Parsing Jewish groups on the grounds of their political beliefs and preferences is deplorable. I have seen the right-slanted media going all out to discredit and denigrate left wing Jewish groups in particular this past few weeks. The general theme has been that Conservative Jews are “good” and left wing Jews are somehow “bad”. In their haste to portray the entire left of centre as dangerous “cultists” and “antisemites”, some of media commentators have inadvertently displayed their own antisemitism for all to see.
Antisemitism on any grounds is an affront in a so-called civilised and democratic country. Abuse, discrimination and oppression directed at people because of their political beliefs is also contrary to our human rights legislation. Our freedom of expression – protected by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act – is fundamental to a functioning democracy. It means we’re free to hold opinions and ideas and share them with others without the State interfering – which is crucial to keeping our government accountable and transparent.
Article 10 covers:
- political expression – including peaceful protests and demonstrations.
The thing about human rights is that they apply to everyone. They would be pretty pointless if they only apply to Conservatives or Centrists. As it is, those of us who oppose neoliberalism are being targeted not only by Conservatives, but by the neoliberal faction within the Labour party.
Antisemitic comments from pundits that target left wing Jews
Over the last few weeks, I have witnessed abuse and experienced it myself from those on the right, and some of the so-called “moderates” in the Labour party. I have written about and campaigned against prejudice for a number of years, and discussed the dangers of a divided society where prejudice and discrimination are permitted to grow – including racism, antisemitism and other expressions of prejudice. These are issues I feel very strongly about. My support of the Labour party is based on principles of solidarity inclusion, equality, valuing diversity, mutual aid, and its antidiscriminatory, human rights-based policies.
I believe that when division and prejudice are permitted to grow within a society, many groups are systematically stigmatised – prejudice “multitasks”. These are invariably groups that have been traditionally marginalised from societies, and most vulnerable to political abuse – disabled people, Jewish people, other ethnic groups, poor people and those deemed to be political “dissidents”, among others. I belong to two of those groups.
In 2014, the UK witnessed the highest level of antisemitism since records began. It does not begin to address this serious problem when it is simply used as a political weapon by the right and centre to discredit the Labour party leader. That is not the same thing as saying there are no antisemitic Labour party members. I have witnessed antisemitism on the far left on two occasions over the last few years. The people concerned were actually Green party members. I challenged it and I always will. Where there are allegations of antisemitism made, the Labour party must be permitted to investigate those allegations and the evidence fairly. Once that is done, the party must then act.
In a world where people can set up fake accounts and troll groups to disrupt discussions, and discredit commentators, it is best to check if the allegations are also genuine. Having experienced this from trolls or shills on the far right and far left, I know that this happens.
The accusations of “smearing” are not a statement that antisemitism does not exist on the left. It exists throughout our society. That isn’t “whataboutery”, it’s an evidenced statement of fact. I am convinced that the antisemitism debate has been politically weaponised by the right and centrists because of the abuse I have experienced myself – including from the executive director of Progress.
Those left of centre – including Jewish groups – are also experiencing abuse in the mainstream media and on social media. If antisemitism in the Labour party was “rife” as the right are claiming, the left leaning Jewish groups would most certainly have been among the first to raise this serious issue. As it is, their accounts are being marginalised, discredited and stifled by the right.
There has never been a more oppressive, dnagerously authoritarian culture within UK politics as there is right now.
Jewish opinions from the left
Many Jewish groups who are left wing have pointed out that their voices have been marginalised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other right leaning groups.
The chair of the Jewish Voice for Labour group said on Radio 4’s Today programme: “None of us in my group has ever experienced any antisemitism within the Labour Party.”
In an interview this morning ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s meeting with the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, Jenny Manson said evidence of the “very worst” antisemitism “has always been” on the far-right.
Asked about Margaret Hodge’s comments, suggesting she had never known antisemitism in Labour to be as bad it was now, Manson said that Hodge would have been better advised to “go to the Labour Party rather than complain to the media about it”.
Dismissing claims that antisemitism was “rife” within the party, Manson said: “In my area I talk to other Jewish people in my acquaintance and that’s the general consensus.
“What we are saying is it is a misery and a tragedy that Margaret Hodge and other Labour MPs have received nasty antisemitic comments.
“I suspect most of these have been on social media and I suspect nobody has actually worked hard to find out who this nasty stuff is coming from.
“If they do I think it’s much better to go to the Labour Party than to complain to the media about it.”
Discussing Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to deal with the issue, Manson added: “What we can’t have is a witchhunt. What the Board of Deputies and the JLC seem to be demanding far too often… is that people should be expelled from the Labour Party without due process.”
Manson also referred to a survey conducted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism group saying: “Evidence including very recent evidence commissioned by a Jewish body suggests the very worst antisemitism is still on the right, on the far right and always has been.”
From The Jerusalem Post – UK JEWISH LEADER: KINGMAKER DUP IS FRIEND OF THE COMMUNITY AND ISRAEL
Last year, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, told The Jerusalem Post that he and his colleagues met in Belfast with DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, whom he described as having been “exceptionally warm and friendly.”
