It’s right that Jackie Walker is reinstated: but we don’t have to agree with her

May 29, 2016 at 7:10 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Free Speech, israel, Jim D, labour party, Livingstone, palestine, zionism)


Above: Walker puts her case on RT (aka Putin TV)

Sean Matgamna has argued persuasively, here, that anti-Semitism in the Labour Party should generally be dealt with by argument and education, not disciplinary measures.

I would, personally, make an exception for Ken Livingstone, whose long record of Jew-baiting is such that he should be expelled.

The case of Jackie Walker is much less clear-cut, based as it is (or was – she’s now been reinstated), on some ambiguous comments made in the course of a private Facebook exchange with friends. Nevertheless, the comments do give cause for concern, especially this:

“As I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews …

“Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice”

As a comrade commented to me, “I would ask, what is the relevance of Jewish slave-traders in the 17th century to anti-semitism today? I genuinely don’t understand what point Jackie was trying to make.

“That may be partly because I haven’t seen the whole conversation the comments were part of, but could someone explain what the point was? The only interpretation I can see is that the role of Jews in slavery somehow mitigates anti-semitism today. If that’s not the point, then what was it? I’d be very happy to have it explained”.

The participation of some Jews in the slave trade was, of course, terrible (as anyone’s participation was), but actually relatively minor. Jackie Walker’s ignorant comments (she claims, just about her own family, but quite obviously aimed at Jews as a whole) suggest that Jews played a leading role (as “chief financiers”) in the slave trade, which warrants special mention to this day. This argument is usually based upon the spurious “research” of the US Nation of Islam and/or various neo-Nazis.

And, certainly, the gloating of various obvious anti-Semites since Walker’s reinstament should give leftists and anti-racists some pause for thought:

Anyone who wants the truth about Jews and the slave trade, should read this and this.

39 Comments

  1. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Is anti semitism just a convenient diversion from not stating your hatred of Jews and Israel.

  2. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    If you look for it, you can doubtless convince yourself there is anti-Semitism in much socialist comment on Israel. That’s because of both the curse of over-interpretation and much bad, unclear writing to pore over.

    The trouble is when people do over-interpret, you also need to do the same to show how little logic there is what they argue; where often vague ‘hunches’ replace facts.

    People’s critical faculties can be very poor – I was called anti-Semitic recently for referring to ‘Jews’ rather than the now more common ‘member of the Jewish community,’. I pointed out that the latter is unnecessary and not used regarding Muslims or Christians. I don’t convince the person who then replied that ‘Nazis called people ‘Jews.’

    Walker’s post is just duff. 1st para – fair enough but silly to compare oppressions. Jews certainly can be in lethal danger for being Jews. But nowt anti-Semitic here. 2nd Para. No idea of historical basis of first sentence. If a myth being perpetuated that could be dismissed by reasonable research, then possibly A/S to spread such a claim. Or maybe it’s true. 2nd & 3rd sentence are the gibberish of a poor writer.

    And it’s always a duff argument to say ‘Nasty X agrees with Y on this point, so be careful about Y. In this case it’s “the gloating of various obvious anti-Semites since Walker’s reinstatement should give leftists and anti-racists some pause for thought”

    I support Brexit. So do all the far right and the most right in the Tory party. That no more makes my position dodgy than does near all the establishment supporting Remain people make socialists arguing for In to be somehow.tainted by a supposed association with them.

  3. joesucksmith said,

    “various obvious anti-Semites”? That’s disgusting and obviously libellous. Please remove.

  4. No said,

    In your head they are antisemites.. but your head is obviously ‘touched’ by all sorts of strange delusions and imaginings..

    Antisemitism means the hatred of Jews..

    I wasn’t aware that to state fact is by definition hating Jews.. which of course it isn’t.. so that disproves your silly and insulting theory for a start.

    Also quite a large clue is that Jackie is herself Jewish and so is her husband..

    A further clue is that she heads an anti racism group (this of course includes fighting actual real antisemitism)..

    So what you’re actually stating is defamatory and untruths. You are doing this in order to silence the Left as this is the common demographic beteeen them all. You think that people cannot state fact about anything that the Jewish people or Israel has ever done wrong historically, which of course is absurd..

    Do you see people being suspended for discussing British slave owners.. or North Korea.. China.. The Vikings.. Normans..

    You cannot silence the left under a directive and you never will..

  5. kb72 said,

    What’s the mania for dodgy Labour members going on to Russia Today?

