a survey whose methodology has been criticised, that does little to promote better inter-faith relations and some would categorise as Islamophobic:

On every single count, British Muslims were more likely by far than the general British population to hold deeply antisemitic views. It is clear that many British Muslims reserve a special hatred for British Jews, rating Jews much less favourably than people of other religions or no religion, yet astonishingly British Muslims largely do not recognise antisemitism as a major problem.

It has long been suspected that sections of the British Muslim population harboured hatred towards British Jews. This survey goes some way to identifying pockets of prejudice, but it also shows that the prejudice is horrifyingly widespread.

Inter-faith and inter-racial relations are not assisted by the current media focus exclusively on antisemitism. Jackie Walker was right to be concerned about this and the Labour Party’s inquiry rightly puts antisemitism into a wider context.

Image copyright: olesia / 123RF Stock Photo

66 Comments

  1. MARK KRANTZ says:

    Jon

    I am very worried that these repeated ‘allegations of anti-Semitism’ and the rash of suspensions …. will lead to an increase in anti Semitism.

    The refugee crisis is the biggest since WW2. Then it was Jews who were prominent amongst the refugees across Europe.

    Today it is mainly muslims and people of colour who are refugees.

    We can not allow it to be said that ‘the Jews only care for their own.’

    Are you coming on the Calais Convoy?

    Will you be asking your friends who have been so forthright in making a stand against ‘racism’ against Jews – to support the appeals for help for refugees in Calais?

    kind regards

    Mark Krantz
    Manchester

  2. Sue Lukes says:

    thanks for this excellent article

  3. David Pavett says:

    A witch hunt is the last thing we need. We also need disciplinary procedures that respect the norms of natural justice.

    Do we know what if anything is the official Labour understanding of what makes something anti-Semitic or even racist? What is the understanding on which those accused of these things will be judged? Shouldn’t we know?

    Some suggestions in recent weeks have been decidedly whacky. One, from Luke Akehurst, would even make an inquiry into the genetic roots of Ashkenazi Jews into an anti-Semitic act! It’s time for some clarity.

    1. David have you ever thought of investing in a good dictionary ? I just can’t understand your problems with a perfectly well understood notion. Perfectly well understood by just about all of the billions of speakers of the language.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Go on then tell us.

        Have you not noticed the very different and mutually incompatible notions of anti-Semitism circulating in recent weeks? Are you aware of the very different idea of racism circulating on the left.

        Anyway, I look forward to seeing your clear and non-controversial definitions of what you regard as a “perfectly well understood notion”.

        1. Hatred of Jews/ and or a wish to discriminate against Jews/ and or a wish to persecute Jews.

          That’s what you need to establish anti Semitism.

          The dictionary compilers are not God. Their definitions are not stipulations. They are arrived at by observation of the sum force of the uses of words and expressions. Thats how natural language works.

          Natural language is the most democratic of phenomena but you would seek to disenfranchise us all. You do know that a very similar attitude was one of the surer signs that humpty dumpty was nuts ?

          1. David Pavett says:

            Your faith in dictionaries and ordinary language to resolve conceptual problems is misplaced. The concept of race is a perfect example of general confusion in both. Why do you think that biologists like Richard Lewontin have put so much effort into sorting the issues out. Our race relations legislation presents a similar mess (dobyou think the Irish are a race?). Both ordinary language and dictionaries can be repositories of confusion.

            Your simple proposal on anti-Semitism by-passes all the arguments of recent months about alkeged Labour/left anti-Semitism. The problem is not the idea that discrimination against Jews constitues anti-Semitism but rather what counts as such discrimination. That is what Jon Lansman writes about in his article which makes me think that you have missed the point.

            It is also a mistake to make the offence depend on a subjective state (wish, desire, hatred). It is possible that someone could exploit the anti-Semitic sentiments of others while having no personal feelings about Jews. His or her exploitation would still be anti-Semitic.

            Perhaps the issues are more complicated than your original points seemed to suggest.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            people like you, Stephen Bellamy, obviously think nothing short of a bunch of skinheads burning down a synagogue can be considered anti-Semitic. You need educating.

        2. Linguistic analysis is the only possible resolution of conceptual problems. What does this word mean ? What is the sum force of the uses of the word ?

          Hatred of Jews etc is what the expression MEANS. If you accuse someone of anti-Semitism that is what you are accusing them of. So you better be sure of yourself.

          Unless you have quit speaking English and are speaking a private language. And of course a private language is no language at all.

          So after you have defined anti-Semitism as it occurs in your private language how do you propose to inform the billions of speakers of the language that anti-Semitism no longer means what they thought it meant A mass mail shot ? Gerald Ronson would probably agree to fund that.

          1. Oh right Jim I am glad you brought Re-Education up. Jon won’t tell me, he is as forthcoming as a fish, but maybe you will……Who do you propose should do this Re-Educating ? Do they ( whoever they may be, Koff) plan to set up a bunch of regional Gulags ?

          2. David Pavett says:

            Language is a means through which we collectively relate to and interact with the world around us. The key elements of that relationship are the concepts and categories we use. Conceptual problems arise when our concepts are found to be inadequate in our dealings with the natural and social world in which we live. The idea that such inadequacies can be resolved by reading dictionaries our checking common usage is ridiculous. Such problems are resolved by developing new concepts or refining old ones in order to better guide our practical effort. In both cases this means going beyond the bounds of current language in order to deepen our understanding of the world. Einstein did not devlop his views of time and space by inquiring into ordinary usage. Your confidence in linguistic analysis is needs some reconsideration. A good read on this is Marxism and the Linguistic Philosophy by Maurice Cornforth.

          3. Angus Rodgers says:

            Whereof one cannot remain silent, thereof must one learn to speak. 🙂

  4. Andrew Coates says:

    This is a disgrace and I agree with everything said by Jon Lansman.

    The way these accusations have developed – and I begin with one side, and would end with the other – reminds me of Eva Wiseman’s column in this week’s Observer Magazine,

    Dinner table, with extended family. You breathe out with the breath of a thousand potatoes, and prepare yourself for the traditional digestif: an elderly relative explaining why the Labour party is antisemitic. This is an argument that can be imposed on to any topic – Germany, the countryside, boating. But today it is the Labour party, and as usual you are arguing on the side of “no”, with your pleas to interrogate the source of the story, and to look at individuals rather than write off the whole of the party, or of Suffolk, or of the seas. But this is an unwinnable fight..”

    Those leading this campaign do not have the reasons that Wiseman goes onto explain:

    ….. because on their side they have memories of siblings being shuffled on to trains, and their homes being bombed, and with that comes the sureness that it is only a matter of time. So you settle into your ice cream and talk about Beyoncé instead….”

    As a lefty who grew up in North London I know these ‘discussions’ all too well.

  5. Jim Denham says:

    A friend of mine, who is from a Muslim background, sent me this regarding Jackie Walker’s comments:

    ****

    “As I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews,” Ms Walker wrote.

    “Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice,”

    I’m sure it will be reassuring to the many Jewish children in France who have to have their schools guarded by armed soldiers, and the Jews in Yemen who are routinely harassed and issued death threats by both Shia and Sunni Islamists, and the Jews of Iran who are not allowed to hold any official posts in the army or government or judiciary, to hear that there is no longer any oppression of Jews around the world.

