The most informative thing about the recent controversy in Momentum — around comments made by Vice-Chair Jackie Walker at an antisemitism training event — has been less the words Jackie Walker herself said, and more the comments made by some of those who have rallied to her defence.
Walker claimed to have asked a neutral and innocent question about, and sought a clarification on, the issues of Holocaust Memorial Day and security for Jewish school students. It soon became abundantly clear that Walker's defenders recognised (or chose to recognise) a subtext behind the comments. Though Walker's comments were not antisemitic, these defenders wanted to, and were able to, draw out an antisemitic logic.
I have seen some shocking arguments, made by leftists, in the social media debates I have engaged in. Here are some of the phrases and arguments.
Some commentators have drawn out a meaning of Walker's comment on Holocaust Memorial Day (about expanding the day to include remembering of other genocides), by saying, “The Zionists try to use the Holocaust as a propaganda weapon against anyone who opposes anything Israel does”; and “Holocaust incorporated at work again – this evil, Zionist mouthpiece must be challenged”. Apparently, “Israeli Zionists are corrupting UK politics by lobbying UK MPs and by using accusations of ‘antisemitism’ as a weapon against their opponents”.
On the issue of school security commentators have said such things as, there are genuine “concerns about the deliberate hyping of fears of parents concerning anti-terrorism in order to build a climate of insecurity that enables Israel to then step forward as the ‘protector’”. Here we have a regurgitation of the trope about manipulative, lying Jews, playing the victim for gain.
The political hostility to any Zionist Jew no matter their political outlook has been palpable and clear. I have been assured “zio is short for zionist or racist”. That we were dealing with “Zionist, nazi vermin. Scum of the earth” — a comment no one saw the need to challenge. It was just left standing there as the debate raged on. I was also told, “any Jew that supports Israel having their own state…needs to be condemned for supporting it…. I think those that have created and nurtured Zionism are part of the group that has worked for a long time to control the world”.
This is how the transition from the politics of Israel/Palestine to the recasting of far right tropes works. Ideas about Jews controlling the world are given a left-wing sheen of anti-capitalism. The word Jew is replaced with ‘Zionist’, ‘Israel’, or ‘Rothschild’.
Anti-Zionists have also reposted the infamous quote falsely credited to Voltaire, “To find out who rules you, find out who you are not supposed to criticise” with a graphic of a hand crushing people down. When they were told it is in fact a quote from US neo-Nazi, Kevin Strom – was this quote removed? No. It was defended as being true no matter who said it.
Others wishing to support Jackie Walker have reposted articles from the website of Jeff Rense, notorious US conspiracy theorist who disseminates antisemitic and neo-Nazi propaganda.
In a discussion on an antisemitic Rothschild meme, I was informed that “money and debt control this world and its wars. And certain families are at the core of that.” Jews were described as “an alien breed like Rothschild, out to destroy mankind by creating mischief all over the world”.
In Corbyn groups and Momentum groups I have found links to Richie Allen Youtube shows (in association with David Icke).
One of the shocking things about this wasn’t just the obviously antisemitic nature of the original posts but the amount of people who defend this. There were arguments about whether the Rothschilds did indeed run the world.
Is this kind of racist antisemitism rife on the left? No. But it is there and it is often not recognised or ignored because the language can be similar to that used by those who support “anti-Zionism” as a solution to the political problems in Israel/Palestine.
Right then, for what does the activist student left stand for:
Kindly publicize your positions, in order of importance, to involve Manchester Uni students.
- Against Tory cuts and for free education
- For the liberation of Palestine
- For a radical solution to climate change
- Against the racist BNP and EDL
- For LGBT and Women's Liberation
* From the Manchester Uni SSWP site.
(Pause for thoughtful analysis . . .)
"Is this kind of racist antisemitism rife on the left? No."
That's a hyper-optimistic proclamation.
I do wish there was way for an ordinary secular, mostly leftish actually Jewish accepter of Israel to have a say. Not to apologize, not to convince, just to say this is why.