    Also Walker’s grasp of history is a little weak:-

    ““First they came” is an fascinating text to quote in the context of an argument about whether or not Labour has an anti-Semitism problem, not the least because it is about the intellectual cowardice among German intellectuals during Hitler’s rise to power. It is not mainly about controls on free speech, but rather the moral weakness of those that said nothing—falsely and selfishly believing they would be spared.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    What’s so amazing about Walker’s use of the poem, and subsequent reading of the poem, is that she seems totally oblivious to the fact that Niemöller was lamenting his own sinful past and previously-held anti-Semitic views. It’s an apology of the deepest order—from an anguished soul. He’s not lamenting the Nazis, but that good men like himself fell into the sin of indifference and Jew hatred.”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2016/05/29/the-perfect-poem-for-labours-anti-semitism-row/

    • Rilke said,

      Why misrepresent Niemoller? I am tired of this falsehood. His sermon cleary states communists and social democrats. Anti communists and pseudo socialists who are actually anti Marxists, frequently delete ‘communists’ from the sermon. There are many plaques and posters that do the same. The German is clear. So we must ask why these creepy turds willingly expunge necessary phrases and distort the text. On the one hand these liars purport to admire the passage on the other they falsify it. Maybe it is more useful for thier own purposes if they give the version that suits them, but it is still disgusting to do such a thing.

      Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
      habe ich geschwiegen;
      ich war ja kein Kommunist.

      Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
      habe ich geschwiegen;
      ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

      Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
      habe ich nicht protestiert;
      ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

      Als sie die Juden holten,
      habe ich geschwiegen;
      ich war ja kein Jude.

      Als sie mich holten,
      gab es keinen mehr,
      der protestieren konnte.[1]

      When the Nazis came for the communists,
      I remained silent;
      I was not a communist.

      When they locked up the social democrats,
      I remained silent;
      I was not a social democrat.

      When they came for the trade unionists,
      I did not speak out;
      I was not a trade unionist.

      When they came for the Jews,
      I remained silent;
      I wasn’t a Jew.

      When they came for me,
      there was no one left to speak out.

  6. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Really?

    The only argument that is advanced here for her reinstatement appears to be that she was only saying Jews financed the slave trade in private.

    This does raise an interesting question about how private discussions on facebook are if (as I assume was the case) you restrict access to ‘friends’.

    But the bottom line is that her view did become public and that she has continued to defend it not just in public but on the propaganda channel of a monstrous dictatorship.

    I simply cannot see how the party can have a policy against anti-semitism that carves out an exception for someone for whom ‘but the Jews financed the slave trade’ is an acceptable debating point.

  7. Jim Denham said,

    No, Roger: like you I think the argument about the FB conversation being “private” is a minor issue of little importance one way or the other. Much more important is the point that the comments, as they first came to light, are to a degree, ambiguous: was Walker merely talking about the background of the Jewish side of her own family – or about Jews in general? And secondly, what point (if any) was she trying to make with regard to present-day politics? Because of the rather strange wording of her comments, this wasn’t clear. I have to say that Walker’s demeanour and comments since her (now rescinded) suspension have not reassured me as to the “innocence” of her motives. But (unlike, say Livingstone) it’s still not 100% clear-cut (mainly because of Walker’s own failure to clarify what exactly she was saying about the slave trade).

    Like Sean Matgamna, I believe it’s better to deal with these matters through debate and education rather than disciplinary measures which are likely to be counter-productive in terms of free debate within the party – as well as giving people who don’t deserve it the mantle of martyrdom.

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      She is making four points:

      a) The slave constituted an African holocaust which was worse – ‘millions more were killed’ – than the Jewish holocaust (a historically questionable statement but I am just not comfortable quibbling about just how many millions of deaths there were as debating points).

      b) This African holocaust is in some way still ongoing – which makes any responsibility for it also ongoing.

      c) ‘Many’ Jews financed the slave trade.

      These aren’t just random thoughts that popped into her head one morning and that she breathlessly shared with her very special friends on facebook – but a whole line of argument which has been around for many years in classic anti-semitic, neo-nazi and now ‘anti-racist’ iterations.

      And that is the true context – as the ‘As I am sure you know…’ intro indicates she is not just making an argument but appealing to what in her mind is an already well-established and self-evidently true body of knowledge about the African holocaust, Jews and the slave trade which she assumes her readers share.

      For this reason I can see no point at all in arguing with her (see my comment on the other thread on this subject for cases where it might however be worthwhile to deploy reason) – her opinion is clearly sincere, fixed, dogmatic and no amount of argumentation from Sean, you, I or anyone else about whether about the actual financing of the slave trade, the nature of zionism or the two state solution will plausibly shift her from it.

    • Stephen Bellamy said,

      It all depends on who is doing the educating. Who do you think should do it Jim ?

  8. kb72 said,

    Also protests against those sorts of views are an Israeli conspiracy. The Jewish Chronicle is promoting anti-semitism.

    This is all too common from Ken Livingstone down.

    I’d go with “she’s a really valuable member of the Labour party because of her activism so we’ll overlook who really dodgy views eg only those with a dark agenda would find anti-semitism in the Labour party.”

