Keeping it in the family - Jewdas Rebellion Doesn't Extend to Palestine or 'Anti-semitism'
To Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies (or Bored of Deputies) Jewdas are a ‘source of virulent anti-Semitism’. Arkush and his fellow Zionists cannot be considered politically as of sound mind if they really believe this. Zionism does terrible things to otherwise normal people. It is nationalist mind rot.
|This one tweet demonstrates that Jewdas really don't get it when it comes to the use of 'anti-semitism' as a weapon against the Left|
Anyone who falls over backwards to welcome Donald Trump to power, given his anti-Semitic election campaign and at the same time has the audacity to call other Jews ‘anti-Semitic’ is beyond redemption. It is unfortunate that Corbyn has treated Arkush as if he was bona fide and genuinely concerned about anti-Semitism. Corbyn has completely failed to understand where this right-wing Tory is coming from.
One thing Arkush and the Board cannot be accused of is a sense of humour. These narrow minded petty Jewish nationalists, bigots and small-time businessmen don’t find the antics of Jewdas amusing in the slightest.
All they can see is that Jewdas don’t sign up to 100% support of Israel and Zionism. That is the only standard by which they measure people. Zionism uber alles. Hence they dismiss Jewdas as just another group of ‘Jewish self haters’ – since to Arkush and company only fully fledged racists are mensches.
Although Jewdas may be seen as outrageous by present day standards they are pretty tame and conservative by the standards of Jews yesterday. They are middle class dilettantes.
For example in the period before the first World War Jewish socialists and anarchists invaded the Great Synagogue in protest at the refusal of the Chief Rabbi to support Jewish workers’ strikes and the unemployed.
William Fishman describes how on the 26th January 1894 some 500-600 unemployed entered the Great Synagogue seeking an audience with ‘the long suffering Chief Rabbi’. They were forced to disperse by police armed with truncheons. ‘The Evening News, among other dailies waxed indignant at the antics of this ‘mob of foreigners’ in creating a riot.’ ‘It is a natural result of our previous humane treatment of the Jewish immigrant... It is bad enough to have these people coming over to undersell our workers...’(p.209)
Now where did we hear that one? Oh yes, the Tory press has always concerned about the wages of British workers being undercut by foreigners. The same Tory press that hates trade unions that strike for higher wages!
In 1904 Jewish anarchists ‘marched in column to the Spitafields Great Synagogue in Brick Lane, smoking or brandishing ham sandwiches, as a gesture of defiance and rejection of their creed.’ (p.259) It provoked a full scale riot! Also mentioned is how the socialists (Bundists) ‘pelted a Synagogue which stands adjacent to their club and that they had arranged a concert for the day of fasting... invitations which they had sent to the principal Rabbis!’ (pp. 259-260, East End Jewish Radicals 1875-1914, William Fishman).
Note how Jewish anarchists and socialists expressed their hatred of the Jewish bourgeoisie led by Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, by openly brandishing their rejection of the rituals of the Jewish religion. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and mourning and they had arranged a concert! They marched eating ham sandwiches and smoking (also strictly forbidden).
Contrast that with Jewdas whose act of rebellion was to hold an ‘alternative’ Seder at which Corbyn brought the horseradish for the bitter herbs. I have to confess when I was young those of us who rejected the Orthodox did much the same as the anarchists and defied not aped the rabbinical traditions. These middle class rebels of Jewdas are indeed tame boys and girls in comparison!
I’m not condemning them they are in their milieu Jewish pranksters with an irreverence that is itself a Jewish tradition. I myself had a fleeting relationship with Jewdas some years ago in so far as I penned a few articles for their website (which seem to have disappeared).
I confess to having a sneaking admiration for some of Jewdas’s activities, their anti-racism and Birthwrong but they are middle class rebels on a day trip to the Left. They are defying their parents during the day only to return home in the evening. It is all a rebellion with the Jewish family.
Jewdas never once bothers to put this ‘anti-Semitism’ nonsense in the context of how Zionism uses it as a political weapon against their adversaries (including themselves) nor relating this to the privileged existence of British Jews. Nor do they ask how it is that Arkush and co. can be so worked up about the ‘anti-Semitism’ of anti-Zionists and the Left and so remarkably unconcerned about the real Jew hatred of Israel’s friends like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, or the Polish Law & Justice Party to say nothing of the anti-Semitic attacks against George Soros as the archetypal Jewish financier.
