Above: Lindbergh’s Des Moines speech
- “The American carnage stops right here, right now. From this day forward a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward it’s going to be only America first! America first!” – Donald Trump
In his characteristically poisonous inaugural address, Trump once again used the sinister slogan “America First,” the name of the isolationist, defeatist, anti-Semitic national organization that urged the United States to appease Adolf Hitler.
The America First Committee began in spring 1940 at Yale University, where Douglas Stuart Jr., the son of a vice president of Quaker Oats, began organizing his fellow students. He, together with future US president Gerald Ford and Potter Stewart, a future Supreme Court justice, drafted a petition stating, “We demand that Congress refrain from war, even if England is on the verge of defeat.”
Their proposed solution to the international crisis was a negotiated peace with Hitler. Other Yale students — including Sargent Shriver, who served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Kingman Brewster, the chairman of the Yale Daily News, future president of Yale and ambassador to the UK– joined the isolationist crusade.
Robert Wood, the chairman of Sears Roebuck became the group’s chairman. The organization soon included Col. Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune; Minnesota meatpacker Jay Hormel; Sterling Morton, the president of Morton Salt Company; U.S. Rep. Bruce Barton of New York; and Lessing Rosenwald, the former chairman of Sears.
Soon the organization had several hundred chapters and almost a million members, two-thirds of whom lived in the Midwest. The celebrity aviator Charles Lindbergh joined America First in April 1941, serving as the committee’s principal spokesman and star of its rallies.
Seeking to present itself as a mainstream organization, America First struggled with the problem of the anti-Semitism of some of its leaders and many of its members. It had to remove from its executive committee not only the notoriously anti-Semitic Henry Ford but also Avery Brundage, the former chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee who had prevented two Jewish runners from the American track team in Berlin in 1936 from running in the finals of the 4×100 relay.
Still, the problem of anti-Semitism remained; a Kansas chapter leader pronounced President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt “Jewish” and Winston Churchill a “half-Jew.”
After Pearl Harbor, the America First Committee closed its doors, but not before Lindbergh made his infamous speech at an America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa, in September 1941. After charging that President Roosevelt had manufactured “incidents” to propel the country into war, Lindbergh proceeded to reveal his true thoughts.
“The British and the Jewish races,” he declared, “for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.” The nation’s enemy was an internal one, the Jews. “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” he contended. Booing began to drown out the cheers, forcing him again and again to stop, wait out the catcalls, and start his sentences over.
“Lindbergh ought to be shipped back to Germany to live with his own people!” shouted a Texas state representative before the House of Representatives in Austin passed a resolution informing the aviator that he was not welcome in the Lone Star State. Across the country, newspapers, columnists, politicians and religious leaders lashed out at Lindbergh.
“The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle. “I am absolutely certain that Lindbergh is pro-Nazi,” wrote New York Herald Tribune columnist Dorothy Thompson.
Trump is a supremely ignorant man, but he surely knows the filthy origins of the slogan he’s used time and again: we have been warned.
Today was the fourth and final instalment of the Al Jazeera ‘documentary’ called ‘The Lobby’. The “undercover report exposing how the Israel lobby influences British politics”.
For those that haven’t seen it. The show came in four, 25 minute videos (1, 2, 3, 4). Highly repetitive, extremely drawn out, with about 5-8 minutes of content in each one. The sinister music and hidden footage feel, create the atmosphere you are watching something illicit. After a while you realise that despite the eerie music, the accusation itself is empty.
Viewing figures tend to agree with me. Whilst the firstshow on YouTube has already reached nearly 100,000 views. The Second sits at 24,000, the third 16,000 and currently the last show has only been viewed 3,000 times. Everyone soon realised there was no meat on this bone.
The antisemitic premise
Far too often, as I watched, I simply couldn’t understand what was wrong with what I was seeing. This difference, between my recognition of everyday political actions, and the attempt to suggest that we were witnessing the inside actions of a powerful conspiratorial story, highlights exactly what was wrong with the show itself.
The idea, the premise could only have been formulated within an antisemitic mind-set. The ‘undercover reporter’, Robin Harrow, spent six months looking for evidence of something that quite simply does not exist. His findings are disjointed pieces of a picture of a UK Jewish community that is deeply connected to Israel, put together haphazardly by the mind of an antisemitic conspiracy theorist.
In a excellent take down of the ‘expose’, Marcus Dysch, Political Editor at the Jewish Chronicle, called it “harassment of Jews dressed up as entertainment”. Jonathan Hoffman, in a piece on Harry’s Place, broke his analysis into three central complaints, brilliantly summing up the show as ‘voyeurism For antisemites’.
In essence, the entire show hangs on a single sentence. Six months of undercover work, numerous events, scores of meetings, untold hours of networking, and they caught one ‘take-down’ comment on camera. Even then, it was spoken by a junior member of the Israeli Embassy staff with an over-inflated opinion of himself and a dubious command of English.
Trust me, undercover work is what I do. If I had six months, professional assistance and proper funding, I know that what I would put together would do major damage to the anti-Zionist camp in the UK. They had six months and found nothing. I have real material to work with. They don’t.
Andrew Billen in The Times said this:
“For the life of me I could not see what Israel was doing wrong here. The Lobby sensationally exposed the existence of, well, a lobby.”
