“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.
— George Orwell
In July of last year, as he concluded his excellent piece on Labour’s proposed Code of Conduct on antisemitism, Brian Klug, senior research fellow at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, made an appeal — which he already knew would be in vain — for a return to moderation. “A part of me feels the hopelessness of appealing to reason, a sense of swimming against a mighty and unmindful current of opinion”. Six months on, that sense of hopelessness, and the absolute poisoning of the discourse around antisemitism in Britain, is if anything even worse.
The Labour Party would go on to apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition on antisemitism, complete with all its examples: despite the huge problems with several of these, highlighted by the definition’s own author, Kenneth S. Stern, in his November 2017 testimony to the House of Representatives; human rights organisations such as Liberty; myself in this article for Open Democracy; and Klug too, among many others. Those examples are still being misused: although in this case, Paul Jonson was at least reinstated by Dudley Council after a campaign to clear his name.
Throughout Britain’s long, fractious political summer, what was so noticeable was how almost nobody in the mainstream media was prepared to report anything like accurately on the issue. Labour stood accused of refusing to accept the IHRA’s definition, even though it endorsed it all along. It merely omitted examples which weaken its practical effectiveness; and added more of its own, to bolster it. When Margaret Hodge faced disciplinary action for publicly smearing Jeremy Corbyn as a “fucking racist and anti-Semite” in front of her colleagues and lobby journalists, what she’d actually done — slander her boss in full view of others, with not a shred of evidence justifying it — was almost universally ignored. A penny for the thoughts of all those rightly nauseated by Anna Soubry’s horrendous experience on Monday.
For the crime of carrying out an inquiry, publishing a report, then doing far more in its proposed Code of Conduct than anything any British political party had ever done before, Labour was denounced as “institutionally antisemitic”. The Jewish Chronicle (JC), Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph went even further: describing a lifelong campaigner against all forms of racism, who tends to his allotment and makes his own jam during his spare time, as an “existential threat to Jewish life”. This was madness parading as reason.
Before I go any further, let me make something abundantly clear. Of course antisemitism exists on the left. The reason is because it exists everywhere. It is a horrific cancer which the Jewish people have been fighting for over 2000 years. Jewish people like my late Holocaust-surviving grandmother and her whole family. Jewish people like myself too.
What I expect anyone fighting against it to do is call it out whenever they see it, with zero tolerance. But in Britain in 2019, especially online, that is not what is happening. Instead, not only is antisemitism on the right, which as the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found in a comprehensive report in 2017, is considerably more prevalent than on the left, disgracefully ignored; but thousands of good, decent, anti-racist Corbyn and Labour supporters have been smeared, bullied, attacked in positively McCarthyite fashion: simply for being Corbyn and Labour supporters. Including, in the latest horrifying example, a 16-year-old girl.
The reason for this? It’s political. In a country with a racist Prime Minister, a racist government, a governing party which ignores all calls for an inquiry into institutionalised Islamophobia, whose belatedly added guidelines on antisemitism don’t even apply to its members — only its representatives — and with many on the right (including Daniel Hannan and Leave.EU) routinely repeating a hideous, vile trope against George Soros while much of the media barely says a word, this is the only possible explanation.
Nigel Farage has even publicly blamed Jewish conspiracies! Has he been banished from public life? Don’t be silly. He’s not on the left, so of course not. Why would the media even care given that the Soros trope has been spread by, amongst others, The Sun and even The Telegraph?
As if to confirm just how much British political life now resembles an entirely alternative universe, even the JC itself has been in on the act. Imagine an article about Jews which repeats not one, but two antisemitic tropes. First, that the Jewish community’s main priority is wealth and hording it away; and second, which even refers to the Rothschilds. Any denunciation of this? Of course not; it didn’t come from someone on the left. Just the obviously unimportant City Editor of the Daily Mail.
This whole discussion is polluted with so much hypocrisy, so much cynical politicking and self-seeking, so many stones being thrown from the glassiest of houses, we shall all be subject to a great clattering from the sky at any moment. And as I’ll set out later, this wasn’t the first such example from the JC either. Far from it.
Is Corbyn an anti-Semite?
To begin, though, at the beginning. What was it that truly thrust the issue of antisemitism on the left into British political discourse? The answer is David Collier’s apparent expose of Corbyn as either an anti-Semite himself, or someone who consorted with many anti-Semites. Collier compiled a two-part report on the Facebook group, Palestine Live. Corbyn was likely added to this group without his consent, as frequently happens with Facebook groups; but he did make a few posts, including “a suggestion on the vote on recognising Palestine, which I supported, and inviting a doctor to speak at an event”.
An alarming number of posts in that group were disgustingly, revoltingly antisemitic. Labour promptly suspended any members involved. My own view is that Corbyn, however busy his then backbench life undoubtedly was, plainly should have performed comprehensive due diligence before writing anything. But that is naivete; it is not a crime. Not many Facebook users scroll through a group’s entire content before posting something perfectly innocently.
Collier’s thesis effectively judged Corbyn as guilty by association. That, indeed, has been the consistent theme of the whole argument. He met with Hamas members in Parliament; at a debate, he once referred to them and Hezbollah members as ‘friends’ (something he regrets); depending on what or who you believe, he held and/or laid a wreath at a monument commemorating Palestinians murdered by the Israeli government in 1985, and/or near the graves of several Munich terrorists.
This is someone who has spent almost his entire parliamentary career as a backbench MP. As recently as during the 2015 general election campaign, had anyone suggested he would become the next Labour leader, they’d have been strongly advised to spend a considerable period of time in a padded room. And as someone on the backbenches, he naturally had other interests: in his case, Israel/Palestine.
Anyone in politics who cares about this ever-protracted conflict and wants to help resolve it is bound to meet some deeply odious individuals, with whom they entirely disagree. Do we think, for example, that Theresa May agrees with Saudi head-choppers? Obviously not, yet that hasn’t stopped her. Business is business, you see: what’s contributing significantly to the worst humanitarian catastrophe on planet Earth when set against billions of pounds for British arms manufacturers?
If the British media could be bothered to do its job and cover the hideous realities in Yemen — in the manner of, say, Michael Buerk’s celebrated report on the Ethiopian famine in 1984 — the Tories’ position in the opinion polls would probably collapse overnight. Ethiopia was almost entirely a natural disaster. Yemen is man-made: with Britain profiting from the wanton slaughter of its people.
Here, meanwhile, are two cases of British Prime Ministers meeting terrorists. For which they were not excoriated… but praised.
Both the above are examples of the appalling reality of politics and international relations. Every British leader there’s ever been has done business with some of the most grotesque individuals imaginable. Margaret Thatcher didn’t just oppose sanctions against South Africa (while Corbyn was arrested for protesting about it) or support the mass-murdering fascist Augusto Pinochet (while Corbyn campaigned to bring him to justice). She even — get this — helped Pol Pot.
There is, however, one thing I think Corbyn should be castigated for. His appearances on Press TV, an Iranian propaganda channel, whose view of the UK is as follows; in particular, an appalling comment he made about “suspecting the hand of Israel” behind a 2012 terrorist attack in Egypt.