The privileged nature of British Jewry, which is concentrated in the middle class suburbs of London is taken for granted. Not once is the class position of British Jewry today related to this concern over ‘anti-Semitism’ and what the latter might actually mean. Anti-Semitism is a signifier for other things yet there is a poverty of ideas in Jewdas.
The reality is, despite the schmaltzy looking back to the days of Jewish radicalism which they and other Jewish groups engage in, there is no going back. The large Jewish working class of the East End, in which a multiplicity of radical, socialist and anarchist groups thrived, where there were unemployed groups, 30 Jewish trade unions, anti-fascists, rent strikes and communists cannot now be recreated. The Jewish working class has died and with it the tradition of Jewish radicalism. All that is left are faint echoes of which Jewdas, is a remnant.
In days of old Poale Zion was a fragment that mainly existed amongst middle class Jewry. Its successor calls itself the Jewish Labour Movement at a time when there is no Jewish labour movement. They consist either of right-wing non-Jews in Progress or anti-socialist Jews who have decided that the Labour Party is too important to leave it to the supporters of Palestine. When there was a Jewish labour movement it was decidedly anti-Zionist. Todays JLM is a living insult to the memory and traditions of the Jewish working class. When the JLM voted by 92-4% for Owen Smith against Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 I wondered how it was that Corbyn had gained 4%.
|Idiot Labour MP Angela Smith can't even spell the word Seder|
Like most people I enjoyed the discomfiture of the Board of Deputies over the Jewdas Passover (Seder) meal with Jeremy Corbyn in attendance. The frothing at the mouth reaction of firstly Guido Fawkes, the Tory Blogger and then Arkush was an added treat, to say nothing of idiot MP Angela Smith who condemned Jeremy Corbyn for attending a ‘Seber’!
Jewdas are not even the equivalent of IfNotNow, a radical Jewish group in the USA. IfNotNow it was whose picket of the Zionist Organisation of America in 2016 persuaded Steve Bannon, Trump’s fascist friend to stay away. IFNotNow has undertaken a whole series of pickets and events aimed at targeting American Jewish politicians’ support for Israel over Gaza. Seven were arrested invading Senator Charles Schumer’s office and 9 were arrested obstructing the entrance to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office. Jewdas has done nothing comparable at all.
That was why I was outraged when on Twitter Geoffrey Cohen @geoffreyJewdas extended ‘solidarity and respect to @lucianaberger @ruthsmeeth and @johnmannMP who shared their personal experiences of anti-Semitism in the House of Commons today. It’s not easy and they must not be dismissed.’
This was in reaction to a tweet from Luciana Berger praising her own ‘bravery’. This debate, staged by the Tories in order to enable the Labour Right to attack Corbyn and the Labour leadership was a reactionary racist pageant. We had the obscene spectacle of Tories applauding Labour traitors and ‘anti-Semitism’ was the means by which these racists did it. Those who had deported and removed citizenship from the Windrush children were now overcome with tears at the ‘anti-Semitism’ that Smeeth and Berger had experienced.
This debate and the nauseating speeches of Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and John Mann led directly to the expulsion of Black anti-racist activist Mark Wadsworth.
I messaged Geoff twice but he was too arrogant to respond, hence this post. Jewdas clearly have no sense or understanding of how ‘anti-Semitism’ has been used, not least against Jews like myself and Jackie Walker. Indeed Jewdas have attacked Jackie Walker, a Black-Jewish socialist in terms not dissimilar to the vile racist abuse she has suffered at the hands of the JLM and their supporters. They have also attacked Ken Livingstone for speaking the truth to power.
Smeeth and Berger are despicable racists. The emails they have received have largely been abusive not anti-Semitic. This has been a consequence of their own support for Israel’s murderous behaviour. I am more concerned about the 40+ deaths of unarmed Palestinians in the West Bank or the incarceration for 8 months of a 16 year old girl Ahed Tamimi than Smeeth being told she is a racist scumbag.
Judging by the 10 messages Smeeth read out only one was explicitly anti-Semitic. Whilst I don’t condone the use of anti-Semitic language, the real crime is her support for Israel’s apartheid policies not the abuse she has received. Smeeth was a paid worker with BICOM, the Israeli propaganda group. She is a Zionist shill not a victim of anti-Semitism.