Al Jazeera attacks British Jews
So, what was this all about? Yes, the focus was on one embassy employee, but that was not the point. He was just the eventual conduit and you cannot write history backwards. An important point to remember is this: when they started, they could not have known which way this was going to go. The intention was to damage the grassroots, the strategy to weaken the fight against antisemitism, and the goal was to suggest British Zionists, one way or another, are all paid puppets of the Israeli State.
The anti-Israel (pro-Palestinian) movements in the UK have been damaged over the last 18 months, due to their inability to separate themselves from rabid antisemites. If they did not want to operate from a drastically weakened platform, they needed the tools to protect the antisemites. The ability to deflect the accusations, to continue to work unhindered by such ‘petty’ issues such as racist abuse against Jews.
Therefore, this was a deliberate attack on British Jews by a state funded, state owned, news outlet from Qatar. And in return, those who have found themselves politically weakened by antisemitic accusations, such as Jeremy Corbyn, are clamouring for the government to investigate Al Jazeera’s baseless conspiracy theory. The first opportunity Corbyn had to sell out the Jews to regain some political power, he has taken with both arms raised. Dancing with him on the table are people like Jenny Tonge, Ben White and Jackie Walker. I hope he enjoys the company.
This type of antisemitic suggestion, that Jews conspire and rule the world, is still common in the Middle East. Yet, Al Jazeera was operating inside the UK, attacking British Jews with a highly antisemitic brush. If I had one major accusation outside of the Al Jazeera team, it would be that the Mail on Sunday promoted the Al Jazeera ‘expose’ with front page cover just four day before broadcasting. What on earth possessed the Mail on Sunday to jump into bed with Qatar, antisemitism, Electronic Intifada and Jenny Tonge against what is just a group of people who all share similar western values together?
There’s no antisemitism here guv
The two details worthy of note came in the second and third installments. The first was a confrontation between Labour MP Joan Ryan, and Jean Fitzpatrick an anti-Israel activist. The entire confrontation in my opinion, was a set-up. Fitzpatrick is a hard-core activist. If she was politely asking questions about settlements, it was because she was on a mission. In any event, we also only see part of the footage.
What we do know is that Fitzpatrick, who was investigated and cleared, was not the only incident. We hear that “”one nutter came up and basically said that the coup was run by Jews, and Jewish MPs and Jewish millionaires.” we know also that “others suggested the creation of the antisemitism scandal was merely part of a plot”. Even if the comments from Fitzpatrick are arguable, the atmosphere surrounding the stall may have already been toxic.
In any event, consider this, we have two non-Jews arguing over what they consider is antisemitic, and a state funded Arabic TV station showing some of the footage of the exchange to suggest a conspiracy in which antisemitism in Labour does not even exist. I am sure that Jackie Walker would be horrified, if someone tried to use the inability of two white people to ably identify the boundaries of racism, to discard all claims about the existence of all racist abuse.
Bullying the victims
The second incident left me feeling physical sick, and was the conversation between the reporter and Jewish Labour Movement Director Ella Rose after the antisemitism meeting at the Labour Conference. As David Hirsh put it “Al Jazeera’s spy pretends to comfort a Jewish woman who is in tears after experiencing antisemitism, secretly videos her exasperation, then runs off to his pals to help them edit his footage into an antisemitic documentary.”
Ella Rose “formerly worked” at the Israeli embassy. Apparently, if you work at any time for the Israeli embassy, you are forever tainted. According to Al Jazeera, Jackie Walker and co, this is proof positive you are of evil intent. Once this ‘horrifying’ detail about her past life was uncovered by Asa Winstanley, Ella suggests Jackie Walker ‘slammed her all week’ on social media. This is the life of those that choose to work within the Jewish community in this way. They become stalked, investigated, the prey of the antisemite.
Then much was made of her post abuse comments. When I saw this footage, it seemed to be that of a victim, trying to rebuild, to retake ownership of her pride. So I asked an expert. This from psychotherapist Amanda Perl:
“This fantasy or rehearsal that she talked about is simply a way of overcompensating for feeling dis-empowered, scared, humiliated, inferior and ashamed – it’s as if she has been left looking like a coward, not dealing appropriately or how she wanted to in a situation – she is simply with such words trying to overcompensate for being seen as ‘weak’. This overcompensation its a coping mechanism”
So, not only do Al Jazeera take hidden footage of a victim of antisemitism. They then use a natural response of a victim, a response nurtured in clinics for abuse victims around the country as a way of overcoming abuse, and they turn her into the abuser as part of an antisemitic documentary. Currently, because of Al Jazeera, some antisemites are further fueling the abuse against Ella. Everyone involved in this, including those who commented on it, or sent vicious messages via social media, are assisting in further abusing a victim. This Al Jazeera action needs to be thoroughly investigated.
This was a heavily funded, antisemitic attack on British Jews by a Qatari funded state news agency. As at times, we saw footage from different angles in the restaurant, we know there was more than one cameraman involved. We know that Shay Masot was probably drunk on at least one of the occasions he was on camera. After six months of investigating, it is safe to say they found nothing.
We know that sending MPs to Israel is a lot better for ‘fact finding’ than sending them to ‘Palestine’. We know that MPs that go to Israel are at least given a grounding in the truth of the conflict. Why don’t Al Jazeera investigate themselves? Or better still Caabu:
“In 2013 Caabu took three delegations to the West Bank including former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw; Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna; Jake Berry MP; Karen Buck MP; Cathy Jamieson MP; and Mark Pawsey MP.”
