After the Paris attacks: some questions for the left on your attitude to Jews

January 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm (anti-semitism, fascism, France, islamism, left, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", terror, zionism)

A thought-provoking article By :

Two weeks ago, four Jews were killed in a kosher supermarket for being Jews. Anti-Semitism was in the news once again. The headlines confirmed what everyone in a minority has known for some time: racism, in all forms, is on the rise.

Right-wing Jewish groups like Campaign Against Anti-Semitism seized on it as an opportunity to feed paranoid dogma. Zionist groups used it as an excuse to promote immigration to Israel. Conservatives pulled together awful policies, saying it meant we needed more police.

We, on the Jewish Left, struggled to articulate ourselves, to say that Jews did of course have a future in Europe, to reject right-wing opportunism, to say that we would be stronger if we united with all other groups facing bigotry, to express our concerns about Islamophobic and anti-immigrant backlashes, to offer our best arguments for socialist, anarchist and democratic solutions to anti-Semitism.

And we did it alone. We did it alone.

If you read any of the left-wing news sources or subscribe to any of the UK’s leftist parties, you wouldn’t even know an attack on Jews had happened. You’d know about Charlie Hebdo. You’d know about the attacks on mosques in the aftermath. You could read deep and insightful histories of French colonialism in North Africa and interesting accounts of the problems in the Parisian banlieus. But nothing about Jews.

On Counterfire: nothing. On Left Unity: nothing. From the Greens: nothing. Red Labour: nothing. On the Revolutionary Socialists Network: nothing.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds filled up with Jews offering their thoughts. But from other, non-Jewish leftists, I just heard nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I want to know why. I want to ask some questions to the rest of the Left.

Do you think it doesn’t matter?

Maybe you thought it wasn’t newsworthy. But it’s not every day that Jews get killed in a supermarket for being Jews. That felt pretty important, to us at least.

Didn’t you care?

You must have cared. You’re leftists because you care about other human beings. You worry about people’s lives and want to see them do well. Surely a public execution of Jews warrants something. Just your condolences. Just your acknowledgement. That’s all.

Do you think anti-Semitism isn’t an issue?

In that case, how many Jews need to die before it is?

Did you think that Islamophobia mattered more?

The gunman was a Muslim. We were all worried that the attack would result in a backlash against Muslims. It has. It’s been terrifying. We’re adamant that we must stand together with Muslims and support our comrades and neighbours through all that’s happening. But surely – surely – the attack on Jews warranted enough to worry a little bit about anti-Semitism too. Just enough to say it was happening.

Do you believe the lies they tell about us? Do you believe we’re all rich and doing fine?

It’s an old distraction tactic from the right-wing elites to scapegoat Jews as wealthy. They think that if they point the finger at us, nobody will notice that the ruling class is overwhelmingly white, Christian and from the same schools. The truth is Jews are evenly spread across all classes, mirroring almost exactly the rest of society. As a religious group, we are no more wealthy or poor than any other religious group.

Do you think we’re all white?

Most of France’s Jews come from North Africa. The murdered came from Tunisia and Algeria. The Jews of Paris come from the same cities as the Muslims of Paris. Most Jews in Europe come from the Middle-East and North Africa. Not centuries and centuries ago. They and their parents were born in Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen and Afghanistan. We’re overwhelmingly not white.

If we were all rich and white, would it mean it mattered less?

Perhaps it would. But surely it wouldn’t mean it mattered so little that anti-Semitism didn’t deserve a mention.

Do you think Israel’s occupation of Palestine justifies anti-Semitic attacks in Europe?

One BBC reporter, Tim Wilcow, said exactly that.

Israel is occupying Palestine. It’s inexcusable and unjust. It gives anti-Semites an excuse. It makes people everywhere angry. But the Jews who live in London, Paris and the rest of the world don’t have any control over that. We are not Israel’s military occupation any more than Christians are the Pope. Of course we’re not. A people can be oppressed in one space and oppressors in another. That shouldn’t mitigate against mentioning their oppression where you see it.

Do you think support from Tories is enough?

Theresa May and Eric Pickles were snapped holding up signs saying “Je suis Juif” [French: I am a Jew], in solidarity with those killed. Conservatives and right-wing Labour leaders made statements. The Spectator and The Telegraph wrote articles about the worrying growth in anti-Semitism. But we didn’t want, need or ask for their support. It’s the support of our comrades – the people who stand with us on anti-cuts and anti-war demonstrations – that matters. We needed to hear something from you.