Jewdas’s comments fit squarely with Jewish privilege and exceptionalism. What matters is not Palestinians under the heel of a state which calls itself ‘Jewish’ and which the British Jewish leadership helps to support but ‘anti-Semitism’. Pass the sick bag Alice.
As for praising John Mann (who is not Jewish) that must obviously be one of those parodies for which Jewdas is justly famous. Mann is perhaps the most odious of all Labour’s MPs and he has stiff competition. I copy below the experiences of Amira Hass at Angela Smith’s ‘seber’.
The organizers define themselves as anti-Zionist Jews, or non-Zionist, or just Jews; most of them didn't know that Corbyn was invited and when he came he didn't act like the leader nor they like the led
Amira Hass (Hackney, London)
Apr 06, 2018 9:33 AM
The Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn attending an alternative Passover seder held by the radical Jewish group Jewdas in Hackney, London. Guido Fawkes
HACKNEY, LONDON – On Tuesday morning, at 7:30 A.M. Gaza time or 5:30 A.M. in London, I awoke to a headline on the popular Israeli news site Ynet: “Britain: Corbyn attends event of group that called for Israel’s destruction.” Given that I had left that very event seven and a half hours earlier, I can say wholeheartedly that the headline should have read: “Corbyn brings the bitter herbs to alternative seder in London.”
Jeremy Corbyn grows horseradish in his garden allotment. Slivers of the pungent root he brought were added to the maror, the bitter herbs, waiting in white plastic cups on round tables in the hall below St. Peter’s Church de Beauvoir, Hackney. These bitter herbs, a glass of whiskey before (begging pardon from my Muslim friends and Jewish friends who keep kosher) and songs in my father’s tongue, Yiddish, destroyed the flu germs that had ruined part of my vacation.
I lost the chance to publish the breaking news about the Labour leader’s healing horseradish because the organizers of the event explicitly asked the 100 participants not to tweet, report in real time on social media, or take photos. Last Monday’s was a private event, and nobody wanted paparazzi to pop up. Even so, somebody was evidently taking photos surreptitiously. Since the photos reached a right-wing British blogger, of all people, who immediately uploaded them to the internet with his distorted interpretation, one would assume that the unknown photographer was a mole planted in advance with a contrarian agenda. In the coming hours, the inaccurate, selective information that the blogger disseminated drove headlines hostile to Corbyn, in social and formal media, occupying more cyberspace than had been devoted to the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza a few days earlier.
The blog claimed that Corbyn had contributed beet roots to the seder; a simple journalistic inquiry would have shown the roots’ color to be very different. The blogger also said he had a recording of people present at the meal booing when the names of two leaders on the Board of Deputies of British Jews were mentioned (or, as the seder participants put it, “Bored of Deputies”). It is true that there were catcalls, but it’s only partially true. There was much longer booing when Ken Livingstone’s name came up – a former mayor of London and Labourite who had been suspended from the party after saying that Hitler supported Zionism.
The people behind the catcalls and the organizers of the seder define themselves as anti-Zionist Jews, or non-Zionist, or just Jews. They belong to the Jewdas Group – Radical Voices for an Alternative Diaspora, founded in 2005 by young people seeking to reflect socialist-minded Judaism in independent ways, and seeing the Bund as a model.
They seek to free themselves of the identification of Jews with Israel, without conceding their right to criticize Israel’s policy against the Palestinians. They spell the organization’s name Jewdas to remove any doubt that they are Jews, but it’s pronounced like Judas, the ultimate symbol of betrayal in Christian tradition. That symbol nourished 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism.
The choice of a name that sounds like the most hated symbol in the eyes of the group’s non-Jewish environment suffices to grasp Jewdas’ nature – provocative, delighting in tongue-in-cheek statements and in needling history and mythology and religion. Its members, atheist and observant and all that’s in between, hang around in radical leftist and pro-Palestinian circles and flaunt their Judaism proudly, including by wearing yarmulkes and Stars of David.
In 2014, Jewdas published a guide for how to criticize Israel while also being aware that anti-Semitism exists and avoiding the trap of anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudices. In September 2016, it published a Facebook post urging that Livingstone be sent into space “for his own good and everybody else’s, because he won’t shut up, so we are sending him to space where nobody will hear him.” This was interpreted by non-Jews as a call to oust him from the party.