In my judgement, this is the one and only time he’s ever said anything which could reasonably be deemed antisemitic. It was an incredibly crass, offensive thing to say. But when compared to Thatcher’s support for Pol Pot — every bit as evil an individual as Hitler — Pinochet, or Saddam Hussein; Tony Blair’s disastrous bombing of Iraq (regarding which, Corbyn was once more on the right side of history); Churchill’s gassing of the Kurds; or May’s despicable backing of Saudi Arabia, it’s quite literally nothing. Further: if someone utters an antisemitic comment once in their lives, it categorically does not make them an anti-Semite.
The IHRA, of course, have a working definition of antisemitism. At this point, purely because this is how I think it’s understood by the vast majority of the public, I’ll add my own.
Antisemitism is hatred and/or persecution of, discrimination and/or prejudice of any kind towards Jews because they are Jewish.
The idea that any of this applies to Corbyn in any way, shape or form is risible nonsense.
Don’t believe me? Riddle me this. Is Benjamin Netanyahu an anti-Semite? Not only did he invite the abhorrent neo-Nazi, Viktor Orban, the man far and away most responsible for the antisemitic abuse which Soros receives every day, for a friendly chinwag in Jerusalem; not only does he do geopolitical deals with Saudi Arabia, where government officials and religious leaders actively promote the idea that the Jews are trying to take over the world, and even cite the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a factual text.
Not only was he beside himself with joy as the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem, the opening prayer being led by Robert Jeffress, a pastor who once declared that Jewish people were “going to hell”, with the closing benediction delivered by John C. Hagee, a televangelist who’d claimed that Hitler was “part of God’s plan to return Jews to Israel”. An unusual twist on evangelical Christians’ usual claim that the Jewish people will all be destroyed by their longed for rapture: the very thing which makes their support for Israel so total. They’re a bunch of disgusting anti-Semites.
No: there’s even more than that. In 2015, the Israeli Prime Minister doubled down on an outrageous claim that the Holocaust was all the fault not of Hitler, but the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem. Perverting the truth about the Holocaust is a form of Holocaust denial. Be in no doubt: Netanyahu did this for shameful political expediency.
Taken together, Netanyahu’s comments and behaviour are about a thousand times worse than anything Corbyn has said or done. And that’s even before we remind ourselves of the ongoing injustice of the Palestinian people: who die at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force almost every day.
Come to think of it, is the British Prime Minister an anti-Semite too? She’s also a big fan of doing deals with Saudi Arabia, one of the most Jew-hating countries on the planet. Moreover: apparently not satisfied with David Cameron having already relocated Conservative MEPs into the European People’s Party (EPP), a political grouping containing fascists and homophobes, May did nothing to stop them voting against a rule of law procedure censuring the Hungarian government under Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty. Even most of the EPP voted for it. British Tories stood in shameful isolation.
That is how absurd the narrative has become. While the Tories, the far right and even the leader of the world’s only Jewish state commit antisemitic behaviour or are apologists for it, it’s Labour and the left who are under permanent attack. Who are behind these attacks? That is what we shall turn to now.
The harassment, hatred and racism of GnasherJew and friends
The Twitter account, GnasherJew, is run by a number of individuals. It dedicates itself to exposing antisemitism on the left. I have had one interaction with it: on 13 October 2017. That day, I’d already mentioned to Dan Hodges of the Mail on Sunday that “I’m Jewish, with a Holocaust surviving gran, two great-aunts, a great-uncle and a great-great-grandma”. Only one of them, my great-aunt, is still with us.
This information was freely available on my timeline. Incomprehensibly, it did not stop GnasherJew from accusing me of being a non-Jew.
At a time I was still grieving the loss of my beloved grandmother (click the green arrow and scroll rightwards here to read her obituary in the JC), you might think that was bad enough. But no. GnasherJew went even further: insinuating that I was somehow pretending to be Jewish.
In a further, since deleted tweet, the account said something even more contemptible. Hence my outraged response.
Then I was blocked. Exit GnasherJew, pursued by awkward questions.
In Germany, incitement to hatred against segments of the population is banned. This includes “assault[ing] the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning an aforementioned group, segments of the population or individuals because of their belonging to one of the aforementioned groups or segments of the population, or defaming segments of the population”.
Disparagement of the memory of deceased persons is also banned. “Whoever disparages the memory of a deceased person shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than two years or a fine”. In suggesting I was somehow not Jewish, GnasherJew both defamed me and disparaged the memory of my late grandmother: whose suffering and heroism is central to everything I believe in.
Abuse of individuals, whether public figures or not, is horribly common on social media, Twitter especially. But while it’s one thing for that harassment to go on, at least those responsible are generally called out. It’s quite another for an account capable of such vile antisemitic smears — even, in a roundabout sort of way, Holocaust denial — to be actively celebrated by a number of respected political and media commentators.
I am very far from the only one targeted by GnasherJew; and crucially, its many thousands of followers. The account’s modus operandi is simple. McCarthyism. It actively drives dogpiling of completely innocent people; often, vulnerable people with mental health problems. Who are reported to Twitter en masse by GnasherJew’s followers. The account encourages things like this:
Which leads to things like this:
Nadeem Ahmed’s crime in all this? It’s to be pro-Palestinian and pro-Corbyn. GnasherJew also appears to mine far right websites to look for information with which it can doxx (that is to say, unlawfully share the address and contact details online of) vulnerable people.
Simon Maginn’s been a victim of it too. In his case, despite not being guilty of a shred of antisemitism, he was dogpiled and abused, as he details here:
Who actually is GnasherJew? There’s a fairly common misconception that it’s Collier himself. In fact, he is very probably one of several individuals behind it. How do we know that? Thanks to an almighty blunder, when he effectively outed himself, however much he continues to deny it.
Collier has a rather disturbing backstory. Likud-Herut UK are a far right organisation, whose Facebook page states:
“We believe in the inalienable right of all Jews to live and settle in all parts of the Land of Israel and in the support of all government and community efforts and programmes directed to assist the maximum level of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael”.
True, the next paragraph goes on to mention a “peace agreement”; but this is almost darkly comical given any such agreement would self-evidently require concessions from a land which Herut considers indivisible. Herut denies that the occupation is illegal, despite what the United Nations say; and is a proud supporter of settlements too. Settlements which uproot and destroy the lives and families of Palestinians every day.
Collier denies being a member of Herut. He did, however, speak at its relaunch early last year. His chosen subject? Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. A rather curious choice, to say the least. Collier is on record claiming that the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is “nothing less than a terrorist movement”. Who was Jabotinsky? Only the inspiration behind and founder of the Irgun: a paramilitary organisation which murdered 91 people (including 28 Britons) at the King David Hotel in 1946; and well over 100 Palestinian villagers at Deir Yassin in 1948. So peaceful campaigners for sanctions are ‘terrorists’; but an actual terrorist is someone to be eulogised, David?
Not only that, but among Collier’s friends are far right lunatics associated with Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL), as this excellent blog sets out. Pictured below are Collier and Paul Besser, Britain First’s ‘Intelligence (sic) Officer’.
