Seder night, Dayenu, Jeremy Corbyn and what we’re worried about…

This post is mainly for people who aren’t Jewish.  I want to communicate to you the exasperation that many Jews feel when they’re

Adrian Cohen

told that this whole antisemitism controversy is invented by Zionists and Tories to try and damage Labour.

It isn’t invented.  It’s about things that Jeremy Corbyn and his political allies keep doing, it isn’t about things Jews keep doing.  But bear with me for a minute while I tell you a little about seder night.  Which is tonight.

Seder night is when Jews remember their liberation from slavery in Egypt.  It is a family festival, celebrated not in synagogue, but at home, around the dinner table.

Well, sometimes a dinner table, extended by a kitchen table, with a little kids camp table at the end; all covered in white table cloths and with your best cutlery and flowers.  Big extended families eat together; sometimes 20 or 30 people squashed around the table.

But before you’re allowed to eat you have to listen to the person in the family who knows how to read Hebrew trying to hold it all together and get everybody’s attention, while the cynical teenagers gently take the piss and ask if it is time to eat yet.

We are invited to feel that we, ourselves, were slaves in Egypt; and that we, ourselves, were liberated from bondage.  (Cue the annual titters from the other end of the table about how bondage isn’t so bad etc etc.)  This is about how the God of the Jews saved the Jews and smote their enemies, angrily and violently; but it is also about how we think about everybody who is enslaved, and we pray for everybody’s liberation.  Pesach is both about our own particular Jewish story and also about our ancestors finding their way towards a universal God and towards the concept of humanity.

So we go round the table, reading in Hebrew, reading in English; eventually we’re allowed to drink our second cup of wine.  Hooray.  But we spill ten drops of wine.  Why? Because while we’re pleased the Holy One sided with us and hurt our enemies, we also mourn for their suffering too.

And we eat Matzah, which is bread that never rose.  It is like big square crisp breads.  My nostalgic memory is that in England Matzah always comes in red cardboard boxes, of the most common brand.  They’re sitting on the table, waiting to be eaten. One piece is hidden, for the kids to find later and get as prize.  We eat Matzah because our ancestors had to get  out of Egypt quickly, before Pharoh changed his mind; and they could not risk waiting for the bread to rise.

And the women (well, you know, traditionally…) fuss about in and out of the kitchen making sure the food is ready at the right time; and we eat an egg (you know, an easter egg, to remind us of the Spring time and the circle of life) and salted water and bitter herbs to remind us of the bitter tears of oppression.  And nowadays there’s an orange on the seder plate.  Why?  Because some old rabbi once said that a woman belongs in the rabbinate like an orange belongs on the seder plate.

And before we can eat there’s a bit more praying, and a bit more telling of the story of the liberation from Egypt.

And then… (can’t we bloody eat yet?) …  a few songs.

Dayenu is a long song.  It goes on forever.  Especially when you’re impatient for your soup.  It has a catchy tune and it is one of those songs that repeats and repeats to make its point.  It is about how wonderful God is.  On the face of it, it says that each one of the things God  did for us, on their own, would have been enough, we would have been awed.  In fact, of course, that isn’t really true.  The journey from slavery to freedom required many indispensable events and elements; and all were necessary.  We say we’re grateful for each one; but really that is just to demonstrate how much we’re grateful for the whole lot.

Verse 1: “If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them — Dayenu, it would have sufficed!

and then a chorus.  We sing Dayenu, it would have been enough!

Verse 2: “If he had carried out the judgments against them, and not against their idols – Dayenu, it would have sufficed …

Verse 13: If he had given us the Torah and not brought us into the Land of Israel – Dayenu, it would have sufficed.

Verse 14: If he had brought us into the Land of Israel and  not built for us the Holy Temple – Dayenu, it would have sufficed.

You get the pattern?  Everybody sings the chorus.  It takes a little while.

Then we have matzah ball soup.  And then dinner.  It’s a very warm, family occasion.  And sometimes we argue, and fall out, and laugh.  And some people take it more seriously, some less; and some people go on into the small hours of the morning talking about theology and philosophy and politics and what it means to be Jewish.

