The left, Zionism and anti-Semitism: my letter to the Morning Star

February 4, 2015 at 10:37 pm (anti-semitism, israel, Jim D, Middle East, posted by JD, stalinism)

Image result for morning star logo

Letter to the Morning Star (emailed on January 26 2015):
Dear Comrades,

I had a feeling your excellent editorial  on anti-Semitism (19 Jan) might cause some consternation amongst M Star readers, if only because it noted that “attacking, criticising or making special demands upon people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.” We all know that this happens on the left and within the trade union movement, with Jews being required to renounce Zionism and denounce Israel, in order to prove that they’re “good” Jews and avoid being tarred as “Zionists.”

It was also refreshing to read in the editorial that whilst condemning the policies of Israeli governments “is not in itself anti-Semitic” (I agree), that “at the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.” This is a major step forward for the Star, which all to often gives space to ‘absolute anti-Zionists’ who believe that Israel has no right to exist, even behind pre-1967 borders.

So I was not entirely surprised to read Linda Clair’s letter (M Star Jan 24) stating that criticism of Israel “is not anti-Semitic at all” (by which I presume, she means it never can be, under any circumstances at all). I beg to differ. People expressing anti-Semitic views now habitually justify themselves by claiming to be merely criticising Israel and “Zionism”. According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, 77% of British Jews recently polled, stated that they had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism disguised as political comment about Israel.

I myself witnessed a well-known trade unionist in my local area, only a few years ago, use blatantly anti-Semitic language (in the form of a ‘joke’ about people who failed to buy a round of drinks) and when challenged, self-righteously claim that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians made his ‘joke’ acceptable.

The present state of affairs when it comes to anti-Semitism, can be summed up thus: that whilst not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, these days all anti-Semites call themselves “anti-Zionists.”
JIM DENHAM, Birmingham

Letter from Linda Clair (Morning Star, January 24-25 2015):
CRITICISING people for being wrong is a perfectly legitimate part of any debate, however I disagree with the comment that condemning Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.

It is not anti-Semitic at all, them difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism must be made clear.

Our paper has a responsibility to do that and to educate many people who are unfamiliar with the ideologies.

It’s important to also recognise that extra resources for security are not forthcoming when a Muslim community is under attack and racist murders are perpetrated. The question must be asked: Why?

Now is the time to debate these questions when the way immigration is portrayed in the pre-election period will need to be challenged.

Morning Star editorial, January 19 2015:
No Place for Anti-Semitism

Anti-semitism is known as “the oldest hatred” for good reason.

For 2,000 years, Jewish people have been the targets of hatred, prejudice and discrimination in different parts of the world, in different types of society and for different reasons.

It is rooted in fear of the unknown and hostility to those perceived as “outsiders.”

But in the case of anti-semitism, this has been given a genocidal twist by the ideological conviction that Jews are the enemies of Christianity, nationhood, racial purity, socialism or — today — the oppressed people of Palestine.

These and other vile calumnies have been used by the power-hungry and the deluded to identify a convenient scapegoat, deceiving the ignorant and downtrodden to the benefit of a particular leader or movement.

Home Secretary Theresa May was right to declare that Britain must redouble its efforts to wipe out anti-semitism in her address at yesterday’s service to commemorate the four people recently murdered at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Her urgent call for more protection for Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other targets of anti-semitism, alongside greater efforts to combat it through education and on the internet, stands in sharp contrast to government complacency hitherto.

As late as December 29 last year, the Department for Communities and Local Government was trumpeting that its own report “highlights the great strides that Britain has made in fighting anti-semitism.”

Since then, however, a YouGov opinion poll and a survey commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-semitism have revealed that anti-Jewish prejudice remains widespread among the general population while a substantial minority of Britain’s Jews fear for their future here.

The questions for Theresa May, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles and their colleagues must now therefore be: what additional resources are this Tory-led government prepared to plough into the police, broadcasting and education services to turn fine words into buttered parsnips?

