Enough already!

JVL Introduction

Jewdas is not renowned for the respect it pays to the elders of the Jewish community. Respect where it is due seems to be its watchword – and it doesn’t find much to respect.

But make up your own mind…

Enough is Enough!

Jewdas, 29 March 2018

Enough really is enough.

Although we enjoy the anonymity, it is a fairly open secret that nearly all of us in Jewdas are synagogue-going Jews, most with either paid or voluntary positions within our communities. With members across the country, for the last thirteen years we have been the only place many people could come to be both left-wing and religiously Jewish.

That is not because nowhere else was interested. That is because, across the Jewish community, synagogues had made the decision to actively push out everyone on the far left. Philanthropists tried to assimilate radical Jews into their structures, and, in the cases where they failed, declared that the people who refused to conform were beyond the pale. Critics of Israel were shunned by their friends and families. A narrow Conservative clique took over our major communal bodies, newspapers and schools. (If you think they don’t all know each other, check the guest list for the President’s Club event where women were sexually harassed, assaulted and auctioned.)

Most of the remaining left-wing Jews either disappeared into nothingness or found each other in niche Trotskyist factions or single-issue campaigns. Groups like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Free Speech on Israel and Jewish Voice for Labour are, whatever you think of them, the remnant of radical Jews who have been forced out of their own communities.

In 2005, a small group made the decision that, this generation, we would not be forced out. Despite our deeply held beliefs in opposing capitalism and nationalism, we wanted to remain loyal to our own community. We wanted to stay members of synagogues and be part of our communities, full of all the complications and contradictions that would involve. We wanted to be able to persuade people of our opinions and, where we couldn’t, we would accept the joy of being in diverse spaces. Most of all, we wanted to be able to laugh at ourselves, each other and the Anglo-Jewish establishment. We wanted to have fun. And we tried.

But now enough is enough.

Over the last decade, because of our position straddling the left and the Jewish community, Jewdas has been the only radical faction that took antisemitism seriously. When we joined pro-Palestine marches (which we did, proudly), we brought with us leaflets explaining how to criticise Israel without being antisemitic. We called out offensive placards and engaged in constructive conversations with people who held them.

When the entirety of the left engaged in circle-jerks about free speech after the Hyperkasher killings in Paris, we were the only group on the left to denounce those acts of terrorism as attacks on Jews.

When neo-Nazis marched through Stamford Hill, we were the only group to go out and protest them. When the same group marched on Parliament, we managed to convince the Campaign Against Antisemitism (though not the Board of Deputies) to join us.

We lost plenty of friends when we were the one of the only left factions to call for Ken Livingstone’s expulsion.

Time and time and time again, we have denounced antisemitism, left and right. We have always stood up for our community.

But now enough is enough.

What has happened over the last week is anything but an attempt to address antisemitism. It is the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Labour Party. It is a malicious ploy to remove the leader of the Opposition and put a stop to the possibility of a socialist government. The Board of Deputies, the (disgraced for corruption) Jewish Leadership Council and the (unelected, undemocratic) Jewish Labour Movement are playing a dangerous game with people’s lives.

What triggered this was an antisemitic mural. There is no question that the mural was antisemitic. Michael Segalov can give you the rundown of why it was. Six years ago, that mural got taken down. At the time, Jeremy Corbyn consoled the artist who drew it. Inconsiderate? Definitely. Dodgy? Yeah. Racist? Maybe.

But is it a communal crisis that the leader of the Labour Party posted an unthinking comment on a Facebook post six years ago? Only if you’re a hired troll whose job it is to dig up dirt on left-wing politicians to force them out of office. Only if you’re an outgoing president of the Board of Deputies with a special place in your heart for Trump, Bibi and May. Only if you’re a disgraced wannabe-politician that is being investigated for financial corruption and you need a distraction. Only if, ultimately, your goals have nothing to do with combatting antisemitism and everything to do with ousting the first successful socialist in a lifetime.

Certainly, there are some useful idiots who are willing to go along with this charade. Centrist dads who’ve been complaining that nobody represents whiny middle-aged small business owners anymore probably sincerely believe that Monday’s amateur dramatics were akin to storming the Bastille. There are no doubt some people who have joined in with these protests out of a wildly misplaced loyalty to the Jewish community, despite knowing that they are being treated as pawns. But the engine behind this bout of faux-outrage is greased with hypocrisy and opportunism.

Enough is enough.

This is not about dealing with antisemitism. Jonty Liebowitz has rightly complained in the Times of Israel that the Jewish communal leadership and the leader of the Labour Party are now in open opposition to each other for the first time in history. That is true. But it is a result of conscious decisions that the Jewish communal leadership have made.

When David Cameron decided to withdraw from Merkel’s centrist grouping in the European Union to team up with Holocaust deniers, white supremacists and unreconstructed fascists, our communal leadership decided that they could work with him. Whatever his faults, they’d influence him. This was not a communal crisis.

