Monday 4 September 2017

On "Weaponising" Anti-Semitism

I'm fed up of hearing about anti-semitism and the Labour Party. I'm fed up of it being used as a stick to beat the party with, and slander a political project and a movement. But you know what I'm sick of even more? And that's anti-semitism in general, of the continued vitality of a racism that should have been buried in the rubble of Nazi Germany. I'm disgusted to see anti-semitic tropes and outright Jew hatred infest several Facebook groups including, regrettably, some ostensibly Labour-facing forums. It saddens and appalls me when you see known anti-semites on Twitter tweeted and retweeted by lefties just because they happen to make the right noises against the Tories and in support of Jeremy Corbyn. I find it stupifyingly maddening that here in the 21st century we see activists, ostensibly well meaning and motivated, succumb to the dumbest conspiracy theorising which, inevitably, shades into anti-semitism. The great German socialist August Bebel referred to anti-semitism as the socialism of fools. He wasn't far wrong.

In the hot house factionalism of the Labour Party, every shift in policy, every utterance and intervention becomes a stake in the struggle to consolidate or remove Corbynism. As such, and because the Labour Party reflects the society that incubates it, ideas and prejudices that are alive and well in wider society are reflected in the party in all kinds of ways. Anti-semitism and sexism, to give two examples, have a life outside of Labour and therefore have a life inside Labour. In the context of a fraught and febrile political situation, they will be interpreted and used in the discharge of factional manoeuvring. Any old weapon, after all. But they wouldn't have potency if there weren't problems in the first place. To put it another way, if you think charges of anti-semitism are entirely made up by supporters of Israel, then they would have no traction. This, unfortunately, is nonsense. Anti-semitic incidents wouldn't be at their highest recorded level if these claims were a mere ploy.

Enough is enough. The party isn't institutionally anti-semitic - quite the opposite considering you can get slung out for it, and rightly so. But there are plenty of members who are indifferent to who they give credence to on social media, and often push stuff on Israel, its lobbies, and banking (particularly regarding the Rothschilds and Goldman Sachs) that accidentally-on-purpose play close to the line of anti-semitic conspiracy mongering. We would not, or at least I'd like to think we wouldn't adopt such a lackadaisical toward racism aimed at black or asian people, so it's time the left sharpened its anti-semitism antennae.

There is some help at hand. Anti-Nazis United (Twitter) is a blog dedicated to exposing and attacking racism, and anti-semitism in particular, wherever it rears its head in our movement. It's sad that we need an active anti-semite watch like this, but it's a necessity. Having recently been forced to shift from Medium to Blogger, the site regularly picks looks at ostensible Labour supporters on social media and provides evidence of their anti-Jewish racism. That said I don't always agree with some of the arguments made, but nevertheless it's a valuable and useful project - particularly for those new to the left on social media. And for established users too. There's been more than one occasion when I've punted something from a Corbyn supporting account only to have found a reservoir of anti-semitic bile hiding beneath the surface of run-of-the-mill leftism.

If there's going to be some weaponising going on, I'd like to see socialists weaponise against anti-semitism. It has no place in mainstream politics, let alone the movement dedicated to solidarity and anti-racism. And it's down to us to confront it and drive it out.


Anonymous said...

"To put it another way, if you think charges of anti-semitism are entirely made up by supporters of Israel, then they would have no traction. This, unfortunately, is nonsense. Anti-semitic incidents wouldn't be at their highest recorded level if these claims were a mere ploy."

I think this misses the point. What has happened is that the term "anti-semitism" has been re-framed so that "anti-semitism" now signifies anti-Zionism. We know that this re-framing has occurred, and who did it. We also know that Corbyn is being cast as an anti-Zionist for finding it possible to speak to people who actually are anti-Zionists.

The switcheroo that is being performed is to indicate that since Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Zionist by association, he is therefore an anti-semite by definition.

This is why we are stuck endlessly agonising over spits and spots of anti-semitism by some party members, in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. There hasn't been any comparable focus on Tory racism, which is very much alive and well.

That's not an instance of 'whataboutery': if these problems are endemic in society then even an unrepresentative sample like the Tory Party will reflect that reality, indeed perhaps magnify it.

(And we know that there have been attempts to bring down Tory critics of Israel, too. We all know which MP was the real target of last year's fishing expedition into Alan Duncan's past).

And, to put the important card on the table, there are sound reasons why elements within (n.b.) the state of Israel seeks to create and/or stir moral panic about a 1930s-style return to institutional anti-semitism. But the corrosive effect on other nations is just a side-effect.

Such fears encourage diaspora Jews to emigrate to Israel. And the theocratic arm of Israel believes that when the Jewish people are assembled again in their ancestral homeland, the conditions will be right for the arrival of the (true) Messiah.

There's no sordid economics or treacherous politics behind it all, just ancient prophecy that, since 1947, has seemed to be accelerating towards fulfilment. It's bonkers, but that's what Israel's religious establishment believes. Go and ask them yourself if you want confirmation.

Are all Jewish people consciously involved in this scheme? No, of course not - that's a toxic idea. Are their hopes and fears played upon by the sort of fundamentalist hardliners who assassinated Rabin? Yes, they are. The Jewish theocracy is real, and they take their prophets seriously.

The Labour Party is being played, here, because its capacity for conscientious self-examination (and its tendency towards fierce factionalism) has kept the pot a-boil without much more than an occasional poke of the fire.

We all accept that the other two Abrahamic religions have a deep underpinning of prophecy and destiny that can occasionally lead to unpleasant knock-on effects. The fact that the original prototype has these underpinnings too shouldn't come as a great shock.

Speedy said...

"The great German socialist August Bebel referred to anti-semitism as the socialism of fools. He wasn't far wrong."

That's a good one, although there are a hell of a lot of fools on the left (as on the right) - I think what you need to do is look at all the other foolish and illogical positions they occupy.

You need to divide fashion from fact. There are a lot of fashionable opinions on the left (promulgated by the liberal establishment) that people follow because it is the hip thing to do, and especially because it is self-serving. Paradoxically, anti-racism is one. Racism is of course beyond the pale, but this, like other equality issues, has been used to obscure the class struggle.

People don't like to hear this - that they are the tools of the very establishment they believe they wish to overthrow - but thems the facts. They would much rather lambast the people that point this out as on the right, whereas they are establishment sock puppets. The anti-Semitism that rears its head now and again (often as anti-Zionism) is a perfect example: the poor dears are simply confused, hoisted on their own logical petard. But it doesn't matter because so are their friends, and they are in the majority.

Phil said...

Mind how you go - these people appear to approve of Chris Williamson getting monstered for arguing that anti-semitism was being weaponised.

John Edwards said...

If anyone is in any doubt about anti-Semitism being weaponised have a look at the latest post on Craig Murray's blog about the libel action against him. I thought I knew what/who was behind the anti-Semitism allegations but this shocked even me

johnny conspiranoid said...
Niave cynicism anybody?