At many events I go to, I hear of MP’s having been taken by anti-Israel groups to Palestine. I hear of groups taking them. It never crossed my mind to take the footage, edit it, and turn it into a conspiracy. Others have written the bottom line already about this antisemitic show. It is a disgrace. It is also disgusting that some politicians are using the product for their own political gain. We know these people bully Jews and they further smear them, by pretending the victims are the abusers.
We are a community at war. In an environment that is deteriorating. There is nothing imagined about it. We are now entering an atmosphere in Europe where torching a Synagogue is no longer seen as an attack on Jews, but rather an expression of frustration against Israel. We are no longer at the top of this slippery slope, but have begun a descent. Be alert.
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Workers’ Liberty member Daniel Randall spoke on a panel at Limmud, a Jewish cultural and educational conference, on a panel entitled “why Jews should join Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”. The other speakers were Jon Lansman (Momentum), Anna Lawton (Labour Party member and Limmud 2017 chair), and Barnaby Raine (RS21). The session was chaired by Andrew Gilbert (London Jewish Forum and Labour Party member).
This is a slightly-edited version of Daniel’s speech at the session.
I’m Daniel Randall; I work on the underground in London, where I’m a rep for the RMT union. I’m also a member of the socialist group Workers’ Liberty; we’re a Trotskyist organisation, but a rather heterodox one. I should also say that I’m not currently a member of the Labour Party, having been expelled, twice, for my membership of Workers’ Liberty. So I’m speaking here somewhat as a Labour Party member “in exile”.
The title of this panel is “why Jews should join Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”. I’m going to approach the issue slightly differently, because I’m not a communalist; I’m not a Zionist, or a Bundist, or nationalist or cultural autonomist of any other stripe. I don’t believe in a unitary “Jewish interest”, and I don’t believe there’s any essentialist, innate “Jewish characteristics” that ought to compel Jews to join Labour, or any other political party. Fundamentally, I think Jews should join the Labour Party if they support its foundational purpose: to represent in politics the interests of working class.
I should also say that I don’t believe there’s any such thing as “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”. The Labour Party belongs to its members, not to its leader, and has always been a politically contested space and a site of struggle. You might not like the current political composition of the leadership, for whatever reason, but if you believe in labour representation, you should be in the Labour Party.
But to say nothing more than that would be a missed opportunity, I think, so I will use the not-very-much time I have to say a bit more on what a Corbyn-led Labour Party might imply for the relationship between Jews and the left.
I think the Corbyn surge represents an opportunity to recompose and renew the left. Hundreds of thousands of young people, many of them new to politics and without the training and baggage of years spent organised under prevailing far-left common sense, good and bad, have become politicised, and some have become mobilised and active.
If you’re a Jewish leftist or labour movement activist who has felt uncomfortable with, or alienated by, the ‘common sense’ that has prevailed on the left around certain issues, and I agree that there has been much to feel uncomfortable about, then the febrile political atmosphere created by the Corbyn surge represents an opportunity to challenge and change that ‘common sense’. You should get involved in and be part of those discussions, but that means making a commitment to attempt to see this political moment through, on its own terms.
Much has been said about Jeremy Corbyn’s personal, individual attitude to Israel/Palestine and antisemitism. On substantive questions of policy he has a much better position, in my view, than the one which has predominated on much of the far-left: he is for a two-state settlement, rather than the destruction of Israel, and against blanket boycotts of Israel. That puts him one up on much of the far-left.
His weaknesses on these issues, his historic softness on Hamas, for example, reflect the reality of him as a product of the existing left – a left characterised by Stalinist politics, and a “my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend” approach to international issues. But the new left in the Labour Party is bigger than Jeremy Corbyn himself and, as I’ve said, represents an opportunity to challenge those politics.
I think it’s also important for me to say here that the view that the entire far-left is institutionally antisemitic is a calumny, and I think some of the antisemitism scandals in Labour have been blown out of proportion and manipulated for factional ends, by figures on the right of the party.
Nevertheless, left antisemitism is a real and distinct phenomenon which needs a specific analysis and response. We don’t have time to say much here, but briefly, I think we can understand antisemitism on the left as a form of implied political hostility to Jews, distinct from the racialised antipathy of far-right antisemitism. This has its roots in the efforts by Stalinism, from the 1950s onward, to cynically conflate “Zionism” with imperialism, racism, and even fascism, which established a ‘common sense’ which came to dominate even on the anti-Stalinist left. Only an analysis that understands the historical roots of left antisemitism, and which sets as its aim the renewal of the left, on a politically healthier basis, can meaningfully confront it. The required response is fundamentally political, rather than moralistic or administrative or bureaucratic; to be part of recomposing and renewing a movement you must first be part of the movement.
The key is a culture of open debate, discussion, and education, conducted in an atmosphere of free speech, on all sides. We’re not there yet; far from it. But I believe we have an opportunity to build a left that is characterised by those things, and if you believe in them too then I urge you to help shape it.
I will finish by offering a different, perhaps more fundamental set of reasons why Jews should join the Labour Party.
We live in a grossly unequal world, characterised by exploitation and oppression. Just in this country, one of the richest in the world, over 500,000 people use food banks. In 2016, nearly 200 employers were found to be paying less than the minimum wage – a wage which it is now widely acknowledged it too low to live on anyway. Various forms of social oppression persist, and ecological degradation continues. It’s a bleak picture. And against this backdrop, the wealth of the richest continues to skyrocket. The richest 1,000 in Britain have increased their wealth by 112% since 2009.