    Could you imagine if I wrote something online, as a rebuttal to claims of anti-Muslim racism, saying

    “Many Muslims (my ancestors) were very much involved in the enslavement of Africans just as much as the Europeans, which is why there are many thousands of mosques in places as far as Gambia and Tanzania. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice”

    I don’t think I’d stay as a welcome member of any Momentum group for very long, and quite rightly too. It’s a shame it takes a huge continuing scandal for the left to realise the error of its ways on this issue but let’s just hope something is actually learnt from the whole episode rather than everything going back to business as usual.

    1. Jim I think every momentum group will be profoundly relieved to hear that.

    2. It is welcome that Jon Lansman has now spoken up about Jackie Walker’s suspension. Better late than never. Jackie’s suspension is invidious but no less than my suspension or all the other people who have been suspended.

      I made it public weeks ago what the procedures involved were. At least Jackie Walker has some idea of what her offence was. I am still in the dark, other than a leak to the Telegraph.

      Jim Denham doesn’t get it. He is a member of a ‘Trotskyist’ organisation whose members have been expelled from the Labour Party and yet he gives support to the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch hunt. Such is the absurdity of his position.

      Jews were both perpetrators and victims. Not simply over slavery. There was no seamless anti-Semitism for 2,000 years. That is rewriting history and projecting from the holocaust back in time. The myth of eternal anti-Semitism is a reflection of the Nazis’ ‘eternal Jew’.

      Jews were real human beings, they were victims and oppressors. They weren’t simply the victims of history, the other, they participated in making their own history.

      Jews were involved in the slave trade – there are books, academic articles etc. on this. It is simply a fact. Denham is ignorant of all of this because he is not an academic or a historian.

      There was heavy involvement of Jews in Netherland because they were refugees from Spain and Portugal where they had been prominent in money lending. There was little Jewish involvement in the British slave trade. These are facts.

      People have written at length on the Arab involvement in the African slave trade. Is that anti-Arab or anti-Muslim?

      This whole process surrounding the ‘anti-Semitism’ scare is absurd and that is why I have criticised Jon Lansman. There is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party that has been uncovered in this whole furore. As if the Daily Mail and The Telegraph et al are really concerned about anti-Semitism. Why has ‘anti-Semitism’ suddenly been discovered now? Where has it come from? Has it suddenly grown? Why now? These allegations first surfaced in the leadership campaign and were directed at Corbyn himself.

      They originate with both the Right of the Party and yes various pro-Zionist and Israeli organisations. Zionist incidentally is a precise term for those supporting the establishment or maintenance of a Jewish Apartheid state in Israel. No more and no less.

      And whatever its faults, and I have critiqued it in the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Journal of Holy Land Studies, Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators stands the test of time. No amount of explanation will excuse the comment of Ben Gurion after Krystalnacht, in response to the Kinder Transport, that he would rather save half Germany’s children in Palestine than all of them in England.

      That and more can be found in Shabtai Teveth’s official biography of Ben Gurion, ‘The Burning Ground – 1888-1948’. Indeed the chapter on the holocaust ‘ Disaster Means Strength’ goes further than Brenner in its criticism of Ben Gurion when says that it was a fine line in BG’s mind between an all out catastrophe and a beneficial opportunity.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        It was absolutely right to expel Livingstone. His comments suggesting Hitler wasn’t so bad after all are unacceptable. (And no-one had to ‘dig’ to find his comments.)

        1. Angus Rodgers says:

          Congratulations! Even in this tiresome, insulting, and absurdly long-drawn-out affair of hypocritically twisted and witless misrepresentations, your claim that Ken Livingstone was suggesting that “Hitler wasn’t so bad after all” has managed to hit a new low!

          (Do you by any chance do this sort of thing for a living? If not, you should, because many in the world of politics today would gladly pay for the use your talents.)

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Livingstone did indeed hit a new low yes.

            He was quoted saying that Hitler won an election and then in his early years in office, that he had a policy of assisting jews to create a jewish nation state but that he then went mad and killed six million.

            I think it’s accurate to describe this as suggesting Hitler wasn’t that bad.

            On that basis, I don’t think this is acceptable.

          2. Rob Bab says:

            @Karl
            “Livingstone did indeed hit a new low yes.”
            Ken was not praising Hitler. He was merely stating the fact that initially, in Hitlers early years in office, the Zionist Federation of Germany were in cahoots with Hitler to get the German Jews transferred to Palestine ie The Haavara Agreement, though not all Zionists agreed.

            “I think it’s accurate to describe this as suggesting Hitler wasn’t that bad.”
            Good and Bad are in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure many Palestinians from the Gaza ghetto view Netanyahu, Sharon etc in a similar way to the way many Jews view Hitler. There are many examples of IDF barbarity to validate this view.

    3. Jim this huge scandal is a result of 100’s of Zionist volunteer diggers, trawling through countless thousands of social media posts and coming up with a dozen or so idiotic statements that aren’t even anti-Semitic, and most going back several years at least.

      This is then promoted at a deafening level by an unholy alliance of the various orgs that function as extensions of the Israeli Embassy, the Labour Party hard right and the Zionist gutter press.

      Aided by some useful idiots like Jon and Owen Jones.

      It’s the BIG LIE.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        “Aided by some useful idiots like Jon and Owen Jones.

        It’s the BIG LIE.”

        oh dear: the voice of modern-day conspiracy theories and (to be charitable) accommodation of anti-Semitism: a living example of the problem we have.

        1. Who might ” we ” be Jim ? Oh and I don’t need your charity Jim. Just call me anti-Semitic. I merely will say FUCK YOU.

        2. Richard Tiffin says:

          Why is it a conspiracy theory to suggest that a few powerful groups happen to have a shared interest in the undermining and removal of Corbyn. This being the case, if each group adds their own two penny worth to a debate it soon makes it a cacophony and the demand “something must be done” is heeded by reactive folk like Owen Jones who respond to the politics they see.
          The ruling classes and their various organs, the state of Israel, the politicaly right ideologists and their followers, the right of the Labour Party and the Tories all share an anti Corbyn interest. Between them they saw to it that every ‘example’ of anti Semitism was distorted, exaggerated and even manufactured in order to undermine Corbyn through trying to prove the ‘unelectable leader’ thesis correct via a poor showing at the polls.
          It’s neither complicated nor a conspiracy theory, it’s called politics. The furore was hugely disporortionate to the allegations, even if the allegations were substantiated, which they are not,mthatbis politics, go read “folk Devils and moral panics.
          Before you attack me in the way you have attack caked others, this is not an accommodation of anti Semitism, for if it is proven then ant Semitism needs to be dealt with. But do try to disentangle the two things here, anti Semitism and the interests of some very powerful groups, for you are simply reacting to the alleged anti Semitism here, rather than trying to see the bigger picture.

          1. Jim Denham is barely worth bothering about. A far-right chauvinist in a Trotskyist organisation. Work it out for yourself!

            I welcome Jon’s statement but it is insufficient. Jackie’s is a particularly egregious case but is not unique. All those suspended, with the exception of Greg Downing’s lunatic statements, are not guilty of anti-Semitism. Even Vicki Kirby’s statement about Jewish noses was in fact a quote from ‘the infidels’ a satirical comedy.

            I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but people and organisations do conspire. That is what the CIA do all the time. There can be no doubt that this ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was got up by forces we know little of.

            Anti-Semitism is a comfortable form of establishment anti-racism. The anti-racism of the Right. Jews are white in this society, they are privileged and prosperous. I have cited previously the statement of William Rubinstein, a past President of the Jewish Historical Society, in his book ‘The Left, the Right and the Jews’ that Jews are the first ethnic group in history not to have a working class any longer.

