Antisemitism on the Left and the Whitewashed Documentary

June 30, 2017

in Activism, Featured Articles

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The Whitewashed documentary on the Chakrabarti Report and antisemitism in the Labour Party was released yesterday. It interviews various people who submitted written testimony to the Chakrabarti inquiry and feel like they were completely ignored.

I did not look up the backgrounds of the people who contributed to this documentary, deliberately, because it does not matter. The statements in the documentary speak for themselves about how British Jews experience antisemitism in the left and how they are treated when they raise it. Their relationship to Israel is a political test I am not going to apply to see whether I should value their arguments or not.

The number one thing I delete people from Facebook for is antisemitism. People have posted memes about Rothchilds controlling national banks, told me that the Rothchilds bought Palestine in 1917, that Jewish businessmen were responsible for increasing food prices in  Germany in the 1930s, accusing me of covering up Israel’s war crimes, compared me to Sonderkommandos, posted pictures of corpses in concentration camps in order to criticise Israel, reposted them deliberately when I said I considered that to be antisemitic, and have complained on being deleted, or banned from my blog, that I just can’t handle “the truth”. That’s stuff I have personally experienced and have screenshots of.

None of those people were on the right. Some of them were Jewish. Antisemitism on the left is a real and constant problem in my life.

What’s worse to me is how people who consider themselves of good politics will turn a blind eye to the experience of British Jews or worse, defend the actions of antisemites like Ken Livingstone or Jackie Walker because “they’re victims of a right-wing conspiracy to smear the left and the Labour Party”. That is true! But it DOESN’T change the fact that what they said WAS antisemitic! If we didn’t tolerate antisemitism from the get-go, if we didn’t let people with a history of antisemitic comments end up in senior Labour party positions in the first place, it wouldn’t be a brickbat to be hurled at the left whenever it is politically most unfortunate.

I invite you to watch the documentary. I invite you to recognise that Jeremy Corbyn has a lifelong record of antiracism but an equally long record of tolerating people who make antisemitic remarks if they did so in the context of Israel/Palestine – Naz Shah, MP for Bradford, had to insist that she be suspended and investigated for antisemitic remarks she had made where Labour head office just wanted to ignore the whole issue. While she was forcing this through, retracting her remarks, and apologising for them, Ken Livingstone was touring television studios saying that she had nothing to apologise for and, btw, Hitler supported Zionism. Jeremy Corbyn’s response was to shove everything off to Shami Chakrabarti and produce this report that did nothing to recognise the real problems that Jewish Labour Party members raised in good faith.

This documentary is an accurate reflection of my experiences of having to deal with antisemitism on the left. Non-Jews just don’t want to know. When I posted a form of this post to Facebook, most of the people who responded to it were Jewish. Another example: I decided not to renew my membership of Momentum after the Jackie Walker debacle, as although she was removed as Vice-Chair, she sits on the Momentum national steering committee TO THIS DAY, but PayPal took my money anyway. I wrote to the main email address for Momentum to explain why I didn’t want to renew my membership and to ask for a refund.I have never received a reply, let alone a refund.

The day the Whitewashed documentary was released, various queer collectives were insisting that a Jewish pride flag could not be displayed at a pride parade in Chicago because it is a symbol of oppression because some people might interpret it to look like the Israeli flag.

This is antisemitism.

The Dyke March has responded to criticism by releasing a statement questioning the motives of the woman wielding the flag and saying the person who asked them to put it away is Jewish, so it can’t be antisemitic.

This is antisemitism. (<-That's by an anti-Zionist Jewish group, btw)

As I said to someone who was of the opinion that antisemitic views and activity comes from only a very small group of people within pro-Palestinian circles – this is true. I have no desire to diminish or silence important solidarity work with and for an oppressed people. But I’m somewhat disinclined to turn up to stuff organised by movements that dismiss antisemitism as just being a problem of a few bad apples. You shouldn’t have antisemitic bad apples knocking around your movement. They should not be there and they should not feel welcome if they are.

But there’s a much, much wider circle of people who will willingly undermine, obscure, and refuse to engage with the experiences of British Jews of antisemitism from those people because they perceive people who identify as Zionists (which 59% of British Jews do) to have no rights to be publicly Jewish without being made to feel constantly uncomfortable over Israel’s political behaviour, to deserve division into “good” or “bad” Jews depending on their political views (Neturei Karta are not a mainstream or authoritative Jewish group just because they look the way you imagine “good” Jews should!), and that it is reasonable for them to be subjected to images of the worst genocidal act in history, perpetrated against their people, metaphorically and literally raised again and again in their faces for political purposes. This is covering up antisemitism, and it is endlessly shocking to me how many people I would call comrade enthusiastically embrace such tactics and other people who engage in them.

The Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t have been an inquiry in the first place. If you don’t accept the Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism, you are implying that the Chakrabarti inquiry was set up to fob off people, mainly British Jews, who think it does. That’s pretty antisemitic.

The left has a problem with antisemitism.  So watch this, and listen, and act.

And if you get through to the end and still think we’re just making it all up, just read the YouTube comments.
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