So.  Adrian Cohen wrote the Jeremy Corbyn Dayenu.  All I ask is that you read it out loud.  The whole thing.  And between each verse, sing the chorus, if you know it.

Dayenu – it would have been enough for us.

If Corbyn had supported Rev Sizer but distanced himself from Paul Eisen Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t distanced himself from Paul Eisen but had refused to take Raed Saleh to tea in the Commons Dayenu.

If Corbyn had tea with Raed Saleh but had not met with Bashir Assad in Damascus Dayenu.

If Corbyn had met Assad in Damascus but had also organised STW demonstrations in defence of the Yazidis, in support of Kurdish self determination, protested against chemical weapons and barrel bombs by the Assad regime, the siege of the Yamouk Palestinian refugee camp and the slaughter in Eastern Ghoutta Dayenu,

If Corbyn hadn’t organised protests by the STW but had condemned the antisemitism aroused by STW protests against Israel in 2014 Dayenu,

If Corbyn hadn’t condemned antisemitism in 2014 but had refused to meet with Hamas and Hezbollah and call them his friends Dayenu.

If Corbyn had met with Hamas and Hezbollah but had not regularly gone on the AL Quds march under the Hezbollah flag Dayenu.

If Corbyn had regularly gone under the AL Quds march but had refused money from Press TV Dayenu.

If Corbyn had accepted money from Press TV but had supported the removal of the mural in 2012 Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t supported the removal of the mural but had removed himself from Facebook Groups like Palestine Live and blown the whistle on their content Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t blown the whistle but had given interviews with Jewish Communal newspapers and answered their specific queries Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t given the interviews but had said ‘Israel’ at the first LFI reception after his election Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t said the word Israel at the first but had turned up at the third Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t turned up at the third but had met with LFI at anytime for a meeting in the last three years Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t met with LFI but had addressed the concerns about antisemitism at the JLM Chanukah Party as scripted and agreed with his staff Dayenu.

If he hadn’t addressed antisemitism at the Chanukah Party but had asked to tour Jewish areas of London, visit schools and synagogues at any time in the last three years Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t visited Jewish areas but had expelled any of Livingstone, Walker or Wadsworth Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t expelled any of Livingstone et al but had commissioned a proper independent report on antisemitism in the party Dayenu.

If Corbyn ordered a whitewash but had at least used that as a basis for zero tolerance going forward Dayenu.

If Corbyn hadn’t used it as a basis for zero tolerance but in the face of the current manifestation of the crisis had distanced himself from phoney JVL and slammed those calling concerns about antisemitism a smear and defended those MPs now under attack for attending the rally Dayenu.

If Corbyn had done none of the above but had sacked Christine Shawcroft from the NEC and removed the whip from Chris Williamson Dayenu.

All together now Day Dayenu, Day Dayenu, Day Dayenu Dayenu Dayenu.

David Hirsh on the re-emergence of the antisemitism crisis in Labour

This is some of my writing on facebook over the last few days.

On the call not to wave Israeli flags on the demonstration against antisemitism:

Some say that supporters of Israeli human rights abuses manufacture fake claims of antisemitism to silence the legitimate protests of the Palestinians.

They always try to spin those who oppose antisemitism and those who facilitate antisemitism as two sides of a legitimate debate about Israel, about the occupation, about Palestinian rights.

The institutions of the UK Jewish community who have organised today’s demonstration have asked that people do not wave Israeli flags. The reason for this is that flags would help the facilitators of antisemitism to portray opposition to antisemitism as being identical to support for what they call “Zionism” – by which they mean racism, imperialism, Nazism and apartheid.

We could respond: “We will take their antisemitic construction of Zionism and we will subvert it; we will proudly proclaim our own Zionism and we will show that what we mean by that is self-liberation, opposition to antisemitism and safety, culture and freedom after the Holocaust…”

Racism constructs ‘race’; contemporary antisemitism constructs ‘Zionism’. This is done in a hostile way, from outside, and is entirely independent of the way we embrace and create our own liberational identities.

What, literally, is a “demonstration”? What are we trying to show today?

The antizionists will organise a counter demonstration.

Are we trying to show that we support Israel while the other side opposes Israel?