When Donald Trump declared to a room full of Jews that they wouldn’t like him because they couldn’t buy him, and hired Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist, Jonathan Arkush tweeted his warm congratulations. He nearly fell out of his seat celebrating when the same President risked World War Three by declaring Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel. This was not a problem for the Jews.

But decades ago our communal leadership decided that any criticism of Israel was beyond the pale. People could flirt with Nazis and threaten our communal life all they wanted, as long as they stood up for Israel. Far right evangelical Christians were our friends, while Jewish public figures like Gerald Kauffman, Hugo Gryn and Avi Shlaim were denounced as antisemites. As far as they were concerned, Corbyn was already beyond the pale before he started. They would not have needed any evidence to attack him. The evidence was already there in the fact that he championed the cause of the Palestinians.

But they did find evidence. He has met with people who are anti-Semites. He used ill-advised language. Somebody close to his dog-walker once said something problematic. They reached through every last bit of his history and uncovered what they could. Some of it was compelling. Some of it less so. All of it was treated as if it was a new edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Now, in the build-up to local elections where Labour were expected to make significant gains, they have turned rumours and half-truths into a narrative that pretends that another Holocaust is round the corner in Britain. Unfortunately, some fools even believe them.

Enough is enough.

This is not even just about Israel.

This is about people of a certain age, class and political persuasion who have no idea how to function in a system where every political party isn’t pandering to their views exactly. It is about the threat that the possibility of nationalisation, rent caps and redistribution of wealth poses to the people whose ‘philanthropy’ funds our community. We have allowed our community to be dominated by middle- and upper- class people who are actively opposed to our material interests for way too long.

Enough is more than fucking enough.

The next steps from here are usually predictable. A non-Jew like Wes Streeting, Luke Akehurst or Stephen Pollard will appear on TV and claim to be the sole representative of the Jewish community, who they will say will settle for nothing less than the sacking of the entire shadow cabinet to be replaced by their friends. They will be contested. A cranky Jew will sit on the other side of the news table assuring everybody that there is no such thing as antisemitism and that the Holodomor Famine never happened.

Then our communal leaders will rally together and tell all the Jews who disagree to shut up. And denounce all the Jews who continue to disagree as traitors. And proclaim all the Jews who still disagree are not really Jews. That only the Jews who agree with them are Jews. And, because only the Jews who agree with them are really Jews, the whole community is unanimously united behind the vomit-inducing ‘progressive Zionist consensus.’ Already now, the Jewish Chronicle is flipping its lid that a politician has acknowledged the existence of a Jewish group that isn’t on their list of ‘correctly Jewish’ organisations.

The Labour leadership will recover from this mess, but this fiasco may well leave scars that cannot be healed within the Jewish community. We refuse to follow the script that has been prepared for us. Enough is enough. We are not going anywhere. We are not going to accept this second-rate leadership. We are not going to be treated as idiot pawns in politicians’ turf wars.

We are not going to shut up. Not this time.

Enough is enough. Fuck you all. Chag Pesach sameach.

Comments (10)

  • Julia Bard says:

    This is a good blog, apart from one claim: “Jewdas has been the only radical faction that took antisemitism seriously”.
    The Jewish Socialists’ Group has always, and often courageously, challenged antisemitism wherever we encounter it. Just one example from my early days in the group: I remember us taking issue with a rather intimidating contingent marching behind us on a Palestinian demo, who were chanting antisemitic slogans. We were the only visible Jewish presence in support of the Palestinians at that time, but our banner and the confidence we gave each other in tackling the racism that we knew was a liability, not just to Jews but also to the Palestinian struggle, changed a few hearts and minds.
    We have been absolutely consistent in maintaining the profile of our challenge to antisemitism in our antiracist and antifascist activism, and nowadays we are kept much too busy dealing with a rising level of antisemitism, ranging from unthinking/ignorant conspiracy theories to fully-fledged, consciously expressed, old-fashioned Jew hatred being dripped into debates on social media. This often comes from the far right.
    Now the deliberate misuse and abuse of accusations of antisemitism are making this even more difficult. Nevertheless, I hope the JSG has contributed to giving a wider constituency, including the next generation, the confidence to assert our rights as diaspora Jews alongside and in solidarity with other minorities. We value the imagination, energy, analysis and successful activism of Jewdas, and are excited that Bundist/diasporist ideas are flourishing again.
    Just one other thing: the Tories have tried to set the generations against each other, drawing on a well of ageism that usually goes unquestioned. I would have preferred it if you had left “age” out of this list: “This is about people of a certain age, class and political persuasion…”

  • Miriam Yagud says:

