To live is to fight. How the Jewish tradition prepares us to respond to the recent deadly attack on a German Synagogue – Robert Ogman

* This article, by Robert Ogman, was first published in German in Jungle World 44/2019.

Robert Ogman

Just days before the deadly attack outside the Halle synagogue, bracketed between the Jewish New Year celebration Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement Yom Kippur, a friend of mine wrote to me what’s become a popular motto to summarize Jewish holidays: “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” The self-parodying motto, widely known in Jewish communities, refers to the triad of historical experience and social practice: doom, salvation, and affirmation of life. It recalls succinctly and humorously the permanent state of threat, the miracle of survival, and the necessity of rejoice. No holiday better encapsulates this triad as Pesach, when the story of slavery under the Pharaoh and exodus from Egypt is retold, and liberation is rejoiced over a large feast and four glasses of wine.

Yet just days later, when a heavily-armed neo-Nazi attacked a Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur, we were quickly reminded that the motto does not refer to closed historical events of the past which we have left behind. Wie Brecht schon sagte, “Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch.” When in today’s ‘post-national’ Germany, 25% of the population can imagine that something like the Holocaust could repeat itself here, then we – the main Feindbild – know that the triad danger-resilience-and affirmation of life refers equally to our current reality which we have to navigate in our own times. From this, there appears no simple and final redemption – not liberal cosmopolitanism, socialist internationalism, or even Jewish self-determination.

Yes, the Jews may have given the world the bible, broke out of the cyclical view of time, affirmed self- and societal development rather than obeying and mimicking nature – ideas taken up successively by all the monotheistic religions and secular culture alike – but for these gifts, the world has filled its libraries with lies against them.

Society permanently updates its assault with new rationalizations: first the Jews were the Christ killers, then the poisoners of wells, next the bringers of the bubonic plague and black death, afterward the destroyers of society with money and abstract value, then the undertakers of traditional culture with the assertion of universal equality, then blamed for colonialism and “the Middle East conflict”. A broken record always adapted to the times. In the fantasy world of the murderer in a Pittsburgh synagogue one year ago, south American migrants are not fleeing poverty, war, and oppression to seek better lives in the U.S., but instead are simply pawns manipulated by Jewish conspirators to demographically and culturally undermine the white Christian majority in the U.S. for their own interests. This ideology was mimicked in the manifesto of the Halle attacker Stephan B. According to his warped mind, the Syrian and Afghani exodus from their war-torn countries is not the flight of real people seeking security and better lives. No, instead these individuals lack agency and are mere “golems” – just dust brought to life by Jewish mystics through alchemical transformation, and brought to Europe with the devious aim of displacing German Christians and installing Jewish domination. For this reason he decided against attacking a Mosque, and sought instead to “cut off the head” of the supposed “plot”, and attack Jews.

So after we prayed, each in our own religious or secular ways, that the terror in Halle would end quickly and without any deaths or injuries, we screamed out in fury at the fascist danger. We criticized the ideology of that supposed lone wolf Stephan B., and the thousands of armed neo-Nazis throughout German society, which has infiltrated the police and security forces. We raged against the cuts to anti-racism education programs and right-wing extremism prevention projects. We criticized the intellectual instigators, the far-Right “Alternative for Germany” party, which have been called the “political wing of right-wing terrorism”. And we damned the authorities for minimizing our security concerns.

But yet, as loud as the “Never Again!” proclamations were in the media, social media, and at public vigils, so extremely silent were the people around me. So few were the phone calls or messages from friends, colleagues, acquaintances, or self-described “comrades” in the days after the attack. So easy it was to post something stupid banner on Facebook – so difficult they must have found it to reach out and ask, “how are you holding up?” How formally correct, and how socially and emotionally removed at the same time! This too is this state of Germany amid the “outrage” after Halle.

At our vigils we mourned the senseless loss of life, and we said the mourner’s kaddish for Jana L. and Kevin S. during services. Political commentators quarreled about whether the attack was of an antisemitic character, or directed instead against “society as a whole”. What a stupid exercise. I am reminded of Hannah Arendt’s prescient observation that totalitarianism makes all human life superfluous, and at the same time, that it has deep, critical differentiations which cannot be smoothed over – a contradictory truth we should try to keep in mind. The two unique individuals who did not belong to the Jewish community, but were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, were reduced by the fascist mind to nothing but superfluous matter, disposable objects in the mission to rid the world of Jews.

And while mourning the senseless loss of life, we also marveled at the narrow avoidance of a massacre – yes this contradiction could not cover up the miracle of survival. Yes, they tried to kill us (again) … and yet we survived! A remnant always does. We marveled at the wonder of a simple wooden door to stop evil, to stop a massacre in the unprotected Halle synagogue.

On the way to the hospital to be treated for shock – death narrowly escaped – the congregations’ survivors danced, and sang out “The Jewish people live on!” Upon nightfall, they congregated in the hospital cafeteria, completed the holiday prayers, blew the Shofar (the ram’s horn) signaling the end of Yom Kippur. They broke their Yom Kippur fast and drank beer.

The struggle against antisemitism is simply the fight against the reduction of life to mere matter, to an impoverished conception of ‘nature’, ‘race’, blood, labor, and force. And so this very cause must too defend the autonomy of life over all external causes. Hence after doom and salvation, we affirm life. We reject the objectivization and projections by anti-Semites, and also those by well-meaning ‘antifascists’ alike, and assert ourselves as subjects within history, through the renewal of our traditions. This is why it made sense, following the “Tree of Life” synagoge shooting in the United States, to call “all out for Shabbat!” For it is this creative interruption of time and space – the disruption of everyday life and labor, the halt to practices that change the world (through utilization and instrumentalization), and instead the uncompromising and simple affirmation of life – which may be a necessary part of the efforts to repair the world, of Tikkun Olam, or if secular terms are preferred, to “make it whole”, in the words of Ernst Bloch. That a similar call was not made in Germany may say much about the different political cultures in these two countries, but it doesn’t call for simple mimicry. There is much to be changed, but there is also much to be disrupted and affirmed – so we proclaim and sanctify life, for to live is our struggle, so let’s eat!

 

* This article, by Robert Ogman,g was first published in German in Jungle World 44/2019.

