The antisemitic monster rising from the slime is not Corbynism – it is white nationalism

Antisemitic graffiti in North London. Photo: Stand Up To Racism

JVL Introduction

At last! Someone in mainstream media has noticed what we and others on the left have been pointing out for years.

The threat of antisemitism is real, it is growing – and it is coming from the right.

A Jewish Chronicle article reacting to the election results crowed: “We breathe easily now”.

We don’t.

The JC, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the JLM and more should own their responsibility for diverting attention from the real threat faced by Jews – in Britain, America and elsewhere.

It is white supremacy, neo-fascism. And it is on our doorstep.

We should not exaggerate the threat but we would be foolish beyond belief not to recognise it and organise against it. Boris Johnson’s election has legitimised the expression of open racism and we all need to be on our guard.

This article was originally published by The Independent on Tue 31 Dec 2019. Read the original here.

The antisemitic monster rising from the slime is not Corbynism – it is white nationalism

By focusing all our attention on preventing hatred from creeping in through the back door, we have allowed it to stride in through the front

At 10pm on Thursday 12 December, millions of Britons felt their chests tighten. As the exit polls sounded the death knell of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the birth of an all-powerful Tory Party, many – from Britain’s Muslim community, to its undocumented migrants and its Universal Credit recipients – found themselves struggling to breathe.

How strange it was, then, to read of British Jews’ response to the election in a Jewish Chronicle article headlined: “We breathe easily now”. This reaction – from a community that had held its breath for a Corbyn defeat so long that it was, as it were, blue in the face – was entirely predictable. Jewish media and communal leaders had, for years, and with increasing intensity as the election approached, made it their mission to convince their community and compatriots to keep Corbyn out of No 10 – and had succeeded. Why wouldn’t celebratory G&Ts be in order?

Sadly, these celebrations were short-lived. On the final night of Hanukkah, members of South Hampstead Synagogue left the Sunday service to discover the building daubed with antisemitic graffiti. Relief quickly gave way to bewilderment: how, when we had so recently “crushed [antisemites] at the ballot box”, were they ever more emboldened on the streets.

What it made clear was that the rendering of Jeremy Corbyn as Public Enemy #1 had led many British Jews to believe that the end of Corbyn would spell the end of (at least the worst excesses of) antisemitism in the UK. Whereas under Corbyn, “anti-Jewish racism has been allowed to run amok”, this “historic achievement for Boris Johnson” would, the Board of Deputies was certain, set Britain on the path towards becoming “a beacon of inclusion and respect for all its inhabitants.” If so, the events of the last couple of days are not a promising first step.

By focusing almost exclusively on antisemitism within Labour, British Jewish leaders have blinkered their flock to the broader catalysts of global antisemitism, whose steady rise long preceded Corbyn, and will long outlast him. Just hours before the attack in North London, five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York. An historian spotted a trend. “Taken together with the stabbings in New York,” commented Simon Schama, “something truly monstrous is rising from the slime.”

British Jews would do well to consider what, or perhaps who, that monster is. From Orban to Morawiecki, Trump to Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson is the latest strongman to sweep to power by indulging the racial scapegoating invited by the financial crisis. Like these men, Johnson is the acceptable face of white supremacy. Two days ago, Britain First claimed 5,000 of its members had joined the Tories. “It’s OUR party now,” right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins tweeted at Muslim peer Sayeeda Warsi. “Nationalism is back. British people first.” Premature as it may be to single out the perpetrators of yesterday’s graffiti, there have been suggestions that neo-Nazis have been stickering the area for the past 18 months. The monster rising from the slime is not Corbyn – it is white nationalism.

This, however, is not what Jews appear to believe. Last year, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) conducted the biggest survey of Jewish people ever attempted worldwide, canvassing 16,500 Jews in 12 EU member states for their experiences and perceptions of antisemitism. The results were resounding: left-wing antisemitism was much more of a perceived problem than its right-wing counterpart. Of respondents who reported having experienced antisemitism in the preceding five years, 21 per cent said the perpetrator was left-wing, 13 per cent right-wing (at 30 per cent, by far the greatest perceived predictor of antisemitism was holding “a Muslim extremist view”).