The DUP has strong links to Protestant churches and is staunchly pro-Israel. It has also publicly stated its support for the Board of Deputies’ “Ten Commitments” – a part of its Jewish Manifesto that includes requests to parliamentarians regarding policy on issues that affect British Jewry.
The DUP defends Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom and takes a conservative approach to social issues. The party’s 10 seats would give May a fragile but workable partnership.
While Arkush said that an arrangement between the two parties would promote the UK’s strong friendship with Israel, he also noted that “May is clearly a strong friend of Israel and her authority and her government’s ability to govern has been weakened, so that is not something our community can take lightly.”
Back in 2016, it was reported that the British Jewish community responded angrily after Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, publicly congratulated Donald Trump on his election win.
In a statement published on the Board’s website, Arkush said: “I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory.
“After a divisive campaign, I hope that Mr Trump will move to build bridges and ensure that America’s standing as a beacon of progress, tolerance and free-thinking remains strong.”
Arkush’s statement sparked a wave of negative responses on social media. Aaron Simons was one of the first to respond to the announcement, and his reaction set the tone for much that followed:
@BoardofDeputies Trump mainstreams antisemites in a way unseen since the Nazis and you congratulate him? Revolting.
— Aaron Simons (@AaronPSimons ) November 9, 2016
Dr Ruvi Ziegler, law lecturer at the University of Reading, tweeted: “What does an organisation representing British Jewry congratulate this vile man endorsed by the KKK? #NotInMyName”
Rachel Wenstone, a former National Union of Students vice-president, responded: “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?! Why did you think this was at all necessary? You do know that you’re congratulating the KKK-backed candidate?”
Ivor Caplin, a former British Defence Minister and ex-MP for Hove, was personally critical of Mr Arkush, saying: “Arkush should have kept quiet but he seeks publicity instead of reflecting concerns of Jews.”
Arkush did not escape criticism from fellow Board members.
“I don’t think it’s @BoardofDeputies job to congratulate Donald Trump on his election, and I’m sure the Jewish community will agree with me”, said Tal Ofer, who is on the Board’s executive committee and defence division.
Other members echoed that sentiment:
No words for how badly this statement is judged. I’m embarrassed to be a Deputy.
Board of Deputies of British Jews
President Jonathan Arkush congratulates Donald Trump – http://www.bod.org.uk/president-jonathan-arkush-congratulates-donald-trump/ …
The Republican’s final campaign advert before yesterday’s poll was widely criticised by Jewish groups for its alleged antisemitic overtones.
Jay Stoll – who is a member of the Jewish Labour Movement executive, said:
“The Board has misjudged the anxieties that many have over the election of a racist demagogue to the highest office in the world. I not only question the necessity of the statement, but believe it is actively harmful to our relations with other faith groups who are deeply fearful of the election’s outcome.
“The Board should not be congratulating a candidate endorsed by a range of white supremacists, including the KKK, and it is mind-blowing that this even needs pointing out.”
More than 90 young British Jews had put their names to a letter addressed to Arkush, expressing their concern at the Board’s decision to congratulate Trump.
The letter was signed by members of the Board of Deputies including Amos Schonfeld, Liron Velleman and Ben Lewis, as well as members of the Jewish Labour Movement and workers from Jewish youth groups including Habonim-Dror, RSY-Netzer and Noam.
“We do not welcome the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” the letter said.
“We urge the Board of Deputies to retract their congratulations and show their support to American communities that have been targeted with Trump’s incendiary rhetoric throughout this campaign.
“It is beneath contempt to congratulate a candidate who was censured by the ADL for using antisemitic tropes, who has enabled mainstream antisemitic abuse and who has secured the endorsement of the KKK and other white supremacists.
“This message of congratulations is contrary to our community’s best interests and is an affront to our ancestors and contemporaries who have stood against racism and fascism in all its forms.”
I posted this article on Twitter, with the comment that Jonathan Arkrush supports the DUP and Conservative coalition. I was immediately attacked by the executive director of Progress, Richard Angell, who ludicrously called me a “liar”, a “racist” and said the post was “whataboutery”. I did point out to him that the article wasn’t actually mine. I’ve also been called a”cultist”. I have strongly opposed and campaigned against racism, antisemitism and other forms of prejudice, discrimination, exclusion and oppression for a number of years. There was nothing in my comment that was untrue or even remotely “racist”.
The “whataboutery” charge also doesn’t hold, since the political preferences of Arkrush are relevant in that they have some influence on his motivations and narrative. Pointing out someone’s political preference is in no way denying antisemitism. As it is, there are different, sometimes contradictory perspectives and narratives being presented from the left and right wing Jewish communities. Highlighting that does not mean I either endorse or deny antisemitism within the Labour party.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group statement – Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party – says:
“The Jewish Socialists’ Group expresses its serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP.
“This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.”
The rest of the article is also worth a read. (Link above).
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