Weaponising antisemitism

We have long argued, and demonstrated, that allegations of antisemitism have been deliberately exaggerated, indeed weaponised, to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s legitimacy as future Prime Minister.

Alan Maddison shows here that they are also used as a shield against claims of much greater racism in the Tory Party, to protect Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

Introduction 

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have been accused of racism and inciting racial hatred in others. When challenged, both have hidden behind a shield of false or exaggerated allegations of antisemitism against their political opponents.

Trump was criticised for once more inciting racial hatred towards four ethnic minority Democratic Congresswomen, identifying themselves as ‘the squad’, who had testified to inhumane conditions in migrant detention facilities in Texas.

Tweeting the racist trope that they should “go back”, Trump then goaded his supporters at a rally to chant ‘send her back’ about one of them, Ilhan Omar (below).

The President had also attacked Ilhan Omar and fellow ‘squad’ member congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (of Palestinian parents), accusing them of antisemitism, because of their support for the BDS movement and for Palestinian rights.

Trump ignored accusations of his own racism and instead went further; he accused anyone voting Democrat of being antisemitic too. He blatantly conflated legitimate criticism of Israel’s racist policies with a hatred of Jews.

His use of the antisemitic “dual loyalty” trope drew widespread criticism from the US mainstream media, politicians and Jewish organisations.

In the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote:

“Now white nationalists and racists and bigots — and those politically aligned with them — feel entitled to use their backing of Israel as an alibi when their leader indulges in racist incitement.”

Another Jewish journalist,Talia Lavin, whose quote is in the title of this article, condemned:

“…those who would use Jews’ bloody history to deny present atrocities; those who would utilize Jews as weapons to silence anti-racists…”

Finally a group of Rabbis from Montana wrote in an open letter,

“We refuse to allow the real threat of anti-Semitism to be weaponized and exploited by those who themselves share a large part of the responsibility for the rise of white nationalist and anti-Semitic violence in this country.”

A similar weaponising of antisemitism is used by those on the right of politics in the UK, who at the same time, like Trump, also legitimise and move towards the extreme right with its blatant racism and antisemitism.

Recently Boris Johnson refused to apologise about his repeated racist comments when challenged in the House of Commons by Sikh Labour MP Tan Dhesi from Slough. This despite the fact that amongst other racist remarks Johnson had described Muslim women as ‘looking like bank robbers and letter boxes’ which had led to a 375% increase in hate crimes.

The PM also failed to answer Tan Dhesi’s question about whether he would initiate an inquiry into “widespread and institutional Islamophobia” in the Conservative Party, as initially promised during the leadership election debates.

Instead Boris Johnson ignored these legitimate and important questions and simply repeated the lie that antisemitism was ‘rampant’ in the Labour Party!

But in contrast to the US response, Johnson’s‘wielding antisemitism as a political shield’ to silence anti-racists created no mainstream media or political outcry in the UK.

We must obviously take it upon ourselves to look behind the shield of ‘false allegations of antisemitism’ at racism in the Conservative Party. This goes beyond just Boris Johnson.

In this article we will examine the prevalence of racial and religious prejudice in the ranks of members of political parties, and, for Conservatives, how it may influence their political decisions.

 

Conservative Party members are by far the most prejudiced

In one survey of the general British population, negative views towards Jews, Muslims and Gypsy/ Roma/ Travellers were reported to be 7%, 28% and 45% respectively.

A distribution of the 28% overall prevalence for Islamophobia was provided according to the political positioning of responders in this study, is shown in Figure I. I have included an estimate of the breakdown of the 7% antisemitism prejudice based upon our analysis of data in Staetsky’s survey for the Institute of Jewish Policy Research.

Based on two separate surveys of political positioning (here and here),prejudice levels of Labour and Conservative Party members will be close to those found in the Left-wing and Right-wing groups above.

We see both antisemitism and Islamophobia are probably far more prevalent in Conservative than Labour Party members. For both parties Islamophobia is around 3 times more common than antisemitism.

It is worth noting that the estimated prevalence of Islamophobia in members of the Conservative Party (33%) is more than five times  that of antisemitism in Labour Party members (6%), yet the media reporting pattern and political narratives would suggest the inverse is true.

In another survey of Conservative Party members published in July 2019, 56% of them saw Muslims as a ‘threat to the British way of life’ (here and here). No comparisons with other groups were given, but a previous survey (July 2018) reported 49% Conservative voters but only 22% Labour voters agreed with the same question as shown in Figure 2.