            We can see what this anti-racism means when someone like Eric Pickles espouses it or for that matter Stephen Pollard editor of the Jewish Chronicle. Whilst condemning Corbyn’s anti-Semitism and those involved in the present furore they have no problem associating with Robert Zile of the Latvian LNNK in the European Parliament, a man who marches each year with the Latvian Waffen SS veterans. Or Michal Kaminski who whitwashes the Jedwabne atrocity during the war.

            What this is about is 2 things. One getting the new left leadership of the Labour Party. No matter how much Corbyn protests he’s against anti-Semitism he will be attacked because the definition of anti-Semitism that he is accused of is ‘new anti-Semitism’ i.e. anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians.

            The second target is anti-Zionism which is why Jon Lansman was very foolish to think we should dispense with the word. Without understanding Zionism, which was a political movement to establish the Jewish state of Israel, you cannot understand the present Apartheid state of Israel.

            For those who doubt that Israel is an apartheid state then ask what you would say if non-Jewish women in Britain were given the option of not having to share a maternity ward with Jewish women. Or if non-Jewish students were given the option of not sharing accommodation with Jewish students. Or if there were non-Jewish towns where a local priest issued an injunction against letting accommodation to Jews, as is the case in reverse in Safed. Or where Christians take to the streets to proclaim ‘death to the Jews’.

            A Jewish state means Jewish privilege no less than in South Africa, which is why South Africa under Apartheid and the Israeli State under Labour Zionism were the best of friends.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            Greenstein, by his own admission, is an admirer of the same “historical” source as Livingstone for claiming Zionist collaboration with the Nazis: Lenni Brenner. Brenner was also the source used by Jim Allen for his play Perdition: Greenstein’s attempts to defend the play at the time were exposed as the rubbish they were in a series of exchanges with Sean Matgamna: they are available and comrades should read them.

          3. John Penney says:

            So, Tony Greenstein states, with magisterial aplomb :

            “Jim Denham is barely worth bothering about. A far-right chauvinist in a Trotskyist organisation. Work it out for yourself !”

            Now I think Tony is referring to the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), with this unexplained casual slur. For those not in the know, The AWL is a tiny revolutionary Socialist group, with a many decades long record of support for every progressive Left cause under the sun. It is unique ,however, on the self-described “revolutionary” Far Left in the UK , for supporting the same “Two states” negotiated settlement perspective as the PLO, the UN, and almost ALL the members of the Labour Party.

            For this unforgiveable divergence from Far Left orthodoxy alone , Tony has the sheer temerity to chuck around his ludicrous slander of the AWL, (and by inference everyone else on the Left who supports the Two States position) as being “Far Right Chauvinist” !.

            This is the sort of nonsensical disregard for the actual meaning of words that has got the Far Left in such deep trouble over “Zionism” – and once again reminds me of that famous exchange in Alice Through the looking Glass, with Tony channelling Humpty Dumpty so accurately :

            “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

            ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

            ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

            ― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

        3. Denham uses the classic McCarthyist tactic of guilt by association. I certainly defend Lenni Brenner’s book from accusations of anti-Semitism. I have my criticisms and I made them in the Journal of Holy Land Studies, in an article and then response to Lenni Brenner.

          The evidence is copious that the Zionist movement counterposed rescue to building the Jewish state and in the process suppressed the Auschwitz Protocols which had been written by 2 Jewish escapees from Auschwitz, Vrba & Wetzler. This is uncontentious history.

          I suggest Denham read the reports of the Kasztner trial in Israel and the verdict of the Jerusalem District Court in 1955 it was damning and led to the fall of the Sharrett govt in Israel.

          So yes, Ken Livingstone is essentially right, though he made a few obvious mistakes.

          Its an uncomfortable subject for some, like Jewish involvement in slavery but do we witch hunt those who raise such subjects? As long as Zionists defend Israel’s Apartheid practices by resorting to the Holocaust then it is valid to ask what their role was at the time.

          Indeed most critical Zionist historians do just that.

          1. Rob Bab says:

            @Tony
            Hi Tone, you’re writing some very articulate and interesting things here. Israel certainly is an apartheid state and it puzzles me how this fact escapes the notice of certain folks on this blog. If you are a Palestinian you wait at check points, if you’re Jewish you go straight through or travel on a special road reserved for Jews – That’s racism in my book!
            You said
            “…the Auschwitz Protocols which had been written by 2 Jewish escapees from Auschwitz, Vrba & Wetzler. This is uncontentious history.”
            Hmmm not sure about that Tony. The two authors you mention don’t stand up to scrutiny. Here, read for yourself, the critique holds water;
            http://www.codoh.com/library/document/640/
            Respectfully, I doubt anyone here excluding yourself and I has even heard of Vrba & Wetzler ie Alfréd Wetzler and Walter Rosenberg, let alone read their accounts. They recall events that are fantastical and contradict one another on numerous occasions.
            Walter Rosenberg for instance was a Sonderkommando, he had good reason to be flexible with the truth.
            As you said;
            “So yes, Ken Livingstone is essentially right, though he made a few obvious mistakes.”
            Yes and the same could be said of Vrba & Wetzler, ie flaming chimneys, numbers etc.

    4. Jackie walker says:

      Jim Denham, what have the Jews in France got to do with the historical argument I raised? And I have no problem with your statement about the Gambia except for it’s historical inaccuracy and the lack of connection with homosexuality. In fact, you make my point for me – that our histories do not exempt us from making ethical choices … EVER! This should be obvious to any socialist, any internationalist whether in Gambia or France.

    5. John P Reid says:

      She may have said it in good faith and she does mention her own relatives in her quote, it was still blood libel,and a crass, factually incorrect statement,used to defend, other people, ignoring anti Semeticism

  6. You are too late on this one Jon, you are among those that have been most active in fuelling it. Please, if you can’t lend a hand maybe you could at least get out of the way.

    Once again you mention education and training. Once again I ask you, who do you think should do this educating and training ?

  7. Bazza says:

    When I worked in adult education/higher education we saw it all.
    We tried to prepare students well so they avoided: making sweeping statements, not backing their arguments up with evidence, jumping to conclusions, treating certain groups in society as though they were homogenous (all the same) but most fundamentally you needed EVIDENCE to back up your arguments which I am afraid seemed missing in this particular case.
    I always used to say there is nothing wrong with having strong views as long as you had strong evidence – it also potentally empowering as a socialist.
    Years ago when I first qualified from University (the first from my working class family) I remember reading an editorial of THE TIMES (it was a better paper then before Murdoch) and I could put a counter argument and I felt powerful!
    In our case as tutors/faciltators we were trying to nurture students as the critical thinking citizens of tomorrow.
    But do we expel people for any of the above?Absolutely not; we offered students feedback to help them to achieve good practice but it seems Labour members are being held to very high academic standards when of course our members reflect the academic and ‘school of life’ general population (and somone once argued something like you can learn more in a 3 week strike than in a year at university) – but perhaps we do need more political education and ALL of us continue to learn throughout life.
    And this site is pretty good.
    So whilst I look forward to such rigorous standards being applied to the Tory Party and its members perhaps Labour could make the following pledge: To all diverse working people (including Jewish, LGBT Groups, Disabled People) if the far right try to come for you Labour and the trade unions will be at your side, to quote from the Battle of Cable Street,”No Pasaran!!”