Yet essential as it is to take seriously Jewish people’s perceptions of antisemitism, the uncomfortable truth is that these perceptions jar with reality. Antisemitic attitudes and actions are and have long been demonstrably more prevalent on the right. A report by the Community Security Trust (CST) published in 2017 concluded that, while far-leftists were as likely to agree with antisemitic statements as the rest of the population, the far-right were two to four times likelier to do so. The CST diminished the seriousness of their findings by pointing to the fact that, “although the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left, the far right remains marginal in British politics in general, as well as on the broader political right.” Needless to say, this observation has not aged well. As for action, Patrick Kingsley writes in the New York Times that, despite fears of anti-Zionism providing cover for antisemites, the “data … suggests that most contemporary anti-Semitism is … primarily still perpetrated by the white, far right.

How, then, have British Jews been so susceptible to the insistence of bad-faith actors such as the editors of certain Jewish newspapers, that our primary threat is from the left? The observation of one 20-something German Jew surveyed by the FRA provides a clue: “Nowadays antisemitism is unfortunately mostly present in Muslim and left-wing circles,” he observes. “Sure, right-wing hatred against Jews exists as well, that’s not a question.” This comment may help us understand how the Jewish community has come to see left-wing antisemitism as its greatest “existential threat”, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. For what his comment suggests is that the “old antisemitism” – the Jew-hatred spewed loudly and proudly by the right – has been so constant as to become a kind of background noise, “not a question” but rather a fact of life. Instead, our attention has been caught by the “new antisemitism”, a curious flavour of anti-Jewish animus of that expresses itself in indirect ways and from unexpected people. It is almost too obvious to blame antisemitism of the kind we grimly witnessed yesterday on Nazis; much more compelling is the notion it was inspired by self-proclaimed antiracists.

In 2014, the Tories’ disciplinary body ruled that MP Aidan Burley’s Nazi-themed stag-do was “stupid”, but not antisemitic. Just days before Britain went to the polls, journalists revisited a number of passages from Boris Johnson’s 2004 novel Seventy Two Virgins, including this one: “Maybe there was some kind of fiddling of the figures by the oligarchs who ran the TV stations (and who were mainly, as some lost no time in pointing out, of Jewish origin)”. The relentless revelation of flagrant antisemitism at the highest ranks of the Tory Party did little to sway Jewish opinion of them. The only reason I can give for this communal intransigence is that Tory antisemitism, and the right-wing nationalism from which it derives, has become so self-evident as to leave us unable to see the wood for the trees. As the aftermath of this election has proven, this is a dangerous perspective.

By laser-focusing on preventing antisemitism from creeping in through the back door, British Jews have allowed it to stride in through the front. It is time for my community to open its eyes and see that, while new threats might seem to present themselves at every turn, our greatest enemy is our oldest.


Rivkah Brown is Senior Commissioning Comment Editor and Columnist at The Independent.

Comments (11)

  • ALAN MADDISON says:

    This author makes a valid point – that the obsession with alleged antisemitism in Labour has been a dangerous distraction from the greater risks from the growing far right.

    The distorted perceptions of British Jews have been fed significantly by those deliberately conflating antisemitism with criticism of Israeli policies on the Left.

    In the FRA survey (2018) the most common “antisemitic comment” reported by British Jews was ‘Israelis behave like Nazis towards the Palestinians’. Though this is not in itself antisemitic, 60% of British Jews said it definitely was, and a further 25% that it probably was.

    Similarly 75% considered support for BDS, and 34% ANY criticism of Israel to be antisemitic.

    As internet was the most common media for witnessing antisemitism, it is easy to see how perceptions about the Left have arisen.

    There has also been far more media cover of alleged Labour/ Corbyn ‘antisemitism’ than the more prevalent and genuine antisemitism found on the right and far right.

    So this article is welcome but it should encourage a further analysis about the broader dangers of such distortions to democracy, to British Jews and to other groups at risk from the growing far right, and this enabled extreme authoritarian Government. Only 1% of hate crimes involve Jewish victims, we should consider ethnic minorities and others victims to the 99% of hate crimes each year, and the increased threats they now face.

  • Glyn Secker says:

    Excellent to see this in the mainstream media. A real breath of fresh air reporting.
    But I would point to one inadequacy – this explanation: “The relentless revelation of flagrant antisemitism at the highest ranks of the Tory Party did little to sway Jewish opinion of them. The only reason I can give for this communal intransigence is that Tory antisemitism, and the right-wing nationalism from which it derives, has become so self-evident as to leave us unable to see the wood for the trees.”
    The actual reason is that Israel is a deeply right wing enterprise, led by hard right wing politicians (with extreme right, racist settlers amongst their numbers), and its military industrial complex is an integral part of the West’s Middle East policy, including the UK’s.
    In contrast to the USA the conservative Jewish leadership here has near hegemonic dominance of Jewish opinion, such that Netanyahu’s alliance with Trump, Johnson, Orban, Bolsinaro, etc. is at best only politely whispered, whereas even an iota of support for Palestinian human is rights is defined as an existential threat to Israel.
    Palestinian support is based in the Left, which traditionally has categorised Israel as a neo-colonial enterprise, is deeply embedded in the Labour Party and recently found its expression through Corbyn. The generally conservative Jewish majority can indeed see the wood for the trees, it is just that their optics are directed through the prism of Israeli.