David Hirsh in Germany – November 2019

David Hirsh will be speaking on antisemitism, Brexit and populism.
Follow the links for details; more details will appear here when we have them.

October
31  Berlin

November
Kassel
Düsseldorf
Münster
Darmstadt
Tübingen
Konstanz
Bamberg
Munich
Passau

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s Goldsmiths homepage

Follow this link for ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’

 

 

Pete Willsman and the Al Jazeera ‘documentary’ that he gets his information from – David Hirsh

From the Guardian:

Pete Willsman, an ally of Jeremy Corbyn, … said the Jewish state was behind some of the antisemitism allegations – which he described as “total lies” – that have engulfed the party.

In a recording first disclosed by the radio station LBC, Willsman said: “It’s almost certain who is behind all this antisemitism against Jeremy: almost certainly, it was the Israeli embassy.

“They caught somebody in the Labour party who it turns out is an agent in the embassy.”

Last year 68 rabbis from different religious and political traditions made a joint statement that they were worried about Labour’s antisemitism problem. Willsman responded furiously, in a speech to Labour’s National Executive Committee, in front of the leaders of the Party, including Jeremy Corbyn.

He demanded that the rabbis provide evidence, implying that there was no evidence of Labour antisemitism, and saying that he had never seen any. He then said that some of the people in the Jewish community who are concerned about antisemitism in Labour are ‘Trump fanatics’. And then he said: ‘I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all.’

When Willsman slips these three claims slip into each other, you are left with the allegation that people within the Labour Party who are worried about antisemitism have no evidence, because there is no antisemitism, and they are only saying there is because they’re Trump fanatics.

This is classic Livingstone Formulation. People, mainly Jews, raise the issue of antisemitism as a dirty and dishonest way of trying to silence criticism of Israel and trying to smear the left because it criticises Israel.

That is how Labour Jews get drummed out of the Party, politically and then physically; they are accused of being hostile to the left and agents of the right and of Israel.

On 4 September 2018, when Willsman returned to Labour HQ from his token suspension, he was cheered into the building.

The source of his latest claims, that Labour people who worry about antisemitism are in fact doing the bidding of the Israeli embassy is an Al Jazeera documentary which was  called ‘The Lobby’.

This was my own account, written in January 2017, of being secretly spied on by the people making that Al Jazeera film.

The film is being relied on right across the Labour party today as justification for what Willsman said. It is being referred to in every Labour forum.

The Al Jazeera spy introduced himself to me as “Robin Harrow”. I met him in the House of Commons as I was leaving the Labour Friends of Israel event at which I had spoken, following the release of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, and on the same day as Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at the Select Committee inquiry into antisemitism.

I was with my wife, who speaks German and who knows Germany. He said he had studied at the Freie Universitat Berlin. She asked if he’d known a friend of hers who had taken Jewish Studies there. He didn’t think so.

I sent him links to my work to read. He wrote back later saying he was particularly impressed by the “Livingstone Concept”. He wrote that it was an “eye opener”.

He asked if we could have dinner or lunch. I told him that I would be away most of the summer. He came back to me in September and asked for a meeting. I invited him to Goldsmiths. He said he wanted to talk about setting up a youth wing of Labour Friends of Israel.

In December, a friend of mine who works in one of the institutions of the Jewish community emailed me to tell me that “Harrow” was a spy. Initially I didn’t even remember who he was. I looked on my calendar and my email and vaguely remembered.

I hadn’t been alert, I hadn’t been suspicious. It isn’t unusual that somebody wants to meet me to talk about my work on antisemitism and its relationship to hostility to Israel.

I couldn’t remember what I had said to him. I remember asking him if he had come from an ‘anti-Deutsch’ political tradition – quite a few people I know who are serious about opposing contemporary antisemitism are German and come, broadly, from that kind of politics.

When I was told he was a spy, I couldn’t remember what I had said to him. I was anxious. When I write, I am careful to express myself precisely and unambiguously. When I am chatting with somebody I trust, over coffee, I’m likely to slip into shorthand, which is possible because there are shared understandings and shared meanings. I was trying to remember if I had been showing off, making bad jokes or using shorthand; if I had said anything which would look stupid or bad from the outside if it was taken out of context. I still don’t know. I’m glad I didn’t appear in the film. I was nervous about what might emerge. As it turned out, nearly everybody who was portrayed in the film had not done or said anything wrong at all. But there was still an attempt to make them look menacing.

He asked me about the connections between lobbying groups and Israel. I think, from memory, that I told him that Israel isn’t very good at fighting antisemitism in the diaspora; that it doesn’t prioritize it, that it isn’t good at understanding it and that what it does is largely counter productive; and that it ought to do much more to fight antisemitism and it ought to do it much better. Fighting antisemitism is one of the purposes for which Israel exists.

I think I told him that his project of setting up a youth LFI was a hugely difficult project – that we are anyway always accused of ‘lobbying for Israel’ – and that that accusation itself often constituted an antisemitic allegation of conspiracy. I told him that it would be difficult to attract young people to such a project.

I think I probably told him to find out if there was a danger of conflict between LFI and the Jewish Labour Movement – that he should talk to both. In any case, this would not have helped Al Jazeera to portray all the organisations as a single lobby organised by a foreign power.

I was interested in him, and how he had come to want to engage in this kind of politics. I told him about my mum, who had been born in Germany and had to leave in 1938. He told me about his English dad and his German mum – and how they had met, I can’t remember where, somewhere outside Germany.

So, I was left with fear. Perhaps I had said something stupid, something indiscreet, something which would make me look bad; perhaps it could cause me trouble in my job or perhaps it could harm my reputation. I don’t mean to suggest that I say or think something different in private from what I say in public. I don’t. But I think one may express oneself differently according to what one’s audience knows and understands.

The fear still lingers. Probably, I didn’t say anything stupid; because I’m not stupid; but I doubt myself. Compare with Donald Trump, who insisted that it is impossible for Putin to have anything compromising on him because he has never said or done anything compromising. My own response is to fear, and to doubt myself and to be anxious.

I am also angry. This man who posed as somebody who had read, understood and liked my work, this man who said he wanted to learn from me, at my university, was actually an antisemite who was hoping to portray me in an antisemitic way as part of an antisemtic project. Of course it is likely that he doesn’t understand himself as an antisemite at all. He understands himself as a hero of the Palestinian revolution. Or whatever. But he had read my work. He should know better.