    1. Bazza says:

      Just an afterthought.
      As a left wing democratic socialist I try to be hopefully (not uncritically) informed by Karl Marx (brilliant on capitalism) Rosa Luxemburg (brilliant on independent critical thinking) Paulo Freire (brilliant on grassroots empowerment) and John Lennon (brilliant on peace and love for humanity).
      As someone I think once said – “Doubt everything.”
      So I love all the oppressed of the World and don’t single out one group of them.
      Equally I can’t stand the rich and powerful of the World (because of what they do) and equally I don’t single out one group of them.
      On our side I am for ALL and of those against us I am against ALL.
      X, Peace & International solidarity.

  8. Jim Denham says:

    On e unfortunate section of Jon’s generally reasoned pieced, ids this:

    “The action of the Compliance Unit unfortunately fuels concern about a witch-hunt and directs it the “Israel lobby” since on this occasion – unlike virtually every other – the accusation originally came from the Israel Advocacy Movement, an organisation that appears to be on the fundamentalist wing of pro-Israeli organisations”:

    Jon: since when have right wingers, Zionists, pro-Israelis, etc. etc, not had the right to complain about anti-Semitism?

  9. Jim Denham says:

    In short: Jackie Walker’s comments arfe not marginal.
    They’re is from that stand of anti-Semitism which is (tragically) strong among some Black Americans. She’s saying the Jews ran the slave trade, but softly. The NoI have a fully worked out version. They’ve a book on it. There’s a reply, Ministry of Lies, from ADL, or similar, which takes the stuff apart. Comrades should read it.

    1. Raimo Kangasniemi says:

      Instead of ADL propaganda people should read actual historical studies written by actual, trained historians – and to read several of them and to read them critically, remembering that the slave trade has been used as a venue to fight also other proxy wars than the current in question.

      Sticking with the propaganda pieces one can always find a view pleasant to one’s own prejudices and interests.

  10. Jackie walker says:

    … and John Denham I never said Jews run the slave trade. That was said by the Jewish Chronicle.

    1. That’s good enough for Jim

  11. Raimo Kangasniemi says:

    No ethnic-religious group (or individual family) today want to be connected to slave trade. The first reaction when looking at slave trade in level that brings up examples like this is the accusation of it being a slur.

    In reality, if we just look at the Atlantic slave trade, all then existing ethnic-religious groups of any standing in the Atlantic world and the areas brought to contact with it ended up tied with it to some degree, starting from those Africans who did much of the capture of slaves in the interior.

    Through its role in the industrialization of the British Isles the Atlantic slave trade created the modern world. We are all, in a way, beneficiaries of the suffering of those who were the merchandise in that trade.

    Yes, there were Jewish merchants involved. Slave trade was “just” another trade – and very profitable one. No, Jewish merchants did not run it.

    The Atlantic slave trade grew out of the Mediterranean slave trades branch serving the Occident. The other branch serving the Orient would in time end up creating an Indian Ocean equivalent, of whose most famous example is the Sansibar slave trade, through which up to 50 00 captive people went in the 1860s and as many as 25 000 still as late as 1892. In countries like Saudi-Arabia in the Middle East there are still alive people who were once slaves.

    If you want to find a slave trade run by Jewish merchants, one has to go back to slave trade bringing mainly Slavs through Western Europe to the Mediterranean world during the early centuries of the medieval era after Islamic conquest ended East Roman control of maritime trade routes.

    Slaves have probably been part of the trade in the Mediterranean world as long as large-scale trade has existed; there is no old port of any significance in the Mediterranean that would not at some point played role in the traffic of captive human beings.

    A group like Jews coming into existence in this this setting were set to end up as both the merchandise and the merchants. One of the earliest examples of Jews in Europe is a gravestone in Athens from around 262 BCE – thought to belong to a Jewish slave – this centuries before mass enslavement after the failed Jewish rebellions in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE.

    As Jews, a formerly oppressed minority, have gotten such a strong position in ‘Western’ society, they have done what all groups have tended to do in similar circumstances: Use their new position to try to enforce a view of the past preferable to them.

    The ‘Western’ preference to sanctify Jews after the Holocaust has only exacerbated this. The idea that Jews were just like everybody else, in good and ill – neither eternal saints who always suffer nor “killers of god” scheming against Christendom – is something that seems as hard for philosemites to accept as to antisemites.

  12. Chris says:

    Has there ever been a more goyish organisation than the AWL?

  13. John Rogan says:

    “Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade…” – Jackie Walker.

    “Jews have been conclusively linked to the greatest criminal endeavor ever undertaken against an entire race of people … the black African Holocaust. … The effects of this unspeakable tragedy are still being felt among the peoples of the world at this very hour.”

    — The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews (Nation Of Islam book), 1991

    “And I suspect it [JW’s suspension] may have been done without proper consideration of the sensitivities surrounding historical analysis of the slave trade that is every bit as shoddy as Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators…” – Jon Lansman.

    The shoddy historical analysis that Jon Lansman refers and links to is “The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews” quoted above.

    This book set out to show how Jews dominated the Atlantic Slave Trade. Volume 2 (2010) was entitled “How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy” with the implication that, as with the slave trade (in their view), Jews are still in a dominant “master” position over blacks.

    Critics of the book used descriptions much stronger than “shoddy”, though.

    For example, Henry Louis Gates Jr. (head of the department of Afro-American studies at Harvard University) said –

    “The book, one of the most sophisticated instances of hate literature yet compiled, was prepared by the historical research department of the Nation of Islam. It charges that the Jews were “key operatives”in the historic crime of slavery, playing an “inordinate” and “disproportionate” role and “carv [ ing ] out for themselves a monumental culpability in slavery — and the black holocaust.”” (a).

    He also said it was “the Bible of new anti-Semitism” (b).

    Mr Gates pointed out something that readers of the book could check for themselves –

    “They might find out — from the book’s own vaunted authorities — that, for example, of all the African slaves imported into the New World, American Jewish merchants accounted for less than 2 percent, a finding sharply at odds with the Nation’s of Islam’s claim of Jewish “predominance” in this traffic.”(a)

    More up to date, here is the leader of the NOI Louis Farrakhan speaking about the Shoah –

    “German Jews financed Hitler right here in America…International bankers financed Hitler and poor Jews died while big Jews were at the root of what you call the Holocaust…Little Jews died while big Jews made money. Little Jews [were] being turned into soap while big Jews washed themselves with it. Jews [were] playing violin, Jews [were] playing music, while other Jews [were] marching into the gas chambers.” (c)

    So, not only were Jews behind the slave trade but “rich Jews” also financed Hitler according to the NOI. If this is not obscene anti-Semitism at its most poisonous, then I don’t know what is.

    More on the anti-Semitism of the Nation of Islam can be read here (d).

    It is very good that Jon Lansman has pointed to the (possible) reference point for Jackie Walker’s statement that “[m]any Jews were..the chief financiers of the … slave trade”. If that is indeed the case, then the LRC and Momentum have to make a statement as to whether or not they believe this “chief financiers” view of history is also theirs.

    Otherwise, we will have a situation that many people will believe it to be true and it is not.

    (a) http://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/20/opinion/black-demagogues-and-pseudo-scholars.html?pagewanted=all

    (b) Allah in the West: Islamic movements in America and Europe By Gilles Kepel, Stanford University Press, 1997 pp. 68-69.

    (c) Sermon delivered at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, March 19, 1995

    (d) https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I don’t think, as John Rogan suggests, that The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews is Jackie’s reference point – I know from talking to her that her reference point is her own genealogical research and knowledge of & research into the slave trade.