All of that is grotesque and obscene. It should offend you, “as Jews”, and as human beings. It should make you want to change it. The only way we can change it is on the basis of a movement based fundamentally, structurally, on the relationship and conflict that animates it all: class. That is what the Labour Party and wider labour movement is for. And if you believe that it is the mission of the labour movement to change the world, and you find the labour movement before you inadequate or deficient in some way, then it is your responsibility not to abandon it, but to help transform it.
As I said at the beginning of this speech, I don’t believe in any innate Jewish characteristics that ought to compel us in a particular direction. But perhaps there is something in our historical experience that can help us gain an understanding of why our world is organised in that way, and how it might be different. In his essay “The Non-Jewish Jew”, Isaac Deutscher explores why Jews have seemed to be over-represented in the ranks of the thinkers and organisers of the left. Considering various figures including Marx, Trotsky, and Luxemburg, he writes:
“Have they anything in common with one another? Have they perhaps impressed mankind’s thought so greatly because of their special ‘Jewish genius’? I do not believe in the exclusive genius of any race. Yet I think that in some ways they were very Jewish indeed. They had in themselves something of the quintessence of Jewish life and of the Jewish intellect. They were a priori exceptional in that as Jews they dwelt on the borderlines of various civilisations, religions, and national cultures.
“They were born and brought up on the borderlines of various epochs. Their minds matured where the most diverse cultural influences crossed and fertilised each other. They lived on the margins or in the nooks and crannies of their respective nations. They were each in society and yet not in it, of it and yet not of it. It was this that enabled them to rise in thought above their societies, above their nations, above their times and generations, and to strike out mentally into wide new horizons and far into the future.”
That is our history. We do the most honour to our heritage when we attempt to use that history and experience to go beyond our own experience, into perspectives for universal emancipation.
That is why you, as a Jew, should dedicate yourself to the struggle to change the world. That is why you should join the Labour Party.
See also: Comrade Coatsey
Greenstein: “the state of Israel was Hitler’s final victory”
Tony Greenstein, who is suspended from Labour for alleged anti-Semitism, was the only speaker at a meeting entitled ‘Is criticising Israel anti-Semitic?’, hosted by Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The room was packed, with around 200 attendees, many of those were Momentum members. The PSC’s choice of speaker, presentation of the event, and recent organised hostility towards towards committed Palestine solidarity activists advocating a two state programme forewarned me of a one-sided and hostile discussion.
Greenstein started by claiming that anti-Semitism is insignificant in the UK today both on the left and more widely, and counselled us to remember that it is just a claim used to attack left-wingers and defend Israel. He gave a history of Zionism as simply and intrinsically colonial, a disease that does not come in better and worse varieties. Zionism, he repeatedly stressed, is anti-Semitic, due in part to support for it by some anti-Semites, in part to statements by some historical right-wing Zionists. Throughout the talk he failed to distinguish between the worst historical examples of Zionist thought and contemporary support for the existence of a state of Israel. Many of his claims were based on a selective reading of history: to Greenstein, “the state of Israel was Hitler’s final victory” and Zionism supported Nazi Germany, while in turn Nazi Germany was decisive in the establishment of Israel.
Clearly, criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic. We should criticize Israel’s actions and stand in solidarity with Palestinians for many reasons, and furthermore there has been some weaponisation of anti-Semitism by the right. And yet, the issue of anti-Semitism on the left when criticizing Israel, irrespective of the intentions of those doing the criticism, is still significant.
Some criticism evokes anti-Semitic tropes and some analysis and proposed solutions to the conflict have anti-Semitic historical origins or conclusions. A key historical anti-Semitic trope is that of all-powerful, shadowy Jews controlling society, and unfounded Zionist conspiracy theories play on this. The prevalence of these could be seen throughout discussion from what Greenstein and many in the audience said, but crucially what many conspicuously didn’t say, deliberately leaving us all to imagine the worst whilst making it difficult to challenge their vague implications. The idea of Israel as a uniquely illegitimate state has historical anti-Semitic origins and is also ultimately detrimental to Palestinian solidarity. Greenstein later responded that Israel is a uniquely evil and illegitimate state. As he demonstrated throughout the discussion, the equation of Israel with Nazi Germany is far too common in the left, and can be anti-Semitic. It looked like many people were listening and genuinely receptive to hearing this different and more nuanced perspective, although ultimately most disagreed.
Many people left during the meeting as they felt it got too heated, which surprised me. Unfortunately, the tense atmosphere somewhat discouraged people from being critical of Greenstein’s points – some people felt too nervous to speak, only three challenged him. It is partly for want of a more prevalent culture of polemic and debate on the left that people found the meeting difficult, but heckling, booing and dismissing as Zionists the minority in the room who dissented from the only speaker’s perspective was harmful. This too happened partly because of the lack of a culture of healthily dealing with disagreements through debate.
There was heckling in response to the argument for a good two states programme as the most viable resolution of the conflict in the short- to medium-term, and that the main victims of the conflict’s prolongation being the Palestinian people. Whilst people highlighted the lack of an appetite for such a programme by many in the Knesset they failed to explain how this made a one state programme more viable. The majority of both Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution, overwhelmingly so on the left of both nations. There is little desire in Israel for a one state programme as people in the room would have advocated; most Israeli politicians that reject a two-state programme instead support expanded settlements and annexation of Palestinian territory, not a programme that would improve the situation of Palestinians let alone dismantle the Israeli nation state. The Palestine Liberation Organisation also supports two states.