He wanted to smoke after we had coffee, so we went to sit outside, at the front of the main building at Goldsmiths. Some of the covert photography in the film was done with a long lens from afar in public places. So this little antisemitic spy, or his collaborators, or his handlers, probably had a camera crew across the road or in a car with a lens pointed at me.

In the end, this guy was a very small guy and this project was a very small and ineffective project – and they did not get anything from me at all – so far as I know. Good. But the feeling of being lied to by an antisemite over coffee lingers.

And that he was German grates a little too. Perhaps it shouldn’t. But my family and my wife’s family – and pretty well every Jewish person I know’s family – has been profoundly impacted by German antisemites. As I said, a large proportion of the people who oppose contemporary antisemitsm are German – but this guy didn’t oppose it, he was part of it.

David Hirsh

Defending democracy will always mean opposing antisemitism – David Hirsh

This piece, by David Hirsh, is from Jewish News.

Politics in our time is about defending democracy against an arrayed series of related attacks that we might call ‘populist’. Each populism is at heart an irrational conspiracy fantasy. Each insists that democracy is fake and each populism blames some group of our fellow citizens for all our troubles, demonising them as ‘enemy of the people’.

It is not accidental that antisemitism is making a comeback as populism elbows its way back into mainstream politics. This fact is hugely consequential, not only for Jews but for anybody who wants to participate in the defence of democratic life.

Similarly, anti-Zionism constructs the ‘Israel’ that it positions it as being central to, or symbolic of, they key evils on the planet.

If that is right, then it follows that the defence against populism will also have to be a defence against antisemitism. Antisemitism is not a parochial issue about one small group of people. Opposing antisemitism is not to take one side in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a local conflict far away which we could choose to stay out of.

Antisemitism is the form of appearance of antidemocratic politics, not far away but here, not only concerning Jews but concerning us all.

Let me be clearer about what I mean by ‘populism’. The Corbyn, Trump and Brexit movements have quite a lot in common. There are many similar movements around the world: AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, the ruling parties in Italy, Austria, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, Hungary and Poland.

These are not yet totalitarian movements but they share a number of the characteristics by which philosopher Hannah Arendt defined twentieth century totalitarianism. They are proto-totalitarian movements; precursors to totalitarianism; movements which prepare the culture for the real thing. Jihadi Islamist movements fit in here too.

These movements are contemptuous of what exists and they see nothing of value in the democratic state as it is. There is no critique of Westminster, Brussels or Washington politics, no constructive thinking about how to improve life, only the promise to tear it all down and start again from zero.

Populism hates the democratic balance between liberty and community. It builds an atmosphere of fervour in which individuals rationalise their own happiness as the price payable for eventual Utopia. Populism does not struggle for specific improvements; it is only interested in the sunlit uplands of tomorrow.

Populist movements harness the politics of resentment to the advancement of those who assume the right to speak for ‘the people’. Anybody in the way is treated as ‘enemy of the people’. They build personality cults around leaders who act as empty ciphers into which every individual can pour their own dreams. The leaders offer us revenge against those who we can blame for our own feelings of inadequacy.

The populist demagogues construct communities of the good and they cast out those who do not fit. The Corbynites call the bad people, the ‘one per cent’, the Zionists, the bankers or the elites. The Brexiters call them betrayers of the will of the people or they denounce those who side with foreign nations and bureaucrats against ‘us’. There is much contempt for the ‘liberal elite’, cosmopolitans, globalists and citizens of nowhere. Populism embraces nostalgic nationalism but it has one eye on a more radical project for the whole of humanity.

Populism tends to explain inconvenient facts by reference to ‘fake news’, conspiracies which are said dishonestly to manufacture the consent of ordinary folk to their own subordination. It is contemptuous of science and expertise; only the charismatic leader knows. Witness President Trump’s recent advice on technical issues to the Paris fire service.

The populists do not understand markets and they are itching to repeat the disastrous economic policies of 1930s style protectionism and economic nationalism.

What does all this contempt for democratic culture, norms and politics have to do with antisemitism?

Antisemitism was at the very centre of Stalinist Communism and Nazism. These movements, by which people who felt powerless aspired to world domination, required a global, powerful and cunning ‘other’. Antisemitism is always projection. If you want to know what antisemites dream about, listen carefully to what they accuse Jews of doing.

The antisemitic construction of ‘the Jew’ has been forged over centuries by a succession of distinct antisemitic movements, each adding to the narrative and emotional vocabulary of the other. It sits there in our culture and we think it is a thing of the past, too vulgar and awful to constitute a contemporary threat. But antisemitic ways of thinking are nevertheless entrenched in our subconscious and are tempting resources for anti-democratic movements because they give material shape to unendurable, abstract, fear and fury.

Conspiracy fantasy is not always antisemitic but it is always ripe for it. The bad news is that we are all going to have to educate ourselves in the stealthy vileness of antisemitism. We cannot leave it to the Jews because it is not only about them. But we are resistant to this bad news. Nobody wants to be seen as the pro-Jew party, we prefer a universal message.

We cannot understand contemporary populism without understanding its relationship to antisemitism; but if we make that understanding explicit, then people will recoil against it and the message will be lost.

Of course it is far from true that every Labour supporter, Trump supporter or Brexiter is antisemitic. Indeed all of these movements have Jewish support, people who mobilise their own identities politically and publicly in an effort to protect their movements from such accusations. The angry denials of antisemitism are plausible because they are genuine. People are not aware of the antisemitism in their own movements, whether it is explicit, whether it is hidden and difficult to interpret, or whether, so far, their ideologies are only similar in shape and content to antisemitic ones.

What is true is that populist movements animate conspiracy fantasy and they denigrate ordinary democratic processes, cultures and ways of thinking. And where that is allowed to happen, antisemitism becomes hugely attractive, and it finds fertile ground, while opposition to antisemitism looks like special pleading and Jewish tribalism.

David Hirsh

What do we need to build, to save democracy? – David Hirsh

Maybe this is a mad, frightened question. I hope so. But I am frightened. I don’t share the complacency of those who ridicule ‘operation fear’.

There is an array of populist movements which trade on a cynical contempt for the democratic state: Corbyn, Trump, Brexit, Jihadi Islamism, Le Pen and the Gilets Jaunes, AfD, parties in government in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Poland; Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Putin.

