AWL statement on Clare Solomon’s antisemitic comments

Workers Liberty  have issued the following  statement. The original statement is here.

No to right-wing witch-hunts, no to ‘left’ anti-semitism

Shortly before Christmas, the media picked up on anti-semitic comments made on Facebook by University of London Union President Clare Solomon (a member of Counterfire, a group expelled from the SWP). This is an issue where the student left should proceed carefully, because these new media attacks on Clare cannot be entirely separated from an ongoing right-wing campaign to discredit the student movement. We must vigorously oppose such witch-hunts. At the same time, as left activists within the student movement, we see it as our duty to condemn Clare’s comments and moreover to criticise the deeply flawed brand of left politics out of which they emerged.

This is what Clare said:

“Actually, there is no such thing as the ‘Jewish race’. Yes, there is the Jewish religion but not a Jewish people per se. Identity politics is a very fashionable argument at the moment. It questions the samenesses that group people together. I think you’ll find that there is no one way of being Jewish.

“The view that Jews have been persecuted all throughout history is one that has been fabricated in the last 100 or so years to justify the persecution of Palestinians.

“Although history is obviously a little hard to revisit, it is wrong to write off all the places where Jews, Muslims and Christians (and other faiths/non-faiths) have lived together.

“I think you’ll also find that ALL religions have had their oppressors-some worse than others true, but to paint the picture that ALL Jews have ALWAYS had to flee persecution is just plainly inaccurate.”
(Italics our emphasis)

Before we go any further, we want to make it absolutely clear that we are not chiming in with the predominantly right-wing thrust of most of the coverage so far. Clare’s comments were made on 1 May; they seem to have been brought up now, seven months later, as part of a right-wing campaign to discredit the growing student anti-cuts movement. In particular, the Daily Mail has openly tried to ‘tag’ the whole student activist movement with Clare’s comments and by doing so discredit our magnificent fightback.

As president of ULU and a high profile figure in the recent protests, Clare has come under attack from the right repeatedly. The current furore cannot be entirely separated from those attacks. We condemn such attempts to undermine our movement – particularly from the likes of the Daily Mail, with its own rabid record of racism including a history of anti-semitism (“Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”) We oppose the pseudo-campaign to oust Clare – which in concrete terms, if it really amounted to anything, would be a right-wing campaign to remove a prominent left-wing student officer. And the implication that the student struggle against fees and cuts is defined by Clare’s politics on the questions of Israel-Palestine and anti-semitism is wrong and should be resisted.

Nonetheless, Clare’s comments are now public and require a response. We do not accept the Tory press’ right to act as the arbiter of anti-racist standards in our movement; but that is all the more reason why left-wing student activists have a duty to speak out according to our own standards.

What Clare wrote is anti-semitic – and she does not deny she wrote it. She was quoted in the Queen Mary student newspaper explaining herself: “This badly-worded comment was something that I wrote in haste on Facebook at a very busy period. I’m sorry for any misunderstandings caused by what I wrote.” She effectively retracted the worst bit of what she had said (the bit in italics above): “My position is that Jewish people have always been persecuted throughout history nowhere more than during the holocaust when 6 million were murdered by the Nazi’s [sic]. I am totally against anti-Semitism and any persecution and oppression of Jewish people as I am against the oppression people [sic] on the grounds of any race or religion.”

Writing in haste is no excuse. In fact, carelessness probably revealed an underlying train of political thought. That Clare has made a retraction is welcome, but it does not solve the broader political issue.

The question is: why would a socialist write something like that? But it is not just a case of Clare Solomon! Many on the far left, most notably the SWP and now Counterfire, have adopted politics on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which push them in the direction of such stupidity. In place of rational criticism of Israel and condemnation of the Israeli government’s colonial war against the Palestinians, we get a mindless condemnation of all things Israeli or connected to Israel, and a grotesquely distorted version of “anti-Zionism” which in some cases can veer into conspiracy theories and, yes, anti-semitism.

One common element is the presentation of Israel’s founding, and its dispossession of the Palestinians, as purely and simply a malign conspiracy by Zionists, writing out or minimising the history of anti-semitic persecution, the Holocaust, the complex role of British imperialism (playing off the two nationalities against each other, rather than simply backing the Jews against the Arabs as is often claimed) and attacks on Israel by the surrounding Arab states.

This is the political matrix from which Clare’s claim that the history of anti-semitism has been invented in order to do down the Palestinians emerged. (We don’t deny, of course, that some, for instance on the Israeli right, cry anti-semitism even at legitimate, rational, anti-racist criticism of the Israeli government. But that is a different issue – and the point is that Clare’s criticism was not that sort!)

