TONY GREENSTEIN puts the record straight on his suspension from the Labour Party for alleged anti-semitism
IF YOU listen to the BBC or read Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, you’d be forgiven for believing there is a serious problem of anti-semitism in the Labour Party.
For the past nine months there has been a steady onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party relating to this. First, he was guilty of associating with Holocaust deniers and, when that failed, he was accused of being soft on anti-semitism.
Yet what is the evidence? A two-year-old tweet about Jews having large noses and an idiot Trotskyist, Gerry Downing, who believes that there is a cabal of zionist capitalists who run the foreign policy of Britain and the US.
Three weeks ago, out of the blue, I received a letter from the Labour Party’s compliance unit suspending my membership.
The “offence” was comments I had allegedly made. What were they? They wouldn’t say. Last Saturday, I learnt what they were supposed to be via the Daily Telegraph and The Times. They’d been leaked to papers not normally known as sympathetic to Labour.
The most serious charge was my alleging that the zionist movement in Germany had supported the 1935 Nuremberg Laws which deprived German Jews of citizenship and forbade marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Aryans.
Further, it’s alleged that I had drawn a comparison between those laws and those on inter-marriage in Israel.
These are questions of historic fact. Relations between Jews and Arabs are a taboo and only recently the Ministry of Education banned a book Borderlife from the high-school syllabus because it depicted a relationship between an Arab and a Jewish teenager.
If I’m guilty of anti-semitism for speaking the truth then Hannah Arendt, the greatest Jewish political philosopher of the 20th century, is equally guilty because this is exactly what she said in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil.
I’ve been an active anti-racist and anti-fascist all my life and am the author of The Fight Against Fascism in Brighton and the South Coast. I’m also a Jewish anti-zionist and co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
It is because my record is well-known that 52 supporters of Jews for Jeremy, the campaign set up last year to combat those who were defaming Corbyn in the Jewish community, have sent a letter to the NEC of the Labour Party opposing my suspension.
When Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies of British Jews talks about Jeremy Corbyn tolerating “anti-semitism” what he means is the “new anti-semitism.” This is not hatred of Jews, stereotyping, caricatures, violence and conspiracy theories.
It means that Israel is the “Jew amongst the nations” and that when people criticise Israel, it is not because it is the world’s most racist state but because it is a Jewish state. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, opposition to the Israeli state and support for the Palestinians are, by this definition, anti-semitic.
When Corbyn denies that he tolerates anti-semitism he is talking about a different anti-semitism from Arkush, whose main concern is to defend Israel.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews’ concern about genuine anti-semitism is dismal. As Corbyn points out, his relatives were present at the famous Battle of Cable Street in October 1936 when thousands of Jews and non-Jews stopped Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists marching through the east end of London.
The board’s advice to Jews was to stay indoors, keep their heads down and ignore the fascists. When the National Front started gaining up to 30 per cent of the vote in local council elections in the late 1970s, its attitude was to attack the Anti-Nazi League for its “anti-zionism” — untrue — not the fascists.
The incidence of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is negligible. Hostility to Muslims is far greater but Islamophobia is accepted by the right, which is cynically deploying “anti-semitism” as a weapon.
Anti-semitism is at a very low level in British society. I grew up as an Orthodox Jew and went to working-class primary schools as a child. I never experienced any anti-semitism whatsoever.
The primary reason for anti-semitism in Britain today is because people associate Jewish people with Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. This is, of course, wrong. But it’s not surprising. When the Board of Deputies claimed at the time of the attacks on Gaza that Israel’s murderous assaults were supported by the Jewish community, is it any wonder that some people took them at their word? The 2015 incident report of the Community Security Trust confirms that anti-semitic incidents spike whenever Israel attacks Gaza.
I doubt that there is a single Palestine solidarity activist in Britain who hasn’t been accused of anti-semitism. False allegations of anti-semitism are akin to the boy who cried wolf. They immunise people against the real thing. As a Jewish anti-zionist my main experience of anti-semitism is from zionists who call me a traitor. I have even been told that it was a pity I didn’t die in Auschwitz.They believe that as a Jew I should have dual loyalty to Britain and Israel even though historically zionism was seen by Jewish workers as a form of Jewish anti-semitism.
Accusations of anti-semitism are a desperate ploy of those who can’t defend the actions of Israel, a state whose Prime Mminister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced plans to build a wall around Israel to keep out the “wild beasts” in the surrounding countries.
This is the real racism we should be concerned about.