    Also she’s a bit of an ignoramous.

    But this particular type of ignorance is very common on the Left.

  9. John Rogan said,

    The political difficulty that Labour has is that Jackie Walker did not withdraw the “chief financiers” quote. The LRC have, uncritically, repeated it and their leading members have stayed silent, ignored or quoted in an euphemistic way (“of course, some Jews were involved in the slave trade!”).

    Jackie Walker also went on to say this in the same FB conversation –

    “And what do you think the Jews should do about their contribution to the African Holocaust? What debt do they owe? Shall we open an account?”

    This is real “sins of the fathers” stuff straight out of the Nation of Islam where reparations are being demanded from “the Jews” for their leading, “chief” contribution to the slave trade.

    Compare this to a passage from the Henry Louis Gates Jr article Jim links to –

    “How does this theology of guilt surface in our everyday moral discourse? In New York, earlier this spring, a forum was held at the Church of St. Paul and Andrew to provide an occasion for blacks and Jews to engage in dialogue on such issues as slavery and social injustice. Both Jewish and black panelists found common ground, and common causes. But a tone-setting contingent of blacks in the audience took strong issue with the proceedings. Outraged, they demanded to know why the Jews, those historic malefactors, had not apologized to the “descendants of African kings and queens.”

    And so the organizer of the event, Melanie Kaye Kantrowitz, did. Her voice quavering with emotion, she said: “I think I speak for a lot of people in this room when I say ‘I’m sorry.’ We’re ashamed of it, we hate it, and that’s why we organized this event.”

    Should the Melanie Kantrowitzes of the world, whose ancestors survived pogroms and, latterly, the Nazi Holocaust, be the primary object of our wrath? And what is yielded by this hateful sport of victimology, save the conversion of a tragic past into a game of recrimination? Perhaps that was on the mind of another audience member. “I don’t want an apology,” a dreadlocked woman told her angrily. “I want reparations. Forty acres and a mule, plus interest.”” – Henry Louis Gates Jr. NYT 1992.

    When the Tories are split, what better than an attack on Labour over this, especially as John McDonnell is LRC chair and Corbyn is a member.

    Of course, if any LRC supporters or members say that Jews were not “chief financiers” of the slave trade, they will be accused of not supporting Jackie Walker against a witch-hunt.

    It is a real mess for Labour, even if (like me), you’re not a Corbyn fan. Labour leaders must hope that it will all blow over and voters will forget. They won’t and it will come up again and again.

    We still have the People’s Momentum Youth and Students Conference on June 5 to look forward to. Who knows what NUS inspired intersectional, post-colonial, Jews and slave trade speeches we’ll have there just to chuck petrol on the flames?

    • Eric said,

      “This is real “sins of the fathers” stuff straight out of the Nation of Islam where reparations are being demanded from “the Jews” for their leading, “chief” contribution to the slave trade.”

      No it isn’t. It’s just a rhetorical device.

  10. mark taha said,

    May I suggest she be “sentenced” to read her history books?

  11. Eric said,

    I don’t know much about Jewish involvement in the slave trade, but Jackie Walker’s broader point is not only not anti-semitic but important and cogent.

    The idea that there are victim peoples and that progressives should identify with and defend these victim peoples is poisonous. It leads to moral relativism and celebrating cultures of vicitmhood and reminds that for some sections of the left it is all about race and not class. That these remarks were jumped on says something about the ideological nature of the anti-semitism hysteria gripping the Labour Party.

    • Jim Denham said,

      And yet you defend the “sins of the fathers” stuff churned out by people like Walker as merely “rhetorical device”? Make your mind up, Eric!

      • Eric said,

        She’s just showing where the logic of the person she replies to leads. She’s quite obviously against “sins of the fathers stuff”.

  12. Eric said,

    In fact taking a stand against sins of the fathers stuff was the whole point of her facebook post.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Errr … I don’t think so, Eric: “Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean”.

      Rather, as far as I can judge, she believes that Africans should come higher up the scale when it comes to the hierarchy of victimhood, and Jews should be downgraded: a really pernicious and divisive way of looking at the history of oppression and racism in relation to current events – and one that socialists should reject out of hand.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        But the whole point is you can’t judge. What she writes is unclear and all you – and the rest – do is argue over whatever you want to read into it.

        What a waste of time; like so many of these ‘controversies’.

      • Eric said,

        Her point here is that victims can be oppressors in different contexts. It’s neither profound nor controversial. There is no suggestion of a hierachy of oppression.

        The problem with this is that it keeps getting reported without the context. The post was in reply to someone making a point about BDS being shameful because of the Holocaust. Her point was that this sort of “sins of the fathers ideology” (for want of a better label) is never applied to the slave trade so why should it be applied to the Jewish Holocaust? Her post is about the hypocrisy of being overly sensitive towards Israel because of its Jewish nature and its all about being consistent.