In order to step up the drive against anti-semitism it will also be important to foster unity between all those forces that can potentially be mobilised in support.

Churches have a special responsibility to disown those in their ranks — sometimes in the past at the highest level — who have poisoned the minds of Christians against Jews and Muslims.

Politicians and parties which profess patriotism must take every opportunity to make clear that their notion of nationality is inclusive, not least by highlighting the disproportionately positive contribution that Jewish citizens have made to social, economic, cultural and democratic progress in Britain and its component nations.

Trade unions and the left — much of which has a proud record of combating anti-semitism here and overseas in the 20th century — must continue to expose the pernicious myths that most Jews are especially greedy and wealthy, are bad employers or engaged in some Jewish-led global banking conspiracy.

That, as Engels echoed more than a century ago, is the “socialism of fools.”

There also needs to be sharper clarity as to what constitutes anti-semitism and what does not.

Attacking, criticising or making special demands on people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.

Attacking or criticising Jewish people or institutions in the sincere belief that they are wrong is not.

Condemning Israeli state policies, or the actions of Israeli governments, is not in itself anti-semitic.

At the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.

Many Jews around the world support the human and national rights of the Palestinian people.

The fight against anti-semitism should not become the pretext for denying those rights.

The struggle for justice and democracy against oppression and dictatorship is indivisible. That, too, must be remembered on Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.


  1. februarycallendar said,

    Definite hint of a Left-wing dogwhistle in Linda Clair’s “Why?”, isn’t there?

  2. Mike Killingworth said,

    This debate – whether or not there is a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism – is at least as old as Israel. Obviously, every Zionist will say there isn’t! Perhaps its most famous example was the debate between Martin Buber and David Ben-Gurion, which even Ben-Gurion thought he lost. How did he justify himself afterwards? “Well, I’ve got hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives to protect, and Buber hasn’t.”

    And neither has Jim Denham. I don’t object to his Zionism, he’s every right to it – I do object, as presumably did the editor of the Morning Star to his passing it off as socialism.

  3. Jim Deham said,

    Mike: If I’m a “zionist” (and I have no especially strong objection to being called that) then clearly your statement that “Obviously, every Zionist will say there isn’t!” (a difference betwen anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism) cannot be true, can it?

    And, Mike, anti-racism isn’t synoymous with socialism, and I don’t try to “pass it off” as such, so your “objection” doesn’t apply either, does it?

    You should try thinking things through before making illogical and politically illiterate comments. Mike. – though you’ve every right to make them, of course.

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      Jim, that is about the tone I expect from you. A Zionist when it suits you, but not otherwise. What other readers of your blog will readily understand is that you love Israel so much that you live in Birmingham. (And no, I do not think that anecdotes about this or that individual prove anything one way or the other.)

      • Jim Denham said,

        My attitude to being accused of being (or asked if I am) a “Zionist” is exactly the same as if it was about being “Gay.”


        The story about the well-known Birmingham trade unionist (one Bill Goulding) is (a) that he was/is(? not sure if he’s till alive) a well-known Stalinist who people didn’t dare criticise, and (b) his anti-Semitism – a combination of his Irish Catholic upbringing and his Stalinist political education – was and is quite common within the labour and trade union movement6: but few dare even discuss it.

      • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

        What exacty is wrong with being a Zionist? It seems ok to be an Islamist slaughtering the human race all over the globe and then there is the Catholcs who have made death and torture an institution over the centuries. I twigged that most lefties in the Labour movement I was associated with during the seventies were just Papists that hated the British and were IRA supporters. Little wonder the left is fucked and have forgotten the working class.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        Glesga, what did I say in my second paragraph of my first comment? Please read it again, preferably before you start on your daily whisky ration.

      • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

        I just asked a question! So you do not object to Zionism. That seems fine.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        J.D. writes:

        My attitude to being accused of being (or asked if I am) a “Zionist” is exactly the same as if it was about being “Gay.”

        How would you respond to someone who wrote:

        My attitude to being accused of being (or asked if I am) an “antisemite” is exactly the same as if it was about being “Gay.”

        One can alternatively substitute terms like “white supremacist”, “fascist”, or “Empire loyalist” for “Zionist” in your quoted statement to make the same point:
        Questioning the extent of someone’s identification with an arguably racist political movement that they have referred to many times in their writings is not the same as asking them about their sexual orientation.

  4. Steven Johnston said,

    Shame they didn’t publish your letter, I might not agree with it, but the Star publishes any old sh*t. Most the letters are hilarious. But I would never take anything the Star says about socialism seriously.
    Clearly though its all about class, the only side a socialist would be on is the side of the working class and a socialist would not get involved in disputes between capitalist powers/nations.

  5. Aaron Aarons said,

    Your assertion that “whilst not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, these days all anti-Semites call themselves “anti-Zionists” is totally false. In fact, some of the most rabid Zionists — in the United Snakes, at least — are Christian Zionists, who love Jews, but only in Palestine, where they can prepare to be wiped out in the battle of Armageddon, so that Jesus can return.

    Of course, mainstream Zionism is itself rooted in the acceptance of the classical European antisemitic idea that Jews are aliens in Christian Europe, so Jewish and Christian Zionism have quite a lot in common.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Your comment simply doesn’t make sense.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        My point is that Christian Zionists, who are fervent supporters of Israel against the Arab and Muslim peoples, are also, in many if not most cases, classical antisemites in their attitude towards Jews in other contexts. If it’s necessary to make it any clearer: they are antisemites who are not antizionists.

    • Aaron Aarons said,

      People who have an irrational hatred of Jews, and don’t believe in the armageddon nonsense, will naturally attack anything that Jews do, or can be blamed for, that the Jew-haters, or their intended audience, consider “bad”. That doesn’t make the things they attack Jews for, when those things are, like the oppression of Palestinians, factual, less “bad” from the point of view of the left and of decent human beings in general.

      • Jim Denham said,

        Translate that into a coherent language, and I’ll reply.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        I think Aaron means that people who have an irrational hatred of Jews may also be rational to the extent that some Jews may behave badly some of the time. And, no, I don’t know what a rational hatred of Jews – or any other ethnic group – would look like. (Although I have met Afro-Caribbeans who consider the deep and unremitting hatred of white people to be wholly rational.)

        Of course, the concept of rationality is also a cultural construct. These are deep waters, my friend.

      • Jim Denham said,

        A good attempt at a translation into coherent language, Mike – but it still reads like drivel to me. perhaps we should consult Chomsky, who is (I’m told) a better analyst of language than he is a political theorist.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        I believe you’re right about Chomsky…

  6. Jim Denham said,

    My letter is published in today’s Morning Star!

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      In full? Congratulations!

  7. ZINR said,

    Linda Clair is head of Manchester PSC, as wretched and antisemitic an organisation as you’ll find anywhere in the UK. Her views are to be ignored with a snort of contempt and a roll of the eyes.

    Aaron Aarons is clearly a first year Sociology undergraduate who ought to get off the internet and go to some lectures.

    Thank you for the letter you wrote Mr Denham. It is vitally important that Socialists don’t ignore the problem of Left wing antisemitism and you are doing as much as possible to raise awareness.

  8. Reflections on Left antisemitism | The Charnel-House said,

    […] furore currently unfolding in Britain over allegations of left antisemitism cannot pass without some comment on my part. Not because I’m Jewish, though I am. And not […]

  9. Opportunistic accusations of antisemitism | The Charnel-House said,

    […] The furore currently unfolding in Britain over allegations of left antisemitism cannot pass without some comment on my part. Not because I’m Jewish, though I am. And not […]

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