9 September 2016

Is the Labour Right Using Anti-Semitism as a Weapon Against the Left?

Debate between
Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist 
Daniel Randall of the Alliance 4 Workers Liberty

Is ‘left’ Anti-Semitism a genuine problem or an Invention of the Right?

Thursday September 15th 19.00-21.00
Lord Nelson Pub, Trafalgar Street, Brighton
Britain's neo-Nazi & fascist groups recognise who their friends are:  English Defence League attack on Birmingham PSC stall - waving the Israeli flag with one hand and giving a Hitler salute with the other

 In BBC1’s Question Time debate (September 8th) between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, Smith denounced the thousands of alleged infiltrators into the Labour Party.  He singled out for mention the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty as ‘anti-Semitic’.  Ignorance seems to be Smith’s only redeeming virtue, given that there is no group on the left which is more assiduously pro-Zionist and supportive of the Israeli state as a Jewish state than the AWL.   It should be said that there is no evidence I have seen that they are anti-Semitic either!

AWL has almost single handedly pioneered the concept of ‘left anti-Semitism’ despite the fact that it is the Right and the Far Right which has historically been anti-Semitic.  Most anti-Semites have also, at one and the same time, been avidly pro-Zionist. 

For example William Stanley Shaw, the President of the British Brothers League, the first anti-Semitic organisation in this country, wrote: 
Owen Smith - sees anti-Semitism everywhere - including the AWL
‘I am a firm believer in the Zionist movement, which the British Brothers League will do much incidentally to foster.  The return of the Jews to Palestine is one of the most striking signs of the times’  [Jewish Chronicle 8.11.1901] Like many of his ilk, Shaw was anti-Semitic, an Evangelical Christian and a supporter of Zionism.  Today in the United States, the most ardent supporters of Zionism are the Christian Zionists and the million strong Christians United for Israel, led by the anti-Semitic Pastor John Hagee.

More recently Ruth Smeed, a spokesperson for the Zionist Board of Deputies of British Jews admitted that ‘‘The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel’.  When Ken Livingstone spoke about Hitler’s support for Zionism he was shouted down, although historically he was correct in all but minor details. 
The AWL are alone on the Left in supporting the idea of 'left anti-Semitism'
Anti-Semites have always supported Zionism and Zionists have always supported anti-Semites.  The attack against Corbyn as ‘anti-Semitic’ was led by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard.  To Pollard Jeremy Corbyn’s support for the Palestinians and his opposition to Zionism were proof positive of his ‘anti-Semitism’.

Yet when David Cameron was under attack for his association with Michal Kaminski, the Chair of the European Conservative and Reform Group in the European Parliament, Pollard had no hesitation in supporting both Cameron and Kaminski.  Kaminski was then a member of Poland’s far-Right Law & Justice Party and formerly a member of NOP, a party that the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, described as neo-Nazi.  In 2001, Kaminski opposed a Polish apology for the massacre of up to 900 Jews by Poles in the village of Jedwabne.  The Jews were herded into a barn which was then set ablaze.  In Kaminski’s view it was the Jews who owed Poland an apology.

Pollard wrote that ‘There are few things more despicable than anti-Semitism, but here's one of them: using a false charge of anti-Semitism for political gain.  Yet it seems there are few depths to which some will not sink in their desperation to damage David Cameron. …....Far from being an anti-Semite, Mr Kaminski is about as pro-Israeli an MEP as exists.’ [Anti-Semitic mudslinging of the worst kind (7.8.2009)
Unfortunately  Pollard failed to take his own advice.  Although he was in 2009 seeking to protect the reputation of the Tory leader, David Cameron, in 2015/16 he was seeking to damage the reputation of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.  As Antony Lerman noted, ‘The idea that being "pro-Israeli" inoculates you against being an antisemite, or that it means that you are incapable of holding antisemitic views, is simply false – both as a theoretical proposition and as a statement of fact.’  But is Kaminski good for the Jews?
The AWL is an oddity amongst the Left.  They campaign on the slogan ‘2 Peoples, 2 States’ and see a Jewish state as a positive virtue.  Alone among the Left, the AWL have been vociferous opponents of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.  When I spoke at UNISON’s national conference in 2007 in support of BDS, the only speaker from the left was from AWL.  Notwithstanding which the motion passed with about 80% support!
AWL are blind to the fact that even within Israel, Palestinians are treated as guests, there on sufferance.  They view the opposition of people on the Left to Israel as a form of ‘left anti-Semitism’ but also, at one and the same time, accept that this ‘anti-Semitism’ is not racist.  Its guru, Sean Matgamna writes that ‘apart from a nut here and there, left-wing anti-semites are not racist.’  [What is “left-wing anti-semitism”?]
In my view this is nothing other than a capitulation to social chauvinism and western imperialism.  It is not the first time that the AWL has done this.  After the American invasion of Iraq they were alone in opposing the call for the withdrawal.  They oppose the call for a United Ireland and were hostile to the idea of Argentinian sovereignty over the Falklands/Malvinas islands.
Come to the debate and take part!

Tony Greenstein

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