  14. David Pavett says:

    As Jon says, it is hard to conduct a reasoned debate about racism in the presence of a lynch mob.

    After reading the Jewish Chronicle article about Jackie Walker I wondered how on earth this could lead to suspension from Labour. At face value the situation is absurd. Whether or not Jews were involved in the African slave trade, and what the importance of that involvement was, should be regarded as questions about historical fact about which one can be right or wrong without exciting charges of anti-Semitism.

    In fact things are not quite so straightforward. The first problem is that charges of anti-Semitism are being made with the political objective of undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. This should be plain as a pikestaff to anyone with an iota of objectivity. Not, of course, that this should detract from resolute opposition to genuine anti-Semitism.

    On the specific issue of Jackie Walker’s suspension it is important to be aware of the long history of anti-Semitic interpretation of the role of Jews in the slave trade (e.g. from the likes of David Irvin and those who share his concern for “racial integrity”). This means that anti-racists need to be very careful about the language they use in discussing Jewish involvement in the slave trade so that it cannot be confused with the likes of Irving.

    To note that Jews, like Muslims and like Christians were involved in the slave trade should have no shock value. It would be very surprising if it were otherwise. This has to be clearly distinguished from seeing the slave trade as some kind of Jewish plot to destabilise the gentile world as opposed to the willingness of the age to make money wherever it was to be made and without asking too many questions (an inclination that crosses all ethnic boundaries).

    From this angle I suspect that the claim that Jews were the “the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” was said without due caution. I am no expert but from what I have read Jews were certainly involved and in specific enclaves (e.g. Suriname) may even have been dominant but the idea that Jews were dominant in the trade as a whole does not, as far as I can tell, have many takers among historians. Therefore it is a claim that should only be made with at least a reference to convincing supporting evidence.

    That turn of phrase may have been insufficiently considered. If it is so then it would be better that it is said. An unfortunate turn of phrase rapidly reflected on and corrected cannot possibly, in a sane procedure, be grounds for discipline.

    So, since Jackie Walker is contributing here I would like to ask her “Do you stand by the claim that Jews were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade? Did you mean the whole African slave trade or a specific part of it? Whatever your claims are, are you convinced that you can demonstrate their historical accuracy? Or, on reflection, do you think that the phrase you used was not the most appropriate?”

    These are all genuine questions and I would be very interested to have your answers to them.

    1. John Penney says:

      Since Jackie Walker is participating in this debate I would be interested in her reply to your valid question too, David.

      When participating in political debate on issues bedevilled with wildly differing interpretations of meaning , like “Zionism”, it is surely beholden on the Left to avoid appearing to enter into a collusion with deeply embedded pre-existing reactionary “layers of associated meaning” around these terms ?

      There is a longstanding, deeply embedded, crude generalised anti-Jewish prejudice within many Black communities in both the USA, and in countries of the ex British Empire. This arises because of the very carefully constructed ethnically-based “hierarchy of priviledge and exploitation” maintained both within the British empire , and the USA to “divide and rule”. Within this hierarchy the super-exploited Black community traditionally often came up against the most extreme, personalised, very localised, sharp end of exploitation, often , via the Jewish small businessman running the local shop or pawn/loan shop – rather than the more distant , higher level exploitation of non-Jewish Big Business. Similarly, in the British empire African colonies the super-exploited Black majority often experienced the most localised personalised sharp end of capitalism – in their interactions with the Indian shopkeeper sub class – deliberately imported by the British to carry out this “middle man” function in the hierarchy of exploitation.

      This has still left a deeply culturally embedded almost subliminal lingering hostility between the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK and elsewhere today (and was the basis for the expulsion of the Indian shopkeeper and business class from Uganda in the 1960’s).

      It is in the context of these deeply historically embedded inter community hostilities – originating in the deliberate “divide and rule” stratagems of capitalism, that the Nation of Islam from its inception embraced a vicious anti-Jewish (forget euphemisms like “Anti-Semitism”) prejudice at the core of its ideology.

      It is therefore extraordinarily insensitive for a radical Leftwinger to , accidentally, or intentionally, appear to “buy-in” to key aspects of the complex multi-layer, “myth-story” already pre-existing within the US, and other, Black communities , about the claimed central role of specifically “Jewish financiers” in their enslavement and exploitation.

      Let’s be clear, there simply was NOT any predominance at all of specifically Jewish financiers in the African slave trade. It is quite simply a lie. And to suggest otherwise is to participate in a dangerous and divisive demonization which serves only to divide communities in the face of a shared capitalist oppression.

      1. David Pavett says:

        It’s a pity that we haven’t had the clarification I asked for from Jackie Walker.

        1. Danny Nicol says:

          Yes I too would like to know why Jackie thinks the Jews were the CHIEF financiers of the sugar and slave trades. What were her sources? Is she convinced that they are valid?

          In case Jackie has (understandably) tired of reading the comments, please could those who know Jackie personally draw to her attention that a number of us are asking this entirely reasonable question.

  15. Sacha Ismail says:

    Obviously there is a witch-hunt here and obviously Jackie should be reinstated. The culture where people can be suspended for a comment trawled up on Facebook needs to be smashed.

    However, I don’t think anyone has answered the question that Jim’s friend raised:

    “I’m sure it will be reassuring to the many Jewish children in France who have to have their schools guarded by armed soldiers, and the Jews in Yemen who are routinely harassed and issued death threats by both Shia and Sunni Islamists, and the Jews of Iran who are not allowed to hold any official posts in the army or government or judiciary, to hear that there is no longer any oppression of Jews around the world.

    “Could you imagine if I wrote something online, as a rebuttal to claims of anti-Muslim racism, saying

    *Many Muslims (my ancestors) were very much involved in the enslavement of Africans just as much as the Europeans, which is why there are many thousands of mosques in places as far as Gambia and Tanzania. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice*”

    Leaving historical accuracy about the spread of Islam in East Africa aside for a second, my question is: what is the relevance of Jewish slave-traders in the 17th century to anti-semitism today? I genuinely don’t understand what point Jackie was trying to make.

    That may be partly because I haven’t seen the whole conversation the comments were part of, but could someone explain what the point was? The only interpretation I can see is that the role of Jews in slavery somehow mitigates anti-semitism today. If that’s not the point, then what was it? I’d be very happy to have it explained.

  16. Sacha Ismail says:

    Apologies if someone did deal with this and I’ve missed it.

  17. Tim Barlow says:

    I’ve not had the time to trawl through Left Futures articles or comment threads lately, so correct me if I’m wrong, but throughout this whole farcical non-event claiming rife anti-semitism within the party, we’ve not heard a peep out of Gerald Kaufman, probably the most senior Jew in the party and hitherto it’s most outspoken critic of the Israeli state. This is quite extraordinary. Has he been muzzled by Zionist thugs or have the Blairites got him gagged and bound in a cupboard somewhere?

  18. Lyn Eynon says:

    An attempt to reassert some basics.

    1) The essential fact about those who financed the slave trade is not their ethnicity or religion but that they were capitalists. Slave-based production played an essential role in primitive accumulation. If we have to talk nationalities, let’s remember that Britain was right at the forefront, which is why Marvin Rees’ victory in Bristol is just as significant as Sadiq Khan’s in London.