  • RH says:

    Alan Maddison’s and Glyn Secker’s comments are very much to the point.

    It strikes me that there is a parallel for Zionists conflicted (or in denial) over the actuality of Israel with the left having to come to terms with the reality of Soviet Russia.

  • different frank says:

    John Mann has blocked Micheal Rosen on Twitter.
    why don’t you listen to Jewish people Mr Mann?
    Are you antisemitic??

    • Richard Kuper says:

      Tsars of any kind were always averse to listening to reason and criticism. This Tsar is continuing in a long and honourably disgusting tradition.

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    Glyn Secker is absoluely right. The statistical references in Rivkah Brown’s article pertain to definitions of anti-semitism that conflate it with criticism of Israel. The fight against the IHRA “definition” document was all about this. Once you blur these concepts the world changes colour and direction. Consistent critics of Israel who are also consistent advocates of solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinians foor statehood will always be on the Left. If they are said to be antisemites – by using the spurious ideas of the IHRA document – the real world is turned inside out.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    Three points.

    First, before accepting Glyn’s statement that ‘Jewish leadership here has near hegemonic dominance of Jewish opinion’, I would like to know how British Jews actually voted in this election, and whether there were any variations in gender, age, location, affiliation (Orthodox as compared with Liberal, for example). Plus how those stats compared with stats for earlier elections. And if that information is available, I think we should sit down and analyse it carefully, given that the Jewish demographic in Britain is quite different from that in the USA.

    Second, there has been a slew of antisemitic attacks in New York in the last few days, not just the one at the Rabbi’s home, and they have been carried out not by white nationalists, but by black Americans. This has led to a lot of reflecting among Jewish writers, some stupid, and some incredibly thoughtful, about how to interpret what is happening. Haaretz and The Forward have carried articles by Orthodox Jews of enormous sensitivity and integrity which are worth reading. So again, we have to be careful to ensure the validity of any comparisons that we make with the situation in the US.

    And third, while we can argue with aspects of the piece in the Indy, it is very welcome to see a Jewish senior journalist on a mainstream newspaper challenging prevailing orthodoxy about what kind of antisemitism we need to be afraid of. Thank you Rivkah Brown.

  • Dee Howard says:

    I’d like to know which Jews they polled? Synagogues through Jewish Board of Deputies for instance? Or just readers of Jewish Chronic.

  • I posted this underneath the article by Rivkah Brown. The simple truth was that the ‘antisemitism’ campaign by the Board of Deputies/Jewish Chronicle etc. was not and never was about antisemitism. That is why all the statistics in the world proving that the left was not antisemitic had no purchase.

    That was why they changed the definition of antisemitism from hostility and hatred of Jews to hostility to Zionism aka the IHRA.

    As I said 4 years ago, when Corbyn’s response to charges of antisemitism was to protest that he was not antisemitic he missed the point entirely. And he and I’m afraid JVL have continued to miss the point.

    The ‘antisemitism’ Corbyn was defending himself against was not hostility to Jews but hostility to Zionism and Israel. Which is why we should have repeated ad nauseum that the attacks on us were concerned with 1 thing only – Israel and Zionism.

    tony

    First it is extremely welcome that Rivkah Brown has dared to say that the Emperor might not have many clothes on! The fact is that the fake ‘antisemitism’ campaign for the past four years was not about anti-Semitism but Palestine and Zionism.

    No one seriously believes that Corbynites or socialists go around daubing anti-Semitic graffiti or physically attacking Jews as Jews. That is the prerogative of the far-Right and the people who give them sustenance and comfort in their bigoted view of Jews and the world are the Boris Johnson’s of this world.

    But it should not have taken the daubing of a synagogue to bring this self-evident truth home. For a decade now Conservative MEPs have sat in the European Conservative and Reform Group alongside Poland’s Law & Justice party, Latvia’s Fatherland and Freedom party, Sweden’s Democrats and other vile and racist creatures. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Chronicle has said not a word.