No, that is not today’s demonstration. We will not allow the antisemites to twist our message. Today’s message is against antisemitism; it is not pro- or anti-Israel.

I understand that there are important relationships between diverse kinds of support for Israel and opposing antisemitism; I understand that Israel was constituted to oppose antisemitism; I understand that antisemitism aims to de-legitimize Israel.

But today, what we want to demonstrate, by our presence, is that UK Jews oppose antisemitism. And the most effective way, today, of doing that, is not to stage what can be portrayed as a pro-Netanyahu demonstration, in the face of a pro-Palestinian demonstration,and in the face of Corbyn’s support for Palestinian rights.

Most British Jews, of course, including the institutions of the Jewish community which have called this demonstration, support Palestinian rights, and also oppose antisemitism.

On the role of the antizionist Jews:

My book, ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’ is the story of how antisemitsm has moved into the mainstream, particularly since 9/11, since the collapse of the peace process, and since the UN conference at Durban.

Far from being the ‘useful idiots’ of the antisemites, antizionist Jews are leaders, facilitators and kosherizers of antisemitism. They are indefatigable opponents of anyone who opposes antisemitism.

They say that opposition to antisemitism is a dirty Zionist trick, an attempt to silence the free speech of the oppressed.

They begin and end debates and events which aim to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global communities of science, business, sport and culture.

They educate non-Jews to adopt antisemitic ways of thinking.

Antizionist Jews organise counter-demonstrations against Jews who protest antisemitism.

They claim that there is no consensus within the Jewish community about antisemitism and that their voice is equally representative.

They claim that the JLC, the BoD, the CST, the Chief Rabbi, the Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish journalists (Aaronovitch, Cohen, Finkelstein, Freedland etc) the Jewish scholars (Garrard, Geras, Fine, Spencer, Rich, Hirsh, Julius, Schama etc), the synagogues (Liberal, Reform, Masorti, United)… … represent no consensus.

They claim that they are the representatives of Jews who support Palestinian rights; and that all the other Jews oppose Palestinian rights and are prepared to lie and cheat in an effort to do so.

Antizionist Jews will be out on the streets this evening, trying to smear and de-legitimize the Jewish community’s demonstration against antisemitism.

They will portray this as a debate, with two legitimate positions.

They say that this is not a debate about antisemitism but it is a debate between Israelis and Palestinians – thereby constructing Palestinians as antisemites.

This is what they say about this evening:

“The BoD and the JLC and those supporting them must be aware that this is an attempt to influence local elections and has nothing to do with the real and necessary task of challenging racism and antisemitism at all levels of political life. We call on them to stop playing party politics and start representing what our community needs. We believe that is best represented by the politics we fight for and hope to see win on May 3rd.”

They say that the huge and reasonable consensus within in the Jewish community over antisemitism is actually an anti-left conspiracy.

They try to substitute themselves for the Jewish community.

Jewish antizionists aim to pose as the Jewish community, to be the voice of Jews in discussions with the Labour Party.

They are being financed by UNITE – what shame for one of our most important trade unions.

Stop Gaslighting Jews:

Every time we’re told we’re only pretending to see antisemitism, our answer should be: “Stop Gaslighting Jews”.

Corbyn, and his political allies have, for decades embraced antisemitic politics. Corbyn offers political support to antisemitic movements like Hamas and Hezbollah (dedicated to peace and justice, he says); he sides with antisemites against Jews (Sizer, Salah, Eisen, Mear One), he shills for the Iranian regime, he celebrates the Iranian revolution. He supports a regime of boycott against Israelis, excluding them from the global community of humankind and legitimizing the bullying culture of BDS.

The Gaslighting of Jews by people who think of themselves as socialists needs to stop.

We won’t be told that this is ‘criticism of Israel’ or ‘siding with the Palestinians’.

We won’t be told that opposing antisemitism is a dishonest Jewish conspiracy.

“Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.”

What does Labour have to do to fix the problem?

Labour MPs make three demands to fix the antisemitism problem in the party. But, because they ignore the politics of the situation, they’re not enough.