Do you know that your silence is driving Jews to the right?

When you ignore Jewish suffering, you hand undecided Jews over to fundamentalist religious movements and Zionist political groups on a plate. They see no place for themselves on the Left, so go in any other direction. One of the main reasons that groups like the reactionary street movement Jewish Defence League are growing is that the organised Left hasn’t stepped in to offer an alternative. It’s not enough for Jewdas to write articles and organise vigils. We need you on our side.

I hate it, I really do, when anyone starts a conversation with “the problem with the Left is…” It’s an act of separating yourself from the rest of the Left, giving up and saying that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to change.

Only in this case, we didn’t separate ourselves from the Left. The Left separated itself from the Jews. You did that when you didn’t acknowledge that four Jews were murdered in a supermarket for being Jews.

And I want to know why.

18 Comments

  1. cllrralphberry said,

    Excellent article that the Bradford Left needs to read…

  2. Karl Dallas said,

    To be followed no doubt by “the left must define its attitude to” Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists . . . etc . . . etc. Or is it only Jews that require this special dispensation?

    • Mark Nev said,

      eh…. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists…. etc…etc. where not targeted and murdered, that was the point that Levi was making and the left yet again loses its moral compass

  3. Ben said,

    This article could have been written any time starting 130 years ago, when the pogroms and persecution of Jews in Russia and other parts of East Europe began. Then as now, Jews on the left received zero solidarity and support from their supposed non-Jewish comrades. The kibbutz and left socialist movements in Palestine were all founded by Jews who realized that left solidarity was a fraud and lie, and that they would never be included as equals in any left movement in Europe.

  4. ZINR said,

    George Galloway, Ken Livingstone, Socialist Unity, whatever waste of skin is currently in charge of the SWP…any chance of you endorsing this thoughtful, balanced and reasonable article? No, thought not…

  5. Mike Killingworth said,

    Calm down, you lot. Levi thinks Harry Potter was Jewish, so it’s not all bad news. Mind you, he doesn’t mention Marx or Freud…

  6. Howard Fuller said,

    Excellent article that should be read by everyone on the “left”. I started worrying about the lefts attitudes to Jews after meeting some bloke sporting a PSC badge at a PCS Conference several years ago who told me he believed in the “free movement of people..except Jews”.

    So often anti-Semitism is totally ignored because most of the left seem to find it an inconvenience to their so-called anti-imperialism outlook on the world which prioritises the destruction of Israel and their building imaginary alliances in the “Islamic” world.

    Lets be clear. Anti-Semitism is real, I find it comes from large sections of the Muslim community, which is never challenged by so-called progressive leftists and when I see former PSC leaders being expelled for Holocaust Denial and still getting the backing of some on the left, I cannot help but feel that much of the left has succumbed to crossing the line from anti-Zionism (what ever that really ever meant) to a new form of anti-Semitism.

    The solution is for the left to rediscover it’s secular anti-clerical roots. “Religion is the opiate of the people” etc etc. But even when you do some parts of the left (if you can define them as such) still make excuses.

    Andy Newman commented on his misnamed blog that:

    “More and more I am convinced that “secularism” in the modern British cntext is usually just the most thinly veiled excuse for somewhat more sinister views”

    It isn’t, never has been and standing up to religion encroaching on our lives is essential if free speech and rationality are to be defended.

    To do otherwise is to capitualte to reaction.

    • Ben said,

      “… he believed in the “free movement of people..except Jews…”

      So does the moderator of this blog, and most people who contribute to it. They all want to ethnically cleanse the West Bank of its Jewish population, and establish a Jew-free Arab state on that portion of the historic homeland of the Jewish people. They are sly advocates of anti-Jewish apartheid.

      Just as the Russian Czars established a Pale of Settlement outside of which Jews were forbidden to reside, and the Christian Europeans established and enforced Jewish residence in ghettos, so the contemporary Christian and Moslem worlds seek to confine Jews to just a portion of the Jewish homeland and restrict their rights there. Having destroyed the Jewish communities in Europe and the Islamic world, they now set their sights on pushing the Jews around on the tiny sliver of land that the Jews have left.

      • Harry Underwood said,

        “They all want to ethnically cleanse the West Bank of its Jewish population, and establish a Jew-free Arab state on that portion of the historic homeland of the Jewish people.”