Probably Collier’s most notorious friend is one Jonathan Hoffman, ultra-Zionist extraordinaire. Hoffman’s speciality is intimidating pro-Palestinian activists; even Holocaust survivors.
You will, I’m sure, recall the furore surrounding both Corbyn’s co-hosting of a meeting in Parliament on Holocaust Memorial Day 2010, entitled ‘Never Again — For Anyone’; and his referral to certain Zionists as “not understand[ing] English irony”. There is a direct link between the two. At the former, the late Holocaust survivor, Hajo Meyer, appeared to liken the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. Not, please note, in the death camps — which would be absurd and grotesquely offensive — but during the 1930s.
Controversial, certainly; hurtful to many, I’ve no doubt. But while it’s not something I agree with, it’s also not an analogy entirely without merit, given the open air prison camp, some of the worst conditions on the planet, in which the Palestinian people are held stateless, helpless, voiceless; killed, maimed, tortured and brutalised, while the rest of the world does nothing.
Hoffman was among a tiny group of ultra-Zionist hecklers who turned the event into a fiasco. Whenever any other genocide victim tried to speak of their experiences, the hecklers bellowed “Boring!” One heckler made a Nazi salute and shouted “Sieg Heil!” at Meyer, a Holocaust survivor. Hoffman continued to disparage Meyer as “the amazing dancing bear” until his death in 2014. After all, what’s one heroic survivor’s immense suffering and unimaginable experiences when set against another man’s bigotry and hate?
Predictably enough, none of this background was mentioned when the media went to town on Corbyn back in the summer. Yet it is precisely these thugs to whom Corbyn was referring in his ‘English irony’ comment. He’s a long-suffering veteran of how they behave. ‘Zionists’ meant only these few individuals.
So when the media went ballistic and demanded answers from Corbyn, they took the side, unwittingly or otherwise, of fascists and hooligans against a deceased Holocaust survivor. That is how far through the looking glass we now are; and all those who did so, including a vast array of journalists who hail themselves as voices of reason, should be ashamed.
Both Collier and Hoffman hold a veritable smorgasbord of ridiculous, offensive, racist opinions. At a discussion where he sat alongside Melanie Phillips in 2016, Collier declared that “the Palestinian refugee was forged as a weapon. It was created as an artificial entity”. Note here how in Collier’s language, Palestinian refugees are dehumanised as ‘it’. His views would certainly be news to the more than five million displaced Palestinians worldwide.
He also routinely conflates antisemitism with anti-Zionism, seeking to render them indistinguishable:
Hoffman does precisely the same. He doesn’t even accept the Palestinian people, as we understand the term now, existed before Israel’s creation; but whereas Collier does at least engage in calm, cordial discussion, Hoffman is simply unhinged.
He, too, has attended rallies alongside the EDL:
He even has a history of attacking his fellow Jews for… well, who knows what? On his JC blog, Hoffman made the following hilariously stupid demand:
“To the Jewish Israel bashers:
Please confirm the following:
1.Examples of active participation in synagogue services over the last six months
2. The number of mezuzot in your home
3. Fluency in reading/speaking Hebrew
4. Participation in rabbinical shiurim in the past six months
5. Positions held within the Jewish community
6. Extent of kashrut observance
7. Examples of active support for Israel in past six months
8. Frequency of synagogue attendance”.
That Hoffman had, it was helpfully pointed out, been posting on his blog on Shabbat (!) was, presumably, why he took this gibberish down.
Both Collier and Hoffman are, in different ways, utterly ridiculous figures who, in any sane universe, would be ignored. As British politics are about as far removed from sane as it’s possible to conceive of, they’re not; especially not in Collier (or is it Gnasher?)’s case.
Both individuals are part of something I’ve noted with growing alarm in recent years. Paralleling what’s happened to the Israeli left over the past couple of decades, there is an ongoing effort to silence liberal Jews like myself and countless others. To make us seem like ‘self-hating Jews’; or worse, apologists for antisemitism, despite having fought it all our lives.
In that sense, a rather brilliant trap has been laid for the Labour Party. The media smears Corbyn and his supporters as ‘anti-Semites’. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t provide proper evidence; only the smear counts. Because it means that if anyone challenges it — if anyone calls out the idea of ‘endemic antisemitism on the left’ as the offensive nonsense, disproved by research, it undoubtedly is — they will be denounced as either enabling antisemitism or an anti-Semite themselves.
Sadly, using antisemitism as a trap is nothing new. As the late former Israeli Education Minister, Shulamit Aloni, who would undoubtedly be condemned as an anti-Semite under the IHRA examples, courageously acknowledged in 2010.
When Holocaust survivors like Meyer are smeared; when the media ignores antisemitism on the right, sensationalises any it might find or, more often, allege on the left (instead of reporting both soberly and with equal importance), and when racists such as Collier or GnasherJew become ‘respected voices’, we can say with confidence that something none too dissimilar is going on in the UK now. And when the most prominent newspaper of the British Jewish community, the JC, should be doing its utmost to bring people together, it fans the flames instead.
The JC’s editor is Stephen Pollard. He gets rather angry if anyone suggests he is a racist. Well Stephen, in that case, I’d like you to explain the following. In April 2006, when Blair’s premiership still had more than a year to run, Pollard declared that “the Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy”. In 2009, reviewing Bruce Bawer’s Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, he opened with the hyperbolic drivel that “there is no more important issue facing the West than Islamism, Islamofascism or — to use yet another label — radical Islam”.
Climate change threatening all humanity? Nuclear war? The 2008 financial crash, the consequences of which are still with us a decade later? But do go on. Bawer’s book featured the following excerpt:
“The pernicious doctrine of multiculturalism, which teaches free people to belittle their own liberties while bending their knees to tyrants, and which, as we shall see, has proven to be so useful to the new brand of cultural jihadists that it might have been invented by Osama bin Laden himself”.
Channeling his inner Enoch Powell, Pollard concluded: “Bawer is unquestionably correct, and that fact is quite simply terrifying”.
In 2015, when Farage disgracefully accused British Muslims of having “split loyalties” — the very same trope which rightly incenses British Jews if it’s ever levelled at us — how did Pollard respond? See below.
This was barely a year after Pollard had acknowledged that Farage had allied with extremists and anti-Semites. But when the right is guilty of vile antisemitism, Pollard seems only too quick to forgive and forget.
And in 2011, we had the worst case of all. Remember that shameless front page which the JC and its sister papers ran last July? Following the London riots, a British Jew, along with his family, faced a very real existential threat: from neo-Nazis. This is his story.
“Back in 2011 the Jewish Chronicle ran a piece on me, which also included mention of my parents and their politics, and my childhood and education, none of which had any bearing whatsoever on the story. One of the consequences of them running this piece is that my parents and I were profiled by far right racists and fascists. Some fascists got hold of my parents’ address, and some details about all of us were shared on extreme far right forums like Stormfront. I received death threats, while my parents had to find ways to secure their home. In all cases these threats were explicitly linked to us being identified as Jewish, by far-right anti-Semites.
