Antisemitism, Twitter and anti-racist solidarity

Expelling Wiley from Twitter won’t fix antisemitism

There is no doubt that the grime artist Wiley was guilty of making antisemitic statements on Twitter and Instagram last weekend. There is no doubt that both deserve criticism for failing to act decisively to prevent their dissemination.

We condemn promotion of the antisemitic hashtag #JewishPrivilege by an artist with a huge following among young people. Social media platforms have a responsibility to ensure that hateful speech is not allowed to pollute public discourse in our diverse communities.

But a response limited to strident demands to ban a Black artist from Twitter is not going to rid society of antisemitism. Disproportionate targeting of people of colour with allegations of antisemitism risks causing division at a time when, as the Jewish group Na’amod said in its response to the furore over Wiley’s utterances, “Solidarity is crucial to defeating interlinked forms of oppression.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has fostered a coming together in collective solidarity of Jews, Muslims, white British, people of African and Caribbean origin and other ethnic and religious minorities. With racism rising from the right, this solidarity is precious and must be protected.

Some of the reaction to Wiley has shaded into personal scapegoating of a Black artist as if his ethnicity was somehow to blame. Some of the most strident denunciations have come from people claiming that Jews are uniquely disadvantaged – a suggestion that flies in the face of the lived experience of other ethnic minorities. Wiley’s misapprehensions about Jews reflect the abysmal level of public debate in recent years, which has sown confusion about what antisemitism really is while suppressing opposition to the racism Israel directs at Palestinians.

Education, political discussion and free expression of legitimate views are, we believe, the best way of reducing and combatting unacceptable prejudices. These are usually based on ignorance, but also reflect attempts by the far right to scapegoat Jews, people of colour and other minorities in times of economic and social dislocation. JVL’s approach is to develop knowledge and understanding about the nature and historical roots of antisemitism. We aim to do this as part of the broad anti-racist movement standing against division and all forms of discrimination.

Listen to JVL’s media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi discussing these and related issues with TalkRadio presenter Harriet Minter, originally broadcast on Saturday July 25.




Comments (10)

  • Maxine says:

    Just typical of your organisation to excuse an antisemite. If. Jewish artist had gone on a 48 racist rant I very much doubt this would have been your response. Pathetic.

  • Antonia Aloysious says:

    Thank you so much for a brilliant interview. It was pleasure listening to it. Please continue the wonderful work.

  • Janet Watson says:

    Totally agree with this article

  • Ieuan Einion says:

    Whilst you are quite correct in condemning Wiley’s tweets, I am moved to make some comments as someone who has worked in the theatre and music world most of my professional life.

    The theatre/music world is full of impresarios, agents, fixers, managers, you name it. Very often these people are of jewish origin, very rarely are they of african origin.

    I think we have to recognise that these divisions of labour along racial lines often exist and they often give rise to tense situations.

    It’s very easy to find places in the world where nearly all the shopkeepers are Syrians and Lebanese whereas nearly all their customers are of african descent.

    I think Wiley’s tweets need to be viewed in this context where those with the power in the UK entertainment industry are almost exclusively white and very rarely people of colour.

    I speak as someone who recruited more black, jewish, asian, homosexual and disabled people to the board of my theatre company, long before it became de rigeur with the Arts Council.

    I did so because I was a communist artist with a commitment to the wide-flung diversity of humankind and not because some petty apparatchik at the Arts Council told me to. When they did come round to this way of thinking it was because of a certain sort of pressure that I believe was experienced by Bobby Kennedy shortly before his assassination when he said: ” get me some niggers around me, I need to look good.”

    Joe Slovo, the great South African jewish communist expressed this exactly when he said “It’s not difficult in South Africa for the ordinary person to see the link between capitalism and racist exploitation, and when one sees the link one immediately thinks in terms of a socialist alternative.”

    In the end, I think we need to cut some slack to those who have suffered at the hands of the Harvey Weinsteins and Richard Desmonds of this world, and who have reacted is racist way, and engage in a process of political re-education, which sadly is unlikely to arrive under the current CondemLab regime, nor indeed under bourgeois rule.

  • There is no way that I will endorse comments by Wiley he is an adult and responsible for what he says. But might this not be a symptom of what many prominent Jews, such as Anthony Lehrman have feared, a reaction against the many lies, and inventions of those who have so irresponsibly used Judaism, a RELIGION, as a means to attack those with whom they have a POLITICAL disagreement!!
    Wiley might have felt that, as an often persecuted black minority, that discrimination against him is treated as inconsequential when compared to discrimination against Jews?
    On the other hand Wiley may simply be a bigot in which case Mr Starmer will know how to swiftly deal with him!
    Is public hanging still legal?

  • RC says:

    Wiley’s beliefs about Jews are not his invention but arise from the doctrines of the Black Hebrews sect/cult – which is far from unique in this regard. But why is this rubbish distinct from the vehement antisemitism found throughout the Christians’ New Testament – and of course vaunted by Rachel Reeves’ pin-up Nancy Astor: “killers of Christ”? The Koran too contains incantatory denunciations of three Jewish tribes who refused to convert to Islam. Tanach too is crammed with invitations to mass murder.
    Yet the (New Labour) Racial and Religious Discrimination Act 2006 specifically exempts religious books from its scope….
    Discrimination against any of the many slave religious cults such as the Black Hebrews and in favour of largely white and established religious organisations leads toward a very dangerous path indeed.
    ‘Hate speech’ short of direct incitement to immediate violence should all be ruthlessly and constantly denounced by right-minded people. But banning it shows ideological impotence – those who cannot argue, call for the police (and/or the Legal and Governance Unit) or libel lawyers to gag their opponents.

  • Doug says:

    Is a very powerful word
    So when interviewer talked about terrible anti semitism in Labour
    No was the answer and your lead into one part of the Jewish community calling those who support JC and Labour nazi collaborators
    That way you get to frame the story
    On Wiley
    No excuses,
    He deserves everything that is falling on his head from a great height
    Is JVL tempted to put out a hand, to educate him and in turn hope he will then challenge these issues in his community

  • different frank says:

    Farage is still spewing racism.
    I don’t see any 48 hour walkout.

  • Hazel Seidel says:

    Most of this statement is sound. But did you have to irrelevantly drag Israel and Palestine in? I don’t deny Israel has racist policies and practices. But this is a bit like saying ‘yeah, and Jews can be racist too’. Of course, but what has this to do with solidarity against antiracism?

  • Charlie says:

    In the context of the redefinition and misuse of “antisemitism” to dismiss or undermine political arguments, it would be useful to be told what Wiley actually said before being told what to think about it. I found out more from comments but still don’t know exactly.

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