        So you’re an advocate of the one-state solution, then? Nothing wrong with that.

  7. Howard Fuller said,

    I should point out for any fear of being misinterpreted that my criticism of Andy Newman and the Socialist Unity website is over his/their attitude to Secularism. Andy has made it clear that he is opposed to anti-Semitism.

    • ZINR said,

      “Andy (Newman) has made it clear that he is opposed to anti-Semitism”…except he isn’t opposed to it at all. He may pay lip-service to opposing European anti-Semitism but, since his days in the foul Respect Party, he has maintained support for the establishment of a single Islamist state of Palestine in place of everything that is currently Israel. He has offered support to HAMAS and Hezbollah and backed George Galloway, one of the UK’s most prominent and committed anti-Semites. The fact that Newman published a weasle-worded piece in the Guardian condemning their approval and promotion of Gilad Atzmon doesn’t mean he’s not anti-Semitic. The piece condemned Atzmon’s Holocaust revisionism but only on the grounds that it was damaging to the “Palestinian Cause” (a dubious phrase coming from any supporter of the HAMAS).
      If that’s changed over the last year or two (it’s a short while since I’ve glanced at his wretched website) and Mr Newman has had a Damascene conversion to the promotion of a Two State Solution and co-operation between Arabs and Jews in the region, then I take it all back…?

      Incidentally Mr Fuller your comment above is absolutely spot on, I couldn’t agree more with it.

  8. damon said,

    ”The headlines confirmed what everyone in a minority has known for some time: racism, in all forms, is on the rise.”

    No it isn’t. Racism has reduced dramatically in the UK.
    There is a particular problem with antisemitism though, and that is more a failure of diversity. There is massive antisemitism in Muslim countries – where you can even see Mein Kampf being sold at bookstalls in Cairo – and some of those attitudes have seeped into the mainstream Muslim communities in Europe.
    It’s unfortunate, but it’s not going to change anytime soon.

  9. Lamia said,

    Good article. But there is nothing surprising here. The left has been shovelling minorities like Jews under the bus for years in the cause of ‘multiculturalism’ – i.e. obeisance to Islamist demands. It is not currently worth supporting. It’s why I stopped voting Labour a few years back.

    “But we didn’t want, need or ask for their support. It’s the support of our comrades – the people who stand with us on anti-cuts and anti-war demonstrations – that matters. We needed to hear something from you.”

    Meaningless. Most of the British left can’t stand Jews, and most of the antisemitism in Britain comes from the left or from those Muslims the left habitually stands with – i.e. Islamist, not secular Muslims. Time to stop fruitlessly begging the left for solidarity that will not be forthcoming, and start condemning it for its bigoted hypocrisy and worship of Islamist thugs.

  10. Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

    It came as no surprise to me when the Celtic supporter who ran on to the park with a Palestinian flag turned out to be a so called leftie Catholic who also supported the IRA. I was a union activist for 25 years and the lefties at branch level and the trade councils were always having a go at Israel. They claimed they were not anti Jewish and only supported the Palestinian cause. Fucking liars all of them.

  11. Lamia said,

    On a slightly more positive note, it’s reported today that Kurdish forces have entirely taken back Kobani from the ISIS rats – expect that to be met by stony silence or grumbling about the USA from the ‘anti-imperialist’ ‘left’.

    • Lamia said,

      Correction: apparently it’s NOt quite all taken back, though it is getting close. Fingers crossed for the Kurds of Kobani, true heroes of humanity.

  12. Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

    Do not worry Lamia the Greens will protect us all. They will try and understand the murdering bastards from the IRA and AL Qaeda over a cup of faretrade green tea.

  13. Eric said,

    This is a good article, except that its premise isn’t exactly true. Levi says:

    “If you read any of the left-wing news sources or subscribe to any of the UK’s leftist parties, you wouldn’t even know an attack on Jews had happened.”

    But a perusal of eg. Socialist Worker (which I am not a fan of) comes up with this:
    “WE STILL feel disbelief, sadness and anger over the hateful attack against Charlie Hebdo and the shameless anti-Semitic massacre that followed.”
    http://socialistworker.org.socialistworker.org/2015/01/27/what-we-mourn-after-paris

    It may well be the case that more serious questions about anti-semitism in France need to be asked and it may well be that this is a good opportunity to ask them, but we should keep in mind that this attack in itself is unlikely to reveal much about broader problems.

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