      • Jim Denham said,

        If Walker’s attempt to invoke supposed Jewish complicity (indeed as “chief financiers”) of the slave trace *isn’t* “sins of the fathers stuff” (to use your phrase, Geoff) I don’t know what would be. It strikes me as absolutely blatant.

  13. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Many of our ancestors made a fortune in the slave trade and exploiting cheap labour and many a Glasgow entrepreneur made his fortune. No one ever talks about their actual religion. It seems to me that some on the left just need to mention the Jew word.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Never mind Glasgow, as I’ve said before, come 2020, all will be forgiven and forgotten as they tell us to vote Labour.

  14. John Rogan said,

    Here is what the LRC released on May 12th. They have defended Jackie Walker and repeated her “chief financiers” quote.

    As far as the outside world are now concerned, the Labour Left (including McDonnell and Corbyn) support and believe the idea that Jews were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade. Neither the LRC nor Momentum have disassociated themselves from the “chief financiers” statement. No affiliate of the LRC has disassociated themselves from it.

    Even in the long Sean Matgamma article in Solidarity, it didn’t get a mention.

    I’m afraid that unless the Labour Leadership and the organisations of the Labour Left issue a clear, unambiguous statement that the Jews were not the “chief financiers” of the slave trade, many (including their supporters) will think that is indeed what they think.

    The fact is, it is just not true that Jews were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade.

  15. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    Duff writing – the eternal springwater for Left argument about nuances only they can see .

  16. Geoff said,

    Walker isn’t backing down at all. Over on the Labour Party Forum on Facebook people are claiming that Walker linked to wikipedia’s ‘Jewish views on slavery’ page, and that it proves that Jews were indeed the ‘chief financiers’ of the slave trade. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_views_on_slavery

    • Jim Denham said,

      …in which case this becomes even more shameful. The claim that Jews played a leading role in the slave trade isw an anti-Semitic lie propagated by the KKK and the Nation of Islam and has been thoroughly discredited by serious historians.

  17. Lamia said,

    It’s notable how with regard to to the recent rash of alleged antisemitic comments by Labour members, a common defence offered is that the person has made ‘silly’ comments, or ‘did not express themselves clearly’, or is a ‘poor writer’, and that too much is being made of this.

    Considering that ‘anti-zionism’ is an obsession with a certain section of the left, you would think that with all the practice they put in, they would have become pretty good at articulating their positions clearly, fairly and unambiguously, with no chance of wandering accidentally into antisemitic tropes. But no, they do it again and again, and then we are expected to treat them as if this is their first time out speaking or writing about the subject, indeed their first time speaking or writing in public. It’s just sheer bad luck, apparently. It’s certainly sheer good luck that plenty of people are willing to swallow that.

    • Jim Denham said,

      I agree with you on all of that, Lamia – and would add that in my experience a certain kind of anti-racist campaigner tends to be highly attuned to verbal nuance, ‘tropes,’ historically-loaded language and other such subtleties – except when it comes to Jews, when they suddenly develop a tin ear, and also become very forgiving.

      However, I still would argue that in general argument and patient education is the way to fight “soft” anti-Semitism within the labour movement. Blatant, conscious and unrepentant anti-semites like Livingstone should be expelled, but he’s an unusual and extreme case.

      • Lamia said,

        Well I hope so too, Jim. I’m not all that optimistic about it, however, in view of the common defensive line that this is ‘all about’ Jeremy Corbyn and not Jews.

    • Makhno said,

      “It’s just sheer bad luck, apparently”

      I see. As someone who is sick and tired of the obsessive “anti-Zionism” of some on the left, I would certainly refrain from making excuses for them.

      However, I’m just wondering if it was “bad luck” or “poor writing” when you posted your absurdly racist diatribe against Bangladeshis on the Tendance Coatesy blog?

      I’d certainly let you have a spot of special pleading with regard to “poor writing”.

  18. beckytranssexual said,

    Saying that the Jews were responsible for slavery is as anti-Semitic – not to mention as ridiculously untrue – as stating that Jews were responsible for the first world war, the Wall Street Crash or the Russian Revolution. Presumably, if a Labour member had declared either or these deranged opinions instead they would have been welcomed back with open arms as they have been hear. Unfortunately, by welcoming back someone into the Labour Party with such views you are saying that the far-right conspiracy theory that Jews were responsible for slavery is part of your values and you lend credence to it. It would be exactly the same if you had welcomed a holocaust denier like David Irving into your number. From now on the Labour Party has ceased to be a progressive party and even if they try to make amends it will never exist as a progressive party again. The far right has finally destroyed the British left. Who’d have thought they’d have been such a pushover, eh?

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