Populist leaders set up ‘the people’ as strong and good but oppressed and duped; they set up ‘enemies of the people’ who are the real power, secretly pulling the strings of fake democracy; and then they set themselves up as the voice of the people.

Populist movements, that is proto-totalitarian movements, are conspiracy fantasies. Brexit imagines that Britain’s real problems are caused by foreigners and EU bureaucrats and their unseen controllers, the cosmopolitan elite. Corbyn speaks for the 99% which he thinks is controlled by a 1% conspiracy of bankers cosmopolitans and capitalists; and he speaks for the people worldwide who he imagines are oppressed by Zionism and imperialism.

As conspiracy fantasy, populism is similar in structure to antisemitism and antisemitism is a constant temptation to it. Democratic people will not have the luxury of being able to ignore or to sidestep the dirty and disgusting battle against antisemitism.

Antisemitism is the form of appearance of anti-democratic politics.

So we need to build a movement for democratic life; a movement which knows how to take on populism; a movement which can persuade people that utopia is snake oil and that democratic life is worth fighting for.

Labour MPs are being targeted for deselection by the bullies and there isn’t a movement which can save them. Antisemites are getting legitmized by the Corbynites and there isn’t a movement which can de-legitimize them.

In the Tory Party too, the rational democratic people are being defeated, humiliated and driven out by the populists.

Streams of the politically homeless have nowhere to go.

What we need is a hard centre: which can win against Corbynites in the student union bar; against Brexiters in Colchester and Stoke; against Jihadis in Finsbury Park and Bradford; against antizionist Jews in North London.

We need to attract, educate and to then to harden hundreds and thousands of young women and men to ensure that democratic life will be possible for them and their families.

In Germany in the 30s the Communists and the Nazis were hard and organised; they agreed that the democratic state was a sham and they agreed that Weimar was responsible for its own collapse; and they had armed people on the streets. And the liberals and the social democrats were wiped out by them.

We need to build a social and a political movement that knows what it’s about, that’s exciting to be around, that has some answers, that wins some victories, that wants to build and to defend, not to sneer and to tear everything down.

David Hirsh

A straightforward and practical resource for understanding Labour’s antisemitism problem – David Hirsh

This web page, and the many links contained within it, is a resource for political people who will increasingly find that they need to understand contemporary antisemitism. Please bookmark it and come back to it when you need it. And I’m sorry to tell you that you will need it.

Antisemitism always positions its own image of ‘The Jews’ at the centre of all this that is bad in the world. It is a terrible irony that in our time not the Jews but antisemitism is implicit within most of what is threatening to democracy.

Antisemitism is not interesting and thinking about it is not what democratic people would like to spend their time doing. But we have no choice. The populist, that is the proto-totalitarian assaults on democracy which are mushrooming into mainstream politics are fundamentally conspiracy fantasies. And conspiracy fantasies are always pregnant with antisemitism, whether the fantasists know it or not.

We do not choose to be interested in antisemitism; antisemitism chooses us. Antisemitism is never only a problem for Jews, it is always also an indicator of a wider sickness of democratic politics within any space where it is tolerated. Anybody who fights for democratic politics and against populism will find themselves forced onto this terrain. And they need to know how to deal with it.

I have resigned from the Labour Party after fighting antisemitism on the left for three decades. For years I refused to be pushed out by antisemites or to acquiesce to my political homelessness. I respect those who still resist; as I respect those who never understood why I stubbornly remained.

I am on the same side as opponents of antisemitism no matter what party they’re in at the moment. People who disagree on strategy are not the problem. The problem is the antisemites: people who thrill at the ‘blasphemy’ of upsetting Jews; people who close their ears to the experiences of Jews; people who look the other way when they are shown the evidence; and people who insist that the issue of antisemitism is a conspiracy to silence criticism of Israel and to smear the left.

Follow this link for my resignation from the Labour Party

Follow this link for Eve Garrard’s piece about the pleasures of antisemitism

  1. Criticism of Israel and antisemitism

When people used to rail against Jewish bankers or Jewish pornographers, Jewish child-murderers or ‘cultural Marxism’, or the real power behind the politicians, this was not criticism of capitalist banking, pornography, murder, Marxism or democratic politics; it was antisemitism. When people ask why Hilary Clinton stood by her man or when they focus on Angela Merkel’s dress sense, that is not criticism but sexism.

There is much to love about Israel and being protective of Israel is a democratic imperative; Israel is a life-raft for the undead Jews of Europe and for their descendants; and for the Jews ethnically cleansed from the great cosmopolitan cities of the Middle East; and for the Jews who escaped the horrors of Russian Tsarism and then Communism.

Today, about half of the world’s Jews live in Israel and about half in the United States of America, give or take small communities in Britain, France, Germany, South Africa and Australia, and smaller communities elsewhere. A hundred and twenty years ago they lived almost wholly in eastern and central Europe, Russia, north Africa and the middle east. To nurse only an angry hostility to Israel within yourself is to refuse to feel the joy of Jewish survival and renaissance.

Some people are more critical than others of the ways in which Israel relates to its neighbours, and that is fine. There are real conflicts between Jews and Palestinians, and between Jews and the huge and largely hostile region which surrounds them. Of course it is important for people to critically and politically engage with Israeli policies and political culture, as it is important to engage with Palestinian and wider Arab and Islamist politics.

But antisemitism is not criticism of Israel.

The problem is when actual events come to be thought of in antisemitic ways. Yes, people under eighteen are killed in the conflict, no Israel does not set out to murder children. Yes, Israel and Jews fight politically for people to see things their way, no there is no Zionist control of the ‘mainstream media’. Yes, there is racism in Israel, no Israel is not in essence a racist endeavour. Yes, Jews sometimes worry too much about antisemitism, no they do not raise the issue, ‘weaponise it’, in a dirty conspiracy to silence the Palestinians.

Antisemitism, and the anger, hostility and demonization of Israel with which it comes packaged, is not the same thing as rational criticism of this or that Israeli policy or this or that aspect of Israeli culture.

