Soweto Kinch “On Antisemitism, Windrush and Racism….
I was reluctant to post this, as I didn’t want to get mired in the Anti Semitism row. I was dragged into it when despite my best efforts, my FB post was being turned into a sounding board for yet more Corbyn smears. After well over a month of an intense focus on Labour Anti Semitism – I was largely quiet because it’s usually best to listen and learn to concerns about racism first. Maybe we could all learn how to be better humans?
However, this morning after the Radio 4 Today’s latest hatchet job and the Board of Deputies for British Jews statement, I’ve finally snapped.
They’ve named Jackie Walker again in their press statement- released minutes after the meeting with Corbyn (almost as though it was written before the meeting itself). It’s hard to escape the belief that this is politically motivated when all the ‘actions’ they demand are political appointees or expulsions. This persecution without trial is disgraceful, and many Labour members have been shamefully quiet on Jackie Walker’s treatment. Please, please stop bullying the woman! She’s not Anti Semitic – which is why she’s not been found guilty of Anti Semitism (ie, hatred of Jews for being Jews).
The awkward reason they can’t expel either Ken Livingstone or Walker is because their opponents would have to prove antisemitism in the court of law and can’t – the evidence is scant at best. So instead they have waged a PR war in the court of public opinion – leading to embarrassing overreaching and ignominious behaviour from the likes of Alan Sugar. Worse still I think they are actively undermining the need to deal with Anti Semitism – I don’t think they actually care. They ignore the Yarmulke’s being torn off the heads of children, not commenting on the spike in Anti Semitic hate crime at schools and instead making a semi-retired lefty and a black Jewish woman the focus of their hatred.
Corbyn is right to say anti Semitism is a societal problem and some anti capitalist tropes on the left lend themselves to lazy and racist deductions. These are not ‘smears’ and should be eradicated from any anti racist party – we should be held to a higher standard because we’re not the racist Tory party. The mural should have been a moment for self-reflection and mutual growth – leaving crackpot theories about ‘Zios’ and lizard-headed alien overlords on the same scrap pile.
However, using these issues to discredit life long anti racist campaigners is an immoral development and threatens to remain a fault line of credibility. For every, ‘card-carrying, life-long Labour member’ allegedly tearing up their membership, I believe there’s another (both Jew and Gentile) just as disillusioned by the conduct of this debate. Perhaps the test of any anti racist movement is its ability to bring people together rather than reinforce divisions. For instance, I’m humbled and moved by the numbers of white Britons who are outraged by #Windrushscandal.
But, how for instance is anyone supposed to take Chukka Umunna seriously – voting for the pernicious Immigration Bill 2013 in private, virtually silent on #Windrush but loudly decrying Labour’s Anti Semitism crisis in the media whenever there’s telly space. It’s repugnant hypocrisy.
This flagrant intellectual dishonesty in politics will drive many good people away from movements for change. How is it that Ruth Smeeth receives a standing ovation for uncovering the abusive tweets (rightly), but Abbott is shouted down with ‘Rubbish, Rubbish!’ when describing her personal experience of #Windrush? It’s a widely known fact Diane Abbot receives more racist abuse than all other members combined, but it’s the actual racist society that makes it less politically expedient to highlight her abuse.
Racism comes from the top! It’s not fomented by an underclass, it’s an ideology foisted from above. Internet trolls, even bots are incapable of erecting the sort of power structures that are necessary for racism to prosper – racism triumphs because there’s a prison system, a housing and education system, an iniquitous job market etc, these all give real teeth to prejudicial ideas.
The past weeks prove what ructions there are in our basic understanding of what racism is. It’s not just acts of individual bigotry – that’s better understood as ‘racial prejudice.’ Racism can only be understood in terms of the power relations. So prejudice will see you attacked online with abusive words, systemic racism will get you deported, denied health care or housing. You can and should expel someone proven to be racist and/or Anti Semitic in days! Fixing structural racism is a much longer project and can’t be fixed by an expulsion or two.
The demands of anti-racists are for justice: equality in the law, education, freedom from the threat of deportation, freedom from all verbal and physical abuse. As far as I can tell, the demands of the Board of Deputies is to kick all the people they disapprove of out of Labour immediately; circumvent Labour’s disciplinary procedures; install an Ombudsman and have a permanent wedge with which to discredit the Labour leadership. Worse still they want Corbyn (oft accused of being Stalin 2.0) to supersede party protocol and personally expelled members without due process.
They not trying to root out Anti Semitism from society, but instead want to install a very partisan definition conflating all criticism of Israel with Anti Semitism. This understandably is what Jewish Voices For Labour object to – JVL usefully produced ‘How to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.’ Not all Jews are Zionists and in fact most Zionists are not Jews. For the record I’m not an anti-Zionist, I just think there’s probably a better way of building a homeland than we’ve seen in Gaza and the West Bank.