    Indeed when Jonathan Freedland raised the matter 10 years ago Stephen Pollard, editor of the JC, rushed to defend the fascist leader of L&J, Michal Kaminski, a man who had defended those who had instigated a pogrom in Jedwabne in Poland in 1941 which led to up to 1600 Jews being burn alive in a barn. Not by the Nazis but by fellow Poles.

    Roberts Zile MEP of Latvia’s F&F/LNNK goes on a demonstration each March alongside veterans of Latvia’s Waffen SS, many of whom participated in the murder of thousands of Jews in Riga Ghetto and Rumbula.

    Yet apart from one complaint from Vivian Wineman of the BOD 10 years ago, for which he was bitterly attacked by the Jewish Leadership Council, there has been nothing.

    Why? Let us face the facts. The Board of Deputies is and has been since 1940 a Zionist body. Its primary concern is defence, right or wrong, of the Israeli state. When Israel began shooting down unarmed protestors at the Gaza Fence the Board was first in the ring to defend Israel’s military.

    That is why the alliance between the Israeli state and the far-RIght antisemitic regimes in Eastern Europe is barely commented upon. When Tory MEPs, alone among western conservatives, voted to support Hungary’s antisemitic Prime Minister in the European Parliament, the Board was silent.

    Why is this? Quite simply because Zionism, a political movement that was not even Jewish at first, has never fought anti-Semitism. The Zionist movement began from the premise that anti-Semitism was inherent in the non-Jew. it could not be fought. In the words of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism

    In Paris… I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.

    When 11 Jews were murdered by a White Supremacist at Pittsburgh as a result of Trump’s campaign against the refugee caravan, Israel’s far-Right Education Minister Naftali Bennett rushed to America to defend Trump. When hundreds of Pittsburgh Jews demonstrated against the presence of Trump who was there at his side? Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the USA.

    But if Zionism has never been interested in traditional anti-semitism, because its response to Jews suffering antisemitism has been to leave their host countries and come to Israel, it has been equally concerned to REDEFINE anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

    What this has meant of course is that anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn have been painted as anti-Semites.

    In reality the ‘antisemitism campaign’ of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Chronicle for the past 4 years has not been and never was about anti-Semitism. Their only concern was that someone with a record of support for the Palestinians and opposition to US foreign policy might one day become Prime Minister.

  • Allan Howard says:

    How many LP members have been charged and prosecuted for anti-semitic abuse. Just ONE as far as I am aware, and I believe that they were a former LP member, and the incident for which they were charged and prosecuted happened BEFORE Jeremy became leader. Apart from THAT, the only other cases I’m aware of are the four people charged last year, three of them at the end of March, and then a fourth on May 1st, the day before the local elections, all of which stemmed from the dossier, so-called, passed on to the Met Commissioner very publicly on LBC the previous September. In other words, it supposedly took six months to determine that three of the cases in the ‘dossier’ were anti-semitic AND a further month to determine that another case contained in the ‘dossier’ was anti-semitic. Needless to say, in the Real World it would take a matter of days, at the very most!

    The dossier so-called was widely reported as having been ‘leaked’, but it was almost definitely compiled from the documents stolen by one or more LP staff working in the department that deals with such matters just prior to leaving their jobs, who first copied the documents and then deleted the originals, as reported by skwawkbox.

    Despite the fact that it has been seven/eight months, I am not aware that any of these four cases have actually been heard in a court of law yet, as surely it would have been all over the MSM if any of them had been AND found guilty and prosecuted as such. The only OTHER explanation is that one or more of the people charged HAVE appeared in court and they WEREN’T found guilty of A/S and prosecuted as such.

    But whatever the case – and given all the thousands of claims of anti-semitism made by LAA and the CAA and the JLM and the likes of Margaret Hodge etc during the past three or four years – hardly anyone has been charged and prosecuted of A/S:

    https://cst.org.uk/antisemitism/prosecutions

    As you will see in the following article, it obviously didn’t take Mak Chishty (who was in charge of dealing with hate crime for the Metropolitan police until 2017) very long to determine which of the cases in the dossier he considered/concluded were anti-semitic. And as for the 17 cases he says should have been reported to the police as a race-hate incident for investigation, the point is WHY weren’t they by whoever submitted the cases to the LP/NEC in the first place:

    https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/nick-ferrari/labour-21-cases-of-alleged-antisemitism-to-poice/

  • Mark Francis says:

    In july Exeter Synagogue was fire-bombed by a crazed fascist. Nobody seemed to notice because Jeremy Corbyn once failed to condemn a mural quickly enough that has not existed for 8 years but was splashed over every front page so we could all check with a pair of calipers the relative alleged length of some noses.
    Some perspective needed.

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