Follow this link to Norman Geras’ piece on ‘Alibi Antisemitism’

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s ‘Open Democracy’ piece: ‘Stop accusing Jews of conspiring against the community of the left’

  1. The Livingstone Formulation.

The standard way, since the Macpherson Inquiry, of responding to somebody who says they have experienced racism or sexism is to begin with the assumption that they might well be right.

The standard way of responding to Jews who say they have experienced antisemitism is to assume they might be lying in an effort to smear or to silence.

My experience of raising the issue of antisemitism is precisely that. I was not treated as somebody who has something important to say, I was treated as somebody who means the left harm, somebody who is really from outside, an imposter, an alien, somebody who is spinning a malicious falsehood at the behest of a foreign state.

Follow this link for my description of being spied on by Al Jazeera

Populist politics tends not to engage rationally with what people say. Rather, it tends to define communities of those who are on the side of ‘the people’ in fixed opposition to those who are defined as being necessarily ‘enemies of the people’. Those who raise the issue of antisemitism get cast out of the ‘community of the good’ and treated as hostile; they are excluded from the universe of people who should be debated with and they are put into the universe of people who may be vilified as enemies. This is what happens to Jews on the contemporary left, those anyway who refuse to disavow Israel and to whitewash antisemitism.

The Livingstone Formulation is a refusal to engage with the issue of antisemitism; it is a refusal to look at the argument or the evidence; instead it reflects back an instant and angry counter-accusation that the Jew is the aggressor and that the antisemite is the victim.

Antisemites have always presented themselves as victims of the Jews.

Antisemitism is a weapon aimed at Jews; it is not ‘weaponized’ by Jews against antisemites.

Antisemitism silences Jews, it does not silence antisemites.

For more about the Livingstone Formulation, follow this link

For more on the way Jews get expelled from Corbyn’s ‘community of the good’ follow this link

  1. People who are most responsible for Labour antisemitism believe themselves to be the most consistent opponents of antisemitism

Is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite? He is a man who for decades has embraced antisemitic politics; he has a long record of defending antisemites against Jews; he supports Hamas and Hezbollah; he participated in a wreath laying ceremony for the Munich Olympic murders of Jews; he treats Israel as a key evil on the planet; under his leadership antisemitism in the Labour Party has blossomed; he is so wedded to his way of thinking that he has been willing to endanger his whole project rather than deal with the problem; one of his key advisors said that the issue of defining antisemitism was a hill that he was prepared to die on.

Yes, but is Jeremy Corby an antisemite? My answer to that is, it depends on what you mean by the word. I am interested in what he says and what he does, not in the moral cleanliness of his own inner soul.

In our time, racism is not only, and not even mostly, about hatred. Racism is about social structures and fixed ways of thinking which seem like common sense and which exclude and discriminate against people.

Antisemitism is the same. People who defend antisemitic ways of thinking and exclusions are often quite convinced that they are doing the opposite. They look into their own heads and find themselves morally blameless; so they then look at the accusers and angrily accuse them of acting in bad faith.

But fighting antisemitism is not only about finding and expelling individuals. Antisemitism is a social phenomenon, external to any particular person; it exists objectively, irrespective of somebody’s subjective feelings about themselves or about Jews. The carriers of today’s antisemitism think of themselves as good people and as antiracists.

But if you, like Pete Willsman, a member of Labour’s NEC, say that those raising the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party are ‘Trump fanatics’; or if you, like a former vice chair of Momentum Jackie Walker, try to make people think of Jews as ‘the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade’; or if, like Ken Livingstone, you say that ‘Hitler was supporting Zionism… before he went mad’; of if you, like Jeremy Corbyn, present programmes for the propaganda outlets of the Iranian regime; then you are doing antisemitic things, even if that is not how you feel about yourself.

This is one of the difficult things about challenging contemporary antisemitism. People who say antisemitic things genuinely have no understanding of why people think they are antisemitic. And they are not open to thinking about the issue in an ordinary way.

But there is an issue of institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party because it is tolerated and licensed by the leadership – by its politics – and by the institutions of the Party even when they deny that this is the case.

In 2003 to 2011 we saw the University and College Union being infected by institutional antisemitism when it began to embrace the boycott campaign.  One of the forms this takes is a demand for secrecy. Institutional racism requires a tightly closed boundary around the institution. This facilitates ways of thinking becoming normal within the secret boundary that outside are looked upon as being entirely inappropriate. If there is nothing to hide then there is no reason why people should not be able to say in public what is happening.

It is noticeable that when institutionally racist institutions come under external pressure, they tend to enforce the boundaries ever more stringently, and punish those disloyal enough to talk in public about what happens within the institution.

For a detailed explanation of over a hundred specific instances of Labour antisemitism, follow this link

For submissions to the Chakrabarti Inquiry on Labour antisemitism, follow this link

For the full story of what happened in the University and College Union, follow this link

For Paul Bogdanor’s claim by claim critique of Livingstone’s cod history follow this link

  1. Antizionism and campaigns to boycott Israelis bring with them antisemitism into any social space in which they are treated as legitimate

Antizionism tends to make an ‘-ism’, a worldview, out of hostility to Israel. Antisemitism has always put Jews at the centre of all that is bad in the world; antizionism can’t resist the temptation to put Israel at the centre of all that is bad in the world.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Zionism was a movement which held that Jews could only defend themselves against antisemitism by creating a nation state; there were other competing movements, like Bundism, which said that Jews should find a new non-religious way of being Jewish and should defend themselves where they already lived; and there was Bolshevism, which said that Jews should combine with all the other workers of the world and should shed their Judaism and build a new world in which everybody would be unique. Antizionism, at this time, was an opposition to an idea, and it was fundamentally a Jewish critique; and it was a legitimate critique.

But all three antiracist movements were defeated by Nazism; none of them could save the Jews of Europe. After the Holocaust, and after the creation of the state of Israel, Zionism was no longer a set of ideas but it became a material reality.

Antizionists like to talk about Israel as though it is an idea, because if it is an idea, it can be a bad idea. That is why they like to deny that Israel is a nation state, because if it is a nation state, it just is; it cannot be good or bad; and it cannot be undone. Being against the existence of Israel today means siding with those who would destroy it.

We have learnt many times, and most recently from the experiences of the Yazidis, that minorities in the Middle East which cannot defend themselves are at grave existential risk.