    2) Capitalism has always used state power to dispose of the lives, lands and bodies of ‘others’. It was there right from the start in Columbus’ genocidal e search for gold and exterminations to clear land for English settlers, and it continued through the carve-up of Africa, the hunt for ‘Lebensraum’, and the Naqba expulsions. Its ‘legitimacy’ has been theorised by some of most ‘enlightened’ minds in European thought and it permeates through all layers of society. The Jewish people have been victims of this but the Israeli state acts as an oppressor towards the Palestinians.

    3) Actions count for more than words. Obsessing over semantics and syntax will not resolve debate on Zionism or anti-semitism. History has embedded racism so deeply into language that it can be hard to form a sentence on some subjects, but a clumsy phrase need not imply hatred. We need to get the debate back onto the facts of discrimination, persecution, oppression and occupation suffered daily, whether by black, Jewish or Palestinian people, and how to fight those. Dialogue can improve understanding but analysing tweets will not change the world.

    4) Whatever the rights and wrongs of who said what when, there is now a witch-hunt aimed at pushing back the left in the Labour Party and blocking the campaign for Palestinian rights. We have to resist that while fighting racism in all its varied forms.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Your attempt to assert some basics seems problematic to me.

      1. There is a problem in treating everyone who works to gain wealth as a capitalist. Slavery was a fact of the pre-capitalist world. So seeing the roots of slavery in capitalism is questionable. Also I doubt the claim that Britain “was right at the forefront” in the slave trade. The Muslim world had developed an extensive slave trade long before the British were in a position to get into the business.

      I agree that the ethnicity of those involved is secondary to the nature of the social system that makes slavery possible and even encourages it. All the same it can be a matter of interest, especially to combat simplistic notions blaming one ethnic/national group when in fact many were involved.

      2) You surely would not want to stand by the idea that “Columbus’ genocidal e search for gold and exterminations” had as its purpose “to clear land for English settlers”. Nor, I guess would you want to defend the assertion that this “search for gold and extermination” was the central motive behind the historical movement that lead to the creation of Israel.

      3) I agree that is “racism so deeply into language that it can be hard to form a sentence on some subjects” and that is why trying to be careful about the meaning of the words we use and what they might signify should not be condemned as “Obsessing over semantics and syntax”.

      You say that “Actions count for more than words”. Easily said, but this rather obscures the fact that our actions depend on words (even in the simplest of tasks like folding a piece of paper in half). You say further “Dialogue can improve understanding but analysing tweets will not change the world”. This leaves things in he air. Tweets aside, there is no hope of actions adequate to the task of combating racism without dialogue.

      4) I agree that the present (witch) hunt for anti-Semites in the Labour Party is a right-wing motivated effort to undermine the Labour leader. On the other hand this is not blindingly obvious to the average party member who has not followed the events in detail and may be dependent on the media for their information. I therefore wonder in what sense this view can be described as “basic” rather than a view that one comes to on the basis of some significant effort.

      Perhaps it is not so easy to state basics.

      1. Lyn Eynon says:

        1) I was specifically thinking of the Atlantic trade. Slavery of course existed outside the context of capitalism, not just in the Muslim world but in all ‘civilisations’. Indeed, prior to the second half of the 18th century, there is very little questioning of slavery as a ‘normal’ fact of economic life. As such, investing in the slave trade was treated much as investment in any other business, with decisions taken on criteria such as risk, expected return and market access. Those who could finance it profitably did so, whoever they were. Britain was certainly at the forefront of slavery at its Atlantic peak during the 17th and 18th centuries, not just as traders but also as plantation owners.

        2) You’re misreading a sentence that got slightly garbled. Let me try again. Both the Spanish conquests in South America and the English conquest in North America illustrate a pronounced tendency in European settlement to treat pre-existing populations as expendable. The exact form of that differed from case to case but always involved some combination of exploitation, expulsion and extermination, as in the US realisation of its ‘manifest destiny’ at the expense of the First Nations. As with slavery, this was often seen as ‘normal’, particularly where land was disputed. The treatment of the Palestinians has been milder than in many other cases of European settlement, but the Nakba ethnic cleansing and the clearing of large areas of the West Bank to make way for Israeli settlers follow the same pattern. And it continues today.

        3) Yes we need dialogue, but on this topic, arguments over words often seem to be used to stop that rather than to aid it.

        1. Lyn Eynon says:

          ‘less extreme’ would be better than ‘milder’ – there’s nothing mild about what’s happening

        2. David Pavett says:

          I agree with most of what you say. I just thought that much of it is not really basic. I also react strongly when I hear claims like “actions count for more than words”. I have heard that more times than I care to remember. It usually comes from people with excessive confidence in their gut reactions and with little patience to have their views questioned (I am not suggesting that you are one such). I think that the Labour Party and even the Labour left suffers in general from a fairly mindless activism and far too little careful debate. Hence my sounding off.

          1. Lyn Eynon says:

            Just to clarify. My “action not words” comment was not intended to privilege activism. Rather it was to suggest that in assessing Zionism we would do better to look at what it actually means for people’s lives rather than the claims of its supporters or detractors. Similarly, whether or not someone is anti-semitic has to be judged from their behaviour, not from a hastily and perhaps badly worded comment.

            I have a wider concern here, that social media rather than opening up debate might now be starting to close it down through intimidating participants with the risk that any quick, thoughtless or just exploratory comment could come back to haunt them, with little scope for retraction or modification.

    1. David Pavett says:

      This fits the bill of “frenzied witch hunt”.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Why did he immediately retract it say it was unwise, and that blog full of tress are having their won conference,well they’re a magazine they can they don’t get to vote on lap ur policy,and t. Party-within-a-party quotes about 4.5% Kendall was so off topic,

        1. Fear. Faux accusations of anti-Semitism is a terrorist weapon.

  19. Karl Stewart says:

    Why hasn’t gobshite Jess Phillips been suspended?

    She made a public death threat against Jeremy Corbyn.

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=jess+phillips+interview+with+owen+jones&view=detail&mid=85E1A5D679946EFFCF8585E1A5D679946EFFCF85&FORM=VIRE

    She should also have been arrested for her threat, but at the very least, the Labour Party should suspend her, withdraw the whip and select a Labour candidate for the constituency.

  20. Peter Redfarn says:

    I we should oppose the “anti-Semitism” witch-hunt totally. The real enemy is the Tories, of which there are too many in the Labour Party. Hoping to capitalise on bad election results to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, and finding this wasn’t working, they deliberately launched this witch-hunt on the eve of the election.
    Clive Heemskerk, in a letter to the Socialist, points out that John Mann, as chair of NOLS and member of Clause 4 in the 1980s, attacked Militant for supporting a two-state solution. Perhaps John Mann has changed his mind, despite the increasing extremism of the Israeli government. More likely “anti-Semitism” is being used as a smokescreen.
    While I agree with much of what Tony Greenstein says, in referring to “John Denham” as a member of a small Trotskyist organisation. if he is referring to the AWL, they are Shachtmanites, not Trotskyists. IMHO, that suggests an affinity with a certain Georgian anti-Semite, who tended to refer to party members who disagreed with him as Trotskyists, before expelling them with extreme prejudice. I don’t know who this Denham is, but he seems like a Tory troll to me.
    It is regrettable that AWL founder Sean Matgamna advocates Ken Livingstone’s expulsion, at a time when several AWL members face expulsion, for being socialists, not for being islamophobic or anti-Semitic.
    Let the Labour Party decide things by democratic debate, not by witch-hunts and expulsions. It cannot fight the Tories by imitating the totalitarianism of the CPSU.