1. Disavow the notion that those who raise the issue of antisemitism do so as part of a conspiracy to smear and to silence.

2. Articulate its solidarity with Jewish members who experience antisemitism.

3. Beef up the structures of the party so they can expel antisemites.

But this leaves the politics of the situation untouched.

1. Corbyn must account politically for his own actions, or resign. His support for antisemites against Jews – Salah, Sizer, Eisen etc. His work for Press TV and his speeches for the Iranian regime. His political support for Hamas and Hezbollah. His support for the mural. etc.

2. The party must make clear that this is not about picking out antisemitic apples, but it is about dealing with an institutional and cultural antisemitism which has become mainstream in the British left barrel.

3. It must be clear that the politics of hostility to Israel, of denouncing it as a unique evil, as apartheid, as Nazi, as racist, as imperialist, is related to the rise of antisemitism.…/corbyn-antisemitism-labour-john-man…


Follow this link for Hadley Freeman on the protest against antisemitism

Follow this link for Julie Lenarz

Follow this link for the documentary “Whitewashed” about the Chakrabarti Report


Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-racist test

Today we get to learn more about what Corbyn thinks about his responsibilities in what we are assured is his affirmed opposition to all kinds of racism. Many of his supporters think it is apologising and smiling at visibly Jewish people.

The Jewish establishment, which has often reluctant to rock the boat on antisemitism, has been shaken into action. The straw which broke the camel’s back was the revelation that, in one of his Facebook groups where antisemitic material is shared, Corbyn supported an artist whose antisemitic mural was threatened with erasure from Brick Lane in London. The mural, titled ‘Freedom for Humanity’ depicted not contemporary capitalists but instead men from a different time, with stereotypically Jewish features indistinguishable from Nazi propaganda, playing on a Monopoly board balanced on the backs of darker-skinned men. Then-Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman said “the images of the bankers perpetuate antisemitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions”. Corbyn supported Mear One on Facebook at the time, saying the erasure was motivated by pro-capitalist politics not anti-racism. That was back in 2012. Luciana Berger MP raised the matter this week.

The number of apologies coming from Corbyn, and the torrent of abuse and scorn that campaigners against antisemitism are subjected to in the name of supporting him, are testament to the failure of the Labour leadership to address antisemitism.

So the Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish Board of Deputies have called a rally today Monday 26th 5.30 in Parliament Square to present this letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party. Update Corbyn has issued this response which recognises antisemitism in the Labour movement but makes no specific undertakings.

So turn up today:

  • Monday 26th March;
  • 5.30pm;
  • Parliament Square, Westminster;
  • The organisers ask that there be no banners.

Naturally, Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel are marshalling their supporters to a counter rally. Being contorted Israel-firsters themselves, they will push a tiny, very loud, minority of Jews to the front but they aren’t fussy about their supporters who consequently will include antisemitism apologists and antisemites [Update – it did and here is one of them]. Their aim is to teach us how to discredit the majority of Jews who are trying to raise the alarm about growing antisemitism, and they can succeed unless there is plenty of education to the contrary.

So, get stuck in, always with civility. Call on JVfL and FSoI to stand down. Call on Corbyn, the Labour leadership, and your own MP to welcome today’s campaigners against antisemitism and thereby demonstrate support for the UK Jewish community. He needs to act on his words now. He needs to support Jews against antisemitism even if he, like Livingstone, has written them off as agreeing with him politically.

Labour MPs who aren’t bystanding and who stand on the right side of this include [updated] Ian Austin, Luciana Berger, Wes Streeting, Louise Ellman, Jess Phillips, Ruth Smeeth, Stella Creasey, Mike Gapes, John Mann, Nia Griffith, Preet Kaur Gill, Chris Elmore, Thangam Debonnaire, Chi Onwura, Toby Perkins, Phil Wilson, Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Harriet Harman, David Lammy, Kate Green, Holly Lynch, Joan Ryan, Margaret Hodge, Liam Byrne, and Stephen Morgan. There are plenty more. These are people who are also used to standing against other forms of racism and they know the ropes. But they need your support, since they are currently on the receiving end of a world of antisemitism themselves.

Some background links (not the perfect list, so please post in the comments):

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