For a progressive case for Israel, follow this link

For my debate with Israeli antizionist Ilan Pappé, follow this link

  1. The campaign to boycott Israel is an antizionist campaign which aims to create such a hostility to Israelis that people will feel justified in excluding them from the global community of scholarship, arts, sport and business. We know from experience that anywhere that the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign takes hold, antisemitism follows.

For David Hirsh’s reasons that BDS is antisemitic, follow this link

For Alan Johnson’s critique of the claim that Israel is like apartheid South Africa, follow this link

For Robert Fine’s response to Desmond Tutu, follow this link

And for more debate on the apartheid analogy, follow this link

For Cambridge Scientist Michael Yudkin’s argument against the academic boycott of Israel, follow this link

For the myth of the ‘institutional boycott’ follow this link

Follow this link for some suggestions as what a genuinely left of egalitarian alternative to BDS might look like.

  1. Antisemitism takes an especially vicious form against Jewish women

Women Labour members, such as Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman; and non-Jewish allies in the fight against antisemitism such as Joan Ryan, have had to endure specifically misogynist antisemitic abuse. There is something about a strong and articulate woman that antisemites find completely intolerable.

For a video link to Luciana Berger describing her experience, follow this link

For more on the intersection of misogyny and antisemitism follow this link

  1. Antisemitism tends to construct Jews such that don’t fit into the normal categories of understanding of social life.

 It constructs them as being outside of nation, outside of race, outside of class, and it constructs them as having a special relationship to gender.

Jews are targeted by white supremacists who believe them to pollute the ‘white race’. But Jews are also targeted by many antiracists, who believe them to be ‘white’ and then ‘privileged’ and then ‘white supremacist’.

Jews are targeted by antisemites who say that Jews are bourgeois, particularly involved in banking and finance capital, that they work for the capitalists; and that they play a special role in global imperialism. Jews are portrayed as part of a liberal elite and they are said to have more loyalty to those of their own kind around the world than to members of their own local, national or class communities.

Jews are also targeted as being Bolsheviks and ‘cultural Marxists’; and Marxists are targeted as being Jewish.

Jews are targeted when they have no nation of their own, as ‘cosmopolitans’; and they are targeted when they have a nation of their own, as ethnic nationalists.

  1. There are a few Jews who fight hard for antisemitic politics

There is an overwhelming and strong consensus against Labour antisemitism in the Jewish community. There is a consensus as to what antisemitism is and as to how it manifests itself.

This letter, from 68 diverse rabbis is a clear expression of the consensus

But there is a small minority of Jews for whom hatred of Israel is an all-consuming passion. Many Jews are especially concerned with Israel. Some are especially concerned, and then obsessive, about its shortcomings. Antizionist Jews parade their Jewish identities, they speak ‘asaJew’, in order to try and portray the Jewish community as divided.

In truth, the institutions and individuals of the Jewish community are not divided: the Union of Jewish Students, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Holocaust Education Trust, the Community Security Trust, the synagogue movements, the Jewish Labour Movement, the list goes on… they know antisemitism when they see it.

But antizionist Jews do immense damage by trying to give Jewish legitimacy to politics which is dangerous to Jews.

If I were not Jewish, and I discovered that I had been taught antisemitic ways of thinking by my Jewish friends or comrades, I would be furious.

For more on Jewish antizionism, follow this link

Follow this link for a piece on “Jewdas”, who tried to give Jewish cover to Jeremy Corbyn when he was under criticism of presiding over an antisemitic party. 

  1. Antisemitism and left and right wing populism.

We have learnt that it is possible to be antisemitic even if you appear only to be concerned with the evils of Israel.

But we have also learnt, from people like Donald Trump and President Orban of Hungary, that some people who appear to be friends of Israel can also support antisemitic politics, and seek alliances with it.

On the left, antisemitism is often treated as a cry of the oppressed, while opposition to antisemitism is often treated as a discourse of power, trying to silence the oppressed.

On the right, xenophobia and racism are often treated as the cry of the oppressed, the ‘white working class’ or the ‘left behinds’, while opposition to racism is often treated as a discourse of power, a sly tool employed by those who wish to defend the status quo.

There is emerging a right wing Islamophobia in America, in Britain and in Europe which is analogous to left antisemitism in some ways; which is gaining the kind of apparent legitimacy in mainstream politics which five years ago it could only have dreamed about.

On the right, conspiracy fantasy about globalism, cosmopolitans, citizens of nowhere and the shadowy power behind politics, approaches closer and closer to antisemitic discourse.

Left and right populists both tend to see antisemitism and racism only in the other’s political family. “No, the real problem is over there!” they say, pointing at each other. In this way they license and legitimize the antisemitism or other forms of racism within their own political families.

For more on antisemitism and left and right populism in Britain follow this link

For a piece about why populism will always be open to antisemitism, follow this link. 

Some more Links

Read Dave Rich’s book, The left’s Jewish problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and anti-Semitism

Read Philip Spencer and Robert Fine’s book, Antisemitism and the left: on the return of the Jewish Question

Read these two pieces by Robert Fine: On doing the sociology of Antisemitism and on Marx and his approach to the critique of left antisemitism.

Read David Hirsh’s book, Contemporary Left Antiemitism

Watch a thirty minute video made by people who felt the Chakrabarti Inquiry had not listened to them: Whitewashed

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s Jewish Chronicle pieces which chart the progress of the problem of Labour antisemitism

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s Jewish News pieces on Labour antisemitism

Follow this link for Izabella Tabarovsky’s piece on the Soviet roots of contemporary left antisemitism

 

David Hirsh

Author of ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’

Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London

Exerpt from “Contemporary Left Antisemitism” relating to Jackie Walker – David Hirsh

Yesterday Jackie Walker was expelled from the Labour Party. This was written in 2017:

On 5 May, Facebook comments by Jacqueline Walker, a vice chair of the Corbyn supporting Momentum movement, came to light.  She had written:

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?

It is a reasonable interpretation of these comments that they draw on a black nationalist antisemitic narrative that Jews were significantly responsible for, or were behind, the slave trade. In keeping with the Livingstone Formulation, Walker did not simply say that the people who alleged that there was antisemitism in the party were mistaken or had judged the situation wrongly; instead she hit back with the allegation that it was a ‘lie’ to suggest there was a ‘major problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party’.