  21. Jim Denham says:

    I republish below, a new piece by Sean Matgamna, the person who has done more than any other individual to force the question of anti-Semitism onto the agenda of the British left.

    As usual with Sean, it’s a balanced and well-reasoned piece that takes full account of the political context in which comments are made, and he is willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    But I personally think he’s wrong in simply dismissing as unreasonable, concerns about Jackie Walker’s Facebook comments. I can agree that her comments should not have been dealt with by disciplinary action, but they were not unproblematic. As Sean doesn’t quote Walker’s comments, I will:

    “As I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews …

    “Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice”

    I would ask, what is the relevance of Jewish slave-traders in the 17th century to anti-semitism today? I genuinely don’t understand what point Jackie was trying to make.

    That may be partly because I haven’t seen the whole conversation the comments were part of, but could someone explain what the point was? The only interpretation I can see is that the role of Jews in slavery somehow mitigates anti-semitism today. If that’s not the point, then what was it? I’d be very happy to have it explained.

    _______________________________________________________________________

    Mobilise reason to fight anti-Semitism
    By Sean Matgamna

    Jackie Walker, a woman of mixed African-Jewish background, and vice-chair of the Labour Party’s left-wing group, Momentum, has been suspended by the Labour Party on grounds of anti-semitism. The charge of anti-semitism is based on a fragment of a Facebook conversation from some months ago. Her anti-semitism consisted in the statement that Africa too had experienced a Holocaust.

    The Labour Party now has a regime of capricious and arbitrary instant exclusions. This paper and its predecessor Socialist Organiser have argued that anti-semitism in the labour movement needs to be rooted out. But this Red-Queen-in-Alice-in-Wonderland off with their heads regime is not the way to do it.

    For decades, from Israel’s June 1967 Six Day War and with renewed energy after the 1973 Yom Kippur Israeli-Egyptian war, hostility to Israel has been a major, and seemingly ever-growing, force in the labour movement and in the Labour Party. Some of that is a just hostility to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But there is more than that. There is often a blatant anti-semitism.

    In June 1967 Israel occupied that part of pre-1948 Palestine which the United Nations partition plan of 1947 had designated for an independent Palestinian state, to exist side by side with Israel. That Palestinian territory had been occupied and annexed in 1948-9 by Jordan and Egypt, and a small part of it by Israel. Now all of pre-war Palestine and Gaza was under Israeli control. Various Israeli offers to vacate the newly conquered territories in return for peace and recognition by the Arab states were rejected. Israel’s occupation of that Palestinian land has so far lasted half a century. It has turned Israel into a regional imperialist power (in the sense that Marxists had called the pre-World-War-2 Czechoslovakian, Polish, and Yugoslav states imperialist: they ruled over minority peoples repressed to various degrees by the Poles, Czechs, Serbs).

    Israel has been a grubby and brutal imperialist power in its treatment of the Palestinians. As with any other imperialist occupation, Marxists have demanded that the occupying power, Israel, get out of the Arab-majority territories and allow the Palestinians to have their own state there. That there were special problems was not to be denied. In 1967, no Arab state recognised Israel’s existence, or its right to continued existence. Only the PLO and a couple of states, Egypt and Jordan, do so, even today. The PLO before the June 1967 war had been controlled by Egypt and fronted by Ahmad Shukeiri, who proclaimed the PLO’s objective in the slogan: drive the Jews into the sea.

    This was altogether too reminiscent of Hitler, then only twenty years dead. Any taint, approximation to, or suggestion of anti-semitism was still held to be unclean politics, far outside what was acceptable to labour-movement people. But with an enormous exception: the Stalinist movements everywhere had spent the years from 1948-9 to 1953 in a scarcely-disguised anti-semitic clamour against “the Zionists” and against Israel.

    In Stalinist show trials in Russia’s satellite states in Eastern Europe, such as the Czech Slansky trial of 1952, recently-prominent Stalinists accused of all sorts of treasons were indicted above all as being Zionists. They were jailed, and some hanged. The Stalinist parties everywhere conducted large-scale propaganda against Zionism. It was then that the assertion that the Zionists were tools, and political and moral accomplices, of Hitler and the Nazis, appeared and went into circulation. In the USSR, a projected show trial of Jewish doctors who had attended the leading Stalinists was set in train. It was abandoned when Stalin died in March 1953. Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced Stalin in 1956, and his anti-semitism suddenly became a matter of public record. Many Jews left the Communist Parties. Stalinist anti-Zionist anti-semitism was banked down. But not everywhere. Open anti-semitism became a force in Poland as late as 1967-8.

    The orthodox Trotskyists, including the Palestinian Trotskyists, declared themselves against both sides in the Israeli war of independence in 1948. The Workers Party in the USA supported Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. Naturally, Trotskyists denounced the Stalinist anti-semitic campaigns of 1948 to 1953. In 1956 and after, its anti-semitism was part of their denunciation of Stalinism. How did those attitudes turn into fervent support for the Arab states against Israel? What were the political processes by way of which much of what had been official Stalinist doctrine in 1948-53, denounced as anti-Semitism by the orthodox Trotskyists, came to be fervently accepted and propagated by them?

    The objective basis for it was the fact and the accompanying brutalities of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian-majority territories. Its subjective basis was the peculiar version of anti-imperialism which the Trotskyists adopted from the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950 onwards, an anti-imperialism coloured and sculpted by the belief that in the colonial and semi-colonial world the Stalinists were, by virtue of their militancy against the US and its allies, leading the first stage of an anti-capitalist and essentially working-class world revolution.

    Thus the orthodox Trotskyists came to be impassioned defenders and advocates of one of the great imperialist blocs contending for mastery in the world. They made criticisms of Stalinism, but never allowed them to affect the basic commitment to ” defend” the USSR and its spawns and replicas. The same sort of anti-imperialism was brought to bear on the antagonisms between Israel and the Arab states. The anti-colonial movements in the Arab world were construed as part of an”Arab Revolution”, which in turn was part of the “Colonoial Revolution which was part of the world revolution. The Grant tendency (later Militant, and today the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal) even discovered in 1965 that Ba thist (non-Stalinist) Syria had in thhis historical process become a “deformed workers state”.

    Israel, which after 1967, though not before, became closely allied with the USA, was part of the imperialist bloc. The Palestinians and the Arab states, such as Nasserite Egypt, opposing Israel were part of the progressive anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist bloc. And of course the Palestinians facing the superior might of Israel naturally attracted the reflex sympathy and support of socialists.

    The Trotskyists shift from their attitude in the 1948 war and after was first a shift to a new denial that Israel was a historically legitimate state. From the end of Arab-Israeli hostilities in 1949, the Trotskyists had taken the existence of Israel as a fact. When in 1956 Israel joined France and Britain in invading Egypt (the Suez crisis), the Trotskyists properly took sides with Egypt, but did not conclude that Israel, the ally of Britain and France, had no right to continue existing. In the grip of a belief that the” Arab Revolution” was or would soon become socialist, Gerry Healy, the leader of the main British orthodox Trotskyist group, published a small pamphlet on the Suez crisis in which, astonishingly, he threatened that if the Israelis did not change to the right side in the world revolution, the side that the Arabs and their colonial revolution were on, they would soon face a bloody holocaust that would make Hitler’s massacres seem “like a tea party! The organisation that could allow Healy to publish such a thing — what could make the murder of six million Jews in Europe seem like a tea party?– was politically sick; but the same organisation, at roughly the same time, could publish a valuable expose of Stalinist anti-semitism.