At the time my parents and I wrote to the editor, Stephen Pollard, and requested, given these grave antisemitic threats, that the article be removed from the Jewish Chronicle website (it had already gone out in a print edition). He refused and the article remained online.
So excuse me when I can’t quite believe my ears, when you protest there is an ‘existential threat’ to Jews. The one time in my life I was profiled and violently threatened by known anti-Semites because I was Jewish, you refused to help. It turns out safety should only be guaranteed to the ‘right’ sort of Jews, and only when it serves your political agenda”.
The individual’s father adds this detailed, disturbing commentary:
It was the Jewish Chronicle‘s editorial decision to report this case in such a way that it gratuitously provided details of other family members and their left-wing political views. It was the decision of the editor, Stephen Pollard to leave the report online, after it became apparent that neo-Nazis were using it to make threats and incite acts of violence against us.
In an email dated 14th August 2011 we wrote to Stephen Pollard, copied to two members of the Board of the Jewish Chronicle (Richard Burton and Jennifer Lipman), which said “under the circumstances we would request that you urgently remove the article from your website”. On neo-Nazi websites they had published photos of our son with the crosshairs of a target superimposed on his face.
We had also pointed out factual inaccuracies in the Chronicle‘s report. Pollard fixed these and wrote an email back to us on 15th August saying: “You do not point to any other inaccuracies in our piece and I see no reason to remove it”. Neither of the Board members copied in responded to us.
Just a few weeks before this incident, a Norwegian neo-Nazi, Anders Breivik had massacred 77 people, mostly children at a socialist summer camp, having been inspired by online hate material. Pollard’s argument for keeping the material there was that it was factually accurate. And yet by doing so once he was aware of the threats, he was increasing the danger to us…
… We were and still are very shocked that the editor of the leading community newspaper could have behaved like this in response to a clear case of a murderous antisemitic threat against a member of the Jewish community.
That is what Pollard thinks of his fellow Jews if they face real danger. Antisemitism only matters to him if it’s from the left; and for over a decade, the only other thing that’s mattered to him is stopping a Labour government, at any cost. Anything from him on the patently antisemitic coverage of Ed Miliband (remember the bacon sandwich?) and his father? Nope.
Quite what on Earth this avowed opponent of multiculturalism and, in the case above, effective enabler of neo-Nazis is doing editing a newspaper as hitherto august as the JC, I have absolutely no idea. But then, in a country where The Spectator publishes racism every week from Taki Theodoracopulos or Rod Liddle; The Sun allowed Katie Hopkins to describe immigrants as ‘cockroaches’; or even James O’Brien, so quick to denounce the fake news and racist dog-whistles surrounding the EU referendum, shares a studio with Farage and, to his eternal shame, describes Labour as the “party of Holocaust denial”, there’s surely no room for surprise any longer. The British media doesn’t hold truth to power. It protects power at all costs, and does its dirty work for it: pumping out never-ending lies and hateful, destructive smears.
With regard to the Jewish community, this involves a loud, daily drumbeat of “Labour is antisemitic! Corbyn is antisemitic!” So of course British Jews are scared. Of course their perceptions of antisemitism on the left are, as research confirms, extraordinarily out of kilter with reality. Their only crime in all this is to trust the media. But what is abhorrent — what is absolutely disgusting — is for that media to play on that inner fear which deep down, all Jews (certainly including myself) have. “What if? What if it happened again?” Exploiting the horrendous suffering of my people’s tragic history, for nakedly political reasons.
Between them, Collier, Hoffman, Pollard and others are all playing the same cynical beyond belief game. And so, for that matter, is someone else.
Riley enters the fray
Until recent weeks, Rachel Riley’s only claim to fame was as a fairly well-known TV celebrity: most notably, on Countdown. She’s also a Manchester United fan… from Essex. Her and thousands of others.
Suddenly, on 8 December, Riley tweeted about antisemitic abuse she had received. I, like so many others, was horrified, disgusted, and reached out to her. She responded; but showed no sign of having read the article I sent her about my grandmother. Which of course was entirely her prerogative: but the pattern with Riley ever since has been total, absolute refusal to engage with any alternative viewpoints.
I’d already been rather taken aback at her publicly praising Sussex Friends of Israel. As the two videos below illustrate, this is an organisation whose members publicly harass and abuse peaceful pro-Palestinian protestors, and even issue death threats.
Next up for Riley: Lord Alan Sugar. The businessman took to the ITV studios to publicly proclaim he would leave the UK if Corbyn became Prime Minister. To which the response, entirely naturally, was a combination of amusement, ridicule, and the rather obvious assumption that someone as wealthy as he is doesn’t want to pay more tax.
Preposterously, Riley saw it as something entirely different. Sugar is Jewish: so the scorn he’d attracted was, in her view, all part of the same thing.
The huge irony here is that in focusing on Sugar’s Jewishness, rather than his words, Riley herself was arguably being antisemitic. He is an extremely well-known public figure. Hardly anyone even knows that he’s Jewish, let alone cares about it.
Here, though, we begin to get right to the heart of all this. In July, the New Statesman published far and away the most risible piece of nonsense I’ve ever seen from a usually sensible publication. Entitled ‘Contemporary Anti-Semitism 101’, after correctly stating that antisemitism is a conspiracy theory, David Bennun claimed the following:
“On the left, this conspiracy theory manifests largely as part of what is known as “anti-Imperialism”.
The most obvious manifestation of this conspiracy theory on the left is in the fervent loathing of Israel.
This goes to the heart of the Labour Party taking it upon itself to rewrite unilaterally the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism…
… Jews are not unanimous on anti-Semitism, but those who differ are very few”.
Let’s break this down. According to Bennun’s thesis, anti-imperialism — being opposed to the rich world’s domination and exploitation of the poor — is somehow ‘antisemitic’. That is to say, wanting a fair, just world, in which nobody exploits anyone, is ‘antisemitic’.
Also according to Bennun, the left doesn’t oppose the Israeli government because of its illegal occupation, the monstrous injustice which the Palestinians face every day, or the simple fact that left wingers support the weak, the vulnerable, the voiceless, the poor all over the world. Oh no. Its ‘fervent loathing of Israel’ is because the left is antisemitic!
The article repeats the complete falsehood that Labour had rewritten the IHRA definition, which it had in fact endorsed. As for Bennun’s claims of near-Jewish unanimity on what constitutes antisemitism: first, he provides zero evidence; and second, it rather begs the question of why so many British Jews voted for the left for so long. Especially prior to Labour’s dramatic shift rightwards under Blair.
The piece does three appalling things. It conflates antisemitism with anti-Zionism, an utter nonsense. It suggests that any Jews who differ with the author on what antisemitism is provide cover for anti-Semites (offensive, dangerous, self-regarding drivel). And as we’ve noted, it all but states that if you’re opposed to rampant inequality, to the rich getting ever richer with all its pernicious consequences for the world, you are an anti-Semite.
I will never know how a publication on the centre-left saw fit to print such execrable rot. But in its defence, I have long suspected we’d reach the point whereby anyone opposing neoliberal globalisation would be denounced as antisemitic. It is, after all, dangerously close to a ‘classic antisemitic trope’ to believe that the rich have far too much influence on the world; regardless of the reality that they very obviously do.