Walker was not finally suspended from membership of the Party until 1 October, after she had been secretly filmed speaking at a training event put on by the Jewish Labour Movement for Party members, which was intended to raise awareness of antisemitism.  At that event, Walker implied that security at Jewish schools was more a manifestation of a Zionist campaign to make it appear that they are under threat from antisemitism than a genuine response to a real security threat.

Did Jacqueline Walker remember that in March 2012 Mohammed Merah appeared outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in the city of Toulouse and murdered a rabbi and teacher, and his two sons; and then he murdered an eight year old girl; and he shot and injured four other people?  Perhaps Walker does remember that the much respected and celebrated French intellectual Tariq Ramadan had insisted that that killer had not been ‘driven by racism and anti-Semitism’; notice the intellectual effort expended in the attempt to find the antisemite guilty of a lesser charge, any lesser charge, so long as it was not antisemitism.  Murder, yes; disorientation, yes; pathetic, yes; but he himself was, according to Ramadan, a victim, not a perpetrator of racism.  Ramadan’s full paragraph:

Religion was not Mohamed Merah’s problem; nor is politics. A French citizen frustrated at being unable to find his place, to give his life dignity and meaning in his own country, he would find two political causes through which he could articulate his distress: Afghanistan and Palestine. He attacks symbols: the army, and kills Jews, Christians and Muslims without distinction. His political thought is that of a young man adrift, imbued neither with the values of Islam, or driven by racism and anti-Semitism. Young, disoriented, he shoots at targets whose prominence and meaning seem to have been chosen based on little more than their visibility. A pathetic young man, guilty and condemnable beyond the shadow of a doubt, even though he himself was the victim of a social order that had already doomed him, and millions of others like him, to a marginal existence, and to the non-recognition of his status as a citizen equal in rights and opportunities.

Jacqueline Walker also spoke about Holocaust commemoration as though it had become a Zionist-owned enterprise whose primary function is to increase the victim-power which it bestows on Jews by creating a hierarchy of victimhood and by obscuring and downplaying other ‘holocausts’, as she calls them: ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all peoples who’ve experienced Holocaust?’.  When told the day was indeed for all post-World War II genocides, she said ‘in practice it is not circulated and advertised as such’.

The politics of this sustained assault on Jews and Israel via the issue of Holocaust commemoration requires some unpacking; it relates to Ken Livingstone’s claim that Hitler was supporting Zionism; and it relates to Ilan Pappé’s claim that Israel is committing genocide like Nazis; and it relates to Desmond Tutu’s claim that Jews have forgotten the lessons of the Holocaust. It plays politics with the Holocaust by accusing Jews of playing politics with the Holocaust.  It engages in victim competition by accusing Jews of engaging in victim competition.  It obscures the actual relationship between Israel and the Holocaust by proposing all sorts of tangential, exaggerated and invented relationships between Israel and the Holocaust.  Lesley Klaff names the process whereby the Jews are portrayed as the new Nazis ‘Holocaust inversion’. ‘The Shoa need not be denied as a historical fact, it may be invalidated as a moral truth’, writes Abram de Swaan, in his paper about how ‘anti-Israel enthusiasms’ function as an avenue for psychological release for some people, after the general post war repression of antisemitic urges in Europe.  Secondary antisemitism is often illustrated by Zvi Rex’s remark that ‘[t]he Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz’.

One of the hoped for positive functions of publicly remembering the Holocaust is to remind us what actually happened.  Sometimes a particular image or anecdote or artefact can bring home to us, again, with a new freshness, the hugeness of what happened to the Jews of Europe.  Whether we are scholars of genocide, or political activists, or people who know nothing of history, events of commemoration have the power to take us out of ourselves, our own lives and our narrow political concerns and connect us back to the scale and depth of what the Holocaust was; and what genocide is.

In the Jewish museum in Prague, housed in four synagogues whose congregations no longer exist, there is an exhibition of drawings made by Jewish children in the ghetto and concentration camp at Terezín (Theresienstadt in German).  From Terezín the children were transported to Auschwitz where they were all murdered on arrival.  The website of the museum describes the exhibit:

The story begins with reflections on the events immediately following 15 March 1939, when Bohemia and Moravia were occupied by the Nazis and transformed into a Protectorate. This is followed by a description of transports to the Terezín ghetto (starting on 24 November 1941), everyday ghetto life and the conditions in the children’s homes.

There are also depictions of holiday celebrations and of the dreams that the imprisoned children had of returning home or of travelling to Palestine. This section provides a sort of poetic interlude between the brutal uprooting from their homes and deportation to Auschwitz, which is the final and most tragic chapter of the whole story.[i]

Israel is the dream of the children who were never going to have a chance of finding asylum there.  All we can do now to help them is to look at their drawings in the lifeless museum.  There is a connection between the Holocaust and Israel, but it is not the self-serving and trivializing one offered in the clever speeches of today’s antizionist activists.

There are other senses in which Jackie Walker’s rhetoric falls far short, offered with great confidence and authority, always ‘as a Jew’, ‘as a black woman’, as an antiracist hero, to people who may not have the analytic tools, the courage or the knowledge to judge whether she is right or not.  She speaks as a teacher, in a broad sense, but she does not teach.  Many of the pioneers of genocide studies, the people who first studied the Holocaust and then who used some of the same concepts and ideas to study other genocides, the people who pioneered the notion that genocide was not unique to the Nazis, many of these were Jewish scholars of the Holocaust.  Totten and Jacobs, tell the story of the ‘Pioneers of Genocide Studies’.  They document the remarkable contributions of Jewish scholars such as Robert Melson, Israel Charny, Irving Horowitz and Helen Fein.  And in any case there was Raphael Lemkin, the man who developed the very concept of genocide, and who fought a long and lonely struggle for recognition which culminated in the Genocide Convention; Lemkin himself was a Polish Jew who lost forty-nine members of his family in the Holocaust.  More recently Philip Spencer has continued in that tradition with his book ‘Genocide since 1945’.  Spencer’s evidence of the hollowness of the aphorism ‘never again’ is a challenge to Walker’s Momentum worldview in another sense too.  The story is not simply one of imperialism committing genocide against non-white people; the stories are diverse and individual.  Many of them are stories of the immense failures of anti-imperialist movements and nationalisms to replace colonialism with something better; stories of people’s rage against imperialism being murderously manipulated and directed against ethnic groups like Tutsi, Tamils, Armenians, African Asians and Bosniaks; mass killing in the name of anti-imperialism are as much a part of the story of human inhumanity as are the crimes of imperialism itself.