    The shift to a radical opposition to the existence of Israel came by way of widespread acceptance of the post-1969 PLO proposal to replace Israel with a secular democratic state in all of pre-1948 Palestine, in which Jews and Arabs could live as equals. The PLO no longer shouted “Drive the Jews into the sea”, but, with its seemingly benign proposal for Jewish-Arab equality in a common secular democratic state, it was thereby all the more effective in spreading the idea that Israel was not a legitimate state, that it should never have come into existence, and that it should be put out of existence as soon as possible. Any idea that this could ever be done by Israel agreeing to abolish itself as a state and put its citizens at the mercy of its long-time bitter enemies was ludicrous.

    And it was an approach unique to the Jewish state: to no other nation state was there such an attitude. In practice the approach could only mean what Shukeiri’s “Drive the Jews into the sea” had meant: conquest of Israel, depriving the Hebrew nation of national rights, and killing as many Israeli Jews as necessary to do that. A combination of hostility to Israel’s continuing occupation of Arab-majority territories and the pseudo-benignity of the secular democratic state proposal made the formula widely acceptable to people who would never accept the same programme — that Israel was not a historically legitimate state and should go out of existence — presented as the “drive the Jews into the sea” that it was and in practice could only be. Thus the idea of Israel’s historical illegitimacy became widely accepted on the left, including the Labour Party left; and then, what followed from it, since Israel was so unreasonable as to refuse to abolish itself: support for any armed Arab (or, latterly, Islamic, i.e. Iranian) action against Israel.

    Not just a proper socialist and democratic support for Palestinians attempting to drive out the Israelis from Palestinian majority territories, but support for suicide bombs against Israeli civilians and for the mouthings and actions against Israel of such as Saddam Hussein. Labour MPs held to such views, and not only honest and well-meaning political fools like the late Ron Brown MP. When in 1994 the soft-left Labour MP George Galloway, on camera, addressed Saddam Hussein, praising the butcher’s strength and in Arabic pledging support for the conquest of Jerusalem, the right-wing Labour establishment left it to the Tories and the press to protest. Galloway’s continued membership of the Labour Party was at that point never questioned, other than that Socialist Organiser (forerunner of Solidarity) said that he should be removed as an MP.

    And now, under a left-wing leadership, we have a regime in the Labour Party where Jackie Walker, a woman of mixed African-Jewish background, can be summarily suspended for daring to call the long historical martyrdom of Africa, notably the slave trade, a Holocaust equivalent to the Hitlerian massacre of six million Jews. Are such glosses on history now full-blown anti-semitism? Not something maybe to disagree with or question, or denounce, but something incompatible with membership of the Labour Party? The Labour Party that for so long had George Galloway as one of its ornaments?

    I repeat: anti-semitism on the left needs to be fought against and destroyed. This paper, and its predecessor Socialist Organiser, have been fighting it within the left and in the labour movement for over three decades. The main fight, however, has to take the form of debate, discussion, political education and re-education. The suspension from the Labour Party of a Ken Livingstone for pretty blatant anti-semitism on the air is just and necessary. The removal of Jackie Walker is preposterous. It is the sort of response in mirror image that the hysterical left in student unions have sometimes employed against those Jews they deem not hostile enough to Israel and thus Zionist and racist.

    The Palestinians are oppressed by Israel and therefore are entitled to the support of honest socialists and consistent democrats. Is heated support for the Palestinians from now on to be incompatible with Labour Party membership? Is indignant, or exaggerated, or hysterical denunciation of specific Israeli acts to be branded racist, incompatible with membership in the new Labour Party?

    We need to specify what left anti-semitism consists of, in order to debate, educate, and clarify. These, I think, are its main features.

    1. The belief that Israel has no right to exist. That is the core of left anti-semitism, though it comes in more than one version and from more than one root, ranging from the skewed anti-imperialism of the orthodox Trotskyists through Arab nationalism to Islamic chauvinism.

    2. The belief that Israeli Jewish nationalism, Zionism, is necessarily a form of racism. That this racism can only be expunged if Israel, Zionists, and Jews abandon Israeli nationalism and support of any kind for Israel. That Jews Jewish students, for example can only redeem themselves if they agree that the very existence of Israel is racist.

    3. The view that Israel alone is responsible for the conflict with the Arab states (and, now, with Islamic states). The idea that Israel alone is responsible for creating Arab refugees, and is uniquely evil in doing so. In real history about 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out in 1948. In the following years the Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab territories numbered about 600,000. Israel integrated the 600,000; the Arab states mostly refused the Palestinians citizenship or even the right to work.

    4. The claim that the Palestinian have a “right of return”, that is, the right to the organised settlement in Israel of six million people, only a tiny and dying-off number of whom were born in what is now Israel, is one of the many codes for in fact demanding the self-abolition of the Jewish state and justifications for war to conquer and abolish it because it will not accept the demand. It is not the equivalent of free immigration to the UK, or even of mass migration to the UK of millions from Syria, Libya, and Africa. Its equivalent for Britain would be the organised settlement in the country of sixty million people. Socialists should be in favour of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians for compensation and for letting individual Palestinians into Israel. Support for a collective right of return is only another form of the demand to conquer and destroy Israel, if it will not surrender.

    5. The idea that the forced migration of 700,000 Arabs was a *unique* evil is also extravagantly wrong. In 1945, about 13 million Germans were driven out of Eastern Europe and German East Prussia. They were driven into a Germany reduced to ruins by wartime bombing, where economic life had seized up and millions were starving. At least half a million are reckoned to have lost their lives in that ethnic cleansing. Only obscure German nationalists now propose to reverse that forced population movement and to drive out the Poles and Czechs who live where Germans once lived.

    6. There is a peculiar form of Holocaust semi-denial current on the left. I have never heard of anyone on the left who denies that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis (though, in the nature of things, someone will now jump out from behind a bush wearing a “Hitler was Framed” badge, and call me a liar). What many on the left deny is that this unique fact of history had repercussions that we should at least try to understand, with some sympathy for the surviving Jews and their decendents. On the left the Holocaust is not denied, but it is relegated almost to the status of a “virtual fact”. In truth, the Holocaust discredited all Jewish-assimilationist programmes, including ours, the socialist one. It created the will for a Jewish solution to the Jewish question and for the creation of Israel. There is not to be surprised or scandalised in that. The Holocaust should be appreciated as a real fact of history, with repercussions and reverberations, and not as something outside the history we are all part of, as a sort of side-show, as a two-dimensional hologram rather than the enormously weighty, reverborating event it was and continues to be.

    7. The idea that there are good peoples entitled to all rights, and bad peoples, entitled to none. That too is something I have never heard anyone voice explicitly. But it is there as an underlying implicit subtext in the idea that we are concerned with national rights only for the presently oppressed, i.e. in this case the Palestinians.

    8. There is no one-state solution. Not through, as now, Israeli domination of the whole territory and Palestinians living indefinitely in a limbo of Israeli occupation, nor through a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” incorporating Israel after its Jewish population have been killed or overpowered by Arab or Islamic states. The only just solution that can serve both Jews and Arabs is two states: a sovereign Palestinian state in contiguous territory, side by side with Israel.

    1. Jim did your momma never tell you that less is more ?

      1. Jim Denham says:

        No: but she did teach me to think: something you should try, Stephen.

  22. But Jim there is a one state reality. And that isn’t going to change. Are you going to join us in working to turn it into a democracy or are you content to remain part of the problem ?

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