Riley’s defence of Sugar fits into precisely the same pattern. Quite how Riley supposes why so many enormously wealthy people channel their money into offshore tax avoidance schemes, I have no idea. I doubt the thought has even entered her head.
By this point, I had become suspicious. Others on Twitter suggested she was being taken advantage of; used by Gnasher and co. I never bought that. This is someone famous for the level of her intellect. It does her a grave disservice to imagine that she’s anything other than her own boss, or that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She absolutely does; and that’s precisely what’s so disgraceful.
Astonishingly, as part of her so-called campaign against racism, Riley had defended… a racist. During the World Cup, Sugar posted a notorious tweet about the Senegal national team.
He subsequently apologised, but Riley had nothing to say on the matter. Then it transpired that in a clear-cut case of antisemitism, in which a man was prosecuted for teaching his dog to perform Nazi salutes as he repeatedly cried “Gas the Jews” and “Sieg Heil”, Riley had… sympathised with him! By purest coincidence, the individual in question, Mark Meechan, who tweets as ‘Count Dankula’, is a UKIP supporter.
One wonders how Riley would’ve responded had someone on the left behaved so despicably. It’s a pretty fair bet that she’d have demanded the judge throw away the key.
Not only that, but Riley’s co-star on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, the host, Jimmy Carr, recently breached broadcasting rules through an offensive joke about Jews, for which he and Comedy Central have been warned. Any comment from Riley on that? Of course not. She’s still working with him. That Carr was guilty of tax avoidance must, again, surely be a complete coincidence.
This is not a campaign against antisemitism. It’s a campaign of unimaginably bad faith against the left, period. A conviction which only intensified in my mind as I saw Riley retweeting, you guessed it, GnasherJew. I challenged her. Not only did she ignore the point I made, but she also ignored the evidence I provided. Evidence which I reproduce below: of how David Collier allows his fellow Jews to be insulted and abused in public.
Over Christmas, I rather hoped that Riley would take some time out. Reflect on how much of a fool she was making of herself. But not a bit of it. Since then, her tweets have become ever more outrageous; above all, ever more self-serving.
Riley has 610,000 followers. Many just automatically retweet and approve of anything she says, without paying the remotest attention. So her approach is simple. She either retweets some idiotic comment (yes, there are some idiots on the internet; this is not a revelation) or, far less often than you might imagine, she retweets a screenshot such as this.
But sorry Rachel. However disgusting those tweets undoubtedly were, two can play at that game. Here’s something I found earlier.
If you ever wanted to know just how easy it is to find racist scum on the internet, well, there you are. But unlike Riley, I’m not interested in weaponising the plankton of the world wide web for political reasons. Vile racism is vile racism. Either someone calls it out whenever they see it, or they’re pursuing some other agenda.
In recent days, Riley has doubled down even further. As well as defaming Aaron Bastani as an anti-Semite on the basis of one very poorly advised tweet he wrote many years back, she has made the same accusation of — get this — Noam Chomsky. A TV game show host now fancies herself as better informed than probably the leading intellectual in the world. Whose name she initially spelt wrong.
The basis for this latest bout of claptrap? In 1980, in the biggest controversy of his career, Chomsky provided a short statement supporting freedom of speech when requested to by the French historian (sic), Robert Faurisson. The author’s book constituted Holocaust denial of the most grotesque magnitude; but unbeknownst to Chomsky, as Faurisson was as malevolent an actor as it’s possible to conceive of, he included the statement as a foreword.
An Ashkenazi Jew who was himself the target of antisemitism during his childhood, Chomsky did not write the statement because he agreed in the slightest with Faurisson’s grotesque distortions. He simply supported Faurisson’s right to make those distortions; in other words, his right to free speech. ‘I may hate and despise what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it’. Chomsky’s view on the content of the book was simple, and stark.
“Even to enter into the arena of debate on the question of whether the Nazis carried out such atrocities is already to lose one’s humanity”.
As the video above shows, almost 40 years ago, the media was just as hysterical and just as disinterested in the facts as it is now. In that sense, Riley is following in a very long tradition. She has acted as judge, jury and executioner. And that’s despite her having defended Meechan’s on freedom of speech grounds only weeks earlier! Still think she’s acting in good faith?
Indefensibly, and in her usual disgracefully selective, hypocritical style, she has also begun gaslighting completely ordinary, innocent people. On January 8, quite rightly, she spoke out in support of someone who had challenged antisemitism on the left, then appeared to have been run off Twitter. I was appalled, and felt desperately for him.
Except that just two days earlier, Riley issued this outrageous tweet, which frankly should have got her suspended.
Yet again, despite the evidence I and many others had shown her, she provided full support for the bullying, harassing account par excellence, GnasherJew. But she went even further: openly inviting her followers to go after anyone with a Palestinian flag, a red rose, or the hashtag, #GTTO (Get The Tories Out). In other words: almost any Labour member or supporter on Twitter.
That was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen any public figure do. Not surprisingly, it’s had consequences. A 16-year-old girl named Rosie has an account called @thelittleleftie. Wise well beyond her years, she, like me, had been disgusted at Riley’s promotion of vicious bullies such as GnasherJew, and called her out on it.
As is her wont, Riley rather dodged the point altogether. Rosie responded. Aged 16, she has a grasp of events miles in advance of our global laughing stock of a media.
Instead of truly listening to Rosie’s concerns, Riley replied with the sheer, self-important conceit that “I would appreciate an update to this please”. Polite, not so subtle code for: “Don’t you dare suggest that I, the all-seeing, all-knowing Rachel Riley, am wrong on any of this. I would appreciate an apology. And my views are more important than yours”.
Wisely, Rosie went on to block Rachel. Unfortunately though, the way Twitter works, if you block someone with a large following, you still receive replies from everyone else commenting on the same thread. Not only that, but Riley’s supporters were offended, so a pile-on began. Against a 16-year-old child.
This was not Riley’s responsibility exactly; not at this stage, at least. She never wrote directly to Rosie again; she didn’t directly encourage the dogpiling. But as a public figure, the lack of responsibility or remorse she’s demonstrated for the horrendous bullying Rosie has experienced has been horribly instructive. And as I noted above, she has no compunction with encouraging it towards… more or less the entire Labour support on Twitter either.
Poor Rosie pleaded for Riley to do something. Instead, Riley took a screenshot of Rosie’s latest comments, posted them for her followers, doubled down on the Palestinian flags, red roses and GTTO hashtags, and quite unbelievably, decided to include Rosie’s original comments to her in a tweet saying “every week @LabourAgainstAS does a review of the last 7 day’s worth of AS, if you’re interested, follow them”. Not only was she still tweeting about a 16-year-old girl who had blocked her weeks beforehand; but many reading that post might well have wrongly assumed that Rosie herself was an anti-Semite.
Riley went on to re-post Rosie’s comment from several weeks ago — for which she subsequently apologised — that she’s a “self entitled knob”. No need to apologise Rosie, it’s a statement of fact. Which Riley only confirmed yet again by despicably re-posting this after she was told Rosie (aged 16, remember) had been bullied. And then, something even worse. Something positively sinister.