Whilst a good two states settlement will be difficult, a one state programme in the short-to-medium-term could almost certainly only be achieved by force. Since Israel should not and will not in reality be forced into this, to advocate a one-state solution and oppose a two-state solution is to advocate no realistic solution and to oppose the only possible, but difficult, solution. Such incomplete arguments, simplistic apartheid analogies and failure to distinguish between ethnicity and religion throughout the meeting are a few of the things that highlighted the importance of more debate on this issue.
My general sense from the room was that most people were close to Greenstein’s perspective, although perhaps not so extreme. Similar perspectives certainly constitute the “common sense” assumptions of much of Momentum and the Palestine Solidarity movement in Bristol, but overwhelmingly people had simply not previously come across more nuanced perspectives; perspectives which are very critical of Israel and stand in solidarity with Palestinians whilst also being critical of left anti-Semitism and defending Israel’s right to exist. The Palestine Solidarity movement, Momentum, the Labour Party and the left need to have more debates and discussions on these issues, but with more balance and less heckling, and hopefully this will lead to less oversimplifications being used to caricature and dismiss serious attempts to tackle left anti-Semitism.
A good letter from the Commission, except for the cop-out phrase “attacks on supporters of both sides of the Brexit debate”: we all know that the racism, abuse and physical violence has come from just one side: “Leave.”
by David Isaac and Rebecca Hilsenrath
Published: 25 Nov 2016
We are writing to you at what we believe is a unique point in British history and culture.
The decision by the British people to leave the European Union and the negotiations that follow will be a defining moment for the nations of the UK. While the focus has been on our place as a global economic leader and trading partner to European nations and major world economies, we also believe there is a need for a discussion on what values we hold as a country. As Britain’s national equality body and national human rights institution, we believe it is our place to help facilitate this discussion. This letter goes to all political parties and we would welcome the opportunity to meet you in person, individually or collectively, to discuss how we can work closely with you in the months ahead and help to shape your agenda and policies to make Britain the vibrant and inclusive country we believe it should be.
After the referendum, politicians of all parties spoke about the need to heal the country and bring people together. However, since those early weeks there is growing concern that the divisions on a range of big questions are widening and exacerbating tensions in our society. The murder of Arkadiusz Jozwick, racist, anti-semitic and homophobic attacks on the streets, and reports of hijabs being pulled off are all stains on our society. We at the Commission have met community groups, representatives and diplomats who have expressed their sadness and disappointment at these events and their wish to work with us to heal the divide.
We are concerned that attacks on supporters of both sides of the Brexit debate have polarised many parts of the country. There are those who used, and continue to use, public concern about immigration policy and the economy to legitimise hate. The vast majority of people who voted to leave the European Union did so because they believe it is best for Britain and not because they are intolerant of others.
We welcome the UK government’s hate crime action plan, but believe more concerted action is needed to counter the narrative from a small minority. We therefore suggest the UK government should carry out a full-scale review of the operation and effectiveness of the sentencing for hate crimes in England and Wales, including the ability to increase sentencing for crimes motivated by hate, and provide stronger evidence to prove their hate crime strategies are working.
We were also concerned by the ambivalent reception given to findings of anti-semitism in mainstream political parties. A clear affirmation that such behaviour is unacceptable is necessary to confirm that standards will improve.
Politicians of all sides should be aware of the effect on national mood of their words and policies, even when they are not enacted. Examples include the recent suggestion, later rejected, that companies would be ‘named and shamed’ for employing foreign workers and also the discussion on child migrants, a crisis where our record on human rights will be judged and where dialogue escalated to irrational levels. We have proposed that in the case of uncertainty, a young asylum seeker must simply be treated as such until their age has been assessed by an independent expert.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a statutory power to advise government. Where important new protections are advanced in Europe, whether they relate to data protection, children’s rights or the rights of disabled people to travel independently, we will argue strongly that these rights should also be introduced into British law. Once we are outside the European Union, we will be in a position to identify good practice and follow it with strength and conviction. We have a strong human rights and equality framework in UK law but must remain open to initiatives from abroad that further strengthen this.
Your offices bring with them a responsibility to ensure that policy debate is conducted in a way that brings the country together and moves it forward. Robust discussion is a central pillar of our democracy and nothing should be done to undermine freedom of expression. The right to free and fair elections supported by accurate information and respectful debate is also essential to our democratic process. Our elected representatives and the media should reflect and foster the best values in our society and engage people on contentious issues in a responsible and considered way. Working with you we stand ready to play a full part in identifying the right policy solutions for Britain.
We look forward to hearing from you.
David Isaac and Rebecca Hilsenrath
Guest post by Robin Carmody
In response to the letter to the Morning Star (a paper which is, ultimately, little more than the Daily Mail with the ending changed; it peddles the same populist Europhobic nationalism, uses the same pejoratives for its opponents and is just as great an apologist for censorship in theory, and quite possibly more so in practice) which I suspect was written wholly if not entirely by David Lindsay, and which has Neil Clark and George Galloway among its signatories, I am reminded again that whether or not people support universal public funding of the whole BBC – and not just those parts of it considered “100% British” by Daily Telegraph letter-writers and “not sufficiently lucrative” by Rupert Murdoch – is, over and over again, a litmus test for their other views.
(In saying this, I am burning out elements of myself; at various points in my life, a significant traditional-conservative streak has surfaced).