This is part of a wider phenomenon on the British left. Witness, for instance, the SWP’s repeated invitations to anti-semitic conspiracy theorist Gilad Atzmon to speak at their events as an authority on Palestinian solidarity; or their promotion of Hamas and Hezbollah in the anti-war movement. Obviously no socialist is individually hostile to Jewish people in the way the far right is; the problem is the politics advocated by some socialists.

While defending our movement and its activists against the attacks of the right, Workers’ Liberty will continue to challenge the politics which prompted Clare to make the comments she did from our own, socialist, point of view, fighting within the student movement for consistent opposition to all forms of racism, and rational solidarity with the Palestinians in place of demonising Israel.

Bernard-Henri Lévy – The Antisemitism to Come

Steve Silver’s letter in the Morning Star

From the Morning Star

Understandably Karl Dallas’s response to my letter, which argued that Pete Seeger was right to play the virtual concert for Israel’s Arava Institute, is for him to defend his original “open letter.”

Karl sees the Arava Institute as an organisation that must have “zionist” put in front of it. And, if being “zionist” is not enough of a crime, the organisation is also guilty by its association with the Jewish National Fund.

Yet, I still cannot see the Arava Institute as being anything other than a progressive environmentalist organisation working with Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis and which works on other things with Bedouin Arabs.

But the real issue is not about the nature of the little-known Arava Institute.

The real issue is whether you support boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel and then have to justify that position, or whether you believe in working with progressives in Israel.

I think the latter way is the answer in striving for a two-state solution, the only realistic solution that offers justice for both peoples.

The use of the word “zionist” as an epithet ignores the fact that it is a nationalist movement which carries with it all that other nationalist movements do.

It harbours in its ranks reactionaries who would – and have done – all in their power to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

Yet it also harbours a progressive left wing which wants nothing but peace in the Middle East.

To see only the Jewish nationalist movement and the country that it brought into being as exclusively a malevolent force is a disturbing political position when it is never applied to any other nationalist movement or country.

In light of this, Karl’s reference to a “zionist psyche” makes the mind boggle.

Steve Silver
London NW5

Emotional, Tired Or Racist?

This is cross-posted from Modernity Blog.

There’s plenty of denial in Western societies concerning anti-Jewish racism.

When it does occur in the open, naked and is undeniable then various excuses are often forthcoming.

Readers will remember how Baroness Tonge’s erratic behaviour, conspiracy theories and capitulation to anti-Jewish racism was explained away by her colleagues.

Lord Wallace, a Lib Dem peer, even went so far as to say that she was “…over-emotional, mistaken.”

We’ve heard it before with Oliver Stone and his cretinous remarks concerning Adolf Hitler.

Remember Madeleine Kirk?

So should we be surprised when an ex-SWP activist, Clare Solomon, starts spouting racism, against Jews?

““There is no such thing as the ‘Jewish race’. Yes, there is the Jewish religion, but not a Jewish people per se.

“The view that Jews have been persecuted all throughout history is one that has been fabricated in the last 100 or so years to justify the persecution of Palestinians. To paint the picture that all Jews have always had to flee persecution is just plainly inaccurate.”

Now her defence is that:

“This badly-worded comment was something that I wrote in haste on Facebook at a very busy period. I’m sorry for any misunderstandings caused by what I wrote.”

Thus, the excuses have been over emotional, tired or too busy to think, whatever next?

More is the pity that such people can’t admit that racism affects their underlying thinking and these gaffs are just an unguarded moment when their racism slips out into the open.

Top Ten Antisemitic Slurs of 2010

2nd part of the BBC World Service Documentary by Wendy Robbins Now Available

To listen to the second part of the series, on Holocaust obfuscation and normalisation, click here

Holocaust denial, it was thought, was put to rest with the humiliation in court of David Irving.

However, denial is rampant in the Middle East, and across Europe there is a political manipulation of the Holocaust, its trivialisation or obfuscation, and its labelling as just one genocide among many.

In this episode, Wendy Robbins visits Lithuania where 95% of its Jews didn’t end up in concentration camps, but instead were herded – often by their neighbours – into specially-dug pits, and shot. Yet the popular Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius doesn’t even mention it.

As the Baltic states look for an identity in the wake of independence from the communists, the Holocaust is being politically manipulated. The public wearing of swastikas is legal and the few remaining Holocaust survivors are being hounded as “war criminals.”

The programme website is here.

The first part of the series is here.

Wikileaks and the conspiracist view of history

By Bob From Brockley, this piece on Contested Terrain.

Attack on City Central mosque, Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent was one of the key battlegrounds for the British National Party last election, and has also been a focal point for the English Defence League.

Modernity has disturbing news about an attack on City Central mosque in Stoke-on-Trent. Police were called early on Friday morning when a gas pipe was discovered to have been diverted into the mosque and lit. They have arrested four teenagers and are treating the incident as a racist attack on a religious building.