The idea that a 16-year-old girl calling Riley out on her lies, her support for fascists and bullies, her disgracefully disingenuous approach to this entire thing, is comparable with “the spread of antisemitism” is utterly risible, shameful nonsense. My interpretation of all this is she wanted Rosie taught a lesson. I have never seen a public figure behave in such a way towards a child.
Given her ridiculous slandering of Chomsky, and her harassment of a child, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that would’ve been that where Riley was concerned? But remember: Britain is no longer sane. It is 100% insane. Instead, Riley has received support from other public figures such as Deborah Meaden, JK Rowling and Stephen Fry: none of whom, I strongly suspect, have been paying any attention to the detail at all, only to the media narrative. Which is exactly how the whole thing works.
She was also invited to do a podcast by Krishnan Guru-Murthy; Emily Thornberry weighed in on her behalf too; off she went to talk about her experiences with Lorraine Kelly; all the while a 16-year-old girl sits at home, fending off online abuse, wondering what kind of country could possibly treat her in such a way, while hailing the aggressor as a heroine.
As of the time of writing, Riley’s timeline is full of encouragement from the usual suspects. Tracy Ann Oberman, who thinks comparing antisemitism on the left to 1930s Germany is fair game (strange how this disgusting parallel goes unremarked upon, while Israel murdering Palestinians practically every day must never under any circumstances be compared to 1930s Germany in any way); who makes Islamophobic comments, has allegedly mocked a disabled man and (also allegedly) dogpiled someone suicidal.
Pollard, Collier and GnasherJew are also all present and correct on Riley’s page: all pals in it together. So is GnasherJew’s Witchfinder General, Emma Picken, more of whom in a moment. Meanwhile, the gentle children’s poet and author, Michael Rosen, is derided: for criticising something Riley said which any other Jew, had they said it (and certainly if they were on the left) would’ve been criticised for. Astonishing.
But then, Oberman did acknowledge they were all a team. And in her response to Thornberry’s interjection, Riley rather gave the whole game away.
Remember: this is someone who has encouraged continual abuse, willfully so; who works hand in hand with bullies and thugs; and is even oblivious when groups she endorses issue death threats in public. The tweet above can be interpreted very easily, however shocking the implication. It very strongly appears to me that Collier, Gnasher, Pollard, Riley and others do not want it to stop. Sadly, this is how some people think and act. Remember this from March last year?
And here’s the thing. As long as there are bad people on the internet anywhere in the world; bad people who can be made to look like Corbyn supporters (not at all difficult: online, the US and Britain went through this entire thing in 2016, with disastrous results. Chaos agents ruling the roost), it won’t stop. That’s the whole point; the whole cynical, nefarious, despicable game.
For her conduct, Riley should be fired from her job. But she won’t be. However much the wonderful blog, Zelo Street, have been having a field day with her latest indiscretions, the truth about British politics and public life in 2019 is: the more outrageously someone behaves, the better. The more lies they tell, the better.
This is a country which has produced not one, but two compulsively lying, malevolent Tory buffoons, who large sections of the population actually admire for their buffoonery. This is a country where the likes of Hopkins and Liddle have monetised their racism and bigotry. This is a country which voted itself poorer on a pack of lies, is still mired in austerity based on a pack of lies, after having gone to war in Iraq on a pack of lies.
This is a country where, when he’s not being called everything from a traitor to a spy to an anti-Semite to Lucifer himself, the Leader of the Opposition is routinely derided as ‘weak’: despite having miraculously forced a hung Parliament from a 20-point starting handicap; and inflicting more defeats on the government than the opposition to Cameron, Gordon Brown, Blair and John Major combined. This is a country whose Parliament which, charged with preventing the worst national catastrophe since Norway 1940, spent an entire session before Christmas conducting a witch hunt based on a lip-reading exercise.
This is a country where reality has ceased to matter altogether. Don’t believe me? There follows yet another example. A deeply personal one, this time.
My grandmother, my family and myself defamed for a second time
Last weekend, a horrific tweet — a death threat to Corbyn — was sent by an account which was subsequently suspended. Click on the link at your own risk; it is truly hideous.
This account had been tweeting out vile filth for 3 months, and reported on multiple occasions. You can’t see its comments now because it’s been suspended, so just look at the responses to its tweets via this search here. That revealed screenshots of things this account had previously tweeted. Both of which are, again, too shocking for me to reproduce directly.
The death threat tweet, in other words, didn’t emerge from nowhere. Among the account’s followers numbered Picken; Donny Donowitz (‘The Bear Jew’); TheGreenKnight; Rabbi Zvi Solomons… and one Stella Macfarlane. Picken, Donowitz, TheGreenKnight and Solomons all regularly feature among Gnasher’s bully boys: who hunt in packs and abuse countless numbers. I’d like them to explain what they were doing following an account which was regularly tweeting out such absolute poison.
As for Macfarlane: I’d first noticed her about a week earlier, and engaged with her. For some stupid reason, she seemed reasonable to me, even though we disagreed completely on Corbyn. When I saw her being questioned by others for following that vile account, I gave her far too much benefit of the doubt, and defended her. Not my finest hour… and I don’t mean the syntax error.
Overnight, I noticed that she’d blocked me, which I was somewhat perplexed by. Then I was informed of what she’d been writing about me. Specifically, this:
Little did I know that the follow-up I mentioned in that tweet would feature Macfarlane, a horrible anti-Semite. Remember those laws in Germany about Holocaust denial, incitement to hatred and disparagement of the memory of deceased persons? If she lived there, or in a number of other European countries, Macfarlane would likely be receiving a knock on the door from the local plod around about now.
Never mind that the article I sent her featured links to my great-aunt’s obituary, which refers to my family’s story; and a file about the moving, graphic video testimony my grandmother gave to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation Archive. Like all racist bigots, Macfarlane is stupid, so hadn’t bothered to read it.
She’s so stupid, she doubled down, by repeating the disgusting smear here:
It gets even more absurd though. As Gnasher’s crew doubtless sat frantically searching through my back catalogue, Clare Quilty asked: “Is there any specific example of an antisemitic trope being shared?”
Yes Clare, there is. It’s right above your tweet, you moron. At which point, Macfarlane admitted that no antisemitism had ever been uttered by me. Indeed not. That’s your speciality. And just to confirm: yes, I voted for Blair. I’ve always voted anti-Tory throughout my life. And yes, I voted Remain too. Here’s proof. 0 out of 3, Stella. Keep up the good work.
Within hours, Macfarlane was palling around with Frances Weetman, winner of the 2017 Virago/New Statesman Prize for Politics and Economics: who’s so irredeemably smug, if she was made of chocolate, she’d eat herself. Frances: what were you doing engaging with and liking the tweets (which continues at the time of writing) of an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier within hours of her defaming my grandmother and my family? And what, for that matter, were you doing agreeing with something — who knows what? — that the vile Rose White account had sent out?