As a non-Jew one of my frustrations is, why is this discussion always conducted in the shadows? Why is there such a concerted attempt to marginalise certain Jewish voices? If there was a public forum with Ken and Jackie as well as their opponents debating anti Semitism we might all learn something. Perhaps, I have an unconscious bias or latent anti Semitic beliefs, I might learn something and change them – instead all I see are proscribed names, black listed and ostracised without any process.
Even someone like Chris Williamson who shares a platform with them is blacklisted – and few people even know what the Anti Semitic offence was. The ultimate intention is to silence all forms of dissent. Anyone thinking of speaking up against Israel, or asking questions is supposed to be terrified into silence. Well we think ‘just look at what happened to Jackie Walker’ better belt up.
Some people might ask, who am I to argue with a Jew about what constitutes Anti Semitism? I agree, It’s probably offensive if Jewish people say it is: listen first, talk after; listen to women who describe experiences of misogyny; listen to black peoples who describe racism.
The problem with this is that only some ‘mainstream’ Jews are afforded a legitimate voice. JVL are ‘bad jews’ and Corbyn’s not even allowed to attend meetings with the bad Jews! How can we take an Anti Semitism campaign seriously if most of it’s targets are Jewish!? Imagine me having an anti-racism movement and making the expulsion of Kwasi Kwarteng or Sam Gyimah my ultimate goal! I might disagree vehemently with James Cleverly, but sadly he’s still partly black (sad I know, venal careerism doesn’t revoke blackness) and their views don’t stop them being black.
I think it’s important that we don’t get lost trying to prove who or who isn’t a racist. Theresa May and Rudd may or may not be racists – it’s not within my skill set to read minds and scrutinize souls. The one thing I can say with certainty is that they have instituted a racist policy. The ‘Hostile Environment’ lead to racist deeds and actions! Even deaths! If May or Rudd are expelled it should be for these actions, not the spurious ground of their personal racism.
We need to have the same approach with Anti Semitism. Don’t just tell me you think Walker or Livingstone are Anti Semites, please tell me what Jackie Walker said or did that’s Anti Semitic? Tell me how they’ve abetted an Anti Semitic atmosphere. You can’t have the widespread slandering of Jackie Walker without her having a chance to defend her beliefs. Otherwise it’s little more than a medieval inquisition.
It’s in this pantomime media world that Kwasi Kwarteng is on news bulletins, without irony as a black apologist for a racist Windrush immigration policy – subtext being, ‘we ain’t racist look we’ve got a black in the Tory Party who says we ain’t.’ Yesterday Jacob R-M addressed a Windrush audience on Channel 4 expressing moral outrage (the same Jacob who went to the Traditional Britain event advocating repatriation!) Nobody bats an eyelid.
How do we know who’s sincere or not? How to discern racist from dissident?
Maybe this might be a future litmus test? When an anti-racist is confronted with Holocaust denial they say the Holocaust happened. When a David Irving-like person is confronted with the Holocaust they deny its historical veracity, and double down on their racism. Jewish friends please correct me if I’m wrong! Irving was determined to disprove the Holocaust existed, Livingstone has criticisms of the excessive state force used by Israel against the Palestinians… We could agree about Ken’s poor timing, or self-aggrandizement but they’re nowhere near the same thing… are they?
If you’re wondering why I’m so exercised by the issue, it’s because I resent this climate of fear and self-censorship that’s been inculcated in Labour members. I’m concerned even this post could be flagged and I could be expelled! Even a racist bigot in the Labour Party should be allowed to speak their mind, so it can be challenged and corrected. All the members can then understand how such ideas are incompatible with Labour Party values. Surely we should be persuading people not gagging and excommunicating them.
Using religion, culture or race to create a party political wedge is disgraceful and morally bankrupt. We shouldn’t be competitively comparing injustices but collectively working to eradicate them. These are age old problems and need to be tackled with sincerity and vigor by all parties, trying to dislodge political opponents with confected crimes should be denounced by all Black or White, Jews or Gentiles and from all political backgrounds.
Now back to getting rid of these evil Tories! Vote ’em out on 3rd May.
NB, any Jewish friends or otherwise who ardently disagree feel free to DM me, or even better pick up the phone and talk to me. I may have unwittingly used offensive tropes and I’m open to learning, but the treatment of Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone is a disgrace and a threat to due process everywhere. I wont be engaging in the usual FB tennis, if it appears you aren’t trying to either learn or teach something but instead are just trying to discredit more good people in very dark times.”