There’s no point the British National Party acting shocked about this and trying to dissociate themselves from this. They continue to lay the foundations for violence by insisting that some people belong in this country because they are ‘indigenous’, and those who are not should be given the signal to leave. That is not a peaceful strategy that can be pursued by peaceful means.

Eye-witness report back from Israel / Palestine

WEDNESDAY 8TH DECEMBER, 7.30
FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE, MOUNT STREET, MANCHESTER

Between 22 November and 2 December, nine members, supporters and friends of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty took part in a solidarity delegation to Israel and Palestine, visiting workers’, youth, women’s, anti-occupation and solidarity organisations in both countries. (For more information, reports, interviews etc see the delegation’s blog ipsol.wordpress.com.)

At this meeting hosted by Manchester AWL, two of those who went will report back about what they saw, did and discussed on the trip, and open a discussion about what we can do.

If you’d like to organise a report-back meeting for your town, union branch, university or school, email Heather at centre_stage_red@yahoo.co.uk

On the need to be specific about discrimination

Cross-posted from Greens Engage.

A few weeks ago the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) of the United Nations General Assembly voted on a draft resolution concerning extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary executions. Every two years, this vote affirms the duties of member countries to uphold the right to life of all people and calls on them to investigate discriminatory killings.

For the past decade, the resolution has drawn explicit attention to sexual orientation among other groups which historically have been targeted for summary execution. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission describes this reference as an important part of:

“… a non-exhaustive list in the resolution highlighting the many groups of people that are particularly targeted by killings – including persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, persons acting as human rights defenders (such as lawyers, journalists or demonstrators) as well as street children and members of indigenous communities. Mentioning sexual orientation as a basis on which people are targeted for killing highlights a situation in which particular vigilance is required in order for all people to be afforded equal protection.”

However, the inclusion of sexual orientation is contested. This year an amendment, sponsored by Benin on behalf of the African Group, called for replacing the words ‘sexual orientation’ with ‘discriminatory reasons on any basis.’ The amendment was narrowly passed with support from countries which criminalise homosexuality.

Peter Tatchell, who suffered a homophobic beating in Moscow which prevented him from pursuing Green Party parliamentary candidacy, expressed his outrage.

Among many others concerned about the deletion is the Association of British Muslims:

“Removing this clause at this time will send quite the wrong signal to those regimes that indulge in these barbaric practices, implying as it does that United Nations is no longer concerned at the maltreatment of people because of their sexual orientation or considers it to be a lesser matter.

Referring to the Nazis, Paster Martin Niemoller once wrote, ‘First they came…’. Have we not learned anything since the tragedies of World War 2? Niemoller started out by saying, ‘First they came for the communist’s, and I did not speak out, because I was not a communist’ Then, the socialists, trade unionists, Jews and other groups until finally he writes, ‘Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me’.

The Committee vote is to be ratified in December. The Association of British Muslims calls on member states of the General Assembly not to endorse the decision of its Third Committee, and to reinstate the deleted clause.”

Reverend Sharon Ferguson of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said:

“The reference to sexual orientation was part of a list which highlights many of the groups that are targeted by killings – including those belonging to national or ethnic groups, human rights defenders and street children and members of indigenous communities. Until now it has been accepted that the mention of sexual orientation is required to draw attention to the fact that this is often the specific reason why individuals are killed. The removal of this reference sends a message that people do not merit protection based upon their sexual orientation and will further fuel homophobic hatred and violence.”

These arguments are also striking because they are exactly the same ones which can be made in response to ongoing efforts, gradually encroaching from the margins of British politics, to deny or otherwise minimise contemporary forms of persecution and discrimination against Jews.

This ghosting out of antisemitism also seeks to omit it as a consideration in official documents and campaigns, or subsume its specifics into more general statements which shine no light, cannot penetrate, and are destined to become platitudes. Like the UN Resolution on extra-judicial executions which deletes reference to gay people, a decision to remove antisemitism from consideration signals prejudice or an ominous readiness to cement political allegiances by indulging prejudice.

Let us not step backwards.

To end, an aside – it may interest readers to know that every representative from the Middle East voted for this amendment to whitewash persecution of gay people, except one. Israel’s voted to retain explicit reference to sexual orientation. In the alignments around this vote, some commentators will see only the usual confrontations and alliances between blocs of countries. This was Cuba’s official explanation, but it’s a view which is totally aloof from the lives – and deaths – of the people affected. If you are gay, it boils down to this: same-sex relations which other countries call ‘un-Christian’, ‘un-African’, ‘un-Islamic’, are not ‘un-Israeli’. Israel is the best place in the Middle East to be yourself if you are gay.

the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly voted on a special resolution addressing extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions. The resolution affirms the duties of member countries to protect the right to life of all people with a special emphasis on a call to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. The resolution highlights particular groups historically subject to executions including street children, human rights defenders, members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minority communities, and, for the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation as a basis on which some individuals are targeted for death.
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