    Your blog post is very welcome and despite the painful topics you discuss, it was a joy to read.
    I attended a liberal shul for some years and was finally pushed out for my socialist politics and critiques of Israel and support for Palestinians rights. I’ve lost count of the numbers of other Jews I know who have experienced the same rejections from shul and/or family.
    We are often portrayed as rejecting Jewish life when in reality its we who have been rejected, spat out. Silenced.
    Ironically, growing up in a poor single parent home in East London, the Jewish board of guardians insisted they would not give my mum emergency payments for food and clothing because we didn’t attend shul. The shul refused to have us because my mum wasn’t married!
    That sort of hypocrisy left bitter scars on us and it’s only now, in her late 70’s and failing health that my mother has been able to find a connection again with the Jewish community.it has always seemed a terrible cruelty that a Yiddish speaking Jewish woman has spent her life alienated from the community that shares her language. Their hypocracy disgusts me.
    I found a political Jewish home in Jewish Socialists’ Group which has been around for decades and has been a strong and valued Jewish voice among the Socialist and antiracist movements, also calling out antisemitism when we see it.
    For too long JSG has been a lone Jewish Voice among the British Left, learning about, teaching about and disseminating Jewish Socialist history makers, movers and shakers and their achievements and celebrating and remembering them so we don’t forget.
    Your arrival on the scene is wonderful. You are manna from heaven. Jewdas and Jewish Socialists’ Group. What a match!

  • Frances Rifkin says:

    Thanks for this. Support for what you, Miriam and Julia have posted. Just a detail. In my case, I left the religious community long ago because I became an atheist and a socialist and preferred a non religious, non-identity community as a practising artist while enjoying my Jewish self. I know others who did the same. I wasn’t forced out or excluded. I joined radical (Jewish) organisations recently in anger at the attacks and distortions hurled at labour and Corbyn and co. JSG and JVL.

  • Jonathan Goldfarb says:

    This is about the leader of the Oppsition, potentially the next Prime Minister of this country, presiding over a party in which direct anti Semitic views have become increasingly voluble, with little action being taken to root it out. It is about the leader of the Opposition and potential future Prime Minister’s fraternising with individuals with unmistakeably antisemitic views. This matters greatly to many of us. Enough is, indeed, enough.

    • Harold Immanuel says:

      This article describes Michael Segalov’s angry piece in The Guardian on the 2012 mural (“If you can’t see antisemitism, it’s time to open your eyes”, 28 Mar 2018) as giving the run-down on why the mural’s anti-Semitic. You’re falling into a trap set by your own detractors, that being outraged by this 6 year old, 2nd rate mural is a test of political correctness. Have you, for example, not noticed the non-sequiturs in his article? The most daft is that “the employment of an Eye of Providence symbol … is clearly anti-Semitic”. The same symbol appears on the US one-dollar bill. Is that anti-Semitic? Another is that “these depictions mirror anti-Semitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis”. A few moments’ research by anyone fortunate enough not to have seen such filth (eg. the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) shows there’s no serious resemblance to speak of. A little selective knowledge by Mr Segalov is a dangerous thing indeed.

  • Rebecca Lissak says:

    Great piece! Recognise all you describe and so grateful to you for calling it out with humour and passion. It’s time to reclaim our Judaism for the many not the few!

  • Harold Immanuel says:

    This article describes Michael Segalov’s angry piece in The Guardian on the 2012 mural (“If you can’t see antisemitism, it’s time to open your eyes”, 28 Mar 2018) as giving the run-down on why the mural’s anti-Semitic. You’re falling into a trap set by your own detractors, that being outraged by this 6 year old, 2nd rate mural is a test of political correctness. Have you, for example, not noticed the non-sequiturs in his article? The most daft is that “the employment of an Eye of Providence symbol … is clearly anti-Semitic”. The same symbol appears on the US one-dollar bill. Is that anti-Semitic? Another is that “these depictions mirror anti-Semitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis”. A few moments’ research by anyone fortunate enough not to have seen such filth (eg. the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) shows there’s no serious resemblance to speak of. A little selective knowledge by Mr Segalov is a dangerous thing indeed.

  • Jeremy Green says:

    Mazal tov on a great article.

  • Naomi wayne says:

    I loved your article. Just one addition to show that we are all capable of taking on antisemitism when we see it – and doing it in a way that is productive and successful. On the huge ani Iraq war demo, lots of young Bengali East End Jews were seen to be wearing stickers showing the Israeli flag, with, in the centre, a Magen David = a swastika. Huddles of Jewish marchers stood around in horror and misery. The late Irene Bruegel and I, from the JfJfP contingent (marching as Jews Against The War)’, walked the length of the march explaining why it was antisemitic, and without exception, every wearer said he had no idea that the stickers were so offensive, and immediately took his one off. Later Irene met local Muslim organisations in Tower Hamlets to discuss the stickers, and was given assurances this would never happen again – which it didnt. .

  • Antoine says:

    Why is Ken Livingston hyperlinked with Tonny Greenstein blog? Is there a mistake?

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