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Originally published to Facebook.

 

I posted several times last night about Croatia’s Eurovision entry (which was ROBBED), and on each post someone different (LGBT and not) made sure to post that in 2005 Jacques Houdek gave an interview in which he made some unpleasant comments about gay people and same sex marriage and was subsequently named “Homophobe of the Year” by an online LGBT website.

I replied each time noting that if being against same sex marriage in 2005 was the most homophobic thing they could identify in Croatia, truly it must be a queer paradise. Gay men are being put in concentration camps in Chechnya and the UK’s got lesbians being beaten up on the streets of Brighton in 2017, and some dude calling gay marriage sick was the most homophobic thing that happened in Croatia in 2005? I have my suspicions around the legitimacy of this “award”.

But I woke up this morning and I still felt pretty troubled by the whole thing for a number of reasons:

1) I’m pretty uncomfortable around having my rights used as a litmus test for who is and is not socially acceptable for liberals. A comment here or there on LGBT issues, however long ago you made it or regardless of the context you made it in, can be enough for a huge swath of respectable society to just dismiss anything else you say or do off the bat, no further questions asked – something people generally just don’t do with regard to, say, support for military intervention in third countries (unless it’s Israel…), even though that is a much more immediate life-or-death issue. I’m not really ok with being someone else’s rule of thumb.

2) The transition of public support for LGBT rights from absurd deviancy to political no-brainer in the West has been so swift, so complete, that many people seem to have forgotten that in 2005, casual homophobia was so widespread and so obvious that ordinary people barely registered they were doing anything hurtful. It was in 2005 that I was homophobically bullied in school and when my mother complained, my pastoral care manager explained that they had said the things they said because they thought I was a lesbian – as if that explained everything and thus warranted no further action. The year before, 11 American states enacted by popular referendum constitution bans on same sex marriage. By 2012, 30 American states had such bans. In 2017, 65% of the US population now supports same sex marriage. In 2013, 400,000 people marched against same sex marriage in France. We are forgetting just how seismic this change has been and what our social context for treating LGBT people used to be like. Our press and literature is littered from that time period with things that many people said that they probably wouldn’t dream of now.

3) At some point, we have to accept that not everyone had good solid politics from birth. You are not Jeremy Corbyn. I am not Jeremy Corbyn. We learn to be better people over time. When I first left home in 2008, I said things about non-binary trans people that I would never say now and indeed would intervene with anyone who did. Times have changed and I have learned. But what if in 2008 I had said those things in a medium that recorded what I had said and made it instantly available to anyone looking me up for the rest of my life? Jacques Houdek published a retraction in 2011 and even he’s still being hounded over the original comments twelve years later, despite having said nothing objectionable since (at least, that anyone in English has noted) and despite participating in Eurovision in a leather double-breast, duetting with himself. At what point are we going to let people move on from the people they were?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that absent a database for each individual with everything they’ve ever said where they can give real-time updates on their current thinking on every conceivable issue, at some point we have to start being a bit more critical about the things we read about people on the internet and sustaining memetic clickbait that dogs people for their mistakes indefinitely.

Maybe we can enjoy someone׳s current work without being obliged to ostracise them for comments they made over a decade prior.

Maybe we can recognise that we weren’t all born into communities that nailed LGBT issues first time around.

Maybe we can actually celebrate diversity.

 

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Jacques Houdek’s statement in 2011 after being nominated for Homophobe of the Decade by Zagreb Pride (as mutilated by Google Translate):
“‘LOVE AND MUSIC ARE MY MOVIE’

“I am very sorry that the associations that promote LGBT people have been included in this election, the obvious purpose of which is to discredit me and the other nominees. It is not true that I am a homophobic, which can be confirmed by my friends, colleagues and acquaintances from business circles who are gay orientations. Likewise, any form of hatred does not correspond to my personality, so to call me ‘heyter’ or ‘greatest homophobic on Croatian estrade’, at least in the least incorrect because no such evidence exists for such accusations. Never one of the aforementioned associations ever asked me for an opinion, and if they want to ask, I can freely answer. I love music from love, love is my main driver in life and I really have nothing against love of any kind. Well, next week my new single comes out with a wonderful message, “I’m lucky to have you,” so I’ll be glad that all the people are willing to consecrate their loved ones. Love for All! ‘”

https://www.facebook.com/notes/jacques-houdek/službeno-očitovanje-jacquesa-houdeka-o-izboru-za-homofoba-desetljeća/10150203728332227/

 

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Whitewashed Documentary logo

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.
Comments have been turned off on this post for that reason.

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