And of course Walker is not right factually, about how Holocaust Memorial Days are actually organized; they are organized by people up and down the country, across the world, taking responsibility to organize days to facilitate reflection, memory and education.  It is not a Zionist conspiracy; it is a story of real men and women putting time, effort and energy into doing something which they feel is important.

There is always a tension in Holocaust education.  On the one hand, the Holocaust needs to be presented as something that happened specifically to the Jews, something about antisemitism in particular and something which profoundly altered the history of the Jews.  On the other hand, the Holocaust needs to be taught as a lesson for humanity about racism and totalitarianism in general.  It needs to remember the other victims of the Nazis and the victims of other genocides.  There is a tension between the particular and the universal lessons of the Holocaust.  Walker speaks as if she has no idea how people around the world agonize to create these events and to pitch them exactly right; perhaps sometimes they fail to pitch them exactly right.  Walker speaks as if she has no idea how Armenians, Rwandese, Bosniaks, Darfurians, socialists, Tories and Christians are involved in these events and how Holocaust memorial strives to remember and educate about genocide in general.

Jews have reason to fear Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD).  It is predictable, each year, that HMD will be seen as an appropriate occasion to mobilize the memory of the Holocaust against the Jews.  An activist in Lewisham shouts at a rabbi to include Gaza in the list of genocides for which he is lighting a candle; the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign hosts a reading of Jim Allen’s play Perdition, which tries to blame Zionist collaboration with the Nazis for the efficiency of the Holocaust; a city in Sweden cancels its planned torchlight procession due to an intensification of conflict in Gaza; the Muslim Council of Britain boycotts HMD ‘in protest at the Israeli offensive in Gaza’. An MP writes that he is ‘saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians’. That HMD will elicit antisemitic discourse is now, shockingly, as predictable as pogroms once were at Easter.

Jackie Walker went on Newsnight to defend herself against charges of antisemitism.  She said: ‘Of course the Jewish Holocaust was an awful, extraordinary event and Jews should have a day when they celebrate that’.  She repeated this obscene mistake of referring to Jewish ‘celebration’ of the Holocaust more than once.  One can only guess as to the Freudian connections which led to her using this word in this context. It may be related to the notion that Jews feel like celebrating their success in competing with other groups for the recognition of their suffering.  Feelings of envy for the Holocaust, and the immense victim-power with which it is felt by some to endow the Zionists or the Jews may come in to play.  There may be a feeling that being oppressed is connected to virtue and so worthy of celebration.[ii]

After Cathy Newman, the Channel 4 News journalist, had interviewed Jacqueline Walker, Newman was sent a number of antisemitic tweets.  She was denounced as a ‘useless Zionist bitch’ by one viewer.  Newman responded: ‘So people know this is what you get for asking legitimate questions about anti-semitism. Especially if your name is Newman’; Newman is, incidentally, not Jewish.  Another person who describes herself as a Labour activist on her Twitter profile wrote: ‘self pity won’t work here. Your jewish ancestors committed an holocaust against my ancestors in the transatlantic slave trade’ [sic].

Walker’s Labour Party membership was suspended on 30 September and her case was discussed at a meeting of the Momentum Steering Committee on 3 October.  The committee found Walker emphatically not guilty of antisemitism.  It ‘does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be anti-Semitic’.  But it found her guilty of lesser charges: ‘her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools [were found to be] to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive’. The problem is that if it was to concede that antisemitism is possible within an ‘antiracist’ space, then it is conceded that one must be vigilant against antisemitism, that one must educate about antisemitism, that one must take care; that is why there is great reluctance ever to admit that anything that happens within an antiracist space is antisemitic.  What is required is debate about what is antisemitic and what is not.  In order to avoid such debate, it is necessary to deny that anything is antisemitic, and that all such charges are made in bad faith.

Momentum removed Walker from her position as vice-chair, it kept her as a member of the steering committee, and it opposed her expulsion from the Labour Party.

The other point that Momentum was keen to make concerned confidentiality.  In an institutionally racist institution, secrecy is taken seriously; the boundaries are policed. It is considered a breach of the community to tell tales outside the institution of what has been happening within it. A culture of institutional racism has to be protected by a culture of secrecy.  ‘Momentum is concerned that footage of a training session was leaked to the press’, it announced.  ‘The leak is unacceptable and undermines much needed political education’.

Yet Jacqueline Walker presents herself as a victim and she shows no sign of contrition or regret.  This from the webpage in which she is crowd funding so that she can pay for lawyers to sue the Labour Party for suspending her:

On 4th May I was suspended for the alleged (subsequently cleared) charge of antisemitism. As a Jewish person, whose partner is Jewish, this was heart-breaking. Since May I have continued to be targeted by the media, in print, online and in other places.  Currently I am suspended for questions asked at a training session on ‘Confronting Antisemitism & Engaging Jewish Voters’ at this year’s Labour Conference, after being unethically filmed by a Jewish Labour Movement campaigns officer who is also a Labour councillor. It seems this training was not a ‘safe space for all Jews’ by any means.

On 1 October, the film director Ken Loach spoke at ‘The People’s Assembly Against Austerity’ in Birmingham.  He spoke from the platform:

There have been some terrible smears in the last few weeks.  One of them’s the antisemitic smear.  An atrocious lie if ever I heard one.  I heard Jackie speak at a meeting about this so-called . . . this lie of antisemitism.  She made a thoughtful, constructive speech discussing Jewish identity.  She has a Jewish identity herself.  She is a decent, honourable principled woman.  And we know why the smears are made.  The smears are made to inhibit criticism of Israel.

In this speech, Loach goes on to re-state his support for a boycott of Israel.  In 1987 Ken Loach was the director of the Royal Court production of Jim Allen’s play ‘Perdition’, which was based on Lenni Brenner’s account of the ‘Kastner affair’ and which attempted to normalize the idea that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to murder Jews because of their ideological similarity.  This was the material which had influenced Ken Livingstone to claim that Hitler had ‘supported’ Zionism.

Exerpted from ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’ by David Hirsh

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