Lindsay, it should always be remembered, believes that the BBC should be funded by an increased but voluntary licence fee (interestingly, considering his endorsement by many as an anti-racist icon, Gary Lineker also thinks this) and should not do Radio 1, 1Xtra etc. In other words, he thinks it should become a long-shadows-on-county-grounds heritage broadcaster, and that petty-racist whingers should be conceded all the ground in the world (even more than they have already, which in itself is far too much) and should define what the broadcaster does entirely on their terms, not on the terms of the whole nation. His plan would be a wet dream to those who resent the fact that the music of the post-1980 black Atlantic is funded on their money and they can’t opt out of it.
Clark, similarly, has endlessly moaned and whinged about hip-hop and its tributaries in Mail-esque language, and has attracted people with similar views, one of whom once told me that I was “a cell in the cancer that killed the Left” because I said he should not have moaned about it in such a way, referred to “the Ecclesiastical Court of the Liberal-Left Inquisition” (language that even the most lurid Mail Online commenter would have been hard-pressed to dream up, and note again that he is using identical pejoratives, identical terms of attack) and accused me of “sanctimonious yoof bigotry” – both a dehumanising Mail-esque spelling and a refusal to acknowledge the fact that he might not even be right on those horrible terms, because many of his opponents are now in their forties and do not like current rap-based music at all.
It’s not hard to see the connection between such attitudes and their apparent endorsement – however qualified – of someone who clearly thinks (and many of whose supporters blatantly, unequivocally, unapologetically think – I knew Obama would inspire a backlash but I never dreamt it would be this bad, and I certainly never dreamt that anti-Semitism in the United States, as opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry in Western countries or anti-Semitism in, say, Poland, would be mainstreamed again in this way; I thought the Jewish influence and presence was far too integrated into the mainstream of American culture and society for that) that the people who invented hip-hop, and continue largely to produce it, aren’t really American.
When people de-Anglicise the very concept and the very form of expression – and, by implication, the people – in such a way, their endorsement of those who dispute its American-ness can hardly be considered surprising. It justifies all my previous doubts and warnings as practically nothing else could have.
Above: debate on antisemitism between Cathy Nugent of the AWL and Richard Angell of Progress
The following resolution was adopted at the recent conference of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty:
Antisemitism exists on the left.
This is not merely a question of the bigotries, chauvinisms, and prejudices which exist in society generally expressing themselves within the left, but essentially as aberrations within an otherwise progressive worldview. Rather, a number of ideas, positions, and analyses which have an antisemitic logic have become incorporated over a number of years into the “common sense” which predominates in some sections of the far left.
Contemporary left antisemitism combines older tropes of Jewish power (the politics August Bebel denounced in the 1890s as “the socialism of fools”) with a Stalinist-inspired “anti-Zionism”.
Some traditional antisemitic tropes and themes have become incorporated into certain ways of viewing Zionism and Israel.
Anti-Zionism and hostility to Israeli policies are not necessarily antisemitic. But most contemporary antisemitism expresses itself in the form of anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism, rather than as ‘traditional’ antisemitic racism.
Contemporary left antisemitism historically deracinates Zionism, blowing it out of all proportion. Zionism was a nationalist-separatist, and often romantic-utopian, movement that emerged in response to a real oppression and was given a mass character by the attempted genocide experienced by Europe’s Jews at the hands of the Nazis. It was always politically variegated. The revolutionary socialist tradition with which Workers’ Liberty identifies was always anti-Zionist, but it was an anti-Zionism conditioned, and in some ways tempered, by an understanding of the material roots of that nationalist impulse. It was an anti-Zionism which found it good to have Zionist units in the Red Army, a Histadrut presence at international communist congresses, and steps by the Bolshevik workers’ state to create an autonomous Jewish “homeland” within the territory of the USSR, and which saw the Zionists who then mostly described themselves as left-wing as indeed a mistaken tendency within the left, rather than as a phalanx of the imperialist enemy.
The Stalinist propaganda campaigns of the 1950s onwards, in which “Zionism” was interchangeable with “imperialism”, “racism”, and even “fascism”, cast long shadows in sections of the contemporary far left, including some groups which consider themselves anti-Stalinist.
Those shadows lead to Jews with an instinctive though maybe critical identification with Israel being demonised as “Zionists” (with the word having the same connotations as “racists” or “fascists”); to complaints of antisemitism (short of gross neo-Nazi-type acts) being automatically dismissed as contrived gambits to deflect criticism of Israel; and to Israel being seen as an illegitimate ultra-imperialist state, which must be wiped off the map and whose population, therefore, in the immediate term, it is right to boycott and despise.
[For more on the historical background and context, see: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/26603]
While recognising left antisemitism as a real political phenomenon, we also recognise that allegations of antisemitism may sometimes be exaggerated, instrumentalised, or even fabricated for factional ends. This is true of any allegation of any bigotry or prejudice. That does not mean that the bigotry or prejudice is not real, or that the default response to any such allegation should be to question the motives of the plaintiff.
Moreover, there may be a distinctly antisemitic component in play when allegations of antisemitic speech or conduct are challenged as having been raised in bad faith and for an ulterior political motive. This was particularly visible in the controversies triggered by Livingstone and Walker.
Did the right wing ‘weaponise’ antisemitism in the Livingstone and Walker controversies? In one sense, no (in that some of them had a long record of raising the issue of antisemitism). In one sense, yes (in that they had an open goal and would have been fools not to have taken the opportunity). But such considerations have nothing in common with the way in which supporters of Walker (and Livingstone) raised the allegation of ‘weaponisation’, i.e. as a means to delegitimise all criticism of Walker (and, in some cases, of Livingstone as well).