Weetman fancies herself so much she, like so much of the smug, self-satisfied centrist commentariat, actually believes she knows better than Bastani’s supervisor and his two examiners (all three, experts in their field) on what constitutes a successful, non-plagiarised (it received 8% in TurnItIn) PhD.
Given how much time she spends approving Macfarlane’s every move, has Weetman been a knowing accomplice here? I’m none too sure. You’ll see why in a moment. What we do know for certain is she’s guilty by association: the very charge — oh, the irony — constantly thrown at Corbyn. And beyond that, she’s an all-singing, all-dancing example of this:
And that centrist commentariat which Weetman embodies has a heck of a lot to answer for. It is they who stood back and cheered as New Labour abandoned the working class. It is they who disgracefully considered Cameron and George Osborne’s devastation of the welfare state and the supply side of the economy as ‘centrist’ and ‘moderate’. It is they who obsessed with nonsense like Miliband looking awkward while eating a bacon sandwich. It is they who swallowed economically illiterate poppycock like “running a country is like running a household budget” and “we have to live within our means”, with all the catastrophic consequences that has led to.
It was their complacency, their arrogance, which helped Remain lose the EU referendum via the worst political campaign ever seen (with one exception). It is they who’ve constantly written off Corbyn and dismissed over half a million members and 13 million voters as a ‘cult’. It is they who are so clueless, so hermetically sealed, that they think Labour should replace Corbyn with a chief architect of the Work Capability Assessment, who also brought in Atos.
It is they who, even now, obsess with Russian interference and dirty money in Brexit instead of providing real, positive reasons for a second referendum. And it is they who sit on the sidelines, waving their pompoms and cheering on a TV celebrity as she smears just about everyone in sight, bullies a 16-year-old girl, and is in allegiance with fascists and thugs.
At some point, you’d think they might ask themselves: “How exactly did we get here?” But as the answer would involve looking in a mirror, there’s no chance of that. Britain has, in my honest opinion, the worst, most pathetic, most oblivious, most out of touch, most conceited, most pleased with itself media and political class anywhere in the democratic world.
And when someone comes along who might actually challenge that quiescent, pliant, failed beyond imagination status quo, look what he gets. Smears, slander and never-ending disinformation from the people who insist they are so appalled by fake news; smears and slander of his supporters too. Many of whom are poor, vulnerable, unwell, disabled, homeless: battling through lives unthinkable to those who sneer at them from their bubble.
Many of whom have friends and family whose lives have been destroyed (often, literally) by wanton Tory cruelty. To paraphrase the great Ian Martin: wake the hell up, centrist bobbleheads, and stand with those with nothing. They’re the ones who need power, not you.
As for Macfarlane: don’t worry, she’s still on there. Helpfully reminding us that doxxing is illegal (yes indeed; Holocaust denial is too); comically warning others about defamation (I’d be paying particularly close attention to that text if I were you, Ma’am); accusing someone of antisemitism for, well, who knows what (though you are the expert on the subject, to be fair); accusing Michael Rosen (!) of it too (what is he Stella, the wrong kind of Jew?).
Not only that, but she has repeated her slander of my family and my heroic grandmother for a third (guess who approved it? You’re a fan of Holocaust denial and defaming Jews, are you Frances?); a fourth (something somehow even more revolting about this tweet), and a fifth time. And not one single person has called her out at any point. Nothing could better sum up these horrific, disgusting people more than that.
All this is what happens when the lunatics take over the asylum. When reason is abandoned in favour of hate mobs. When lies become the staple currency. The Salem trials took place over 325 years ago; but with people as odious as Gnasher, Collier, Hoffman, Riley and Macfarlane around, you could’ve fooled me.
Is the problem antisemitism? Or anti-Zionism?
There is, though, one thing I want to re-emphasise. When I state, with categorical conviction (and, I would argue, proof) that the question of antisemitism on the left has been blown up out of all proportion, I am certainly not saying it doesn’t exist. When I state, with equal conviction, that many of those cited as proof of the extent of the problem were either bots, or internet troublemakers and trolls with precisely nothing to do with either Corbyn or the Labour Party, I am not saying that antisemitism in Labour doesn’t exist. There have been a few hundred cases in a membership of about 550,000: less than 0.1%. Those cases must be dealt with through speed and urgency.
A personal view is there’s been a tendency to overlook antisemitism from all sections of society at times because, for want of a better phrase, most of us Jews ‘blend in’. The problem is how so many of us, unconsciously or otherwise, feel we have to. The difference in how members of the public might respond to liberal Jews like me going about our daily business, compared with orthodox Jews who identify themselves as Jewish through their clothing, must surely be significant. If so, that is awful, and something for everyone to reflect on.
And while there isn’t, contrary to popular belief, a serious problem with antisemitism on the left, it is certainly the case that anti-Zionism is infinitely more prevalent than on the right. Which is precisely why Labour focus on it in their Code of Conduct; but also, unhappily, why the likes of Collier, Hoffman or Bennun seek to conflate it with antisemitism. Without question, the language used against Israel is frequently far too strong; and the entire Israeli people being held responsible for the actions of their wretched government also occurs too often, and is quite outrageous. When Jews, whether in Israel, Britain or anywhere else, are too… well, that is antisemitism, plain and simple.
Riley is especially fond of educating her audience on Zionism. In terms of what it used to represent — a desperately needed, yearned-for, cherished home for the Jewish people — she’s quite right: which is why I identify as a left wing Zionist. But she entirely ignores the contemporary context: of illegal settlers, an illegal occupying army, and far right religious zealots doing the most horrific things on a daily basis.
For the Palestinians, on a good day, the reality of Zionism is something like this:
On a worse day, it’s something like this (the link is shocking, but should probably be viewed). And on an awful day, it’s something like this (WARNING: Graphic, horrifying, heartbreaking. Absolutely not for the faint of heart).
Almost all of us on the left are so because we stand with the weak against the strong; with the oppressed against oppression. The idea that we’re all supposed to just turn our heads and say nothing about the Palestinians’ plight isn’t just grotesque. It’s inhuman. And while no doubt, the conflict is enormously complex, with the disgusting Hamas (every bit as much of a nightmare for the Palestinian people as the Israeli government. Hamas aren’t freedom fighters; they’re monsters) doing nothing but making it worse, Israeli politics are unrecognisable from even 20 years ago, let alone forty or fifty.
So much so that Netanyahu, despite police recommendations to indict him for corruption, is very likely to win election yet again in April. So much so that Israel passed the openly racist nation-state law last summer; and only last week, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked quit the racist Jewish Home party… because it wasn’t right wing enough for them.
Bennett, the Israeli Minister of Education, believes in unilaterally annexing the West Bank and openly opposes a Palestinian state ever occurring. Shaked is Minister of Justice, a huge fan of the nation-state law, and in 2014, shared the following post on Facebook.
“… In our war, it is even more true that the enemy soldiers are hiding in the population and only because of their support can they fight. Behind each terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not sabotage. Participating in the fighting that incite the mosques, the authors of the murderous curricula, the shelter providers, the vehicle suppliers, and all those who give honour and moral support. All of them are enemy fighters and everyone is bleeding in their heads.