 

That is not all. Other surveys also show a significantly higher prejudice on the right and far right of politics towards people of other races, refugees and Immigrants, and BAME individuals. We can anticipate a similar pattern in party members yet few studies have been published on this.

In 2018 Tim Bale et al. did publish a survey of over 4,000 members of political parties. Conservative Party members were far more negative about the contribution of immigrants to our economy and culture than members of all other political parties, as shown below.

What is apparent in the above illustration is the marked isolation of the more negative attitude of Conservative members compared with those of Labour, LibDem and SNP members.

This review of published evidence shows that members of the Conservative Party have a significantly higher prejudice than those in Labour towards immigrants, and probably towards BAME, Muslim and Jewish individuals too.

One question is how much these high levels of racial prejudice in Conservative Party members influence choice of MPs and policies.

 

Conservatives select fewer MPs from ethnic minorities

In this context, the results of the 2017 General Election illustrated below in Figure 4 are informative.

For the Conservative Party BAME and Muslim MP shares are respectively under half and one fifth of the population shares, indicating the probability of significant prejudice, especially towards Muslims.

The Labour Party share of BAME and Muslim MPs is close to that found in the population. This indicates little influence of racial prejudice in the selection process. Labour also has the only two Sikh MPs in parliament, close to their population share of 0.8%.

For both parties the share of Jewish MPs is six times that found in the general population. This may reflect a greater proportion able to present as candidates, but suggests not only an absence of any significant influence of antisemitism during the selection process, but indeed a rather positive attitude towards Jewish candidates from both Labour and Conservative members.

This significant Conservative Party prejudice on MP selection was confirmed in the Tim Bale et al. survey, as illustrated below in Figure 5. In answer to one of the questions, the Conservative Party members were reluctant to have more MPs from ethnic minority groups despite significant under-representation in the Conservative Party.

In contrast, Labour and other party members were keen to have more ethnic minority MPs, even in the case of Labour when their current MP share was close to that found in the population.

We can see that the Conservative members were once more isolated from all other party members surveyed, and this has important implications for our representative democracy.

 

Racial prejudice influence on Conservative policies

In June 2019 the ‘Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights‘Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related Intolerance’, reported on the situation in the UK.

In the report there was criticism of the Government, in particular of,

….certain practices and policies which have amplified racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the United Kingdom”.

The Government ‘practices and policies’ included the controversial ‘hostile environment’, the ‘Prevent’ campaign and the ‘Windrush’ scandal. Though the related harassment was supposed to be limited to illegal immigrants and radicalised Muslims, identification confusions meant it had a destructive impact on other law abiding religious and ethnic minority individuals with regular immigration status, many of whom were British citizens or entitled to British citizenship.

There was also criticism by the Rapporteur that many politicians not only failed to condemn the steady mainstreaming of racist and anti-immigrant discourses in the Brexit campaigns, and in the media, but some actually created and entrenched prejudices themselves. Such politicians, it was felt, had thus emboldened individuals to carry out acts of intimidation and hate towards ethnic or ethno-religious minority communities and people who are visibly different.

In 2017 it was estimated there were 9.4 million people living in the UK who were not born here. Of these 3.7 million were born in the EU. Add in those in the ethnic minority groups above who were born in the UK and we exceed 13 million people who may be immigrants, or look or sound like them. So the direct consequences of these Government practices and policies inciting intolerance are far from marginal.

 

Conclusion

The Conservatives have wielded the shield of false or exaggerated allegations of antisemitism against Labour for four years now. Boris Johnson continues the same disingenuous tactic.

This is not to suggest that what prejudice is found in the Labour Party does not matter. Of course it does. But available evidence supports the concept that this shield is being used to hide a much greater prevalence of racism, Islamophobia and even antisemitism in the Conservative Party than in Labour Party ranks.

This prejudice has had a negative effect on harmony in our society. It seems to be influencing selection of Conservative MPs and Government policies which have negatively affected the security and well-being of millions of our ethnic minorities.

Many in the Conservative party are moving further to the extreme right. If not challenged there is a real possibility that a resulting fascism will threaten not just greater numbers of minorities, including Jewish communities, but our very democracy. The UN Rapporteur’s previous criticism about politicians who ‘emboldened acts of intimidation and hatred’ seems to have fallen on deaf ears, including those of Boris Johnson, when we witness the language he and others used at the recall of Parliament.

As they have done in the USA, politicians and journalists in the UK need to wake up and speak up.  If more do not find the same honesty, integrity and courage of our American cousins then we risk a rapid movement towards fascism and all its consequences.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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