We are for allegations of antisemitism, as with allegations of sexism, racism, etc., being investigated thoroughly, in a way that is sympathetic to the plaintiff and which affords all parties due process.
Our response is based on political education, debate, and discussion. We cannot challenge a prevailing common sense, and replace it with a better one, by means of bans and expulsions. That discussion must be conducted in an atmosphere of free speech, where activists in the movement are able to speak freely on sensitive issues such as Israel/Palestine, and those raising concerns around antisemitism are not accused of being Zionist provocateurs.
In the Labour Party, we argue for the implementation of the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report.
Some of the recommendations contained in the Chakrabati Report are vague, and the political rationale which underpins them is not always clear. A lot of the recommendations focus heavily on procedural matters. It would be surprising if the Report did not suffer from such limitations.
But the Report does begin to raise the political issues which we want to see discussed and provides a certain official ‘stamp of approval’ to opening up such discussions. In both the Labour Party and trade unions (especially Unite and the UCU, even though the latter is not an LP affiliate) we should therefore encourage the use of the Report as a starting point for promoting discussion about antisemitism and arguing for a new political common sense about antisemitism based on the following ideas:
A historical understanding of the roots of nationalist ideas within Jewish communities, and the impact of the history of the 20th century in shaping Jewish people’s consciousness.
Zionism should neither be placed beyond criticism nor demonised.
As we challenge the confusion on the left and in the broader labour movement about Zionism and Israel, and the antisemitic content of some critiques of Zionism and Israel, we will advance our own politics on the Israel/Palestine conflict, i.e.
Solidarity with the Palestinians against Israeli occupation; a two-state settlement in Israel/ Palestine; workers’ unity across the borders; solidarity not boycotts.
Amendment not voted on (i.e. it goes forward for further discussion)
Contemporary left anti-Semitism involves a process of signification that defines the Other somatically – i.e. it marks out a group of people in relation to Israeli Jewishness and/or Zionist Jewishness – and assigns this categorised group of bodies with negative characteristics and as giving rise to negative consequences. This Jewish Other is conflated with a particular and singular understanding of Israel and Zionism and a notion therein that the Jewish collective has uniquely world domineering and despotic power. Unlike traditional and historical anti-Semitism, contemporary left anti-Semitism considers it possible and necessary for individual Jews to break away from the negative characteristics and consequences of Israeli Jews and Zionist Jews by denouncing any affiliation to them and to Israel and Zionism.
With racism in general, both real and imagined physical and/or cultural characteristics have historically been, and continue to be, signified as an innate mark of nature and ‘race’. Similar to all other manifestations of racism, with contemporary left anti-Semitism it is not difference per se that matters but the identification of this difference as significant. In this sense, whether consciously or not, those engaged in contemporary left anti-Semitic discourse and practices are engaged in racist discourse and practices. The demand (often in disguise) that the Israeli Jewish nation-state must be undone because it is uniquely despotic (comparable only to fascist Germany and/or apartheid South Africa) – a judgement and a demand not made of any other nation-state – is racist. It is racist because real and imagined cultural characteristics have been and are signified as an innate mark of the nature of Israel and Zionism (and of the cultural ‘race’ of Jews associated with Israel and Zionism), which are deemed especially deplorable and negative in characteristics and consequences.
Much academic theorising about ‘race’, racism and capitalism since the 1960s in Britain and North America sources racism solely to colonialism, rather than also recognising racism’s co-constructed relationship with the rise of nationalism and the nation-state, and some of its pre-capitalist origins. The consequences of this colonial model of racism are: one, limited to no recognition of racism beyond what “white people” have done and do to “black people”; two, intellectually crediting the controversial notion that Zionism is an instance of racism (as “bad, white and rich Jews” oppress “good, poor and brown Arabs and Muslims”); and three, downplaying anti-Semitism.
And add at end:
The two states settlement on pre-1967 borders is the only consistently democratic and realistic resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The overwhelming majority of both the activist and academic Left have adopted various forms of one state / one shared space solutions on the basis that the ultimate question is one of Palestinian redress and justice and/or “facts on the ground” have made a meaningful two states settlement impossible. For many in this majority camp, their politics is well-meaning and borne from despair. We need to patiently and sharply reason and debate against the varied proposals for one state / one shared space – exposing and condemning the implicit logic to undo the Israeli Jewish nation-state – while nuancing our argument as not altogether diametrically opposed: since we are for two states so that one day we might see one shared cooperative space between Jewish and Arab workers democratically emerge.
Dale Street reviews Kasztner’s Crime by Paul Bogdanor (Transaction Publishers 2016)
Was Rezso Kasztner, leader of the Budapest-based Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, a hero who saved the lives of tens or even hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust? Or was he a collaborator who knowingly played an indispensable role in assisting the Nazis in the deportation and murder of nearly 500,000 Hungarian Jews in a matter of weeks?
To answer that question Paul Bogdanor has examined previously unused documentation, including Kasztner’s private papers, and evidence provided by Kasztner himself in two libel trials held in Israel in the 1950s. Bogdanor’s answer is summed up in the title of his recently published book: Kasztner’s Crime. (Bogdanor’s own politics are certainly not socialist. His personal webpage is the cyberspace equivalent of “The Black Book of Communism”.)