Now it also includes the mothers of the Shahids, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They have to follow their sons, there is nothing more just than that. They should go, and the physical house where they raised the snake. Otherwise other little snakes will grow up there…”
Netanyahu, Bennett and Shaked are not reasonable people. They make me feel ashamed. Israel was a beautiful dream for all Jews not so long ago. Now, it’s little more than a nightmare for far, far too many people. The idea that the left should say nothing about attitudes such as that posted above… well, there are no words for that, frankly.
Nor, though, am I in any way trying to downplay antisemitism itself. What so angers me is how this evil scourge, with all its horrific consequences which people like me and my family know only too well, is being openly manipulated and twisted for political reasons by those who, when it doesn’t occur on the left (ie. the vast majority of the time), couldn’t care less.
Some of them aren’t just racists or in league with racists; they’re even anti-Semites themselves, as I’ve set out in this piece. This isn’t just political weaponisation of antisemitism. In some cases, it’s political weaponisation of antisemitism… by anti-Semites! This isn’t Kafka, this isn’t Orwell; this is actually happening in Britain in 2019.
Conclusion: What are my motives?
Any Jew speaking up in defence of Corbyn and Labour is, to put it mildly, going to be criticised in the current lunatic climate. So: what are my motives in writing this piece? I’m not some neutral bystander here. I’d like to hope I’m objective, but I’m certainly not neutral.
In Britain, right now, while the narrative is all about Corbyn this, Corbyn that, a racist government led by a racist Prime Minister continues to do the most horrendous things. When Afghan refugees, with no support, no help, are deported back to a place they’ve barely even known – where they are shunned by the locals, kidnapped by the Taliban, raped and/or murdered, that is racism of the most abhorrent form. When Nigerian refugee girls, with no support, no help, are deported back to a place many of them have barely even known – where they are also shunned by the locals, and many are forced into sex trafficking, that is also racism of the most abhorrent form.
When EU citizens living in Britain are treated not as people, but as pawns, by the British government, that is racist. When British-born nurses with no criminal record are deported, that is racist. When British subjects— British subjects! — are deported, and the government doesn’t even acknowledge it until exposed by the press, that is profoundly, horrendously racist.
The minister responsible for that disgrace? You might have heard of her. Goes by the name of May. Her punishment was to be promoted to 10 Downing Street. The minister responsible when that disgrace was exposed? First, she tried to hide how many had been affected, then misled Parliament; then, after resigning, was promoted straight back to Cabinet only months later, to the sound of rejoicing by those wonderful centrists I referred to earlier. And she, incidentally, is both a tax dodger, and gets her own electoral opponent censored at hustings.
As for the PM: this is the woman behind the Go Home vans which disgraced the UK. This is the woman who gave one of the darkest, most racially charged speeches ever heard by a British politician, at the 2015 Conservative Party Conference. This is the woman who called 48% of the population “citizens of nowhere”. And this is the woman who, after the country split 52–48 (which in practice means, ‘we don’t know’), with Leavers voting for all sorts of reasons, decided that only one thing mattered: freedom of movement.
It is not racist to support freedom of movement ending. There are many understandable, legitimate reasons for doing so. But it surely is racist to obsess with this one issue to such an extraordinary extent that it has imperilled Britain’s entire future. All the UK’s difficulties in getting a good deal have been based around red lines rendered wholly undeliverable by that obsession and May’s intransigence.
Tell me: what exactly has Jeremy Corbyn ever said or done which compares in any way with any of the above? Who, exactly, have died as a result of his decisions? I understand and fully acknowledge the contempt which much of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland hold him in; but that’s pretty much it. Yet he’s the danger to Britain?!
Not only that: but the very thing which led to Windrush was the 2014 Immigration Bill. Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott were among just eighteen MPs who opposed it. Most didn’t give it the remotest thought; and Yvette Cooper, idol of the centrists, thought the Bill contained “some sensible ideas”.
May’s government, moreover, isn’t just racist. It isn’t just cruel. It is wicked and pernicious. At least 120,000 people have died because of austerity. Homelessness is at such horrendous levels, even the US media is remarking on it on shock. Child poverty is set to reach a disgusting 37% by 2022: a figure which should shame us all. Foodbanks aren’t just proliferating at an incredible rate. They’re even opening in schools.
Fully 72% of both PIP and ESA cases are won on appeal; in other words, the government, condemned by the UN for both austerity and its treatment of the disabled, is denying untold numbers their basic human rights. As those appeals take so long to be heard, many die before they are. Wages haven’t merely stagnated for a decade; they’re still below 2008 levels: with the average worker earning fully a third less than 11 years ago. And while Riley, tone deaf to the end, sunned herself in India and posted pictures for her adoring public, in Britain, starving schoolchildren scavenge through bins for food, while young women sleep in them.
Corbyn? He wants to change all of this. If he wins the next election, he will change all of this, and give the UK its dignity, its heart, its compassion, its basic decency back. Yet he’s the danger?! Are these people living on the same planet?
If this campaign works — if Riley, Gnasher et al get what they want — the suffering of so many millions will get even worse (probably, far worse) than it already is. That is why celebrities like Rowling incur so much ire from Corbyn’s supporters. She’s in a position of comfort now. Horrendous numbers of people not only aren’t; they can barely feed themselves or their kids. And just in case there’s any doubt: if I thought Corbyn was an anti-Semite, or Labour were endemically antisemitic, I’d renounce my support like a shot. But he isn’t, and they’re not.
Given all I’ve written, no doubt Gnasher and his motley crew will be all over the Twitter search engine like white on rice when they read this. Good luck with that one, guys. Though you may like to know that I’m not a Labour member; only a passionate supporter. And the reason for that is precisely to retain my editorial independence, and not be cowed into silence by the likes of you.
There is, finally, one further reason. Just as it stands to reason that support for Israel will inevitably decline across the world unless its government drastically changes course, there’s a very profound danger for Jews everywhere too. The more antisemitism is weaponised, the longer these ridiculous smears against Corbyn continue, the more it will sound like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. If, heaven forbid, British Jews were ever in the same kind of peril which European Jews found themselves in during the 1930s, we might find ourselves seriously lacking support and help.
That might partly be because of the actions of the Israeli government alienating and appalling so many. But it might well also be because, except in cases of actual danger, much of the public simply tires of the constant drumbeat around antisemitism. Much of the public… except the left. Because in that, please God, never to occur scenario, you know who’ll be manning the barricades, fighting with us? Only pretty much all of those being defamed and impugned right now.
That is how disgusting this is. It is one of the most shameless, dystopian, grotesque spectacles I’ve ever seen in public life. Those who stand alongside racists; who conduct mass, McCarthyite pile-ons against good, caring people; who bully and harass children; who defame Holocaust survivors; and who when confronted with antisemitism or racism from anywhere other than on the left, turn a blind eye or even defend it, should hang their heads in shame. More than that: they should be held to account.
Enough is indeed enough: of all forms of racism and bigotry, of the vile scourge of antisemitism… and of its grotesque weaponisation for warped political gain. The behaviour of the individuals discussed in this piece has been repulsive. It cannot and it must not stand.