Jewdas members participate in demonstrations against the extreme right and neo-Nazis, Islamophobia and economic austerity. They party a lot, because being Jewish is fun, and have taken trips to former centers of Diaspora Jewry like Andalusia and Marseilles in what they call “Birthwrong” – as a counter to the Zionist “Birthright” trips to Israel.
Most of the people at the alternative seder were young; many belonged to the LGBT community. Some wouldn’t be considered Jews under traditional Jewish law. Two – a man and a woman – are studying for the rabbinate. Some work as cantors despite not having been formally trained. One couple, who looked Indian, saw the gathering as they walked by and were invited to join, since the Haggadah says, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
The seder included a prayer for the release of prisoners and the return of refugees. Participants sang a Yiddish hymn whose author, Shmerke Kaczerginski, dedicated it to the young fighters of the Vilna Ghetto; one elderly participant reminded all that the Warsaw Ghetto revolt began on Pesach eve. The Jewdas Haggadah also included Bella Ciao, an Italian partisan song in Yiddish translation. Also included was Rachel Bloom’s poem “remember that we suffered,” and its immortal words: “have we mentioned hitler?” In addition, they sang “The Internationale” in English and Hebrew. Corbyn joined in, or at least lip-synched.
They enacted a neoliberal dialogue in English between Pharaoh and his CEO over how to increase Egypt’s profits. The answer: Stop paying the workers. Corbyn laughed with everybody else. Each table was asked to propose ways of fighting Pharaoh. One table parodied a purist, isolationist left. Corbyn laughed in open delight. Others said humor alone wouldn’t topple capitalism; the slaves had to form a union that would declare a general strike in Egypt.
There were good jokes and bad ones, including what seemed (at least to older participants) like excessive and infantile use of the word “fuck.” The price was five British pounds per person, not including wine, grape juice or matzah, which everyone was supposed to bring for themselves. The church was paid 230 pounds for use of its hall. One member worked for three days to prepare vegan food for everyone, using Persian recipes she learned at home.
Most participants, including several organizers, didn’t know that one member of the group had invited Corbyn; they were surprised when he arrived with his wife Laura. He didn’t act like the leader and they didn’t act like the led.
Corbyn said the blessing over Elijah’s Cup, as written in the Jewdas Haggadah: “Legend has it that the prophet Elijah will come at some point to announce the coming of the messiah. We fill up the cup and open the door just in case Eli is outside waiting. As radical Jews, we understand ‘the Messiah’ as ‘the messianic age’ or ‘redemption’ or ‘revolution.’ So let’s fill this cup with the hope that socialism and revolution will be upon us soon.”
The seder table also had a Miriam’s Cup, “to remind ourselves of the women whose stories are often hidden from the seder, and everyone who is oppressed in a patriarchal society.” And there was a Geoffrey’s Cup – named for the group’s imaginary spokesman “Geoffrey Cohen” – “as a symbol of our struggle with the Jewish establishment.”
Last year’s Haggadah included a “prayer against the state of Israel” by “Geoffrey,” which urged, “Please god smash the state of Israel. Smash it in the abundance of your love and judge it.” Jewdas members believe this is what led the blogger to assert that it called for Israel’s destruction, and thus to suggest that Corbyn’s participation in the seder was evidence of either anti-Semitism or blindness to it.
According to the British media, however, the blogger based himself on a December 2017 tweet which said, “Israel is a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of.” Of this quote, one Jewdas member said, “That was surely some nonsense that somebody tweeted in anger.”
Tuesday morning, Corbyn’s participation in this non-Zionist Jewish seder was indeed depicted as further evidence of his insensitivity to anti-Semitism. As evidence it was mentioned that this dissident Jewish group even dared to claim that the recent organized protest against anti-Semitism in Labour stemmed less from a desire to fight anti-Semitism than from a desire to oust Labour’s elected leader because he’s a socialist and supports Palestinian rights.
But later in the day, the tone changed, as people stopped relying on the blogger and instead investigated the details for themselves and studied Jewdas’ history. The organization received additional donations, and one person wrote on its Facebook page, “I had never heard of Jewdas before Monday but now I think I’ve found my people.”