Bogdanor concludes that Kasztner deliberately withheld information about Auschwitz from Jewish communities in Budapest and the Hungarian provinces, and then misled them into believing that the Nazis were deporting them to another part of Hungary rather than to Auschwitz. Kasztner also undermined and blocked rescue activities organised by other Jewish activists, knowingly delivered hostages to the Nazi SS, misled foreign contacts about the fate of Hungarian Jews, and betrayed to the Gestapo Jewish paratroopers sent to help organise resistance in Hungary.
After the war Kasztner gave evidence at the Nuremberg Trials in defence of high-ranking Nazi war criminals who, as he knew full well, had played a central role in the Holocaust. Bogdanor describes Kasztner as “a high-level informer for the Gestapo” and “a collaborator in the genocide of his own people”. He was someone who had been “recruited by the Nazis as a collaborator” and who “betrayed his duty to rescue the victims and placed himself at the service of the murderers.” Kasztner occupies an almost iconic status in those “anti-Zionist” versions of history which claim that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in carrying out the Holocaust, as part of their “strategy” to achieve the creation of Israel.
The most notorious example of this is Jim Allen’s play ‘Perdition’. Dating from 1987, it purports to be a dramatised version of a libel trial dealing with the role played by a Dr. Yaron (i.e. Kasztner by another name) in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Allen described his play as: “The most lethal attack on Zionism ever written, because it touches at the heart of the most abiding myth of modern history, the Holocaust. Because it says quite plainly that privileged Jewish leaders collaborated in the extermination of their own kind in order to help bring about a Zionist state, Israel, which is itself racist.”
In summing up the play’s central argument, one of the characters talks of “the Zionist knife in the Nazi fist”, describes Israel as “coined in the blood and tears of Hungarian Jewry”, and claims: “To save your hides, you (Zionists) practically led them (Jews) to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”
The play treats Yaron/Kasztner not as an individual but as the embodiment of Zionism per se. The now defunct Flame magazine summed up the central argument of the play: “There is a story here which the Zionists do not want you to know … about the role of the Zionist movement in the war and its collaboration with the Nazi regime. The Zionist leadership of Hungary bought their freedom in a shameful deal with Eichmann, whilst the Jews of Hungary were led to the gas chambers.”
“The Zionist movement stands accused of sacrificing the majority of the Jews in Hungary so as to save a thousand Jews to fulfil the Zionist conquest of Palestine. Clearly, the Zionist movement regarded the establishment of the state of Israel as a higher priority than saving their brethren from the concentration camps.”
Bogdanor makes passing mention of the controversy about ‘Perdition” and the identification of Kasztner as “the avatar of a Zionist-Nazi conspiracy to murder the Jews of Europe in order to justify creating the ‘fascist’ state of Israel.” Bogdanor’s riposte: “such ideas, if they can be dignified as such, have no contact with reality.”
In Nazi-occupied Hungary, there was no “neat” dividing line between bad Zionists (or bad Zionist leaders) and good anti-Zionists. On all sides there were people foolishly thinking Jews could benefit from trying to do deals with the Nazis. The Budapest Judenrat (Jewish Council), for example, was created by anti-Zionist community leaders acting under instructions from the Nazis in March of 1944.
It “demanded blind obedience to the Nazis from the Jewish community” and was “enlisted in Eichmann’s effort to deceive the widest strata of Jewry.” By 24 April it was “summoning selected Jews for ‘internment’ – which in reality meant death – at the hands of the Nazis.” Only in mid-June did it reverse its “previous decision to handle news of the slaughter [in Auschwitz] confidentially” and begin to “circulate the eye-witness report [of Auschwitz] among the Hungarian elite.”
Far from being the ultimate expression of Zionism, Kasztner himself repeatedly came into conflict with other Zionist activists who were doing exactly what ‘Perdition’ claimed they were not doing, i.e. opposing the Nazis and trying to save Jewish lives.
In late 1943, Hungarian Zionists began organising an armed underground movement in preparation for a possible Nazi occupation. The movement was to be open to all Zionist parties (apart from the Revisionists) and to non-Zionists. But Kasztner scuppered the plans for armed resistance in favour of “negotiations” with the Nazis. Hungarian Zionists also helped to smuggle Jews out of Poland and Austria and issued them with forged Hungarian ID papers, as well as providing financial support to Jews in the Polish ghettoes and Jews in hiding in Austria.
Kasztner wanted an end to such activities, for fear that they would jeopardise his “negotiations” with the Nazis. But the Zionist youth ignored Kasztner’s instructions and continued their activities, with the support of most of the Hungarian Zionist leaders. When the deportations of Jews began in Hungary itself, Hungarian Zionist youth activists set about encouraging Jews to flee the Nazi-created ghettoes in Budapest and the provinces. Again, Kasztner sought to undermine and block such activities. Other Zionists organised “protected houses” in Budapest (i.e. houses covered by Swiss diplomatic immunity, or by the protection of other foreign missions) and children’s homes with Red Cross extraterritorial status which provided safety for thousands of Jews.
As Bogdanor points out, the number of Jewish lives saved by Zionists without any help from Kasztner is an indication of how many more could have been saved if Kasztner, as head of the Relief and Rescue Committee, had not placed himself at the service of the Nazis. The gap between Kasztner and the broader Zionist movement is further underlined by the fact that in mid-April of 1944 the entire Hungarian Zionist movement was banned by the Nazis. Kasztner’s Relief and Rescue Committee, on the other hand, enjoyed the patronage first of the Abwehr and then of the SS.